Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 28, 2011

Note to Bill O’Reilly, RE: Jon Stewart — Quit While You’re Behind

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart is engaged in a television duel with Bill O’Reilly. It started with Stewart taking Fox News, including Bill O’Reilly, to task for periodically invoking the Nazi analogy. O’Reilly fired back, saying Stewart had taken O’Reilly’s comments out of context. Last night Stewart answered O’Reilly.

Out of this back and forth emerge a few things. First, let’s agree to do away with Nazi analogies unless extraordinary circumstances (like, say, genocide) demand it. Using it as often as people do is offensive and weakens rather than strengthens an argument. Second, don’t use anonymous (and disgusting) Web comments to make broad, sweeping characterizations. And third, don’t debate Jon Stewart unless you have a really strong argument on your side.

Though he’s a political liberal, I enjoy Jon Stewart. On a nightly basis, he demonstrates that he’s America’s best satirist, smart, well-informed, and formidable. If Bill O’Reilly is wise, he’ll quit while he’s behind. (h/t: Mediaite.com)

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart is engaged in a television duel with Bill O’Reilly. It started with Stewart taking Fox News, including Bill O’Reilly, to task for periodically invoking the Nazi analogy. O’Reilly fired back, saying Stewart had taken O’Reilly’s comments out of context. Last night Stewart answered O’Reilly.

Out of this back and forth emerge a few things. First, let’s agree to do away with Nazi analogies unless extraordinary circumstances (like, say, genocide) demand it. Using it as often as people do is offensive and weakens rather than strengthens an argument. Second, don’t use anonymous (and disgusting) Web comments to make broad, sweeping characterizations. And third, don’t debate Jon Stewart unless you have a really strong argument on your side.

Though he’s a political liberal, I enjoy Jon Stewart. On a nightly basis, he demonstrates that he’s America’s best satirist, smart, well-informed, and formidable. If Bill O’Reilly is wise, he’ll quit while he’s behind. (h/t: Mediaite.com)

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The Jewish Chronicle Joins Condemnation of the Guardian

The Jewish Chronicle, a highly influential newspaper among the British Jewish community, published a surprisingly hard-hitting editorial today slamming the Guardian for its coverage of the Palestinian Papers controversy.

“There is nothing, of itself, wrong with the Guardian publishing its scoop; all serious newspapers relish scoops,” wrote the Chronicle, in reference to the Guardian‘s collaborating with Al Jazeera to break the Palestinian Papers story. “What is very wrong is the way the paper chose to present its story: the distortions, the bias, the agenda, the spin and the breathtaking arrogance of its handing down instructions to the Palestinians of how they should behave.”

The Guardian and Al Jazeera have been criticized for heavily spinning the story: taking quotes out of context, printing misleading claims, and leaving out information that might contradict a preconceived narrative.

But that’s nothing new for the Guardian, especially when it comes to its obsessive and highly tendentious coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories. It’s editorial section, however, did cross a line with the Palestinian Papers story — one that may be impossible to step back over.

Let’s no longer pretend that the Guardian supports a two-state solution. This week its editorial board aligned itself with the views of Hamas. Its columnists have called on Palestinians to rise up against the Palestinian Authority leaders. And, perhaps most shameful, it printed a cartoon of PA President Mahmoud Abbas dressed up like an Orthodox Jew — drawn by cartoonist Carlos Latuff, known for his viciously anti-Israel work.

“The Guardian crossed a line this week. It has not practised journalism but rather hardcore political activism, playing with people’s lives,” the Chronicle concluded.

The Chronicle’s editors are correct in their condemnation. Other Jewish organizations concerned about anti-Semitic incitement would be smart to follow their lead.

The Jewish Chronicle, a highly influential newspaper among the British Jewish community, published a surprisingly hard-hitting editorial today slamming the Guardian for its coverage of the Palestinian Papers controversy.

“There is nothing, of itself, wrong with the Guardian publishing its scoop; all serious newspapers relish scoops,” wrote the Chronicle, in reference to the Guardian‘s collaborating with Al Jazeera to break the Palestinian Papers story. “What is very wrong is the way the paper chose to present its story: the distortions, the bias, the agenda, the spin and the breathtaking arrogance of its handing down instructions to the Palestinians of how they should behave.”

The Guardian and Al Jazeera have been criticized for heavily spinning the story: taking quotes out of context, printing misleading claims, and leaving out information that might contradict a preconceived narrative.

But that’s nothing new for the Guardian, especially when it comes to its obsessive and highly tendentious coverage of Israel and the Palestinian territories. It’s editorial section, however, did cross a line with the Palestinian Papers story — one that may be impossible to step back over.

Let’s no longer pretend that the Guardian supports a two-state solution. This week its editorial board aligned itself with the views of Hamas. Its columnists have called on Palestinians to rise up against the Palestinian Authority leaders. And, perhaps most shameful, it printed a cartoon of PA President Mahmoud Abbas dressed up like an Orthodox Jew — drawn by cartoonist Carlos Latuff, known for his viciously anti-Israel work.

“The Guardian crossed a line this week. It has not practised journalism but rather hardcore political activism, playing with people’s lives,” the Chronicle concluded.

The Chronicle’s editors are correct in their condemnation. Other Jewish organizations concerned about anti-Semitic incitement would be smart to follow their lead.

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Why Did Peace Talks Fail? Abbas Wouldn’t Take the Pen and Sign

The New York Times is reporting today that former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s memoirs confirm what has long been known to be true: that in September 2008, Mahmoud Abbas walked away from a peace agreement that would have guaranteed a Palestinian state in virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem.

Excerpts from Olmert’s memoirs were published yesterday in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, and his recollections, along with the Palestinian documents released by Al Jazeera this week, provide a fairly comprehensive picture of what went on in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2008. This week we have been hearing a great deal about how accommodating Abbas was in “conceding” that Jews would be allowed to stay in their homes in Jerusalem and that Israel would not allow millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to transform the Jewish state into one more Arab one. But the real concessions were, as has consistently been the case since the Oslo process began in 1993, made by Israel.

Olmert’s 2008 concessions were unprecedented. He not only was prepared to give the Palestinians their state; he also gave in on the question of an Israeli security presence along the Jordan River (that border would be patrolled by an international force with no Israelis present); he was prepared to allow Jerusalem’s holy places to be placed in the hands of a multinational committee; and he was even prepared to allow a symbolic number of refugees to settle in Israel while “generously compensating” all others who claimed that status. Read More

The New York Times is reporting today that former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s memoirs confirm what has long been known to be true: that in September 2008, Mahmoud Abbas walked away from a peace agreement that would have guaranteed a Palestinian state in virtually all the West Bank, Gaza, and part of Jerusalem.

Excerpts from Olmert’s memoirs were published yesterday in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, and his recollections, along with the Palestinian documents released by Al Jazeera this week, provide a fairly comprehensive picture of what went on in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in 2008. This week we have been hearing a great deal about how accommodating Abbas was in “conceding” that Jews would be allowed to stay in their homes in Jerusalem and that Israel would not allow millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to transform the Jewish state into one more Arab one. But the real concessions were, as has consistently been the case since the Oslo process began in 1993, made by Israel.

Olmert’s 2008 concessions were unprecedented. He not only was prepared to give the Palestinians their state; he also gave in on the question of an Israeli security presence along the Jordan River (that border would be patrolled by an international force with no Israelis present); he was prepared to allow Jerusalem’s holy places to be placed in the hands of a multinational committee; and he was even prepared to allow a symbolic number of refugees to settle in Israel while “generously compensating” all others who claimed that status.

These concessions represented grave setbacks to Israeli security and Jewish rights. Israel’s past experience with international security forces along its borders are mixed, though the horrible record of United Nations forces in Lebanon — which allowed terrorists free access to the frontier — is a reminder of the cost of relying on foreign troops to guarantee Israeli security. Similarly, it should be noted that the only period during which Jews — and members of other faiths — have had full access to sacred spots has been since 1967. Prior to that, Jewish access to the holy places was virtually nonexistent. Olmert’s reliance on the goodwill of an international community that has never been particularly concerned with Jewish rights was extraordinary. And as for the refugees, his willingness to allow some back into Israel and to compensate the others completely ignores the fact that the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries who were forced out of their homes after 1948 seem to have been completely forgotten in his pact with Abbas.

Olmert would have had a difficult time selling such a terrible deal to Israelis, but the odds are they would have accepted it if it meant that the Palestinians were truly willing to end the conflict. But it never came to that. Why? It was simply because Abbas couldn’t bring himself to take yes for an answer. For all the chatter about how many concessions the Palestinians were willing to make, when it came to actually making peace and taking the best deal possible, Abbas was no different from his old boss Yasir Arafat, who turned down Bill Clinton and the Israelis at Camp David in 2000.

As Olmert tells it, on Sept. 16, 2008, in a meeting at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, the Israeli handed Abbas a map showing his Palestinian state including parts of Jerusalem.

“Abu Mazen [Abbas] said that he could not decide and that he needed time,” Mr. Olmert writes. “I told him that he was making an historic mistake.

“ ‘Give me the map so that I can consult with my colleagues,’ he said to me. ‘No,’ I replied. ‘Take the pen and sign now. You’ll never get an offer that is fairer or more just. Don’t hesitate. This is hard for me too, but we don’t have an option of not resolving this.’”

Abbas and Olmert never met again. Faced with an opportunity to end the conflict and create the Palestinian state that has supposedly been his movement’s goal, Abbas couldn’t take the pen and sign because he knew that the culture of Palestinian politics was such that he could not persuade his people to compromise. The essence of Palestinian nationalism has always been and remains the negation of both Zionism and the legitimacy of a Jewish state. Concede that and there is no Palestinian nationalism. So once again, the Palestinians walked away from peace.

Yesterday Abbas’s top negotiator, Saeb Erekat, claimed in an article in the Guardian that the Al Jazeera documents show that the Palestinians had no partner for peace. We will continue to hear more big lies from the Palestinians and their Western cheerleaders in the future. But the truth is, as Abbas’s refusal to take the pen proves, even the most moderate Palestinian leaders still can’t make peace.

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Partial Freezes, Complete Freezes, and Eskimos

One of the most interesting “Palestine Papers” is the Minutes of a September 17, 2009, meeting between Saeb Erekat (SE), the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Dan Shapiro (DS) of the White House National Security Council, along with several high level State Department people and George Mitchell’s chief of staff.

The Americans urged the Palestinians to commence negotiations even though the U.S. had been able to obtain only a partial building freeze. The discussion in the Minutes represents, in my view, a microcosm of the 17-year peace process.

Erekat expressed his unwillingness to negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu (BN), since Netanyahu had made his position clear, which was unacceptable to the Palestinians:

SE: … On substance, from day one BN said: Jerusalem the eternal undivided capital of Israel, demilitarized state without control over borders or airspace, no refugees. Once you agree to this we can negotiate a piece of paper and an anthem.

Erekat’s position was that “anything short of 2 states on the 1967 border is meaningless.” He explained his theory on Netanyahu’s strategy:

SE: When Bibi talks about excluding Jerusalem it is to make sure we can’t attend, because he doesn’t want to.

DS: So by not going aren’t you playing into his hand?

SE: You put me in this position! It’s like having a gun to my head — damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Netanyahu had set forth an adamant negotiating position, but also his willingness to negotiate without preconditions. The Palestinians responded with their own adamant position (nothing short of the indefensible 1967 lines) and their unwillingness to negotiate. If the Palestinians were correct about Netanyahu’s strategy, they were playing right into it — and blaming not themselves but the United States! Read More

One of the most interesting “Palestine Papers” is the Minutes of a September 17, 2009, meeting between Saeb Erekat (SE), the chief Palestinian negotiator, and Dan Shapiro (DS) of the White House National Security Council, along with several high level State Department people and George Mitchell’s chief of staff.

The Americans urged the Palestinians to commence negotiations even though the U.S. had been able to obtain only a partial building freeze. The discussion in the Minutes represents, in my view, a microcosm of the 17-year peace process.

Erekat expressed his unwillingness to negotiate with Benjamin Netanyahu (BN), since Netanyahu had made his position clear, which was unacceptable to the Palestinians:

SE: … On substance, from day one BN said: Jerusalem the eternal undivided capital of Israel, demilitarized state without control over borders or airspace, no refugees. Once you agree to this we can negotiate a piece of paper and an anthem.

Erekat’s position was that “anything short of 2 states on the 1967 border is meaningless.” He explained his theory on Netanyahu’s strategy:

SE: When Bibi talks about excluding Jerusalem it is to make sure we can’t attend, because he doesn’t want to.

DS: So by not going aren’t you playing into his hand?

SE: You put me in this position! It’s like having a gun to my head — damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Netanyahu had set forth an adamant negotiating position, but also his willingness to negotiate without preconditions. The Palestinians responded with their own adamant position (nothing short of the indefensible 1967 lines) and their unwillingness to negotiate. If the Palestinians were correct about Netanyahu’s strategy, they were playing right into it — and blaming not themselves but the United States!

Shapiro suggested that the Palestinians had a sympathetic U.S. president and should start negotiating, given his commitment to them:

DE: The President has demonstrated a personal and real commitment to you. What you are saying indicates that you tend to discount the President’s commitment. It strikes me that it doesn’t seem to be worth a lot to you.

SE: This is not about personalities or conscience. Bush did not wake up one day and his conscience told him “two state solution.” It’s about interests. We have waited a painful 17 years in this process, to take our fate in our own hands.

But quite a lot happened in those 17 years. They got three offers of a state on substantially all the West Bank and Gaza, with a capital in Jerusalem — and turned all three down. They received all of Gaza and a chance to show they could build a state without threatening Israel — and demonstrated the opposite. They got a U.S. president personally committed to them, who undoubtedly would eventually push “bridging proposals” more to their liking than to Israel’s — and they refused to start negotiations without a complete freeze. A lot of opportunities came their way during those 17 years, while they were “waiting.”

In an old joke, a man tells a bartender he lost his religion after his small plane crashed in frozen Alaskan tundra and he lay there for hours, crying for God to save him, and nothing happened. The bartender says, “wait — you’re here.” “Right,” says the man, “because finally a damned Eskimo came along.” Some day Saeb Erekat will explain to some bartender that he was a negotiator for 17 years but nothing happened, except for all the damned Eskimos who came along.

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