Commentary Magazine


Topic: photojournalist

The Palestinian “Condemnation”

Yesterday afternoon, Jake Tapper interviewed Vice President Biden, who recalled a condemnation that did not actually occur:

TAPPER: … Some supporters of Israel say the same week that you were there, on Thursday I believe, a square in the Palestinian territories was named after a woman who led a terrorist [attack] against Israeli civilians that killed civilians, children, and one American photojournalist. Where was the condemnation of that?

BIDEN: Well, they did not name square when I was there.  So that didn’t happen —

TAPPER: They waited until you left.

BIDEN: They waited till I left.  But — and one of the things I said while I was there to the Palestinians, Abbas and Fayyed, I would condemn that, they should not do that. Subsequently, since I got home and they did that, not only did we condemn that, we also condemned the violence used by the Palestinians that recently occurred in Jerusalem. …

When, exactly, did we “condemn” that? We didn’t. We didn’t even use the word, much less accompany it with what went with a condemnation of Israel for approving housing units in a Jewish area of its capital.

Did the secretary of state personally call Abbas and Fayyed and tell them the issue wasn’t the timing but the substance? Did she tell them that it would destroy the confidence of Israelis in their “peace partner”? Did she demand they take “specific actions” to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process and “American interests”? Did she require they establish a process to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again? Did she demand a public apology? Did she call the establishment of a public square to honor a terrorist who murdered an American an “insult” and an “affront” to the United States? Did she direct her press spokesman to call a press conference to announce her call and relay to the world what she had said? Did she send anyone out to the Sunday talk shows to repeat the condemnation? Did she demand a prompt call-back to inform her of what they had decided to do in response to her condemnation?

Did she insist on a condemnation of the Palestinian action in the “Joint Statement by the Quartet” issued late last night — in which she joined in still another condemnation of Israel? No, she did not.

Yesterday afternoon, Jake Tapper interviewed Vice President Biden, who recalled a condemnation that did not actually occur:

TAPPER: … Some supporters of Israel say the same week that you were there, on Thursday I believe, a square in the Palestinian territories was named after a woman who led a terrorist [attack] against Israeli civilians that killed civilians, children, and one American photojournalist. Where was the condemnation of that?

BIDEN: Well, they did not name square when I was there.  So that didn’t happen —

TAPPER: They waited until you left.

BIDEN: They waited till I left.  But — and one of the things I said while I was there to the Palestinians, Abbas and Fayyed, I would condemn that, they should not do that. Subsequently, since I got home and they did that, not only did we condemn that, we also condemned the violence used by the Palestinians that recently occurred in Jerusalem. …

When, exactly, did we “condemn” that? We didn’t. We didn’t even use the word, much less accompany it with what went with a condemnation of Israel for approving housing units in a Jewish area of its capital.

Did the secretary of state personally call Abbas and Fayyed and tell them the issue wasn’t the timing but the substance? Did she tell them that it would destroy the confidence of Israelis in their “peace partner”? Did she demand they take “specific actions” to demonstrate their commitment to the peace process and “American interests”? Did she require they establish a process to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again? Did she demand a public apology? Did she call the establishment of a public square to honor a terrorist who murdered an American an “insult” and an “affront” to the United States? Did she direct her press spokesman to call a press conference to announce her call and relay to the world what she had said? Did she send anyone out to the Sunday talk shows to repeat the condemnation? Did she demand a prompt call-back to inform her of what they had decided to do in response to her condemnation?

Did she insist on a condemnation of the Palestinian action in the “Joint Statement by the Quartet” issued late last night — in which she joined in still another condemnation of Israel? No, she did not.

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Ridiculous Writings on Totalitarian Countries

I don’t know why, but I am still amazed by the credulity of some reporters. In researching my history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism (tentatively titled Invisible Armies), I have been running across some startling quotes from Western journalists who visited Communist-held areas of China in the 1930s and ‘40s. Sample:

The Chinese Communists are not Communists — not according to the Russian definition of the term. They do not, at the present time, either advocate or practice Communism…. Today the  Chinese Communists are no more Communistic than we Americans are.

That’s from the 1945 book, Report from Red China, written by the photojournalist Harrison Forman. He took seriously Mao Zedong’s statements to him that “we are not striving for the social and political Communism of Soviet Russia. Rather, we prefer to think of what we are doing as something that Lincoln fought for in your Civil War: the liberation of slaves. In China today, we have many millions of slaves, shackled by feudalism.” He also reported uncritically about Mao’s vow that the Communists would not establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and would instead set up a “democratic government” that would include “landlords, merchants, capitalists, and petit bourgeois as well as peasants and workers.” Apparently, Forman was unaware of the bloody campaigns the Communists had already carried out against “landlords” and “rich peasants.” Forman couldn’t understand why Mao didn’t change the party’s name to “Neo-Democracy” or “Democraticism” or “some such” name! (Mao’s canny non-reply: “If we were to change suddenly to some other name, there are those in China today — and abroad, too — who would make capital out of it, would accuse us of trying to cover up something.”)

And then, of course, there was the infamous Edgar Snow, whose Red Star Over China (1938) introduced Mao & Co. to much of the world — including to much of China.  Snow actually thought Mao, who would become arguably history’s worst mass-murder, was “a moderating influence in the Communist movement where life and death were concerned.”

This is hardly an isolated phenomenon, given how many boosters Stalin and Castro, Ho Chi Minh and even Pol Pot had among the Western press corps. The tradition continues today with some prominent writers (like Roger Cohen of the New York Times) offering apologetics on behalf of Iran, while his colleague, Tom Friedman, exalts China’s current lack of democracy. Someday, I trust their writings will be as ridiculed as Forman’s and Snow’s deserve to be.

I don’t know why, but I am still amazed by the credulity of some reporters. In researching my history of guerrilla warfare and terrorism (tentatively titled Invisible Armies), I have been running across some startling quotes from Western journalists who visited Communist-held areas of China in the 1930s and ‘40s. Sample:

The Chinese Communists are not Communists — not according to the Russian definition of the term. They do not, at the present time, either advocate or practice Communism…. Today the  Chinese Communists are no more Communistic than we Americans are.

That’s from the 1945 book, Report from Red China, written by the photojournalist Harrison Forman. He took seriously Mao Zedong’s statements to him that “we are not striving for the social and political Communism of Soviet Russia. Rather, we prefer to think of what we are doing as something that Lincoln fought for in your Civil War: the liberation of slaves. In China today, we have many millions of slaves, shackled by feudalism.” He also reported uncritically about Mao’s vow that the Communists would not establish a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and would instead set up a “democratic government” that would include “landlords, merchants, capitalists, and petit bourgeois as well as peasants and workers.” Apparently, Forman was unaware of the bloody campaigns the Communists had already carried out against “landlords” and “rich peasants.” Forman couldn’t understand why Mao didn’t change the party’s name to “Neo-Democracy” or “Democraticism” or “some such” name! (Mao’s canny non-reply: “If we were to change suddenly to some other name, there are those in China today — and abroad, too — who would make capital out of it, would accuse us of trying to cover up something.”)

And then, of course, there was the infamous Edgar Snow, whose Red Star Over China (1938) introduced Mao & Co. to much of the world — including to much of China.  Snow actually thought Mao, who would become arguably history’s worst mass-murder, was “a moderating influence in the Communist movement where life and death were concerned.”

This is hardly an isolated phenomenon, given how many boosters Stalin and Castro, Ho Chi Minh and even Pol Pot had among the Western press corps. The tradition continues today with some prominent writers (like Roger Cohen of the New York Times) offering apologetics on behalf of Iran, while his colleague, Tom Friedman, exalts China’s current lack of democracy. Someday, I trust their writings will be as ridiculed as Forman’s and Snow’s deserve to be.

Read Less




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