Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cancellation vs. Postponement: Meaningful Distinction or Mere Semantics?

-Elizabeth Goldstein
Yesterday’s headline on the Middle East section of BBC News reads: “US-Israel talks in Paris aborted;” while the Haaretz headline reads “Netanyahu delays U.S. talks due to settlement debate.” Even stranger than this discrepancy is the fact that neither Al-Jazeera English nor CNN seem to report the cancellation of this meeting at all, though both reported the anticipation of it earlier. Is the obstacle to peace less newsworthy than the possibility of it? Both BBC and Haaretz articles do go on explain that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will meet US envoy George Mitchell in Washington “instead”. However, when Haaretz uses words such as “postponed” and “delayed,” it sends out a message that the originally planned meeting between Mitchell and Netanyahu may still take place down the road. Is this just a matter of semantics, or is this an intentional use of wordplay to paint a more hopeful picture of the settlement debate? Perhaps Netanyahu truly is considering President Obama’s stance on settlement freeze. Perhaps he will meet with US officials soon, and is simply sending Barak to smooth out the details, not “instead,” as both news sources report, but in addition to, or in the meantime. Or perhaps Haaretz uses the phrasing they do with the intention to voice these hopes of those more to the left on the settlement issue, without any substantiation. Or perhaps “delayed” just sounded less drastic than “aborted,” and I’m a conspiracy theorist. In any case, it is a detail duly noted in the midst of the heavy debate on settlements.

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