Ariel Sharon's tactic of throwing fine sand in the air as he plows forward with his time-tested, time-honored strategy of establishing facts-on-the-ground, is working to perfection -- at least on the US mainstream media. When Ariel Sharon announced back in June of 2004 Israel's decision to go ahead with the implementation of a unilateral “Gaza pull-out plan,” the US media hailed the event as a watershed moment. Sharon was portrayed as taking great political risks and putting not only his political life but his very physical life on the line. Completely missed in the sand storm was the much bigger story: the official decision by his cabinet of permanently taking over large portions of the West Bank. 
And so, here we are, eight months later, and indeed Sharon is dutifully taking the next logical step outlined and very openly announced in the 'Gaza pullout plan': taking over West Bank land.
As reported in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on January 20, 2005:
As a result of a secret Israeli government decision, thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank who own land or homes in East Jerusalem lost all rights to their holdings. And there are already plans to build on the expropriated land.
On July 8, 2004, the cabinet met and adopted resolutions that are not mentioned on the official Web site of the Prime Minister's Office, which documents “government decisions that were published.” 
Of course, not a single mention of this that we could find in a domestic US paper as of today, January 23, 2005.
With the passing of Yasser Arafat last November and the election of Mahmoud Abbas two weeks ago, the mindless wishful thinking of the US media that things are getting better fast, even though the balance of power has only gotten worse between occupier and occupied, is sinking to new depths of absurdity. When Ariel Sharon declared that Mahmoud Abbas was not doing enough to stop attacks on Israelis -- and did so one day BEFORE Mr. Abbas assumed the presidency -- no one in the media pointed out the absurdity of Sharon's statement or entertained the notion that perhaps Mr. Sharon was not really serious when he said that he was willing to give Mr. Abbas a chance. And when two days after Mr. Abbas assumed the presidency and Mr. Sharon announced that time was running out on Mr. Abbas, again, no reaction from the US media. Editorialists who had been pompously advising the Israelis to work side by side with Abbas, to help him “succeed”, simply turned the other way.
Clearly, the US media are so completely enamored with the notion that we have now begun a brave new era between Palestinians and Israelis, that this is a gentler, kinder age, that there is a new story to work here rather than the old, tiresome one of death and destruction -- the media are so enamored with these fantasies that they are willing to toss aside not just common sense and their anemic sense of history and perspective, but even the most basic journalistic principles they claim to cherish and respect as they go about doing their job.
And so, for example, the main story on Palestine/Israel today, January 25, 2005, in The New York Times is about how “Israel Lauds New Palestinian Leader for Moves to Stop Attacks.”  At the Washington Post, the headline breathlessly announces, “Israel Willing to Halt Military Operations.”  The reader is not reminded that lavish praise on Abbas has been heaped many times in the past by Israel and the United States, but that such praise never prevented Israel from directly sabotaging any movement towards peace.  The reader is also not reminded that there is nothing new in Israel's “announcement” that it is “willing to halt military operations” against Palestinians.  As the text of the story explains, “The Israeli military is willing to suspend operations against Palestinian militants if they don't carry out attacks.” The reader is not reminded about how Ariel Sharon used to insist on seven days of quiet before he returned to the so-called “negotiating table”, and that when he got two whole months of quiet in the summer of 2003, thanks to Mahmoud Abbas's efforts, Mr. Sharon went out of his way to frantically liquidate the fragile unilateral cease-fire with spectacular assassinations. 
Ariel Sharon has always been very clear about where he wants to go and how he wants to get there. Since his election to office in March 2001, he has learned how to calibrate his language and actions so as to keep a firm grip on the narrative through which he wants the American people to view the Israeli occupation and swallowing of Palestinian land. At the core of his media manipulation is the following simple fact: the US media is always looking for a fresh angle to the dreary litany of blood and strife. They are willing to toss aside as no longer relevant even the most basic lessons anyone who has followed this conflict should never forget: the fact that Israel, several orders of magnitude more militarily powerful than the whole Arab world combined, has always talked about making just peace with the destitute people of Palestine, while at the same time swallowing their land and killing their people. Why should we expect things to be any different at this moment in time, with the Israelis at their summit of power and the Palestinians at their nadir, is a question always worth asking when you hear someone claim that we are now at long last turning a new page in the tragedy of Palestine.
Ahmed Bouzid is the President of
Palestine Media Watch (www.pmwatch.com),
and author of
Framing The Struggle: Essays on the Middle East and the US Media
(Dimensions, 2003). His essays can be read at:
Other Articles by Ahmed Bouzid