When Meet The Press Meets a Palestinian
It's fair to say that US media don't do enough to feature Palestinian voices in discussions of Palestinian issues. NBC's Meet the Press managed to interview a Palestinian on August 3–but host David Gregory saw this mostly as a chance to determine how much his guest dislikes Hamas.
David Gregory invited Riyad Mansour, the permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations. He started by asking him about the possibility for a "durable ceasefire." But then he got to his real question– and his only question: How much do you hate Hamas?
Mansour stressed the need to do something about Gaza's "tragic humanitarian situation," and Gregory felt the need to interrupt:
And let me stop you on that point. Your anger at Israel, certainly understandable. The loss of civilians horrific. There is agreement about that. I'm wondering though whether you're outraged by the conduct of Hamas, starting the conflict by firing rockets, building tunnels to kill and kidnap Israelis, being more than willing to sacrifice Palestinian lives by embedding them into their own kind of arsenal and using them, as Israel contends, as human shields. Do you have a level of outrage at Hamas itself?
Gregory's question includes some dubious assertions–that Hamas started the conflict and that it seeks out civilian death.
When Mansour responded by saying that third-party observers like Doctors Without Borders should be heard, Gregory went back to his demand:
Hold on, I'm asking whether you are outraged that the conduct of Hamas. They fired rockets, they built tunnels for the purpose of killing and kidnapping Israelis, and they do exploit these Palestinian civilians when they know they're going to be in danger from where they're firing the rockets and so forth. Do you have any outrage towards Hamas?
When the answer was that he was outraged at the killing of civilians, Gregory was back on it:
Fair enough, fair enough…the reason I'm pressing this point is not to challenge you about how horrific the loss of civilians are. As a more moderate Palestinian political figure, which is what you are, a representative of Palestinian authority, which there's certainly no love lost between the Palestinian authority and Hamas, I'm wondering what level of culpability you believe that Hamas has for the advancement of the Palestinian people not just in this conflict, but more generally.
He still didn't like Mansour's answer, so he had to try one more time:
I think a lot of people listening right now would find that compelling, maybe, that the Palestinian Authority could provide better leadership perhaps in Gaza than Hamas. But I just want to try one more on this which is do you think that Hamas is helping or hurting Palestinians right now?
And that was all they had time for.
All right, Ambassador Mansour, thank you very much for your time. I appreciate you being here this morning.
Then after a report by correspondent Andrea Mitchell ("Israel's strategy of self defense is becoming less defensible in world opinion"), the next guest was Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer. He was not challenged in the same way, no matter what his claims — that Hamas is "genocidal," their tunnels exist to "massacre our civilians," and Hamas actually "want those civilians dead." Instead of pressing Dermer on, for instance, the death toll so far– the vast majority of them civilians– Gregory asked: "Is the number of civilian deaths by Israel in Gaza unacceptable to Israel?"
The contrast in how the guests were treated could not have been any clearer.