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Khaled Abu Toameh
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Khaled Abu Toameh
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.



By Rhonda Spivak

Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh, who has spoken in Winnipeg a number of times,  is one of two winners of Israel’s Media Watch [IMW]’s 2011 award for media criticism, the organization announced recently.

I had an opportunity to meet  Abu Toameh and interview him in May 2009, during which time he said he had briefed President Obama not long after Obama was first elected.

According to IMW, “Abu Toameh publishes articles and gives lectures which are typified by a very critical stance on the Israeli and the foreign media, which, he says, does not understand its role or the Palestinian issues which it reports on.”

The IMW noted that Abu Toameh has “a refreshing approach to news” and “doesn’t hesitate to touch nerves” in the field he covers.

According to IMW’s website, the organization’s goal is “strengthening and realizing Israel’s democracy by informing the Israeli public about various media outlets and the extent to which they abide by the media codes of ethics, decency and objectivity in reporting.”

IMW says it does so through “systematic research and surveillance of the media and exposure of political and cultural media bias,” and by deepening public and institutional involvement in upholding the media codes of ethics, and defending the private citizen against the increasing power of the media against him or her.”

The award has been given out for the past 11 years, each time to two individuals or organizations that “made courageous, meaningful, and quality contributions to the criticism of the media in Israel.

Abu Toameh was chosen by a committee of judges appointed by IMW and willl receive a $5,000 cash prize for his award, which will be presented at a ceremony to be held by IMW in February 2011

What follow is the article I wrote in May 2009 , on interviewing Abu Toameh which  rings as true today as it did then.  (see below):


By Rhonda Spivak , May 2009

When prominent Israeli Arab journalist Khalid Abu Toameh recently briefed President Obama for two hours in Chicago, he says that he told Obama, that when the West gives money to the Palestinians, it shouldn’t be without strings.

“Before you give money to [PA Leader Mahmoud] Abbas, you need to hold him accountable-why not demand that he should show you a  free press.,  [or change what’s on Palestinian T.V], dismantle terror groups …even if  you  get 10% of it, we’ve made progress,” he said in an interview.

If  I were Netanyahu, I  wouldn’t give one inch of land to  the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas-because anything you give him would end up in  the hands of Hamas.

Abu Toameh clarified that  ideologically, he thinks Palestinians are entitled to statehood, but  he says that “neither Hamas nor Fatah are partners” with whom  Israel  can now negotiate a peace agreement.

“There is a two state solution –The Palestinians now have two states-one in Gaza and  one in  the West Bank”, he said, noting that at this time the only realistic course of action is “conflict-management.”

“In Gaza, we have a mini Islamic republic funded by  Iran. And in  the West Bank we have a powerless, corrupt leadership made up of Yassir Arafat chronies who have no credibility because they never initiated any  political reforms,” says  Abu Toameh.

Abu Toameh’s father is an Israeli Arab and his mother is  a West Bank Palestinian, so you can say “I am an  Israeli Arab Moslem Palestinian.” He started his career working for  a PLO run newspaper in East Jerusalem,  while also going to the Hebrew university, and then went on to work with international media. 

In 2000, Israeli journalists stopped going to  the  Palestinian territories  due to justifiable fear,  such that  Abu Toameh  was approached  by for the Jerusalem Post to cover  the area.  “So you see I started out as a journalist for the PLO and ended up at the Jerusalem Post,” he said.

 Abu Toameh said that if elections were held in the West Bank today, Hamas would win.

“ I am concerned the  rise of  radical Islam in the region, there may be a Tsunami… In local  elections 3 years ago, Hamas won in Nablus, in Ramallah-the capital of  Palestinian secularism, and even Bethlehem…Hamas would win because Fatah has blocked internal reforms-they have not changed their list off candidates… Mahmoud Abbas  hasn’t gone to a Palestinian refugee camp since he came to power… He’s afraid of his own people… Also, international sanctions on Hamas seem to have a boomerang effect…”


In his talk, Abu Toameh gave a cogent analysis of the series of mistakes that he says “the U.S. and international community made in implementing the Oslo accords” which  gave rise to Hamas taking over  in Gaza.

The first mistake was allowing Arafat to embezzle money that  ought to have gone towards building a Palestinian state.

“When I told by my foreign media colleagues about this corruption , I was asked if I worked for the Jewish lobby…I wasn’t, but foreign journalists chose to ignore the story…editors said don’t give us this...Arafat is committed to peace, don’t report that.  Other  foreign journalists said maybe these claims are true, but we have to be able to go back to  the West Bank or Gaza, we can’t report it because they’ll kill us there…”  said Abu Toameh.

The result of “ turning a blind eye” to Arafat’s corruption is that “Palestinians said we don’t see the  fruits of peace.” (No  hospitals, schools, etc).  This resulted in Palestinians turning towards Hamas.

Abu Toameh believes things would have been different “had the international community  gone back to Arafat and said  stop misusing our funds and go and get ready for a state,”

 According to Abu Toameh, another significant factor was that Arafat got money “to run media, which he used to incite hatred against  Israel.

“Arafat needed to insure that the people were hating some one else-the  Jews [so they wouldn’t hate  him for  his failure to deliver benefits to them].  When you tell people day and night that … Israel is bad , then people wake up and say, so we’ [might as well] vote Hamas.”

Additionally,  when the international community gave Arafat guns to fight terror,  he used it instead to  suppress reform and real leadership.  “When 27 Palestinian professors signed a petition calling for reform in 1997, most were shot, beaten, or had to leave…This was ignored by mainstream media,”  Abu Toameh noted.

Once the PA was in power, the area was flooded with weapons and militias, which meant Israel  had to protect itself by restricting Palestinian movement, erecting checkpoints.  “Palestinians said what kind of peace is this?”

These factors combined radicalized Palestinian society, which is why, according to Abu Toameh, Palestinians voted for  Hamas not

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.