Commentary Magazine


Topic: reporter

Media- and NGO-Fueled Ignorance on Egypt and Tunisia

Amnon Rubinstein, a former Knesset member and minister from Israel’s left-wing Meretz Party, made an important point in today’s Jerusalem Post. The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt took the West by surprise, he wrote, because Westerners know almost nothing about what goes on in undemocratic societies. And this ignorance stems largely from the fact that the bodies it relies on to provide information — the media and nongovernmental organizations — devote most of their energy to the low-hanging fruit, exposing real or imagined failings by democracies, instead of focusing on dictatorships, where getting information is much harder.

The openly pro-Palestinian reporter Amira Hass provided an excellent example in Monday’s Haaretz. At a Ramallah store where everyone was watching Al Jazeera, an employee asked if she had caught what a Tunisian protester just said: that “the Palestinians’ situation is better than that of the Tunisians, that they [the Palestinians] have food.”

I told him this was the same impression members of Egyptian solidarity delegations had upon visiting the Gaza Strip after Operation Cast Lead [Israel’s 2009 war with Hamas]. They were amazed at the abundance of food, especially fruits and vegetables, they were able to find in Gaza. And I heard that not from the Israeli Civil Administration spokesmen but from Egyptians and Palestinians.

But nobody would know this from media or NGO reports. Can anyone remember reading a news story about food shortages in Egypt or Tunisia in recent years? Yet hundreds of articles have been published about alleged humanitarian distress in Gaza, including many that claimed Israel’s blockade was causing starvation.

Indeed, the UN has run an annual humanitarian-aid appeal for the West Bank and Gaza since 2003; this year, it’s seeking $567 million, making it the organization’s fifth-largest “emergency campaign.” Can anyone remember the last UN appeal for aid to Egypt or Tunisia?

The same goes for NGOs. On Amnesty International’s website, the “features” page has nothing about either Egypt or Tunisia. Yet Israel merits two condemnatory features (the only country so honored), including the top-billed story — which, naturally, alleges food shortages in Gaza due to Israel’s blockade.

Then there’s the UN Human Rights Council — which, as Rubinstein noted, actually praised the human-rights situation in both Egypt and Tunisia, even as it issued 27 separate resolutions slamming Israel.

Thus most Westerners were utterly clueless about the economic distress and oppression that fueled the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. Indeed, based on the available information, the reasonable assumption would have been that Gaza, not Egypt or Tunisia, was the place most likely to explode.

Human Rights Watch founder Robert Bernstein decried his own organization in 2009 for betraying its “original mission to pry open closed societies” — to shed light precisely on those dark corners where information isn’t easily available — in favor of a focus on open societies, especially Israel. That, as I’ve argued repeatedly, leaves the world’s most oppressed people voiceless.

But it turns out the obsessive media/NGO focus on Israel also has another price: depriving the West of the information it needs to make sound judgments and set wise policy.

Amnon Rubinstein, a former Knesset member and minister from Israel’s left-wing Meretz Party, made an important point in today’s Jerusalem Post. The uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt took the West by surprise, he wrote, because Westerners know almost nothing about what goes on in undemocratic societies. And this ignorance stems largely from the fact that the bodies it relies on to provide information — the media and nongovernmental organizations — devote most of their energy to the low-hanging fruit, exposing real or imagined failings by democracies, instead of focusing on dictatorships, where getting information is much harder.

The openly pro-Palestinian reporter Amira Hass provided an excellent example in Monday’s Haaretz. At a Ramallah store where everyone was watching Al Jazeera, an employee asked if she had caught what a Tunisian protester just said: that “the Palestinians’ situation is better than that of the Tunisians, that they [the Palestinians] have food.”

I told him this was the same impression members of Egyptian solidarity delegations had upon visiting the Gaza Strip after Operation Cast Lead [Israel’s 2009 war with Hamas]. They were amazed at the abundance of food, especially fruits and vegetables, they were able to find in Gaza. And I heard that not from the Israeli Civil Administration spokesmen but from Egyptians and Palestinians.

But nobody would know this from media or NGO reports. Can anyone remember reading a news story about food shortages in Egypt or Tunisia in recent years? Yet hundreds of articles have been published about alleged humanitarian distress in Gaza, including many that claimed Israel’s blockade was causing starvation.

Indeed, the UN has run an annual humanitarian-aid appeal for the West Bank and Gaza since 2003; this year, it’s seeking $567 million, making it the organization’s fifth-largest “emergency campaign.” Can anyone remember the last UN appeal for aid to Egypt or Tunisia?

The same goes for NGOs. On Amnesty International’s website, the “features” page has nothing about either Egypt or Tunisia. Yet Israel merits two condemnatory features (the only country so honored), including the top-billed story — which, naturally, alleges food shortages in Gaza due to Israel’s blockade.

Then there’s the UN Human Rights Council — which, as Rubinstein noted, actually praised the human-rights situation in both Egypt and Tunisia, even as it issued 27 separate resolutions slamming Israel.

Thus most Westerners were utterly clueless about the economic distress and oppression that fueled the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings. Indeed, based on the available information, the reasonable assumption would have been that Gaza, not Egypt or Tunisia, was the place most likely to explode.

Human Rights Watch founder Robert Bernstein decried his own organization in 2009 for betraying its “original mission to pry open closed societies” — to shed light precisely on those dark corners where information isn’t easily available — in favor of a focus on open societies, especially Israel. That, as I’ve argued repeatedly, leaves the world’s most oppressed people voiceless.

But it turns out the obsessive media/NGO focus on Israel also has another price: depriving the West of the information it needs to make sound judgments and set wise policy.

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Other Than That …

Near the end of a long front-page story in the Los Angeles Times regarding the Palestinian “prime minister,” the reporter noted that Salam Fayyad’s political fortunes “face a major test this summer, when his state-readiness campaign is slated to be completed by Aug. 26.” Fayyad insisted that the work can be completed on time and said he has “no Plan B.” On the other hand:

He acknowledged that there is major unfinished business, including weak courts, a nonfunctioning parliament and the absence of elections because of the split between Fatah and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. All of that, including the reunification of Fatah and Hamas, needs to be completed before Palestinians will be ready for statehood, he said.

In identifying the problem of “weak courts,” Fayyad knows whereof he speaks. In December, the Palestinian “High Court” ruled that the West Bank local elections had been illegally cancelled. But the court has no power to enforce its ruling, and Fayyad has ignored a letter to him from the Central Elections Commission regarding rescheduling.

So, other than establishing an independent judiciary; a functioning legislature; a unified political system; holding elections on a local, legislative, or presidential level; and dismantling the terrorist group that occupies half the putative state, the state-readiness effort is right on schedule.

Near the end of a long front-page story in the Los Angeles Times regarding the Palestinian “prime minister,” the reporter noted that Salam Fayyad’s political fortunes “face a major test this summer, when his state-readiness campaign is slated to be completed by Aug. 26.” Fayyad insisted that the work can be completed on time and said he has “no Plan B.” On the other hand:

He acknowledged that there is major unfinished business, including weak courts, a nonfunctioning parliament and the absence of elections because of the split between Fatah and Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. All of that, including the reunification of Fatah and Hamas, needs to be completed before Palestinians will be ready for statehood, he said.

In identifying the problem of “weak courts,” Fayyad knows whereof he speaks. In December, the Palestinian “High Court” ruled that the West Bank local elections had been illegally cancelled. But the court has no power to enforce its ruling, and Fayyad has ignored a letter to him from the Central Elections Commission regarding rescheduling.

So, other than establishing an independent judiciary; a functioning legislature; a unified political system; holding elections on a local, legislative, or presidential level; and dismantling the terrorist group that occupies half the putative state, the state-readiness effort is right on schedule.

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New Evidence in Daniel Pearl Murder May Be Useless in a Trial

A new report released by the Pearl Project, based on the group’s three-and-a-half-year investigation into the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, alleges that Pakistani authorities used perjured testimony and made other legal errors during the murder trial.

It also claims to have found new forensic evidence that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed committed the actual beheading of Pearl:

Mr. Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002, and a videotape of his murder was delivered to U.S. officials in Pakistan in February 2002.

FBI agents and CIA officials used a technique called “vein-matching” to compare the killer’s hands, as seen in the video, with a photograph of Mr. Mohammed’s hands.

But a legal expert with personal knowledge of the case tells me that there are several reasons why this discovery probably won’t add any legal weight to the U.S.’s prosecution of KSM.

One reason is that the vein-matching technology the group cited may not be admissible in court. “While it may have some merit in an academic study, it’s not a technology that has been subject to court scrutiny under the rules of evidence dealing with expert testimony. So I would doubt seriously whether it would be admissible in a U.S. court,” Charles “Cully” Stimson, a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told me.

Another reason is because there’s already a staggering amount of evidence that KSM committed the murder — so the Pearl Project’s linkage is a bit superfluous.

“It’s not a whodunit. And it hasn’t been a whodunit for some time,” said Stimson, who formerly served as an adviser to the Secretary of Defense on detainee issues.

In addition to the evidence that’s already been publicized — such as KSM’s confession — Stimson says that “there’s other evidence that will come to life that has been in the government for some time now that will further link him to that gruesome murder.”

“For those of us who have been involved in detaining operations with these high-value detainees, we’ve known for a long time that KSM was the throat-cutter.”

But that, of course, does not diminish the great work the Pearl Project has done in publicizing this case. After all, it’s certainly preferable to have too much evidence against vile killers like KSM rather than too little.

The Pearl Project’s full report can be found here.

A new report released by the Pearl Project, based on the group’s three-and-a-half-year investigation into the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, alleges that Pakistani authorities used perjured testimony and made other legal errors during the murder trial.

It also claims to have found new forensic evidence that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed committed the actual beheading of Pearl:

Mr. Pearl was kidnapped in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002, and a videotape of his murder was delivered to U.S. officials in Pakistan in February 2002.

FBI agents and CIA officials used a technique called “vein-matching” to compare the killer’s hands, as seen in the video, with a photograph of Mr. Mohammed’s hands.

But a legal expert with personal knowledge of the case tells me that there are several reasons why this discovery probably won’t add any legal weight to the U.S.’s prosecution of KSM.

One reason is that the vein-matching technology the group cited may not be admissible in court. “While it may have some merit in an academic study, it’s not a technology that has been subject to court scrutiny under the rules of evidence dealing with expert testimony. So I would doubt seriously whether it would be admissible in a U.S. court,” Charles “Cully” Stimson, a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told me.

Another reason is because there’s already a staggering amount of evidence that KSM committed the murder — so the Pearl Project’s linkage is a bit superfluous.

“It’s not a whodunit. And it hasn’t been a whodunit for some time,” said Stimson, who formerly served as an adviser to the Secretary of Defense on detainee issues.

In addition to the evidence that’s already been publicized — such as KSM’s confession — Stimson says that “there’s other evidence that will come to life that has been in the government for some time now that will further link him to that gruesome murder.”

“For those of us who have been involved in detaining operations with these high-value detainees, we’ve known for a long time that KSM was the throat-cutter.”

But that, of course, does not diminish the great work the Pearl Project has done in publicizing this case. After all, it’s certainly preferable to have too much evidence against vile killers like KSM rather than too little.

The Pearl Project’s full report can be found here.

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Wife of Chinese Political Prisoner Gao Zhisheng Pleads for His Release

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

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From the Dept of Don’t Do Us Any Favors: Foreign Press Association Threatens to Boycott Israeli Officials

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

A few years ago, there was a movement afoot calling on American Muslims to boycott US Airways. Six imams — among them Truthers and Hamas supporters — had gone out of their way to act like terrorists and succeeded in getting themselves removed from a Phoenix-bound flight. They subsequently threatened the airline with what they took to be a public-relations nightmare, where the company would have to explain that radical Muslims were avoiding US Air flights because of overly stringent security measures. Typical reaction: best boycott evuh.

This might be better:

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has threatened a boycott after a reporter said she was asked to remove her bra during a security check. Al-Jazeera filed a complaint about what it called a humiliating check at an invitation-only event in Jerusalem, prompting the press association to threaten to ignore briefings by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu if security procedures aren’t changed immediately. … “In a democratic country, security services are not permitted to do as they please,” the association said in a statement. (emphasis added)

Putting aside the irony of supporting Muslim Brotherhood propagandists while lecturing Israel on democratic norms — come on now.

Al Jazeera already publishes briefings by Israeli officials only when it suits their ideology. During Cast Lead, their local reporters tried to publish a statement by Ehud Barak and were overruled by officials in Qatar. That was the last war, when they simply spiked inconvenient facts. During the war before that, Al Jazeera crews actively helped Hezbollah target Israeli civilians. So let’s tone down the outrage about how security services should be interacting with that outlet’s reporters.

As for the broader boycott by the Foreign Press Association, what are they going to do? Stop printing Israeli denials alongside feverish Palestinian claims? Is the threat that they’ll go from “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile, but Israel officials denied the charges” to “Palestinian officials accused the IDF of using white phosphorous to give women nightmares and make sheep sterile full stop“?

What a biased, one-sided journalistic world that would be.

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A Case Study in the Goldstone Report’s Fundamental Dishonesty

As Omri Ceren noted last week, the Goldstone Report on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza has already prompted numerous detailed rebuttals. But with the report hitting the Israeli headlines again this month in honor of the war’s second anniversary, one cannot help being struck anew by its fundamental dishonesty.

A lengthy Haaretz piece published this weekend offers a salient example. Ironically, reporter Shay Fogelman tried hard to back Goldstone’s accusations. Thus, in an 8,000-word dissection of Israel’s attack on Palestinian police stations on December 27, 2008, the war’s opening day, he somehow didn’t find space to mention Hamas’s own recent admission that most of these policemen belonged to terrorist organizations, just as Israel had claimed all along. But he had plenty of space to quote such unbiased sources as an Al Jazeera reporter (“it was a massacre”).

Where it all falls apart, however, is when he comes to a detailed study submitted to the Goldstone panel that identified 286 of the 345 policemen killed — fully 83 percent — as members of terrorist organizations, based solely on public sources like Palestinian newspapers, the Palestinian Interior Ministry’s website, and the websites of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, where the policemen’s affiliation with various terror groups had been reported. Fogelman then writes:

The Goldstone Report also took note of this phenomenon, and suggested that in some instances militant organizations retrospectively recorded on their rosters the names of children or civilians who clearly had no connection to warfare or security work. The panel adds that bereaved families did not oppose this phenomenon; among other things, the “adoption” of a casualty by a militant organization entitled the family to economic assistance.

Now, as anyone familiar with the Goldstone Report knows, many of its alleged Israeli war crimes involved incidents like the attack on the Al-Maqadmah Mosque, in which Israel claims to have fired at armed combatants just outside the mosque even though the Palestinians claim no combatants were in the area. In all those cases, Goldstone chose to believe the Palestinians’ claim.

When you contrast that with the panel’s handling of the attack on the policemen, the methodology becomes clear: when Palestinians claim someone is a civilian, they are believed. But when Palestinians claim someone is a combatant, they are disbelieved. In short, Palestinians are always innocent victims, no matter what. It’s hard to imagine a more dishonest methodology than that.

This same axiom led Goldstone to conclude that fewer than 300 of the Palestinians killed were combatants, even though Hamas’s own interior minister recently admitted that Israel’s figure, of about 700 combatants, was in fact accurate. After all, the corollary to the assumption that Palestinians are always innocent victims is that Israel must be lying if it claims the opposite.

Unfortunately, there are a great many people out there who share Goldstone’s fundamental assumption of Palestinian innocence and Israeli guilt. And with people like that, no amount of evidence will ever suffice to change their minds.

As Omri Ceren noted last week, the Goldstone Report on Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza has already prompted numerous detailed rebuttals. But with the report hitting the Israeli headlines again this month in honor of the war’s second anniversary, one cannot help being struck anew by its fundamental dishonesty.

A lengthy Haaretz piece published this weekend offers a salient example. Ironically, reporter Shay Fogelman tried hard to back Goldstone’s accusations. Thus, in an 8,000-word dissection of Israel’s attack on Palestinian police stations on December 27, 2008, the war’s opening day, he somehow didn’t find space to mention Hamas’s own recent admission that most of these policemen belonged to terrorist organizations, just as Israel had claimed all along. But he had plenty of space to quote such unbiased sources as an Al Jazeera reporter (“it was a massacre”).

Where it all falls apart, however, is when he comes to a detailed study submitted to the Goldstone panel that identified 286 of the 345 policemen killed — fully 83 percent — as members of terrorist organizations, based solely on public sources like Palestinian newspapers, the Palestinian Interior Ministry’s website, and the websites of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, where the policemen’s affiliation with various terror groups had been reported. Fogelman then writes:

The Goldstone Report also took note of this phenomenon, and suggested that in some instances militant organizations retrospectively recorded on their rosters the names of children or civilians who clearly had no connection to warfare or security work. The panel adds that bereaved families did not oppose this phenomenon; among other things, the “adoption” of a casualty by a militant organization entitled the family to economic assistance.

Now, as anyone familiar with the Goldstone Report knows, many of its alleged Israeli war crimes involved incidents like the attack on the Al-Maqadmah Mosque, in which Israel claims to have fired at armed combatants just outside the mosque even though the Palestinians claim no combatants were in the area. In all those cases, Goldstone chose to believe the Palestinians’ claim.

When you contrast that with the panel’s handling of the attack on the policemen, the methodology becomes clear: when Palestinians claim someone is a civilian, they are believed. But when Palestinians claim someone is a combatant, they are disbelieved. In short, Palestinians are always innocent victims, no matter what. It’s hard to imagine a more dishonest methodology than that.

This same axiom led Goldstone to conclude that fewer than 300 of the Palestinians killed were combatants, even though Hamas’s own interior minister recently admitted that Israel’s figure, of about 700 combatants, was in fact accurate. After all, the corollary to the assumption that Palestinians are always innocent victims is that Israel must be lying if it claims the opposite.

Unfortunately, there are a great many people out there who share Goldstone’s fundamental assumption of Palestinian innocence and Israeli guilt. And with people like that, no amount of evidence will ever suffice to change their minds.

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More Progress in Afghanistan

The New York Times yesterday highlighted one of the more unsung good-news stories out of Afghanistan: the success that U.S. troops have been having in preventing catastrophic terrorist attacks in Kabul by the Haqqani Network. As reporter Eric Schmitt notes, the Haqqanis have been linked to the 2008 attacks against the Serena Hotel (which killed six) and Indian Embassy (which killed 58), but they “have not conducted a complicated attack in Kabul since a suicide bomber steered his explosives-laden Toyota minibus into an American convoy on May 18.”

U.S. commanders are naturally reluctant to publicly claim any kind of victory because they know that an attack could occur tomorrow but this is a testament to how effective the Joint Special Operations Command has been in targeting the Haqqani network with assistance of conventional American units. We should also not underestimate the contribution being made by Afghan security forces which police Kabul largely on their own. It has not gotten much attention but Gen. Petraeus has emphasized the need to secure the capital, where the largest concentration of the country’s population may be found, and then to expand the security zone outward. So far that plan is meeting with considerable success.

Which stands at odds with the UN findings, reported by the Wall Street Journal, which “show a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan during this year’s fighting season.” I am at a loss to explain how the UN can claim that things are getting worse when not only is Kabul much safer but so also are most of the key districts in Kandahar and Helmand provinces targeted by coalition forces. Yes, there has been some deterioration in the north but it is nowhere as bad as the south had become–and it will never get as bad because the Taliban appeal only to Pashtuns and there are precious few in the north.

One partial explanation may be that the UN findings were made in October, thus ignoring at least two months of solid progress in the south. Another partial explanation may be that the UN is focusing on the uptick in fighting as coalition troops go into insurgent strong havens–rather than the result, which is less Taliban control. The early stages of any offensive always look messy; they certainly did in Iraq. And no doubt the UN was reporting in 2007 that the security situation was deteriorating in Iraq. But that was the price of breaking the insurgent grip. Something similar is happening now in Afghanistan. We can only hope the results will be as positive as they were in Iraq.

The New York Times yesterday highlighted one of the more unsung good-news stories out of Afghanistan: the success that U.S. troops have been having in preventing catastrophic terrorist attacks in Kabul by the Haqqani Network. As reporter Eric Schmitt notes, the Haqqanis have been linked to the 2008 attacks against the Serena Hotel (which killed six) and Indian Embassy (which killed 58), but they “have not conducted a complicated attack in Kabul since a suicide bomber steered his explosives-laden Toyota minibus into an American convoy on May 18.”

U.S. commanders are naturally reluctant to publicly claim any kind of victory because they know that an attack could occur tomorrow but this is a testament to how effective the Joint Special Operations Command has been in targeting the Haqqani network with assistance of conventional American units. We should also not underestimate the contribution being made by Afghan security forces which police Kabul largely on their own. It has not gotten much attention but Gen. Petraeus has emphasized the need to secure the capital, where the largest concentration of the country’s population may be found, and then to expand the security zone outward. So far that plan is meeting with considerable success.

Which stands at odds with the UN findings, reported by the Wall Street Journal, which “show a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan during this year’s fighting season.” I am at a loss to explain how the UN can claim that things are getting worse when not only is Kabul much safer but so also are most of the key districts in Kandahar and Helmand provinces targeted by coalition forces. Yes, there has been some deterioration in the north but it is nowhere as bad as the south had become–and it will never get as bad because the Taliban appeal only to Pashtuns and there are precious few in the north.

One partial explanation may be that the UN findings were made in October, thus ignoring at least two months of solid progress in the south. Another partial explanation may be that the UN is focusing on the uptick in fighting as coalition troops go into insurgent strong havens–rather than the result, which is less Taliban control. The early stages of any offensive always look messy; they certainly did in Iraq. And no doubt the UN was reporting in 2007 that the security situation was deteriorating in Iraq. But that was the price of breaking the insurgent grip. Something similar is happening now in Afghanistan. We can only hope the results will be as positive as they were in Iraq.

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Why Did Barack Obama Endorse Dog-Killing QB?

The New York Times’ pro football blog informed us today that reporter Peter King told a national audience on NBC’s “Football Night in America” yesterday that President Barack Obama recently called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to congratulate him on hiring convicted dog killer Michael Vick. Apparently Obama thinks that Lurie did the right thing by offering Vick a second chance in spite of the heinous nature of his crimes.

Given the intense controversy over Vick’s crimes, punishment, and apparent redemption of a sort this season, as he has led the Eagles to victories with a performance that has made him a legitimate contender for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, you might think Obama would have been wise to stay out of this fight. After all, a great many Americans love their pets and many will never forgive or forget Vick’s abominable and heartless behavior as a promoter of dog fighting.

But there is, apparently, another angle to this story that may explain Obama’s willingness to step into a nasty controversy that you might think would do him little good. As the Times’ notes, some writers have been asserting that Vick has been treated unfairly both on the field and off it since they think he is a victim of prejudice against African-Americans who have served time in prison. It’s hard to fathom how an understandable revulsion against a person who personally tortured and killed dogs can be twisted into being a form of racism. But in a liberal media culture where even the most villainous behavior can be rationalized by turning it into an issue of race, I suppose it was inevitable that Vick, rather than the dogs he murdered, would become the victim of the story. Nor should it be any surprise that someone like President Obama, whose leftist sensibilities are always on display, would embrace that dubious narrative.

Nor is it likely that Obama will suffer for endorsing Vick. While there are some animal-rights or pet-lover votes that might be affected by this bizarre presidential endorsement, they are probably outnumbered by those pro football fans who are impatient with any attempt to inject moral issues into the discussion of their favorite sport. It should also be remembered that there are probably a lot more votes in the battleground state of Pennsylvania to be won by pandering to Eagles fans than there are by catering to the feelings of animal-rights activists.

The New York Times’ pro football blog informed us today that reporter Peter King told a national audience on NBC’s “Football Night in America” yesterday that President Barack Obama recently called Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to congratulate him on hiring convicted dog killer Michael Vick. Apparently Obama thinks that Lurie did the right thing by offering Vick a second chance in spite of the heinous nature of his crimes.

Given the intense controversy over Vick’s crimes, punishment, and apparent redemption of a sort this season, as he has led the Eagles to victories with a performance that has made him a legitimate contender for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player, you might think Obama would have been wise to stay out of this fight. After all, a great many Americans love their pets and many will never forgive or forget Vick’s abominable and heartless behavior as a promoter of dog fighting.

But there is, apparently, another angle to this story that may explain Obama’s willingness to step into a nasty controversy that you might think would do him little good. As the Times’ notes, some writers have been asserting that Vick has been treated unfairly both on the field and off it since they think he is a victim of prejudice against African-Americans who have served time in prison. It’s hard to fathom how an understandable revulsion against a person who personally tortured and killed dogs can be twisted into being a form of racism. But in a liberal media culture where even the most villainous behavior can be rationalized by turning it into an issue of race, I suppose it was inevitable that Vick, rather than the dogs he murdered, would become the victim of the story. Nor should it be any surprise that someone like President Obama, whose leftist sensibilities are always on display, would embrace that dubious narrative.

Nor is it likely that Obama will suffer for endorsing Vick. While there are some animal-rights or pet-lover votes that might be affected by this bizarre presidential endorsement, they are probably outnumbered by those pro football fans who are impatient with any attempt to inject moral issues into the discussion of their favorite sport. It should also be remembered that there are probably a lot more votes in the battleground state of Pennsylvania to be won by pandering to Eagles fans than there are by catering to the feelings of animal-rights activists.

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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.”

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No Harm in Congratulations

Yesterday I wrote that ABC’s Jake Tapper, in leading up to his questions to President Obama regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (“I have a couple of questions about ‘don’t ask/don’t tell.’ First of all, congratulations.”), was “revealing of a particular, widespread journalistic persuasion and worldview” regarding DADT.

A person for whom I have respect thought my judgment was overly harsh, that what Tapper said was an example of politeness (akin to saying “congratulations” to a politician who just won a primary or caucus) rather than solidarity on the issue.

On reflection, I think that’s a fair assessment. Tapper’s questions were (as I said in my post) quite good — and Tapper himself is an excellent, tough-minded reporter. And since I’ve argued for the importance of civility in politics and public discourse, it was silly of me to jump on him for offering one sentence of congratulations — especially when it’s followed by two fairly tough, if fair, questions on the subject.

All of which is to say I was wrong and unfair to Mr. Tapper. There are certainly enough egregious examples of journalistic missteps without jumping on him for saying “congratulations.”

Yesterday I wrote that ABC’s Jake Tapper, in leading up to his questions to President Obama regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (“I have a couple of questions about ‘don’t ask/don’t tell.’ First of all, congratulations.”), was “revealing of a particular, widespread journalistic persuasion and worldview” regarding DADT.

A person for whom I have respect thought my judgment was overly harsh, that what Tapper said was an example of politeness (akin to saying “congratulations” to a politician who just won a primary or caucus) rather than solidarity on the issue.

On reflection, I think that’s a fair assessment. Tapper’s questions were (as I said in my post) quite good — and Tapper himself is an excellent, tough-minded reporter. And since I’ve argued for the importance of civility in politics and public discourse, it was silly of me to jump on him for offering one sentence of congratulations — especially when it’s followed by two fairly tough, if fair, questions on the subject.

All of which is to say I was wrong and unfair to Mr. Tapper. There are certainly enough egregious examples of journalistic missteps without jumping on him for saying “congratulations.”

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Mel Gibson’s Innovative Anti-Semitism

Lest you thought that you’d heard everything bad you could have heard about Mel Gibson and his views of Jews — from his rant to the Malibu cop that “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” and asking a reporter who asked him about that, “I take it you have a dog in that fight” — comes this detail from the actress Winona Ryder (née Winona Horowitz):

“Fifteen years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties. And he was really drunk,” Ryder tells the January issue of GQ. “I was with my friend, who’s gay. [Gibson] made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about ‘oven dodgers,’ but I didn’t get it. I’d never heard that before.”

Oven dodgers. Maybe Ms. Ryder had never heard that before because the formulation might have simply arrived in her ear fully formed from the inside of Gibson’s own vicious, repugnant, evil brain.

Lest you thought that you’d heard everything bad you could have heard about Mel Gibson and his views of Jews — from his rant to the Malibu cop that “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” and asking a reporter who asked him about that, “I take it you have a dog in that fight” — comes this detail from the actress Winona Ryder (née Winona Horowitz):

“Fifteen years ago, I was at one of those big Hollywood parties. And he was really drunk,” Ryder tells the January issue of GQ. “I was with my friend, who’s gay. [Gibson] made a really horrible gay joke. And somehow it came up that I was Jewish. He said something about ‘oven dodgers,’ but I didn’t get it. I’d never heard that before.”

Oven dodgers. Maybe Ms. Ryder had never heard that before because the formulation might have simply arrived in her ear fully formed from the inside of Gibson’s own vicious, repugnant, evil brain.

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Who Decides What’s News in the Age of WikiLeaks?

Max Boot recently noted on CONTENTIONS that the New York Times’s decision to publish the WikiLeaks documents was a stark contrast to how newspapers handled leaks in the first half of the 20th century. “There was a time when editors and reporters thought of themselves as citizens first and journalists second,” he wrote. “There were damaging leaks even during World War II, but when they occurred they were generally denounced by the rest of the press.”

But I wonder, in the age of WikiLeaks, if the media still have the ability to take such a noble stance. Leakers who wanted to wreak havoc on our national security used to need reporters to play along. And there were practicalities — like ethical ramifications and not wanting to anger sources or readers — that prompted journalists to be cautious about what they published.

Foreign, ideologically driven rogues like Julian Assange obviously have no such obstacles. Assange’s sources of information are anti-American criminals with minds as twisted as his own, and his readers’ sensibilities clearly have no sway over his editorial decisions. Unburdened by any ethical code, and endowed with the limitless platform of the Internet, WikiLeaks has practically taken the journalists out of the equation. It acts as both the leaker and the reporter.

Which is why, if major platforms like the New York Times had refused to write about WikiLeaks, the story probably wouldn’t have quieted down. Because of the enormous influence of online media outlets, there hasn’t been a single arbiter of what constitutes news in years. Thousands of blogs and online publications eagerly jumped to report on the military documents as soon as they were posted on WikiLeaks. Network anchors read the cables on the air, Twitter was inundated with “cablegate” hashtags, and State Department officials held televised press conferences to discuss the crisis.

WikiLeaks is the root of the problem here, not the news outlets that covered its data dump. Even if the media refused to report the story, it wouldn’t have made a difference. All the wrong people would still be reading the unadulterated cables directly from Assange’s website.

Max Boot recently noted on CONTENTIONS that the New York Times’s decision to publish the WikiLeaks documents was a stark contrast to how newspapers handled leaks in the first half of the 20th century. “There was a time when editors and reporters thought of themselves as citizens first and journalists second,” he wrote. “There were damaging leaks even during World War II, but when they occurred they were generally denounced by the rest of the press.”

But I wonder, in the age of WikiLeaks, if the media still have the ability to take such a noble stance. Leakers who wanted to wreak havoc on our national security used to need reporters to play along. And there were practicalities — like ethical ramifications and not wanting to anger sources or readers — that prompted journalists to be cautious about what they published.

Foreign, ideologically driven rogues like Julian Assange obviously have no such obstacles. Assange’s sources of information are anti-American criminals with minds as twisted as his own, and his readers’ sensibilities clearly have no sway over his editorial decisions. Unburdened by any ethical code, and endowed with the limitless platform of the Internet, WikiLeaks has practically taken the journalists out of the equation. It acts as both the leaker and the reporter.

Which is why, if major platforms like the New York Times had refused to write about WikiLeaks, the story probably wouldn’t have quieted down. Because of the enormous influence of online media outlets, there hasn’t been a single arbiter of what constitutes news in years. Thousands of blogs and online publications eagerly jumped to report on the military documents as soon as they were posted on WikiLeaks. Network anchors read the cables on the air, Twitter was inundated with “cablegate” hashtags, and State Department officials held televised press conferences to discuss the crisis.

WikiLeaks is the root of the problem here, not the news outlets that covered its data dump. Even if the media refused to report the story, it wouldn’t have made a difference. All the wrong people would still be reading the unadulterated cables directly from Assange’s website.

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Wow, She’s Good at Manipulating the Media. Who Knew?

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

Howard Kurtz – no kidding — has recently discovered that Sarah Palin is a shrewd manipulator of the media. Next up: Dems’ loss of the midterms is a problem for the Obama strategy! It’s hard to comprehend how slow Kurtz and the rest of the non-conservative media have been in coming around to this realization:

I’m starting to believe the detractors are wrong and that Palin is executing a shrewd strategy that has catapulted her past potential rivals, co-opting the same media establishment she loves to denigrate. Even her recent hints about running for president—if indeed she’s willing to subject herself to constant journalistic scrutiny—are designed to stoke interest in her now that midterm madness has faded. …

Those gatekeepers—the infamous lamestream media—are obsessed with Palin, trumpeting her every tweet. They do so even when she’s slamming Politico or Katie Couric or, my personal favorite, “impotent and limp” reporters who use anonymous sources. They can’t help themselves; she’s a helluva story. She drives ratings and Web traffic in an age when every reporter’s page views can be measured. Each side enables the other.

As commonplace as these observations have been in conservative media and among right-leaning pundits, the dean of media conventional wisdom has apparently just pieced this together.

Palin’s ability to promote herself is, of course, different from her ability to convince Americans to vote for her. But here, too, Kurtz is on the case, quoting John Ellis, a political analyst and cousin of George W. Bush:

“‘She’s too stupid’ is what the Establishment GOP really thinks about Sarah Palin. ‘Good-looking,’ but a ‘ditz.’ This is unfertile ground, since Palin can turn the argument on a dime and say: ‘They drive the country into bankruptcy, they underwrite Fannie and Freddie, they bail out Goldman Sachs, they fight wars they don’t want to win, they say enforcing the immigration laws is silly and they call me stupid! I’ll give you a choice: You can have their smarts or my stupidity, which one do you want?’” …

If the smart guys have failed, if the credentialed creative class has messed things up, it opens the door for a plain-spoken populist ready to refudiate the old order.

Sort of like saying that after two years of Obama, voters “may be primed to hear a critique of the shortcomings of Ivy League–educated elites.”

Listen, these people missed the significance of the Tea Party movement for months. They assumed that health care was a great political coup for Obama. So you shouldn’t be surprised that it’s taken them two years to get a clue about the political smarts of Sarah Palin.

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Couric Too Tough for Palin?

A snippet of a Sarah Palin interview with Sean Hannity is out. The subject is whether she would do another interview with Katie Couric:

“As for doing an interview, though, with a reporter who already has such a bias against whatever it is that I would come out and say? Why waste my time? No.”

“I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting. I will speak to reporters who still understand that cornerstone of our democracy, that expectation that the public has for truth to be reported. And then we get to decide our own opinion based on the facts reported to us.”

“So a journalist, a reporter who is so biased and will, no doubt, spin and gin up whatever it is that I have to say to create controversy, I swear to you, I will not my waste my time with her. Or him.”

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a fan of many of the mainstream-media interviewers (or Couric’s comment about the “unwashed” Americans), but come on. How’s Palin supposed to broaden her appeal and show her mettle if she avoids settings in which she’s going to face skeptical questioning? Can you imagine Ronald Reagan pulling this?

Or, more to the point, who can forget George H.W. Bush telling off Dan Rather? It’s in hostile encounters that candidates show their stuff and demonstrate good humor.
Palin has become so accustomed to feeding the base what it wants to hear that she risks proving her critics’ point: that she is too divisive and, frankly, defensive to win the presidency. Rather than hiding from Couric, shouldn’t Palin invite her up for a bear hunt? I mean, isn’t that the sort of thing a strong-willed, defiant conservative woman would do?

A snippet of a Sarah Palin interview with Sean Hannity is out. The subject is whether she would do another interview with Katie Couric:

“As for doing an interview, though, with a reporter who already has such a bias against whatever it is that I would come out and say? Why waste my time? No.”

“I want to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism. And I have a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting. I will speak to reporters who still understand that cornerstone of our democracy, that expectation that the public has for truth to be reported. And then we get to decide our own opinion based on the facts reported to us.”

“So a journalist, a reporter who is so biased and will, no doubt, spin and gin up whatever it is that I have to say to create controversy, I swear to you, I will not my waste my time with her. Or him.”

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a fan of many of the mainstream-media interviewers (or Couric’s comment about the “unwashed” Americans), but come on. How’s Palin supposed to broaden her appeal and show her mettle if she avoids settings in which she’s going to face skeptical questioning? Can you imagine Ronald Reagan pulling this?

Or, more to the point, who can forget George H.W. Bush telling off Dan Rather? It’s in hostile encounters that candidates show their stuff and demonstrate good humor.
Palin has become so accustomed to feeding the base what it wants to hear that she risks proving her critics’ point: that she is too divisive and, frankly, defensive to win the presidency. Rather than hiding from Couric, shouldn’t Palin invite her up for a bear hunt? I mean, isn’t that the sort of thing a strong-willed, defiant conservative woman would do?

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Blasphemous Blogger Case Shows Hypocrisy of Palestinian Supporters

Amid all the constant clamor about the plight of the Palestinians, the conspicuous lack of concern on the part of both foreign and local Arab human-rights groups about the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treat their own people is an ongoing scandal. The imposition of a tyrannical Islamist police state in Gaza is ignored by Europeans and many American liberals, who devote their energies to demonizing Israel’s measures of self-defense aimed at keeping the terrorists based in that territory from attacking their civilians on the other side of the border. And while the leaders of the Palestinian Authority get good press abroad as “moderates” who favor peace, the truth about the way the PA runs most of the West Bank (contrary to popular misconception, Arab towns and villages are under the control of the PA’s police and various security services, not the Israel Defense Force) is far from pretty. An example of the way the Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank is on display in the case of Waleed Hasayin, whose pathetic story was told in yesterday’s New York Times.

Hasayin, a 20-something unemployed computer-science graduate who helped out in his father’s barbershop in Qalqilya, has been held incommunicado at that town’s local PA intelligence headquarters for blasphemous blogging. Husayin’s crime is that he created Facebook pages skewering Islam and promoting atheism. The Times reports that it is against the law in PA-ruled land to insult religion, though by that it is clear that they just mean Islam, since insults against Judaism are regularly broadcast on PA radio and television. He is not the first Muslim to run afoul of the repressive culture of the Arab world but what makes his case noteworthy is the hypocrisy of both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders.

The most telling sentence in the Times’s story is the matter of fact one in which reporter Isabel Kershner notes that “Palestinian human rights groups in the West Bank have so far remained silent about Mr. Hasayin’s arrest.” She fails to mention that his case is also of no interest to Western supporters of the Palestinians, who believe that all Palestinians are still living under Israel “occupation,” whether in the West Bank or Gaza. This case makes it plain once again that advocates for Palestinian human rights are not actually interested in the human rights of the Palestinian people. If they were, then there would be as many, if not more, foreign protests against the way the Islamists of Hamas and the neo-Islamist thugs of the Palestinian Authority tyrannize their own people as there are protests against alleged abuses on the part of Israel.

Were Hasayin a terrorist with Jewish blood on his hands, languishing in an Israeli jail, there would be massive foreign support for his release as there is for that of killers like Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti. But since he is merely a free thinker who dared to challenge the oppressive political and religious culture of the Palestinians while blogging in an Internet cafe, he is of no interest to “friends” of the Palestinian people, who are content to let public opinion in Qalqilya — which, according to the Times, favors capital punishment or life imprisonment for his crime — determine his fate.

Amid all the constant clamor about the plight of the Palestinians, the conspicuous lack of concern on the part of both foreign and local Arab human-rights groups about the way the Palestinian Authority and Hamas treat their own people is an ongoing scandal. The imposition of a tyrannical Islamist police state in Gaza is ignored by Europeans and many American liberals, who devote their energies to demonizing Israel’s measures of self-defense aimed at keeping the terrorists based in that territory from attacking their civilians on the other side of the border. And while the leaders of the Palestinian Authority get good press abroad as “moderates” who favor peace, the truth about the way the PA runs most of the West Bank (contrary to popular misconception, Arab towns and villages are under the control of the PA’s police and various security services, not the Israel Defense Force) is far from pretty. An example of the way the Palestinian Authority rules the West Bank is on display in the case of Waleed Hasayin, whose pathetic story was told in yesterday’s New York Times.

Hasayin, a 20-something unemployed computer-science graduate who helped out in his father’s barbershop in Qalqilya, has been held incommunicado at that town’s local PA intelligence headquarters for blasphemous blogging. Husayin’s crime is that he created Facebook pages skewering Islam and promoting atheism. The Times reports that it is against the law in PA-ruled land to insult religion, though by that it is clear that they just mean Islam, since insults against Judaism are regularly broadcast on PA radio and television. He is not the first Muslim to run afoul of the repressive culture of the Arab world but what makes his case noteworthy is the hypocrisy of both the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders.

The most telling sentence in the Times’s story is the matter of fact one in which reporter Isabel Kershner notes that “Palestinian human rights groups in the West Bank have so far remained silent about Mr. Hasayin’s arrest.” She fails to mention that his case is also of no interest to Western supporters of the Palestinians, who believe that all Palestinians are still living under Israel “occupation,” whether in the West Bank or Gaza. This case makes it plain once again that advocates for Palestinian human rights are not actually interested in the human rights of the Palestinian people. If they were, then there would be as many, if not more, foreign protests against the way the Islamists of Hamas and the neo-Islamist thugs of the Palestinian Authority tyrannize their own people as there are protests against alleged abuses on the part of Israel.

Were Hasayin a terrorist with Jewish blood on his hands, languishing in an Israeli jail, there would be massive foreign support for his release as there is for that of killers like Fatah’s Marwan Barghouti. But since he is merely a free thinker who dared to challenge the oppressive political and religious culture of the Palestinians while blogging in an Internet cafe, he is of no interest to “friends” of the Palestinian people, who are content to let public opinion in Qalqilya — which, according to the Times, favors capital punishment or life imprisonment for his crime — determine his fate.

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Retreat from Retreat?

We are told that the administration is to “tweak” its message on Afghanistan. But it sounds more like it is throwing in the towel on the most wrongheaded aspect of its Afghanistan policy:

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Implicit in their message, delivered at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia, was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

That’s no tweak; it’s an acknowledgment that a deadline devised by political hacks for partisan purposes (i.e., to keep the base from freaking out) is being discarded. About time. As always, no Obama maneuver can forgo dissembling: “There’s not really any change, but what we’re trying to do is to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president’s strategy really entails,’ a senior administration official said Wednesday.” That obsession was the president’s, who last emphasized it from the Oval Office in a prime-time speech.

One of those aforementioned hacks is running for mayor of Chicago, and the other is about to depart for the 2012 campaign. More important, the liberal base has already absorbed the midterm losses and won’t have another chance to wreak havoc on Obama until 2012. So now the White House can do it right:

The message shift is effectively a victory for the military, which has long said that the July 2011 deadline undermined its mission by making Afghans reluctant to work with troops perceived to be leaving shortly. “They say you’ll leave in 2011 and the Taliban will chop their heads off,” Cpl. Lisa Gardner, a Marine based in Helmand Province, told a reporter this past spring. This summer Gen. James T. Conway, then the Marine Corps’s commandant, went so far as to say that the deadline “was probably giving our enemy sustenance.”

Last year the White House insisted on the July deadline to inject a sense of urgency into the Afghans to get their security in order — military officials acknowledge that it has partly worked — but also to quiet critics in the Democratic Party upset about Mr. Obama’s escalation of the war and his decision to order 30,000 more troops to the country.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision is the correct one. But this is pathetic. Obama didn’t have the political courage to do what was plainly in our strategic interests, with men on the field of battle, when he feared electoral consequences. Only when the coast is clear can he do the right thing. How completely not-Bush.

We are told that the administration is to “tweak” its message on Afghanistan. But it sounds more like it is throwing in the towel on the most wrongheaded aspect of its Afghanistan policy:

In a move away from President Obama’s deadline of July 2011 for the start of an American drawdown from Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, all cited 2014 this week as the key date for handing over the defense of Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves. Implicit in their message, delivered at a security and diplomatic conference in Australia, was that the United States would be fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

That’s no tweak; it’s an acknowledgment that a deadline devised by political hacks for partisan purposes (i.e., to keep the base from freaking out) is being discarded. About time. As always, no Obama maneuver can forgo dissembling: “There’s not really any change, but what we’re trying to do is to get past that July 2011 obsession so that people can see what the president’s strategy really entails,’ a senior administration official said Wednesday.” That obsession was the president’s, who last emphasized it from the Oval Office in a prime-time speech.

One of those aforementioned hacks is running for mayor of Chicago, and the other is about to depart for the 2012 campaign. More important, the liberal base has already absorbed the midterm losses and won’t have another chance to wreak havoc on Obama until 2012. So now the White House can do it right:

The message shift is effectively a victory for the military, which has long said that the July 2011 deadline undermined its mission by making Afghans reluctant to work with troops perceived to be leaving shortly. “They say you’ll leave in 2011 and the Taliban will chop their heads off,” Cpl. Lisa Gardner, a Marine based in Helmand Province, told a reporter this past spring. This summer Gen. James T. Conway, then the Marine Corps’s commandant, went so far as to say that the deadline “was probably giving our enemy sustenance.”

Last year the White House insisted on the July deadline to inject a sense of urgency into the Afghans to get their security in order — military officials acknowledge that it has partly worked — but also to quiet critics in the Democratic Party upset about Mr. Obama’s escalation of the war and his decision to order 30,000 more troops to the country.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision is the correct one. But this is pathetic. Obama didn’t have the political courage to do what was plainly in our strategic interests, with men on the field of battle, when he feared electoral consequences. Only when the coast is clear can he do the right thing. How completely not-Bush.

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The Times‘s Great War Correspondents

I often take issue with articles and columns in the New York Times, but it remains a great newspaper with many first-rate, fearless news-gatherers. One of them was severely wounded Saturday while accompanying U.S. troops in the Arghandab Valley near Kandahar. Photographer Joao Silva stepped on a mine while on patrol. Thankfully, he survived. Medics administered immediate assistance, and he was evacuated by helicopter. Typical of his professionalism and dedication, he continued snapping pictures even after being hit. He will undergo his long-term recovery at Walter Reed hospital in Washington. (The story is here.)

Silva is hardly the only Times journalist who has placed himself in harm’s way in search of a story. Reporter Stephen Farrell was kidnapped by the Taliban last year and freed in a raid which killed his interpreter. Farrell only had to spend four days with his captors; his colleague David Rohde spent seven months in Taliban captivity before escaping.

Their self-sacrifice has not been in vain. For all the many problems of the Times, its war reporting has been outstanding, thanks to the efforts not only of the individuals mentioned above but also many others such as Michael Gordon, Dexter Filkins, C.J. Chivers, John Burns, Alissa Rubin, and Carlotta Gall. They have been fearless truth-gatherers and have generally described the wars they have covered fairly and accurately. Certainly in Iraq, they provided a better picture of what was happening than the hopelessly rosy-eyed descriptions generated by U.S. military commanders from 2003 to 2006. In Afghanistan, I have also found their reporting generally to be on the money.

I wish Silva a speedy recovery and hope his colleagues remain safe when they are on the front lines — as they often are.

I often take issue with articles and columns in the New York Times, but it remains a great newspaper with many first-rate, fearless news-gatherers. One of them was severely wounded Saturday while accompanying U.S. troops in the Arghandab Valley near Kandahar. Photographer Joao Silva stepped on a mine while on patrol. Thankfully, he survived. Medics administered immediate assistance, and he was evacuated by helicopter. Typical of his professionalism and dedication, he continued snapping pictures even after being hit. He will undergo his long-term recovery at Walter Reed hospital in Washington. (The story is here.)

Silva is hardly the only Times journalist who has placed himself in harm’s way in search of a story. Reporter Stephen Farrell was kidnapped by the Taliban last year and freed in a raid which killed his interpreter. Farrell only had to spend four days with his captors; his colleague David Rohde spent seven months in Taliban captivity before escaping.

Their self-sacrifice has not been in vain. For all the many problems of the Times, its war reporting has been outstanding, thanks to the efforts not only of the individuals mentioned above but also many others such as Michael Gordon, Dexter Filkins, C.J. Chivers, John Burns, Alissa Rubin, and Carlotta Gall. They have been fearless truth-gatherers and have generally described the wars they have covered fairly and accurately. Certainly in Iraq, they provided a better picture of what was happening than the hopelessly rosy-eyed descriptions generated by U.S. military commanders from 2003 to 2006. In Afghanistan, I have also found their reporting generally to be on the money.

I wish Silva a speedy recovery and hope his colleagues remain safe when they are on the front lines — as they often are.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Without Obama, the GOP could never have gotten this far, this fast: “Two weeks before Election Day, Democrats fear their grip on the House may be gone, and Republicans are poised to celebrate big gains in the Senate and governors’ mansions as well. Analysts in both parties say all major indicators tilt toward the Republicans. President Barack Obama‘s policies are widely unpopular. Congress, run by the Democrats, rates even lower. Fear and anger over unemployment and deep deficits are energizing conservative voters; liberals are demoralized.”

The White House’s assault on the Chamber of Commerce is without evidence and without shame: “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate criticizing GOP groups for allegedly funneling foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.”

The White House truly is without friends. A New York Times reporter debunks the White House’s claim that it is all a communication problem; she says it’s really a policy problem. Yeah, the Times.

Without social and economic conservatives, it’s hard to win the GOP presidential nomination: “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has now managed to alienate prominent social and fiscal conservatives. The potential presidential candidate’s already rocky path to the Republican nomination became more treacherous this weekend after the country’s most powerful anti-tax activist and one of the House’s most respected fiscal conservatives disparaged Daniels’ openness to considering a controversial value added tax as part of a larger tax system overhaul.”

Without a doubt, Daniels would have been wise to consult with Gary Bauer before setting out on his pre-campaign tours: “I would say to Governor Mitch Daniels you know, it’s — it’s not our side that has declared war on social issues. I would love to be able to call a truce on it. The reason the social issues are in such play so many years is that others have declared war. There’s a major movement going on in this country to change the definition of marriage. Now, if — if Mitch Daniels thinks he can call a truce on that, that would be great, but as long as people are pushing to change the definition of marriage, there are going to be millions of Americans that say no; we want marriage to stay between one man and one woman.”

Without peer as the least-credible White House press secretary in recent memory: “Though Republicans across the country are hammering Democratic opponents by linking them to President Obama’s policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asserted Sunday that 2010 is a ‘local’ election.”

Without independents and strong support from their base, the Dems are heading for a wipeout: “Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama’s first midterm elections.”

Without any self-awareness, Valerie Jarrett is still in messiah-mode: “‘He doesn’t have the shtick, you know, the way a lot of politicians do. He’s completely sincere and true and I think people are not used to seeing that in their politicians. So it’s taking people a while to realize that he’s actually a real person and he’s not just trying to pretend and fool them and trick them into thinking he’s something else.’ … Jarrett also blamed some of the president’s perceived problems on ‘the fact that there’s a kind of toxicity in the language.’ She said the president ‘always keeps an even tone and … he always looks for the better angels in people.’”

Without Obama, the GOP could never have gotten this far, this fast: “Two weeks before Election Day, Democrats fear their grip on the House may be gone, and Republicans are poised to celebrate big gains in the Senate and governors’ mansions as well. Analysts in both parties say all major indicators tilt toward the Republicans. President Barack Obama‘s policies are widely unpopular. Congress, run by the Democrats, rates even lower. Fear and anger over unemployment and deep deficits are energizing conservative voters; liberals are demoralized.”

The White House’s assault on the Chamber of Commerce is without evidence and without shame: “Democratic leaders in the House and Senate criticizing GOP groups for allegedly funneling foreign money into campaign ads have seen their party raise more than $1 million from political action committees affiliated with foreign companies.”

The White House truly is without friends. A New York Times reporter debunks the White House’s claim that it is all a communication problem; she says it’s really a policy problem. Yeah, the Times.

Without social and economic conservatives, it’s hard to win the GOP presidential nomination: “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has now managed to alienate prominent social and fiscal conservatives. The potential presidential candidate’s already rocky path to the Republican nomination became more treacherous this weekend after the country’s most powerful anti-tax activist and one of the House’s most respected fiscal conservatives disparaged Daniels’ openness to considering a controversial value added tax as part of a larger tax system overhaul.”

Without a doubt, Daniels would have been wise to consult with Gary Bauer before setting out on his pre-campaign tours: “I would say to Governor Mitch Daniels you know, it’s — it’s not our side that has declared war on social issues. I would love to be able to call a truce on it. The reason the social issues are in such play so many years is that others have declared war. There’s a major movement going on in this country to change the definition of marriage. Now, if — if Mitch Daniels thinks he can call a truce on that, that would be great, but as long as people are pushing to change the definition of marriage, there are going to be millions of Americans that say no; we want marriage to stay between one man and one woman.”

Without peer as the least-credible White House press secretary in recent memory: “Though Republicans across the country are hammering Democratic opponents by linking them to President Obama’s policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs asserted Sunday that 2010 is a ‘local’ election.”

Without independents and strong support from their base, the Dems are heading for a wipeout: “Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall. Just half of them say they definitely will show up Nov. 2, according to an Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll released two weeks before Obama’s first midterm elections.”

Without any self-awareness, Valerie Jarrett is still in messiah-mode: “‘He doesn’t have the shtick, you know, the way a lot of politicians do. He’s completely sincere and true and I think people are not used to seeing that in their politicians. So it’s taking people a while to realize that he’s actually a real person and he’s not just trying to pretend and fool them and trick them into thinking he’s something else.’ … Jarrett also blamed some of the president’s perceived problems on ‘the fact that there’s a kind of toxicity in the language.’ She said the president ‘always keeps an even tone and … he always looks for the better angels in people.’”

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Surprise: The Tea Party Is Important!

From ridiculed and ignored to influential. The Tea Party has made it above-the-fold in the New York Times, which accords grudging respect to those it once decried as racists and extremists:

Enough Tea Party-supported candidates are running strongly in competitive and Republican-leaning Congressional races that the movement stands a good chance of establishing a sizeable caucus to push its agenda in the House and the Senate, according to a New York Times analysis.

With a little more than two weeks till Election Day, 33 Tea Party-backed candidates are in tossup races or running in House districts that are solidly or leaning Republican, and 8 stand a good or better chance of winning Senate seats.

While the numbers are relatively small, they could exert outsize influence, putting pressure on Republican leaders to carry out promises to significantly cut spending and taxes, to repeal health care legislation and financial regulations passed this year, and to phase out Social Security and Medicare in favor of personal savings accounts.

And the Tea Party candidates have performed “better than expected” — umm, better than the Gray Lady expected — the report tells us. Yes, there is Christine O’Donnell, but the Times has figured out that there are many more viable Tea Party–backed candidates (e.g., Ron Johnson and Ken Buck). And it must have slipped the reporter’s mind, but that Marco Rubio looks pretty good, too.

This is yet another instance — the surge in Iraq was one of the more egregious examples — in which the media ignored or derided a conservative effort and then discovered that, by gosh (who could have expected it?), it’s pretty darn successful! If the media weren’t so busy telling liberals what they wanted to hear and ignoring conservative politics, they’d be surprised less.

From ridiculed and ignored to influential. The Tea Party has made it above-the-fold in the New York Times, which accords grudging respect to those it once decried as racists and extremists:

Enough Tea Party-supported candidates are running strongly in competitive and Republican-leaning Congressional races that the movement stands a good chance of establishing a sizeable caucus to push its agenda in the House and the Senate, according to a New York Times analysis.

With a little more than two weeks till Election Day, 33 Tea Party-backed candidates are in tossup races or running in House districts that are solidly or leaning Republican, and 8 stand a good or better chance of winning Senate seats.

While the numbers are relatively small, they could exert outsize influence, putting pressure on Republican leaders to carry out promises to significantly cut spending and taxes, to repeal health care legislation and financial regulations passed this year, and to phase out Social Security and Medicare in favor of personal savings accounts.

And the Tea Party candidates have performed “better than expected” — umm, better than the Gray Lady expected — the report tells us. Yes, there is Christine O’Donnell, but the Times has figured out that there are many more viable Tea Party–backed candidates (e.g., Ron Johnson and Ken Buck). And it must have slipped the reporter’s mind, but that Marco Rubio looks pretty good, too.

This is yet another instance — the surge in Iraq was one of the more egregious examples — in which the media ignored or derided a conservative effort and then discovered that, by gosh (who could have expected it?), it’s pretty darn successful! If the media weren’t so busy telling liberals what they wanted to hear and ignoring conservative politics, they’d be surprised less.

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Pulling Teeth at the State Department

Having kept a running count of the number of times the Obama administration has refused to answer if it is bound by the 2004 Bush letter (22 times so far), it is a pleasure to report that it took only six attempts yesterday to get the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to answer whether the U.S. recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Crowley’s first response tried to throw reporters off the track with the tantalizing suggestion that George Mitchell just might go — it would be logical — back to the region at some point. Asked a second time, Crowley responded that we “recognize [Israel’s] aspiration.” On the reporters’ third through fifth tries, Crowley proved hard of hearing. On the sixth attempt, after a 14-word preface, he finally responded: “yes.”

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. [Blah, blah, blah.] Read More

Having kept a running count of the number of times the Obama administration has refused to answer if it is bound by the 2004 Bush letter (22 times so far), it is a pleasure to report that it took only six attempts yesterday to get the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, to answer whether the U.S. recognizes Israel as a Jewish state.

Crowley’s first response tried to throw reporters off the track with the tantalizing suggestion that George Mitchell just might go — it would be logical — back to the region at some point. Asked a second time, Crowley responded that we “recognize [Israel’s] aspiration.” On the reporters’ third through fifth tries, Crowley proved hard of hearing. On the sixth attempt, after a 14-word preface, he finally responded: “yes.”

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. [Blah, blah, blah.]

QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has — it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that — the special character of the state of Israel.

QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?

QUESTION: P.J., it’s — do you want to answer his question or –

QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.

The original question had a second part to it: “ … and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?” After a reporter repeated the question, it took Crowley 162 halting words to respond:

QUESTION: … Does the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I will be happy to go back over and offer some — I’m trying — I’m not making any news here. We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well. But this is the aspiration of the — what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence, the — a core demand of the Israeli Government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

Why is it so hard to get the Obama administration to reiterate basic commitments the U.S. has made — in writing — to Israel? The Bush letter stated that the U.S. is “strongly committed to … [Israel] as a Jewish state.” This administration has to be prodded six times to answer whether it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and — after an affirmative response is extracted — cannot give a one-word answer on whether it wants the Palestinians to recognize one as well.

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