As a long-term observer of Middle East politics, I have always been intrigued by the surprisingly limited impact exerted by the Palestinian media on Palestinian political affairs. Two related questions have nagged me over the years. First, why have the Palestinians, a highly politicized and educated society, failed to produce a dynamic, open, and vibrant media to serve them in their protracted struggle for independence and nation building? And second, why have the existing media outlets in Palestine failed to fulfill their basic universal functions of informing the public, shaping public opinion, and serving as an effective check on the governing power, whether in Ramallah or in Gaza?
In practical terms, particularly as a researcher, I am often frustrated that the most serious reporting about Palestinian politics appears more frequently and in a timelier manner in the Israeli media instead of Palestinian outlets. Whether looking for leaks by PLO/PA officials about the American “ultimate deal,” or official transcripts of Palestinian speeches and policy statements, or news about the health of Palestinian officials, one must read the Israeli press and translated articles from Hebrew to become well informed about Palestinian events and developments.
In recent weeks, two specific examples of this phenomenon came to mind. The first full transcript of Mahmoud Abbas’s speech before the UN Security Council appeared in Haaretz and The Times of Israel instead of in the Palestinian press or on the website of WAFA, the Palestinian News Agency. The second item pertains to Abbas’s alleged health deterioration, which was first reported by Israel’s Haaretz and i24NEWS. Why aren’t these news items reported first and more authoritatively in Al-Quds, Al-Ayyam, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, or on Palestine TV?
Two quick answers for this question are oppression under Israeli occupation and limited press freedoms in Palestine. Still, however, the fault lies more in the Palestinians’ neglect of the power of the media in their country-while experience has shown that Palestinian journalists and social media outlets in the diaspora have done a superb job of it.