Arab Media Coverage of the Gaza Settler Pullout

Alex Chadwick talks with journalist Khaled Dawoud, Washington bureau chief for the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram, about Arab media reactions to the removal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

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Also today, Israeli soldiers continue pulling Jewish settlers out of their homes on the Gaza Strip, as Israel clears the area for Palestinians. The process is going more quickly and peacefully than many Israeli observers had feared. We wanted to check on reaction in the Arab world. Khaled Dawoud is Washington bureau chief for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. Khaled Dawoud, welcome to the show, and is this big news in Cairo?

Mr. KHALED DAWOUD (Al-Ahram): It is indeed very big news. It's actually the main headline in all the newspapers, because of its significance, of course; the fact that this is the first time that Israel pulls out from an area it's occupied since '67, particularly removing the settlers and the settlements at the same time.

CHADWICK: And how do people see it? How are the papers playing the story?

Mr. DAWOUD: Well, there is a sense of, you know, cautious optimism, if you might say, because on one hand, there is a very high level, I might say, of mistrust towards the intention of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The sense of feeling that this is going to be Gaza first and last, and that this is--all this show, even by settlers and right-wing parties in Israel, is to give a message to the United States and to the rest of the world that any further withdrawals is going to be very difficult. So there is welcome, but at the same time, fear of what the future will hold, particularly in terms of possible withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

CHADWICK: Can you characterize how other media is carrying this story elsewhere in the Arab world?

Mr. DAWOUD: I think with similar concern and a lot of analysis. All the Arab satellite television channels, for example, the big ones, Al-Jazeera, Arabiya, and a few ones out of Lebanon, they're carrying live pictures out of there. But at the same time, as well, there--also some commentators are very much wondering why the Western media, like in the United States, particularly, is not showing the other side of the story. The coverage is only of that of the settlers, who are--not even many of them are not even living in those settlements, but are there protesting for ideological purposes, and not showing the Palestinian side of the story, that this is also an end of occupation that Palestinians have been suffering for so long, and they also deserve to be--have some sympathy from the Western media coverage.

CHADWICK: You mean there are celebrations going on, and we're not seeing television pictures of that.

Mr. DAWOUD: Sure. And in fact that, you know, this is occupied land according to UN resolutions, that there is a plan called the road map supported by President Bush and the world community towards finding a final settlement, that the final result is going to be good for both sides and not only for the Palestinian side, and that in order to do this, you have to do compromises by the Israeli side and by the Palestinian side.

CHADWICK: I just wonder if you think that Gaza--what it's going to become?

Mr. DAWOUD: We have a lot of hopes, again, but cautious optimism. You see, sir--and I think even Secretary Rice here today, she made some statement recognizing that if it's Gaza last, that's not going to produce the sort of settlement that the entire world is looking for. After Gaza, there has to a similar settlement on the West Bank. Those settlers you're seeing in Gaza do not represent the entire Israeli society, and even the Hamas and the people who support violence do not necessarily represent the majority on the Palestinian side. So let the sound of reason prevail for a long-term solution.

CHADWICK: Khaled Dawoud, Washington bureau chief for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. Thank you, Khaled.

Mr. DAWOUD: Thank you, sir.

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