Commentary Magazine


Topic: New York Times

New Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Doubles Down on Bias

When I wrote yesterday I hoped the incoming New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief wouldn’t be any worse than outgoing chief Ethan Bronner, little did I know that within 24 hours we would learn those hopes were already in vain. As Alana wrote earlier today, Jodi Rudoren had begun exhibiting not only questionable judgment but also an overt bias against Israel even before she landed in the country. Her praise of extremists like the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah and her laudatory references to Peter Beinart’s book trashing Israel indicated that she saw no reason why the public should have to wait until she started filing slanted stories to understand where she stood on the issues.

In an attempt to do some quick damage control, Rudoren submitted to an interview today with Politico’s media reporter Dylan Byers to explain herself. But it did little to repair her image or to undermine the notion she has already made up her mind about how to report the conflict. Instead, she demonstrated the same naïveté about what constitutes bias on Israel as well as showed herself woefully unprepared for the political maelstrom in Jerusalem.

Read More

When I wrote yesterday I hoped the incoming New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief wouldn’t be any worse than outgoing chief Ethan Bronner, little did I know that within 24 hours we would learn those hopes were already in vain. As Alana wrote earlier today, Jodi Rudoren had begun exhibiting not only questionable judgment but also an overt bias against Israel even before she landed in the country. Her praise of extremists like the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah and her laudatory references to Peter Beinart’s book trashing Israel indicated that she saw no reason why the public should have to wait until she started filing slanted stories to understand where she stood on the issues.

In an attempt to do some quick damage control, Rudoren submitted to an interview today with Politico’s media reporter Dylan Byers to explain herself. But it did little to repair her image or to undermine the notion she has already made up her mind about how to report the conflict. Instead, she demonstrated the same naïveté about what constitutes bias on Israel as well as showed herself woefully unprepared for the political maelstrom in Jerusalem.

First of all, Rudoren claimed her tweet to Abunimah was meant to be private, not public. But the Anthony Weiner excuse doesn’t cut it. No matter what her intentions, the idea that she considers Electronic Intifada “important” already shows her frame of reference about Israel. It is one thing to say, as she does, a reporter must talk to all sides. It is quite another to make nice in this manner with advocates of economic warfare on Israel. Her promise to reach out “to extremists on all sides” hardly makes up for the fact that she has already put herself on record as thinking well of one group of anti-Israel extremists.

Even worse is her insistence that her praise of Peter Beinart’s tendentious attack on Israel isn’t an indication she supports his point of view. Indeed, she doubles down on her praise for Beinart:

In terms of Peter Beinart’s book, I will absolutely not apologize for thinking that this is a good book. Peter is someone I’ve known for 20 years, he’s a journalist, he’s written a really interesting book. I don’t agree with everything in the book, I don’t even have an opinion about the arguments in the book, but it’s really well-written, it’s really provocative, there’s tons of reporting in it with things people don’t know. I think people should read it. I think hard-right Zionists should read it and Palestinian activists should read it. And young American Jews, who are really the audience for the book, should read it.

I will not apologize for tweeting about the book at all. Will I tweet about books written by people more closely aligned with Netanyahu? Absolutely. I’m reading one book at a time. I expect to have a long and robust and diverse reading list, and when the spirit moves me I may tweet about it.

The very fact that she thinks Beinart’s book filled with left-wing clichés contains original reporting demonstrates that she has a poor grasp of what constitutes good journalism but also that she has come into this post knowing little about the conflict or the literature about it. Moreover, her claim she doesn’t agree with everything in the book is a weasel-worded excuse that will convince no one. You don’t give a gushing endorsement to a polemic such as Beinart’s if you are neutral about its thesis.

As for her claim she is reading “one book at a time,” that reminds me of Herman Cain’s similar pledge to read up about foreign policy after he was called out for being an ignoramus on the subject.

The Times has clearly made a mistake in appointing someone to this post with a clear bias against Israel. But the fact that she has been so indiscreet about her bias ought to alert her editors to not only her lack of political savvy but also her complete unsuitability for such a delicate position. But given the drift of the paper towards an openly anti-Israel editorial position and its unbalanced opinion pages, perhaps the editors have come to the conclusion there is really no need to even pretend to be objective on their news pages anymore.

Read Less

New NYT Jerusalem Chief Reaches Out to Israel-Bashers

The ink has barely dried on the New York Times announcement that Jodi Rudoren will replace Ethan Bronner as Jerusalem bureau chief, and the move is already generating controversy. As Jonathan wrote yesterday, Bronner was attacked by Israel-bashers for having a son who formerly served in the Israel Defense Forces. And now Rudoren is apparently reaching out to these same anti-Israel activists, the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo reports:

Already, Rudoren is beaming out cutesy missives to prominent, self-described anti-Zionist players such as Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, a website that contains a treasure trove of writings highly antagonistic toward the Jewish state.

Rudoren also Tweeted yesterday with the website Mondoweiss, an online portal that is known to traffic in Israel-bashing.

Early yesterday afternoon, Rudoren Tweeted a friendly dispatch to Abunimah, who has referred to Zionism as “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today.” …

“Hey there. Would love to chat sometime. About things other than the house. My friend Kareem Fahim says good things,” Rudoren responded, referencing her Times colleague who covers Syria.

Read More

The ink has barely dried on the New York Times announcement that Jodi Rudoren will replace Ethan Bronner as Jerusalem bureau chief, and the move is already generating controversy. As Jonathan wrote yesterday, Bronner was attacked by Israel-bashers for having a son who formerly served in the Israel Defense Forces. And now Rudoren is apparently reaching out to these same anti-Israel activists, the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo reports:

Already, Rudoren is beaming out cutesy missives to prominent, self-described anti-Zionist players such as Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, a website that contains a treasure trove of writings highly antagonistic toward the Jewish state.

Rudoren also Tweeted yesterday with the website Mondoweiss, an online portal that is known to traffic in Israel-bashing.

Early yesterday afternoon, Rudoren Tweeted a friendly dispatch to Abunimah, who has referred to Zionism as “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today.” …

“Hey there. Would love to chat sometime. About things other than the house. My friend Kareem Fahim says good things,” Rudoren responded, referencing her Times colleague who covers Syria.

Electronic Intifada’s toxic anti-Israel rhetoric goes so far beyond mere political criticism, publishing articles that equate Israel to Nazi Germany and calling Zionism a form of anti-Semitism. It’s hard to imagine what “good things” the incoming New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief could have heard about EI, or why she would “love to chat sometime” with the site’s founder.

Rudoren’s exchanges with Abunimah, and with the vehemently anti-Israel Mondoweiss blog, have already raised concerns within the pro-Israel community:

“Obviously a New York Times reporter is expected to talk to everyone in the context of reporting a story, perhaps even terrorists at times. But it’s concerning to see the tone of these exchanges,” said Josh Block, a Middle East analyst and former top official at a pro-Israel group. “These are not people you engage like this, especially your first day as Jerusalem bureau chief for the paper of record. You really don’t even want to be seen in public with them—it’s just a mistake.”

Was the friendly outreach to Israel-bashers an honest mistake? Or a sign of where the New York Times wants to take its Israel coverage? The reporting at the Times has never been particularly favorable toward Israel, and the comments from the new Jerusalem chief indicate that it could get much worse before it gets better.

Read Less

The Real Source of Media Bias on Israel

I have not been the biggest fan of Ethan Bronner of the New York Times. The reportage by Bronner, who spent the last four years as the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times, was a mixed bag. Though he was clearly a talented reporter who often did some good work highlighting the realities of the Palestinian war on Israel, he was also prone–as virtually every other member of the foreign press corps in Israel–to take Palestinian claims at face value and to omit the context of Palestinian rejectionism from accounts of diplomatic and political encounters there.

Nevertheless, Bronner spent the last two years under constant fire, not so much for his role in the Times’s blatant bias against Israel (for which the editors back in New York were chiefly responsible anyway), but because his son served in the Israel Defense Force. Once the news came out about Bronner’s son serving in the army like most Jewish boys his age in Israel, he was subjected to withering criticism from the pro-Palestinian left as well as a nasty column from Clark Hoyt, the paper’s public editor at the time. Now that Bronner’s leaving the post after a four-year term, the story is being recycled, but the notion that he was compromised by his son’s service is just as absurd today as it was then.

Read More

I have not been the biggest fan of Ethan Bronner of the New York Times. The reportage by Bronner, who spent the last four years as the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times, was a mixed bag. Though he was clearly a talented reporter who often did some good work highlighting the realities of the Palestinian war on Israel, he was also prone–as virtually every other member of the foreign press corps in Israel–to take Palestinian claims at face value and to omit the context of Palestinian rejectionism from accounts of diplomatic and political encounters there.

Nevertheless, Bronner spent the last two years under constant fire, not so much for his role in the Times’s blatant bias against Israel (for which the editors back in New York were chiefly responsible anyway), but because his son served in the Israel Defense Force. Once the news came out about Bronner’s son serving in the army like most Jewish boys his age in Israel, he was subjected to withering criticism from the pro-Palestinian left as well as a nasty column from Clark Hoyt, the paper’s public editor at the time. Now that Bronner’s leaving the post after a four-year term, the story is being recycled, but the notion that he was compromised by his son’s service is just as absurd today as it was then.

Hoyt took the position, as did many cheerleaders for the Palestinians, that: “The Times sent a reporter overseas to provide disinterested coverage of one of the world’s most intense and potentially explosive conflicts, and now his son has taken up arms for one side.”

The problem with this formulation is the assumption that the Times ought to regard an ongoing war to extinguish the life of the Jewish state with complete objectivity. But that is no more reasonable than to expect any American journalist with relatives in the U.S. military to have no opinions or stake in attacks on the United States or its forces abroad. While news reporters ought not to take part in partisan politics or advocacy on issues related to their beats, the notion that they should take no position on wars between Western democracy and Islamist terrorists extends rules about objectivity beyond reason. Those who are neutral about the idea that it is okay to single out the one Jewish state in the world for destruction should be accused of a far worse sin than a lack of complete objectivity.

Just as American reporters can and do report stories that can put the government and/or the U.S. military in a bad light while still acting as loyal citizens of this country, so, too, can any person living in Israel report honestly while not choosing to remain completely aloof from that country’s war of survival. Having a son in the IDF did not make Bronner a stooge of the Israeli government.

On the contrary, the vast majority of the foreign press contingent in Israel who proclaim neutrality about the conflict but treat Arab terrorism with kid gloves and assist the delegitimization of the democratic state in which they are living are the ones who deserve censure for bias. Whatever Ethan Bronner’s sins, at least he was not guilty of that. Let’s hope his successor is no worse than him.

Read Less

The Times Gets Confused About Iran Nukes

There are two common reporting challenges that inevitably become more pronounced when a topic of great interest and importance becomes part of the day-to-day news: the tendency of stories to offer no new information whatsoever, and the habit of reporters to allow themselves to be spun into writing self-contradicting pieces.

Today’s New York Times dispatch on Iran is an example of both. The takeaway from the story is that American and Israeli officials talk to each other about the Iranian nuclear program, and that they sometimes agree and sometimes disagree, but don’t expect that to result in an Israeli airstrike on Iran anytime this afternoon, certainly not before dinner. The reporters write that a phone call last month between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu left American officials “persuaded that Mr. Netanyahu was willing to give economic sanctions and other steps time to work.” This is a sentence that could have been written anytime over the last fifteen years, and in fact is only relevant now (a full month after this phone call) because it still hasn’t changed.

Read More

There are two common reporting challenges that inevitably become more pronounced when a topic of great interest and importance becomes part of the day-to-day news: the tendency of stories to offer no new information whatsoever, and the habit of reporters to allow themselves to be spun into writing self-contradicting pieces.

Today’s New York Times dispatch on Iran is an example of both. The takeaway from the story is that American and Israeli officials talk to each other about the Iranian nuclear program, and that they sometimes agree and sometimes disagree, but don’t expect that to result in an Israeli airstrike on Iran anytime this afternoon, certainly not before dinner. The reporters write that a phone call last month between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu left American officials “persuaded that Mr. Netanyahu was willing to give economic sanctions and other steps time to work.” This is a sentence that could have been written anytime over the last fifteen years, and in fact is only relevant now (a full month after this phone call) because it still hasn’t changed.

But the curious aspect of this article is that the writers seem to contradict that point in the next paragraph — or, rather, contradict the relevance of even using that quote. They write:

The difference of opinion over Iran’s nuclear “immunity” is critical because it plays into not just the timing — or bluffing — about a possible military strike, but the calculations about how deeply and quickly sanctions against Iran must bite. If the Israeli argument is right, the question of how fast the Iranians can assemble a weapon becomes less important than whether there is any way to stop them.

“‘Zone of immunity’ is an ill-defined term,” said a senior Obama administration official, expressing frustration that the Israelis are looking at the problem too narrowly, given the many kinds of pressure being placed on Tehran and the increasing evidence that far tougher sanctions are having an effect.

The Israelis have zeroed in on Iran’s plan to put much of its uranium enrichment near Qum in an underground facility beneath so many layers of granite that even the Pentagon acknowledges it would be out of the reach of its best bunker-busting bombs. Once enrichment activities are under way at Qum, the Israelis argue, Iran could throw out United Nations inspectors and produce bomb-grade fuel without fear the facility would be destroyed.

Now hang on a minute. That sounds like the opposite of an “ill-defined” term. It sounds like the Israelis have clearly and explicitly defined it, in order to reduce possible confusion on the part of, say, unnamed Obama administration officials or reporters. Additionally, if it is merely a question of when the Iranians finish this underground facility, then sanctions have a built-in clock; at some point, they become irrelevant, and according to the logic of this story that is when Israel (or someone) will strike. The moment Netanyahu believes time has run out, something will be done about it. Until then, it is extraordinarily obvious that Netanyahu will give sanctions “time to work.”

It’s entirely possible, of course, that that Netanyahu must be persuaded by the Americans that this Iranian facility is not at the point of no return, and that American intelligence on this matter is superior to the intelligence available to the Israelis. But that’s not what the article says. In fact, the article is actually making the opposite case. The Obama administration official talking to the Times reporters is presenting the case that the administration believes Netanyahu is using the wrong benchmark.

The article explicitly states this. The reporters write that Netanyahu is concerned about the Iranians’ “impregnable breakout capability,” the term for this point of no return. “The Americans have a very different view,” according to the Times.

The article pulls the rug out from under itself in this matter several times. Perhaps these unnamed administration officials were “not authorized to describe the conversation” in part because they have no idea what they’re talking about.

Read Less

An Absurd Abortion Argument

On his blog, Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times writes, “Abortion is legal. It is a safe medical procedure. And it is rare. That’s exactly how it should be. Government has no business violating women’s privacy rights and making decisions about their reproductive rights. It is the worst kind of ‘big government’ imaginable.”

On the claim that abortion is a “safe” medical procedure: it isn’t a particularly safe medical procedure for the unborn child being aborted. As for abortion being rare, there are roughly 1.2 million abortions performed in the United States each year, meaning more than 3,000 per day, and approximately 50 million since the legalization of abortion in 1973. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.

Read More

On his blog, Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times writes, “Abortion is legal. It is a safe medical procedure. And it is rare. That’s exactly how it should be. Government has no business violating women’s privacy rights and making decisions about their reproductive rights. It is the worst kind of ‘big government’ imaginable.”

On the claim that abortion is a “safe” medical procedure: it isn’t a particularly safe medical procedure for the unborn child being aborted. As for abortion being rare, there are roughly 1.2 million abortions performed in the United States each year, meaning more than 3,000 per day, and approximately 50 million since the legalization of abortion in 1973. According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.

But let’s focus most of our attention on the claim that conservatives who believe a society should protect life, including innocent, unborn life, are acting in a profoundly un-conservative way by supporting “the worst kind of ‘big government.’”

To begin with: Does Rosenthal believe government should take a stand against abortion when it comes to children in their eighth month in utero and/or children who were marked for abortion but were delivered alive? If Rosenthal believes government should be neutral on such matters, his views are monstrous and radical. If, on the other hand, Rosenthal believes government should say “no” to some abortion procedures, he is acknowledging that at some point the protection of the unborn is, in fact, a state interest. The difference he therefore has with those in the pro-life movement is where he draws the line, not that a line needs to be drawn.

Which brings me to the matter of line drawing. Where does Rosenthal propose to draw it? What objective criteria should we use when it comes to the point at which unborn life should be protected? Brain waves and brain activity? Substantial development of the nervous system? When the unborn child feels pain? When organs, arms and legs develop? Heartbeat and blood flow? Sentience? Rationality? Viability outside the womb? In the second trimester? The third? And then ask yourself this: What medical or moral basis is there to say the state should protect unborn life during the second (or third) trimester but not during the first? The answer is: There is none.

Critics of the pro-life movement, when pressed on the matter, simply throw a dart on the board and decide, for entirely arbitrary reasons, when human life has sufficient value to warrant protection from the state.

It’s worth pointing out as well that on the matter of abortion, we’re dealing with human life. That’s not a “religious” judgment; it’s a scientific one. The fetus is indisputably alive and, if it comes to full term, it won’t be a giraffe or a coyote; it will be a human child. Infants are released from the hospital to go to a home, not a zoo. The question, of course, is at what point in the developmental stage one ascribes moral significance and the protection of the law to unborn life. Intelligent and honorable people disagree on this matter. But even liberals writing for the New York Times must acknowledge, at least to themselves, if not
publicly, that at some point the entity in question has a legitimate moral and legal claim on society; that at some point puncturing the skull of an unborn child and sucking out her brain is an act a decent society should oppose. And even Andrew Rosenthal, if he can escape for just a moment from his left-wing catechism, would see how misguided it is to insist that having government protect the most defenseless members of the human community is not the “worst
kind of ‘big government’ imaginable.” There are, in fact, horrors even worse than defending unborn children.

 

Read Less

Iran Threatens Israel With Destruction, But the Times Doesn’t Hear It

Today’s speech by Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about the sanctions on his country and its determination to persist in its quest for nuclear capability was a significant news event. Khamenei served notice on the United States that he would not be bluffed into giving up his nuclear plans. Though he conceded the economic pressure on his country has hurt, he said Iran is undaunted and would retaliate against the United States should its nuclear facilities come under attack. All this was reported in newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, which posted a story on the speech Friday morning.

However, there was something missing from the Times report of Khamenei’s speech that was reported elsewhere. Other accounts noted that in addition to threatening the United States, Khamenei said this: “The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed.” While we don’t know how or why a mention of this element of the speech managed to get excised from the account in the Times, it’s a question worth pondering.

Read More

Today’s speech by Iran’s Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about the sanctions on his country and its determination to persist in its quest for nuclear capability was a significant news event. Khamenei served notice on the United States that he would not be bluffed into giving up his nuclear plans. Though he conceded the economic pressure on his country has hurt, he said Iran is undaunted and would retaliate against the United States should its nuclear facilities come under attack. All this was reported in newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, which posted a story on the speech Friday morning.

However, there was something missing from the Times report of Khamenei’s speech that was reported elsewhere. Other accounts noted that in addition to threatening the United States, Khamenei said this: “The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor and it will be removed.” While we don’t know how or why a mention of this element of the speech managed to get excised from the account in the Times, it’s a question worth pondering.

Any discussion of the nature of the Iranian nuclear threat that ignores the regime’s murderous intentions toward Israel is clearly incomplete.

An Iranian bomb would change the balance of power in the region and endanger all moderate Arab regimes while strengthening the hand of Tehran’s terrorist allies such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas (though relations between Gaza and Iran have cooled recently). It would also threaten the free flow of oil from the Gulf to the West and diminish the strategic position as well as the security of both the United States and Europe.

But it is only Israel that Iran has promised to destroy. That is why placing a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime pledged to the eradication of the Jewish state is a different order of threat than Khamenei’s usual bluster aimed at the United States. Because of its small size and concentrated population, one or two nuclear explosions would mean another Holocaust.

So when Khamenei repeats the Islamist regime’s pledge to make good on its threat to destroy “the Zionist regime” in the same context as its vow to satisfy its nuclear ambitions, this is no minor rhetorical point. It is, instead, tangible evidence that Israel’s alarm about Iran is justified and that the question of what to do about this threat is a matter of life and death for millions in the Jewish state.

For the Times to eliminate Khamenei’s threat to Israel from its coverage even as it accurately reports other elements of the speech is more than curious. At the very least, it is an egregious error of judgment. At worst, it smacks of an effort to skew the discussion about Iran away from the imminent peril that its Tehran’s nuclear program represents.

Those who seek to dismiss the justified fears expressed by friends of Israel about the Obama administration’s hesitancy in taking actions and efforts to forestall an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities wish to lower the temperature of the discussion and ignore Khamenei’s threats. But doing so makes it impossible to make a rational decision about averting the danger. Further prevarication such as that going on in Washington right now about Iran is exactly what Khamenei is hoping for as Iran seeks to run out the clock and achieve its ambitions before the West or Israel acts to stop them. Those who believe a nuclear Iran can be “contained” or doubt Iran’s evil intentions need to understand what Khamenei said and what he meant by it. But that won’t happen if major media outlets suppress the full story about Iran.

Read Less

Erasing 20 Years of History

When I first read Jonathan’s post yesterday, I thought he was blaming President Barack Obama unfairly: The Palestinians don’t need Obama to produce excuses for shunning negotiations; they’ve produced plenty all by themselves (about which more in a separate post). But when I read the New York Times article he referenced, I was shocked – not by the Palestinians’ position, but by reporter Ethan Bronner’s. For when a Palestinian official asserted that Israel’s demand to retain the major settlement blocs “abandons … the framework we have been focused on for the past 20 years,” Bronner, who as a veteran Israeli correspondent should surely have known better, parroted this without a word of demurral – thereby erasing 20 years of history in which every single proposal ever discussed had Israel keeping the settlement blocs.

President Bill Clinton’s parameters of 2000, long considered the blueprint for any final-status agreement, assigned the settlement blocs to Israel. President George W. Bush asserted in a 2004 letter that “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of 2008 – which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, after rejecting at the time, suddenly embraced last year, once Olmert was gone and it was off the table – also had Israel retaining the settlement blocs.

Read More

When I first read Jonathan’s post yesterday, I thought he was blaming President Barack Obama unfairly: The Palestinians don’t need Obama to produce excuses for shunning negotiations; they’ve produced plenty all by themselves (about which more in a separate post). But when I read the New York Times article he referenced, I was shocked – not by the Palestinians’ position, but by reporter Ethan Bronner’s. For when a Palestinian official asserted that Israel’s demand to retain the major settlement blocs “abandons … the framework we have been focused on for the past 20 years,” Bronner, who as a veteran Israeli correspondent should surely have known better, parroted this without a word of demurral – thereby erasing 20 years of history in which every single proposal ever discussed had Israel keeping the settlement blocs.

President Bill Clinton’s parameters of 2000, long considered the blueprint for any final-status agreement, assigned the settlement blocs to Israel. President George W. Bush asserted in a 2004 letter that “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion.” Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of 2008 – which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, after rejecting at the time, suddenly embraced last year, once Olmert was gone and it was off the table – also had Israel retaining the settlement blocs.

In short, Israeli retention of the settlement blocs is precisely “the framework we have been focused on for the past 20 years.”

But along came Obama, with his assertion last May that the starting point for talks should be the 1967 lines rather than two decades of previous negotiations, and suddenly, 20 years of history have been erased: The Palestinians can unblushingly assert that Israel’s demand to retain the settlement blocs is a new demand, and a veteran New York Times reporter can unblushingly parrot that assertion. In effect, the starting point for talks has just been moved.

This would indeed be a serious obstacle to negotiations if they ever resumed, because in 20 years of conceding one “red line” after another, one of the few things successive Israeli governments have never wavered on is their insistence on retaining the settlement blocs. Yet the Palestinians can’t be more Catholic than the Pope: If the U.S. president deems the settlement blocs illegitimate, Palestinians can hardly do otherwise. That’s precisely why previous U.S. presidents were always careful to provide cover for Palestinian negotiators by making it clear that in their view, the settlement blocs should remain Israeli.

But Obama has practically single-handedly created a new narrative, in which Israeli retention of the settlement blocs is not a given, and his allies in the media are eagerly disseminating it. And that mistake, as Jonathan aptly said, will haunt Israeli-Palestinian talks for a long time to come.

Read Less

Identifying Israel’s “Main Enemies”

The controversy ended almost as soon as it began. Yesterday, Jerusalem Post editor Steve Linde told an audience that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had told him a couple of weeks earlier the New York Times and Haaretz were Israel’s “main enemies” because “they set the agenda for an anti-Israel campaign all over the world.” That comment, made during a private meeting with the journalist, set off a minor furor with many, including Linde, saying they thought it odd those two journalistic institutions would outrank Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran as the Jewish state’s main foes and that such a statement reflects Netanyahu’s Nixon-like paranoia about the press. However, the prime minister’s office immediately denied Netanyahu had said it, and Linde soon backtracked, telling Haaretz the words were merely his interpretation and not a direct quote.

Nevertheless, this non-story is a reminder of a great truth about the Arab-Israeli conflict. While it would be absurd to actually rank the Times or Ha’aretz higher in the list of Israel’s foes than actual military and terrorist threats, biased media reports are a not inconsiderable problem for a beleaguered Jewish state. So whatever it is that Netanyahu actually said to Linde, his concern about a distorted vision of Israel’s policies being the lens through which most foreigners view his country is neither foolish nor paranoid.

Read More

The controversy ended almost as soon as it began. Yesterday, Jerusalem Post editor Steve Linde told an audience that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had told him a couple of weeks earlier the New York Times and Haaretz were Israel’s “main enemies” because “they set the agenda for an anti-Israel campaign all over the world.” That comment, made during a private meeting with the journalist, set off a minor furor with many, including Linde, saying they thought it odd those two journalistic institutions would outrank Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran as the Jewish state’s main foes and that such a statement reflects Netanyahu’s Nixon-like paranoia about the press. However, the prime minister’s office immediately denied Netanyahu had said it, and Linde soon backtracked, telling Haaretz the words were merely his interpretation and not a direct quote.

Nevertheless, this non-story is a reminder of a great truth about the Arab-Israeli conflict. While it would be absurd to actually rank the Times or Ha’aretz higher in the list of Israel’s foes than actual military and terrorist threats, biased media reports are a not inconsiderable problem for a beleaguered Jewish state. So whatever it is that Netanyahu actually said to Linde, his concern about a distorted vision of Israel’s policies being the lens through which most foreigners view his country is neither foolish nor paranoid.

Newspapers that invariably frame the conflict as one in which Israel is an oppressive state that bullies the Palestinians, violates human rights and responds to alleged threats with disproportionate force do help undermine support for the Jewish state. Journalists who treat the dispute over the West Bank and Jerusalem as one in which only the Palestinians have rights while the Israelis merely have overblown demands for security similarly help create a diplomatic playing field in which Israel is always at a disadvantage. Even worse, those who rarely, if ever, place stories about the conflict in the context of a 100-year-old Arab and Muslim war to eradicate the Jewish presence in the country, or who make any effort to accurately portray Palestinian public opinion about peace or their unwillingness to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state do their audience and Israel a disservice.

Haaretz reports the news based on its political bias against Netanyahu’s party and ideology. The Times news and opinion sections follow the same script just as slavishly. The influence of these two papers is not inconsiderable, though it must be admitted the bias of America’s newspaper of record has done little to harm the widespread and bi-partisan support for Israel in the United States. However, the misperceptions of Israel and the conflict the Times has helped perpetuate have had an impact on American Jewish opinion. The effort to depict Israel as the Goliath of the Middle East rather than the David is a blow to the self-esteem of some liberal Times readers and has given them a reason to distance themselves from Zionism.

As such, Netanyahu does well to worry about this problem and to seek to counter the influence of those who have a destructive impact on his country’s image. Though the prime minister shouldn’t give in to the temptation to demonize the international media, just because he’s paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get him, or his country.

Read Less

The NYTimes’ Path of Deep Defense Cuts

The New York Times today has another example of my favorite kind of editorial–the self-refuting kind. The Times editors applaud President Obama’s new defense strategy for a “A Leaner Pentagon” and even fret that a renewed focus on the Pacific could justify “unrestrained” spending (this at a time of plummeting defense spending). Then the editors add what is known in the trade as a “to be sure” paragraph:

Still, the United States must be ready to face multiple contingencies. Our own chilling list includes a collapsing Pakistan, another state hijacked by al-Qaeda, Iran blocking oil shipping as it pursues its nuclear ambitions or a weak or unbalanced North Korean leader making a suicidal run across the South Korean border.

Read More

The New York Times today has another example of my favorite kind of editorial–the self-refuting kind. The Times editors applaud President Obama’s new defense strategy for a “A Leaner Pentagon” and even fret that a renewed focus on the Pacific could justify “unrestrained” spending (this at a time of plummeting defense spending). Then the editors add what is known in the trade as a “to be sure” paragraph:

Still, the United States must be ready to face multiple contingencies. Our own chilling list includes a collapsing Pakistan, another state hijacked by al-Qaeda, Iran blocking oil shipping as it pursues its nuclear ambitions or a weak or unbalanced North Korean leader making a suicidal run across the South Korean border.

I agree these are all very real, very worrisome scenarios–and the editors have hardly exhausted the list. How about the possibility of a clash with China? Or the possibility of a nuclear terrorist attack necessitating a massive response?

How, pray tell, is the U.S. supposed to get ready for dealing with all of these possible contingencies–much less for the prospect of more than one occurring at once–if the defense budget stands to be cut by as much as a trillion dollars during the next decade? The answer is, it’s impossible. Means don’t match ends. Resources are insufficient to safeguard against all these risks in a credible and convincing manner. Which is why we can’t afford to pursue the Times’ editors favored path of deep defense cuts.

 

Read Less

NYTimes Gives Solace to Virtual Lynch Mob

On December 29, Egyptian security forces descended on the offices of Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI), seizing both work and personal computers, and detaining staff members in their respective buildings. The State Department, for its part, said it was “deeply concerned,” and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s military strongman, to reiterate the condemnation.

Both NDI and IRI are funded by congressional grants administered through the National Endowment for Democracy, as well as grants from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. IRI does not receive money from the Republican Party, nor does NDI receive money from the Democratic Party. They are not like European political party foundations, in that they do not serve as arms of any political party. Because U.S. taxpayer money supports both organizations, they cooperate closely and do not compete. Sometimes they work exclusively in one country or another while in other places like Egypt where they both make sure they work on separate, complementary projects rather than competing projects. NDI and IRI staff are also impressive. They are far better in general than their State Department counterparts at breaking out of the bubble to get a sense of what is going on at ground level. They certainly deliver more bang for the taxpayer buck than do USAID or the State Department.

Read More

On December 29, Egyptian security forces descended on the offices of Freedom House, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and the International Republican Institute (IRI), seizing both work and personal computers, and detaining staff members in their respective buildings. The State Department, for its part, said it was “deeply concerned,” and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s military strongman, to reiterate the condemnation.

Both NDI and IRI are funded by congressional grants administered through the National Endowment for Democracy, as well as grants from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. IRI does not receive money from the Republican Party, nor does NDI receive money from the Democratic Party. They are not like European political party foundations, in that they do not serve as arms of any political party. Because U.S. taxpayer money supports both organizations, they cooperate closely and do not compete. Sometimes they work exclusively in one country or another while in other places like Egypt where they both make sure they work on separate, complementary projects rather than competing projects. NDI and IRI staff are also impressive. They are far better in general than their State Department counterparts at breaking out of the bubble to get a sense of what is going on at ground level. They certainly deliver more bang for the taxpayer buck than do USAID or the State Department.

The New York Times has, along with other elite newspapers, covered the raids in generally a straight-forward fashion. In an editorial, the New York Times called IRI and NDI, “well known and respected.” How times have changed. In the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, the New York Times published a series of hit pieces about IRI. While Democrats play a pro forma role at NDI, and Republicans do likewise at IRI, the New York Times sought to weave reality into a far more sinister, error-ridden conspiracy. Because he wanted to target John McCain, Times reporter Mike McIntire used IRI–an organization he knew very little about—as a foil, raising protests not only in the democracy community, but also overseas–among those whom IRI has long assisted.

That the New York Times would come to IRI’s defense against the Egyptian outrage, yet seek to tar and feather the organization in the context of a U.S. political campaign in which it had no involvement, shows the Gray Lady’s blatant politicization. The New York Times’ 2008 attack was not so different in spirit than Tantawi’s 2011 assault. The only difference was that Tantawi controls his own thugs, while  Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. could only give intellectual solace to a virtual lynch mob.

Read Less

Israel Won’t “Bibiwash” NYTimes Bias

The unceasing drumbeat of Israel-bashing on the pages of the New York Times is not exactly a secret. The paper’s editorial pages along with columnists Tom Friedman and Nicholas Kristof have presented a solid front of opposition to the State of Israel with none of the paper’s other columnists presenting an alternative view. The avalanche of one-sided sniping at the Jewish state reached a crescendo this week with a column by Friedman in which he mimed anti-Semitic attacks on Israel’s backers by claiming that Congress was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

But the office of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is apparently not prepared to play along with the pretense that the Grey Lady practices objective journalism. As the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday, Ron Dermer, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, wrote to the Times to tell them the PM would not write a piece for the op-ed page because doing so would “Bibiwash” the paper. Though the Times invited Netanyahu to contribute a piece defending his policies, Dermer pointed out that 19 of 20 op-ed articles published since September were blasts aimed at Israel. After a litany of outrageous assaults on the country, there was no need for the prime minister to legitimize the Times with a token article.

Read More

The unceasing drumbeat of Israel-bashing on the pages of the New York Times is not exactly a secret. The paper’s editorial pages along with columnists Tom Friedman and Nicholas Kristof have presented a solid front of opposition to the State of Israel with none of the paper’s other columnists presenting an alternative view. The avalanche of one-sided sniping at the Jewish state reached a crescendo this week with a column by Friedman in which he mimed anti-Semitic attacks on Israel’s backers by claiming that Congress was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

But the office of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is apparently not prepared to play along with the pretense that the Grey Lady practices objective journalism. As the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday, Ron Dermer, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, wrote to the Times to tell them the PM would not write a piece for the op-ed page because doing so would “Bibiwash” the paper. Though the Times invited Netanyahu to contribute a piece defending his policies, Dermer pointed out that 19 of 20 op-ed articles published since September were blasts aimed at Israel. After a litany of outrageous assaults on the country, there was no need for the prime minister to legitimize the Times with a token article.

As Dermer pointed out out, the only op-ed article published by the Times during this period that defended Israel was by Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist whose claim to fame is the fact that he lent his name to a libelous United Nations report attacking Israel that he has since recanted. Every other piece has been part of the one-sided campaign in which the Jewish state has been skewered from every possible angle including some outrageous and clearly false assertions a less biased paper would never have considered. That list included an absurd article claiming it was wrong for Israel to take pride in its fine record on gay rights and one by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in which he re-wrote history by claiming Arab armies invaded the newborn Israel in 1948 to protect Palestinian Arabs rather than to destroy the Jewish state.

Netanyahu’s office is only just now noticing something the paper’s readers deduced long ago. The editors of the Times abandoned any semblance of balance on their opinion page many years ago. In terms of American domestic politics and foreign policy that means a preponderance of liberal views with only token and half-hearted opposition by the Times’s house “conservatives.” However, when it comes to Israel, it means a page in which Israel’s friends are unwelcome while its critics and enemies enjoy a year-round open season on the Jewish state. In the not-so-distant past, writers like A.M. Rosenthal and William Safire would balance the views of the editorial column and the paper’s left-wing columnists, but now there is no one on staff ready to do so.

Under the circumstances, Netanyahu’s koshering of the Times would do nothing but allow the paper to pretend to be fair. Though its doubtful anybody at the Times is likely to take this criticism to heart, by calling them out for their bias Dermer and his boss have performed a public service that should warm the hearts of many of the paper’s readers as well as those who have long since given up reading it.

Read Less

Holocaust Scholar Quoted in Anti-Glenn Beck Letter Criticizes the Campaign

A Holocaust scholar quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice’s anti–Glenn Beck letter has criticized the group’s campaign as one-sided and political.

Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, is the fourth person or organization cited in the letter who has questioned the political motives of the anti-Beck campaign. The Jewish Funds for Justice letter, published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and the Jewish Daily Forward last week, called on Fox News to sanction Beck because of his use of “Holocaust imagery.”

“I don’t disagree with the thrust of JFSJ’s ad,” wrote Lipstadt in a column in the Forward yesterday. “That said, I do worry that it is a distortion to focus solely on the conservative end of the political spectrum.”

While still maintaining that Beck’s comments about the Holocaust crossed the line, Lipstadt noted that, in recent years, some of the most offensive Holocaust rhetoric has come from the political left:

During his term in office, President George W. Bush was frequently compared to Hitler. A 2006 New York Times ad from a group called the World Can’t Wait, signed by a number of prominent leftists (as well as five Democratic members of Congress), cited a litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s policies and concluded: “People look at all this and think of Hitler — and rightly so.” British playwright and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, who signed onto the ad, went to so far as to call the Bush administration “more dangerous than Nazi Germany.” (emphasis added)

Similarly, references to Israelis as “Nazis” and claims that Israel is committing genocide abound in left-wing discourse. Because of their ubiquity, we have almost become inured to the horror of such comparisons.

“Is this about principle, or is it about politics?” asked Lipstadt. “Is this about anti-Semitism, or about Rupert Murdoch?”

The Anti-Defamation League, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, and COMMENTARY were also quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice letter and have all since clarified that they are not associated with the campaign. However, as noted yesterday, Jewish Funds for Justice is continuing to collect signatures for the letter on its website.

A Holocaust scholar quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice’s anti–Glenn Beck letter has criticized the group’s campaign as one-sided and political.

Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, is the fourth person or organization cited in the letter who has questioned the political motives of the anti-Beck campaign. The Jewish Funds for Justice letter, published as a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and the Jewish Daily Forward last week, called on Fox News to sanction Beck because of his use of “Holocaust imagery.”

“I don’t disagree with the thrust of JFSJ’s ad,” wrote Lipstadt in a column in the Forward yesterday. “That said, I do worry that it is a distortion to focus solely on the conservative end of the political spectrum.”

While still maintaining that Beck’s comments about the Holocaust crossed the line, Lipstadt noted that, in recent years, some of the most offensive Holocaust rhetoric has come from the political left:

During his term in office, President George W. Bush was frequently compared to Hitler. A 2006 New York Times ad from a group called the World Can’t Wait, signed by a number of prominent leftists (as well as five Democratic members of Congress), cited a litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s policies and concluded: “People look at all this and think of Hitler — and rightly so.” British playwright and Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter, who signed onto the ad, went to so far as to call the Bush administration “more dangerous than Nazi Germany.” (emphasis added)

Similarly, references to Israelis as “Nazis” and claims that Israel is committing genocide abound in left-wing discourse. Because of their ubiquity, we have almost become inured to the horror of such comparisons.

“Is this about principle, or is it about politics?” asked Lipstadt. “Is this about anti-Semitism, or about Rupert Murdoch?”

The Anti-Defamation League, the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, and COMMENTARY were also quoted in the Jewish Funds for Justice letter and have all since clarified that they are not associated with the campaign. However, as noted yesterday, Jewish Funds for Justice is continuing to collect signatures for the letter on its website.

Read Less

And You Think We’ve Got Troubles . . .

Two articles in today’s New York Times show just how much trouble Japan is in economically. On the front page is an article on how young Japanese are finding it increasingly difficult to find a good job. Only 56.7 percent of college students have a firm job offer when they graduate, an all-time low.

An aging population is clogging the nation’s economy with the vested interests of older generations, young people and social experts warn, making an already hierarchical society even more rigid and conservative. The result is that Japan is holding back and marginalizing its youth at a time when it actually needs them to help create the new products, companies and industries that a mature economy requires to grow.

With a population that is actually falling in numbers, a very low birth rate, virtually no immigration, and an ever-increasing life expectancy, Japan is a demographic time bomb as the average age of the population steadily increases. There are more and more recipients of old-age pensions and medical care and fewer and fewer young workers to fund them.

And Standard and Poor’s has lowered Japan’s credit rating, down to AA-. That’s three steps below the top grade of AAA. China has the same rating, but China is growing rapidly, and its debt is only about 15 percent of GDP. Japan’s debt this year will reach 203 percent. (The debt/GDP ratio of Greece last year when it nearly defaulted and had to be rescued by the European Union was 137 percent.)

Of all the major economic powers, Japan is by far in the worst shape, and its politicians seem unable to take the tough steps necessary to turn things around. It’s hard to imagine that only 25 years ago, there was a spate of chin-pulling books and articles on how Japan was poised to become the world’s leading economy.

Two articles in today’s New York Times show just how much trouble Japan is in economically. On the front page is an article on how young Japanese are finding it increasingly difficult to find a good job. Only 56.7 percent of college students have a firm job offer when they graduate, an all-time low.

An aging population is clogging the nation’s economy with the vested interests of older generations, young people and social experts warn, making an already hierarchical society even more rigid and conservative. The result is that Japan is holding back and marginalizing its youth at a time when it actually needs them to help create the new products, companies and industries that a mature economy requires to grow.

With a population that is actually falling in numbers, a very low birth rate, virtually no immigration, and an ever-increasing life expectancy, Japan is a demographic time bomb as the average age of the population steadily increases. There are more and more recipients of old-age pensions and medical care and fewer and fewer young workers to fund them.

And Standard and Poor’s has lowered Japan’s credit rating, down to AA-. That’s three steps below the top grade of AAA. China has the same rating, but China is growing rapidly, and its debt is only about 15 percent of GDP. Japan’s debt this year will reach 203 percent. (The debt/GDP ratio of Greece last year when it nearly defaulted and had to be rescued by the European Union was 137 percent.)

Of all the major economic powers, Japan is by far in the worst shape, and its politicians seem unable to take the tough steps necessary to turn things around. It’s hard to imagine that only 25 years ago, there was a spate of chin-pulling books and articles on how Japan was poised to become the world’s leading economy.

Read Less

Middle East Optimism Requires Blinders

Optimism about peace between Israel and the Palestinians has always been a matter of religious faith rather than rational analysis. Every new proof that the process begun in 1993 with the Oslo Accords was based on false premises must be dismissed or ignored simply because believers in peace insist it is possible and because they wish it be so. While the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has not generally been among the most dogged optimists about peace, he was still willing to co-author a 2,200-word essay with Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine published on today’s New York Times op-ed page that argues that despite the evidence of our lying eyes, there is still plenty of room for belief that the process can be revived.

Their thesis rests on the idea that changes in the political cultures of both Israel and the Palestinians make progress inevitable. It is true that there is an overwhelming consensus within Israel in favor of a two-state solution and that even the supposedly intransigent right-wing government of the country has made it clear it is ready to accept a Palestinian state. It is also true that the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad has made great strides toward making the territories a better place for its inhabitants, though Goldberg and Ibish overestimate the PA’s abandonment of anti-Semitic incitement and the language of delegitimization of Israel. The PA has also created a security apparatus that has been allowed greater scope by the Israelis, and Abbas and Fayyad understand it is in their interest to clamp down on terrorism.

These are factors that theoretically ought to allow the two sides to come to an agreement and finally make peace. But that hasn’t happened. The reason is that the less-hopeful developments of the past few years are still far more important in determining whether the conflict can be brought to an end. Read More

Optimism about peace between Israel and the Palestinians has always been a matter of religious faith rather than rational analysis. Every new proof that the process begun in 1993 with the Oslo Accords was based on false premises must be dismissed or ignored simply because believers in peace insist it is possible and because they wish it be so. While the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has not generally been among the most dogged optimists about peace, he was still willing to co-author a 2,200-word essay with Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine published on today’s New York Times op-ed page that argues that despite the evidence of our lying eyes, there is still plenty of room for belief that the process can be revived.

Their thesis rests on the idea that changes in the political cultures of both Israel and the Palestinians make progress inevitable. It is true that there is an overwhelming consensus within Israel in favor of a two-state solution and that even the supposedly intransigent right-wing government of the country has made it clear it is ready to accept a Palestinian state. It is also true that the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad has made great strides toward making the territories a better place for its inhabitants, though Goldberg and Ibish overestimate the PA’s abandonment of anti-Semitic incitement and the language of delegitimization of Israel. The PA has also created a security apparatus that has been allowed greater scope by the Israelis, and Abbas and Fayyad understand it is in their interest to clamp down on terrorism.

These are factors that theoretically ought to allow the two sides to come to an agreement and finally make peace. But that hasn’t happened. The reason is that the less-hopeful developments of the past few years are still far more important in determining whether the conflict can be brought to an end.

The chief of these is the power of Hamas. Optimists like Goldberg acknowledge the fact that Gaza is a Hamas state and that no peace can be signed without its agreement. Unacknowledged in the Goldberg-Ibish piece is the fact that Abbas’s hold on the West Bank rests not on his legitimacy or the strength of his forces but on Israel’s unwillingness to allow it to fall into the hands of Hamas, as happened in Gaza in 2006. After all, Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert offered Abbas a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem in 2008 and was turned down flat. President Obama’s foolish insistence on an Israeli settlement freeze even in those areas (as the recently released Al Jazeera documents show) the PA had already agreed would stay in Israeli hands has made it impossible for those talks to be renewed. But even if Abbas were to return to the table, he would be faced with the same dilemma he had before. Were he to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders were drawn, he would face the wrath of his own people (as the reaction from the released documents proves), and even Israel’s support might not be enough to keep him in power, or alive.

Goldberg and Ibish conclude their lengthy article by calling for both Netanyahu and Abbas to visit the other side and acknowledge their antagonists’ respective rights and pain much in the way that Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan once did. But they forget that the original Oslo Accords were just such an acknowledgment, and that while Israelis swooned over such gestures (even though Yasir Arafat’s credibility was very much doubtful), Palestinians merely took Israel’s willingness to make concessions as a sign of weakness and lack of faith in the rightness of their cause. Moreover, Abbas doesn’t dare do more. In a region where both Israel and the PA are faced with the growing influence of Iran and its allies Hezbollah (which is moving toward control of Lebanon) and Hamas, the tide of extremism is more than a match for Fayyad’s pragmatism. Under such circumstances, optimism about peace requires the sort of tunnel vision that comes only with blind faith.

Read Less

Still Another Peace Plan

Today’s New York Times describes the report by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute — “Imagining the Border: Options for Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Territorial Issue” — which provides detailed maps showing that Israel’s borders could cover 80 percent of the settlers while providing Palestinians a contiguous state on 95 percent of the West Bank. Makovsky tells the Times that his report shows peace is possible:

The goal, Mr. Makovsky said, is to “demystify” the territorial hurdles that divide Israelis and Palestinians, and to debunk the notion that there is no way to reconcile the Palestinian demand for sovereignty over the West Bank with the Israeli demand for control over a majority of the settlers. … “There are land swaps that would offset whatever settlements Israel would retain. The impossible is attainable.”

Makovsky’s report demonstrates that the stated premise of the Palestinian’s draft UN resolution — that the settlements are “a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace” — is false. But this is not exactly news: the premise has been demonstrably false for more than 10 years. If you look at the Makovsky map the Times links to in its article and compare it to Dennis Ross’s map of the Clinton Parameters (posted here), you can see the two maps are substantially the same.

In the past 10 years, the Palestinians received two offers of a contiguous state on virtually the entire West Bank — first in 2000 and again in 2008 — and rejected them both (for a total of seven rejections of a state since 1919). They received a settlementrein Gaza in 2005 and turned it into Hamastan. They demanded a settlement freeze as a precondition to negotiations (without offering any concessions of their own), got a 10-month moratorium on new construction … and refused to negotiate.

They could have had a state long ago, if a second state were what they wanted. But the Palestinian Authority is already a failed state several times over — unwilling to recognize a Jewish state next to it, unable to “live side by side in peace and security”™ even when given land without a single settler in it, unable to negotiate even when given a 10-month settlement freeze, unable even to hold local elections in the half-state it governs.

The Makovsky report is ultimately irrelevant, since it proposes a “solution” to what is not the problem.

Today’s New York Times describes the report by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute — “Imagining the Border: Options for Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Territorial Issue” — which provides detailed maps showing that Israel’s borders could cover 80 percent of the settlers while providing Palestinians a contiguous state on 95 percent of the West Bank. Makovsky tells the Times that his report shows peace is possible:

The goal, Mr. Makovsky said, is to “demystify” the territorial hurdles that divide Israelis and Palestinians, and to debunk the notion that there is no way to reconcile the Palestinian demand for sovereignty over the West Bank with the Israeli demand for control over a majority of the settlers. … “There are land swaps that would offset whatever settlements Israel would retain. The impossible is attainable.”

Makovsky’s report demonstrates that the stated premise of the Palestinian’s draft UN resolution — that the settlements are “a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace” — is false. But this is not exactly news: the premise has been demonstrably false for more than 10 years. If you look at the Makovsky map the Times links to in its article and compare it to Dennis Ross’s map of the Clinton Parameters (posted here), you can see the two maps are substantially the same.

In the past 10 years, the Palestinians received two offers of a contiguous state on virtually the entire West Bank — first in 2000 and again in 2008 — and rejected them both (for a total of seven rejections of a state since 1919). They received a settlementrein Gaza in 2005 and turned it into Hamastan. They demanded a settlement freeze as a precondition to negotiations (without offering any concessions of their own), got a 10-month moratorium on new construction … and refused to negotiate.

They could have had a state long ago, if a second state were what they wanted. But the Palestinian Authority is already a failed state several times over — unwilling to recognize a Jewish state next to it, unable to “live side by side in peace and security”™ even when given land without a single settler in it, unable to negotiate even when given a 10-month settlement freeze, unable even to hold local elections in the half-state it governs.

The Makovsky report is ultimately irrelevant, since it proposes a “solution” to what is not the problem.

Read Less

RE: Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman

Following up on John’s post on Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: a standard trope in the mainstream news media is to bemoan the decline of bipartisanship and the disappearance of centrist politicians. If only there were more lawmakers willing to vote based on their principles rather than politics, we often hear, Washington would be a better place. Except this week just such a politician announced his retirement, and instead of offering him tributes for his political bravery, he has been kicked in the shins for daring to deviate from the party line.

I am thinking, of course, of Joe Lieberman, who has come to define genuine bipartisanship in Washington. A liberal Democrat on many issues, he voted for ObamaCare and led the charge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But he also courageously supported the Iraq war even when it became extremely unpopular to do so, and he stood by his friend John McCain even when McCain was opposing Barack Obama, the liberal darling. Thus Lieberman’s retirement announcement has been greeted not with tributes to his statesmanship but with brickbats hurled by the likes of New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

In an ungraceful and unpleasant column, Collins cannot seem to find anything nice to say about one of the nicest people in Washington. She even slights him rather than praises him for his leadership on allowing gays to serve openly in the military:

Last month, when he helped lead the fight for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” some people seemed more than a tad resentful at having to give up complaining about him for the duration of the debate. “Of course, he wants gay people in the military,” wrote Alex Pareene at Salon.com, “He wants everyone in the military.”

Whatever happened to civility in politics — that virtue much praised in recent weeks? Do its dictates apply only to Republicans? And is “courage” a virtue that can be exhibited only by those who take liberal policy stands? Silly questions, I know.  The commentary on Lieberman’s retirement confirms that there is no institution quite so partisan as the MSM, even as it sings the praises of bipartisanship.

Following up on John’s post on Gail Collins and Joe Lieberman: a standard trope in the mainstream news media is to bemoan the decline of bipartisanship and the disappearance of centrist politicians. If only there were more lawmakers willing to vote based on their principles rather than politics, we often hear, Washington would be a better place. Except this week just such a politician announced his retirement, and instead of offering him tributes for his political bravery, he has been kicked in the shins for daring to deviate from the party line.

I am thinking, of course, of Joe Lieberman, who has come to define genuine bipartisanship in Washington. A liberal Democrat on many issues, he voted for ObamaCare and led the charge to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But he also courageously supported the Iraq war even when it became extremely unpopular to do so, and he stood by his friend John McCain even when McCain was opposing Barack Obama, the liberal darling. Thus Lieberman’s retirement announcement has been greeted not with tributes to his statesmanship but with brickbats hurled by the likes of New York Times columnist Gail Collins.

In an ungraceful and unpleasant column, Collins cannot seem to find anything nice to say about one of the nicest people in Washington. She even slights him rather than praises him for his leadership on allowing gays to serve openly in the military:

Last month, when he helped lead the fight for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” some people seemed more than a tad resentful at having to give up complaining about him for the duration of the debate. “Of course, he wants gay people in the military,” wrote Alex Pareene at Salon.com, “He wants everyone in the military.”

Whatever happened to civility in politics — that virtue much praised in recent weeks? Do its dictates apply only to Republicans? And is “courage” a virtue that can be exhibited only by those who take liberal policy stands? Silly questions, I know.  The commentary on Lieberman’s retirement confirms that there is no institution quite so partisan as the MSM, even as it sings the praises of bipartisanship.

Read Less

Replacing the White House Economic Team May Not Be Enough

One of America’s finest reporters, Peter Baker, offers us — in a New York Times Magazine story — a behind-the-curtain look at the White House economic team of the past two years. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s a White House characterized by infighting and turmoil, out-of-control egos and dysfunctionality. “The team never embraced the no-drama-Obama ethos,” according to Baker.

Baker also writes that “their failure to define [the problems they faced in early 2009] from those early days has undermined a bedrock idea of American liberalism, the faith in the capacity of government to play a constructive role in the markets and make up for the limits of individuals to cope with them.”

It is little wonder that the president has brought in almost an entirely new economic team. But at some point, it may dawn on Mr. Obama that the problem is not simply his team, but the economic ideas and philosophy that are guiding his decisions. Those appear to be harder for him to replace than Larry Summers.

One of America’s finest reporters, Peter Baker, offers us — in a New York Times Magazine story — a behind-the-curtain look at the White House economic team of the past two years. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s a White House characterized by infighting and turmoil, out-of-control egos and dysfunctionality. “The team never embraced the no-drama-Obama ethos,” according to Baker.

Baker also writes that “their failure to define [the problems they faced in early 2009] from those early days has undermined a bedrock idea of American liberalism, the faith in the capacity of government to play a constructive role in the markets and make up for the limits of individuals to cope with them.”

It is little wonder that the president has brought in almost an entirely new economic team. But at some point, it may dawn on Mr. Obama that the problem is not simply his team, but the economic ideas and philosophy that are guiding his decisions. Those appear to be harder for him to replace than Larry Summers.

Read Less

One Responsible Response to the Tucson Tragedy

Since I’ve been critical of New York Times reporters and columnists for what they’ve written about the Tucson massacre, it’s only fair to praise one as well.

David Brooks appeared on PBS’s The News Hour and wrote a column on the coverage of the killings in Arizona on Saturday. He was Brooks at his best: intelligent and informed (including about mental illness and the difference between correlation and causation), measured and careful in his words, but also quite heartfelt in expressing his views.

When asked on the program whether he thought the relationship between speech and violence was a “profoundly important debate” to have, he answered, “Yeah, but not today.” When asked why, he said, “Because this is in context of this horrific crime” — a crime in which political speech had nothing to do with the killings. And speaking for many of us, Brooks wrote: “I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I’m committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible.”

These are wise words. I only wish his Times colleagues were a fraction as responsible as David Brooks is.

Since I’ve been critical of New York Times reporters and columnists for what they’ve written about the Tucson massacre, it’s only fair to praise one as well.

David Brooks appeared on PBS’s The News Hour and wrote a column on the coverage of the killings in Arizona on Saturday. He was Brooks at his best: intelligent and informed (including about mental illness and the difference between correlation and causation), measured and careful in his words, but also quite heartfelt in expressing his views.

When asked on the program whether he thought the relationship between speech and violence was a “profoundly important debate” to have, he answered, “Yeah, but not today.” When asked why, he said, “Because this is in context of this horrific crime” — a crime in which political speech had nothing to do with the killings. And speaking for many of us, Brooks wrote: “I have no love for Sarah Palin, and I like to think I’m committed to civil discourse. But the political opportunism occasioned by this tragedy has ranged from the completely irrelevant to the shamelessly irresponsible.”

These are wise words. I only wish his Times colleagues were a fraction as responsible as David Brooks is.

Read Less

Is the Right Worse Than the Left?

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric. Read More

Some on the left are still attempting to justify the biased nature of the story line that depicts conservative opinions as being the source of a poisoned debate that allegedly leads to violence. To that end, Michael Kinsley writes today in Politico that the real problem with coverage of the debate about Arizona isn’t the fact that the entire topic is a red herring promulgated in an attempt to silence the right, but that in the course of introducing this utterly false narrative, some liberals are accepting a “false balance” between the right and the left.

Though Kinsley concedes, “Democrats should be cautious about flinging accusations,” he still insists that “It seems — in fact, it seems obvious — that the situation is not balanced. Extremists on the right are more responsible for the poisonous ideological atmosphere than extremists on the left, whoever they may be. And extremists on the left have a lot less influence on nonextremists on the left than extremists on the right have on right-wing moderates.”

Why is this so? Because Kinsley says so, that’s why. From his perspective, the extreme left is represented by the chicly biased liberalism of NPR that is, I suppose, inherently more tasteful than Fox News.

But in order to accept Kinsley’s premise, you have to ignore the tone of Democratic opposition to President Bush for eight years, which was largely aimed at delegitimizing that administration and which encouraged even more extreme street rhetoric that manifested itself in demonstrations where vulgar and violent speech were commonplace. And you also have to ignore the rants that are heard today from the likes of Keith Olbermann and Ed Schultz, to mention just two left-wing talk-show hosts. Not to mention the more intellectual riffs of anti-conservative hatred that emanate from Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Princeton University. Yesterday I noted that Krugman called for “hanging Senator Joe Lieberman in effigy” because of the senator’s stand on ObamaCare. I neglected to mention that, according to a largely flattering profile in the New Yorker, Krugman hosted an election-night party at his home during which an effigy of Sen. John McCain was burned in effigy. Indeed, guests were invited to burn effigies of any politician they disliked. And yes, this is the same New York Times columnist who wrote that the Arizona shooting was the result of a “climate of hate” fostered by conservative rhetoric.

Kinsley is right when he decries hateful rhetoric. But he is not above taking comments out of context to back up his point. For instance, he claims Bill O’Reilly’s reaction to one of his columns consisted of a call by the FOX News host for Kinsley’s head to be cut off. That sounds despicable. But he neglects to mention that what O’Reilly was saying was that Kinsley’s opposition to Guantanamo and other tough anti-terror measures was so obstinate and foolish that perhaps the only thing that might change his mind was for al-Qaeda terrorists to treat him the same way they did Daniel Pearl. That’s pretty harsh, but not the same thing as a call for a beheading.

The cockeyed lesson that liberals seem intent on shoving down the throats of their fellow citizens is that when conservatives talk tough about liberals, it is tantamount to incitement to murder, but that when liberals talk tough about conservatives, it’s just talk, because liberals don’t mean anyone any harm. We have heard a great deal about the way political debate in this country has been debased by violent rhetoric in recent years. But for all of the nastiness of the left about Bush and of the right about Obama, I don’t think any of that has done as much damage to the fabric of democracy as the determination the past few days by the mainstream media and its liberal elites to exploit a crime carried out by a mentally ill person to further their own narrow partisan political agenda.

Read Less

Morning Commentary

It looks like concerns over al-Qaeda wave attacks throughout Europe during the holiday season were justified. Nine men have been charged in connection to a British bomb plot today, just days after Dutch officials also arrested a dozen terrorism suspects: “In recent days, European concerns over terrorism have also seemed to mount after a suicide attack in Sweden by a British resident, a number of terrorism arrests in Spain and France, and other alarms in Germany over fears of a terrorism attack modeled on the 2008 Mumbai killings. The alerts have been given added weight by a warning in October from the State Department in Washington, cautioning of reports of a planned attack in a European city.”

Under mounting public pressure, King County officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision. [Correction: This post originally reported that Seattle officials rejected the metro bus ads, but the decision was made by King County officials. We apologize for any confusion.]

Under mounting public pressure, Seattle officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision.

Yesterday, the Iranian government halted the execution of a Kurdish student, but there are some indications that the death sentence may be imminent. Several of the student’s family members were reportedly arrested late last night, and the Internet and phone services have slowed noticeably in his home city.

A New York Times reporter gives a rare account of daily life in North Korea, where government officials are trying to boost the economy in preparation for the 2012 centennial of Kim Il-Sung’s birth.

Amir Taheri takes aim at the misguided argument that Iraq is simply a vessel state for the Iranian government. He points out that the money Iran poured into the recent Iraqi elections failed to translate into political power, and also notes that the Iraqi government refused to attend a political conference in Tehran: “The new Iraqi government represents a victory for all those who reject both Islamism and pan-Arabism as outdated ideologies. The biggest winners are those who assert Uruqua (Iraqi-ness) and ta’adudiyah (pluralism.) Today, one can claim that the Iraqi government is the most pluralist anywhere in the Arab world, with elected figures from all of Iraq’s 18 ethnic and religious communities. It includes representatives from 12 blocs formed by 66 parties.”

It looks like concerns over al-Qaeda wave attacks throughout Europe during the holiday season were justified. Nine men have been charged in connection to a British bomb plot today, just days after Dutch officials also arrested a dozen terrorism suspects: “In recent days, European concerns over terrorism have also seemed to mount after a suicide attack in Sweden by a British resident, a number of terrorism arrests in Spain and France, and other alarms in Germany over fears of a terrorism attack modeled on the 2008 Mumbai killings. The alerts have been given added weight by a warning in October from the State Department in Washington, cautioning of reports of a planned attack in a European city.”

Under mounting public pressure, King County officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision. [Correction: This post originally reported that Seattle officials rejected the metro bus ads, but the decision was made by King County officials. We apologize for any confusion.]

Under mounting public pressure, Seattle officials have rejected the anti-Israel ads that were set to run on city buses. But it looks like the controversy may continue, as anti-Israel activists promise to fight the decision.

Yesterday, the Iranian government halted the execution of a Kurdish student, but there are some indications that the death sentence may be imminent. Several of the student’s family members were reportedly arrested late last night, and the Internet and phone services have slowed noticeably in his home city.

A New York Times reporter gives a rare account of daily life in North Korea, where government officials are trying to boost the economy in preparation for the 2012 centennial of Kim Il-Sung’s birth.

Amir Taheri takes aim at the misguided argument that Iraq is simply a vessel state for the Iranian government. He points out that the money Iran poured into the recent Iraqi elections failed to translate into political power, and also notes that the Iraqi government refused to attend a political conference in Tehran: “The new Iraqi government represents a victory for all those who reject both Islamism and pan-Arabism as outdated ideologies. The biggest winners are those who assert Uruqua (Iraqi-ness) and ta’adudiyah (pluralism.) Today, one can claim that the Iraqi government is the most pluralist anywhere in the Arab world, with elected figures from all of Iraq’s 18 ethnic and religious communities. It includes representatives from 12 blocs formed by 66 parties.”

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.