Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Friday, Fenruary 15.
1) Was King Herod a Palestinian?
Earlier this week the New York Times reported about Anger That a Herod Show Uses West Bank Objects. This is an odd angle to report as the article tells us.
The Israel Museum on Tuesday opened its most ambitious archaeological
exhibition and the world’s first devoted to Herod, the lionized and
demonized Rome-appointed king of Judea, who reigned from 37 to 4 B.C.E.
and is among the most seminal and contentious figures in Jewish history.
But the exhibition, which the museum director described as a “massive
enterprise” that involved sifting through 30 tons of material from
Herodium and reconstructing 250 artifacts, has also brought its own bit
Instead of discussing the historical significance of the exhibit, the report focuses on the controversy.
The Palestinian Authority says the exhibition is a violation of
international law because much of its material was taken from near
Bethlehem and Jericho, both in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. An
Israeli group of archaeologists and activists complains that the museum,
however unwittingly, is helping the Jewish settlement movement advance
its contention that the West Bank should be part of Israel and not a
“What the Israel Museum is doing is like coming and saying, ‘Listen, the
heritage of the West Bank is part of our heritage first of all,’ ” said
Yonathan Mizrachi, an archaeologist who helped found the Israeli group,
Emek Shaveh, in 2009. “It’s part of the idea to create the narrative
that those sites, no matter what the political solution,” are “part of
the Israeli identity.”
James S. Snyder, the director of the museum, dismissed such criticism as
propaganda and political opportunism. The Oslo Accords signed by the
Israelis and Palestinians in the 1990s provide for Israeli involvement
in archaeology in the territories until the resolution of the overall
conflict, and Mr. Snyder said that at the end of the exhibition, the
museum plans to return the artifacts to the West Bank, to Israel’s civil
administration, which he said would arrange for their return to the
sites from which they were taken or to store the material until “the
site can be prepared for its care and/or display.” He noted that the
museum had spent a “huge” sum — he would not specify how much — to
restore and make available for public consumption artifacts that might
otherwise have been lost, like many of the antiquities in Iraq and
This is ridiculous. Before there were people who self-identified as
Palestinians there was a phenomenon called history. Just because the
Palestinian narrative isn't supported by history doesn't mean that the
history did not occur.
(It's disappointing that the article didn't point out that the
Palestinians often show no regard for archaeological sites as reported here.)
Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the history shown by the exhibit,
the New York Times instead focused on the hurt feelings of the
2) Whither Fayyadism?
Roger Cohen laments the fate of Salam Fayyad in The Success that failed. This is the New York Times and it is columnist Roger Cohen, so this is no surprise:
He identified some of the issues: settlement expansion; Israeli
military incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas; the failure to
extend the Palestinian security presence in the West Bank; the “complex
and capricious” process of gaining access to the more than 60 percent of
the West Bank known as “Area C” and under direct Israeli military
control; the Israeli use of tax revenues as a spigot that can be turned
on and off to hurt the Palestinian Authority; the lack of access to 3G
technology and Israeli control of frequencies; the difficulty of
exporting to Israel. All of these factors together, Fayyad said, had
made governance “an exercise in impossibility.”
Then, of course, there is the internal Palestinian question, now
referred to as the “reconciliation” issue. The Palestinian national
movement is crippled by its split. Hamas rules in Gaza. President
Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah rule in the West Bank.
Everything that Fayyad claims, Cohen accepts without reservations.
Israeli military incursions? Those shouldn't be happening because the
Palestinian police force has been keeping the peace. But a few weeks ago
the IDF broke up a Hamas cell near Hebron.
Elsewhere Cohen mentions that IMF gave its approval to the Palestinian
statehood building program, but doesn't mention that just a few weeks
ago, the Palestinians were once again asking for Arab nations to make
good on their pledges. A well functioning society can generate its own
Fayyad also complains that the Obama administration didn't get Israel to
stop settlement building. That's something it did do and it still did
not bring the Palestinians to the table for any meaningful negotiations.
Jonathan Tobin attacks the premise of the op-ed:
The most important thing to understand about Fayyad’s place in
Palestinian politics is that he has always been a man without a party.
In a political culture in which membership in one of the two main terror
groups — Fatah and Hamas — or one of the smaller splinter organizations
like Islamic Jihad has been keystone to identity and the ability to get
ahead, Fayyad is that rarest of Palestinian birds: a true independent.
In a society in which the ability to shed Israeli and Jewish blood has
been the only true indicator of street cred, Fayyad has always come up
short. Though Abbas and others recognized his ability as well his
ability to charm the Americans into keeping U.S. aid flowing to
Ramallah, he has never had anything that remotely resembled a political
constituency. Palestinians may long for good government and the rule of
law as much as any other people, but Fayyad’s platform of cooperation
with Israel and peace lacked support.
That Fayyad would blame the Israelis rather than his own people for his
failure is understandable since to do otherwise would be a death
sentence. But his complaints about Israeli settlements or security
measures in the West Bank lack credibility. The fact that Israelis have
continued to build in Jerusalem and the suburban settlement blocs that
everyone understands would remain within Israel in the event of a peace
deal renders the charge that they will prevent the creation of a
Palestinian state elsewhere absurd. As for Israeli incursions into the
West Bank, were Abbas’ security forces interested in foiling terror or
stamping out Hamas cells as they are obligated to do under their Oslo
commitments, they wouldn’t be necessary. If Israel has sought to exert
pressure on the PA it is because Abbas remains determined to avoid peace
talks and his governments remains a font of anti-Semitic incitement
that lays the foundation for endless conflict.
Fayyad can complain as much as he wants about Israel, but the simple
fact is that he has little or no political support. Cohen could have
looked into why that was so, but it's so much easier to blame Israel.
3) One last item about prisoner X
In the course of the reporting on Prisoner X there have been a number of details that now seem to be wrong. David Bernstein notes at the Volokh Conspiracy:
It seemed to me that van Esveld was jumping to a lot of conclusions
based on whatever information the reporter fed to him. As it turns out,
subsequent media reports have confirmed that (a) the Australian government was informed of Zygier’s arrest back in February 2010,
months before his suicide, and was informed of his death the day after
it happened; and (b) Zygier was represented by counsel through his
entire ordeal, and indeed saw one of his attorneys just a few days
before his suicide.
Bill van Esveld is a spokesman for HRW, who accepted every single damning bit of information about the case as fact.
Labels: Middle East Media Sampler, Mossad, New York Times, Palestinian people, Roger Cohen's obsession with Israel, Salam Fayyad, Soccer Dad