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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday, December 1.
1) New York Times Mideast op-ed Index

A) In Israel, Press Freedom Is Under Attack by Dimi Reider - November 1, 2011
Despite the steps Ms. Kamm and Mr. Blau took, the Israeli government has labored over the past year to portray Ms. Kamm as an enemy, initially charging her with espionage. Israel’s largest newspapers jingoistically referred to her as “the soldier spy,” rushing to sensationalize the case at the expense of their own vital interest in press freedom.
The plea bargain which Ms. Kamm eventually struck left her charged with “unauthorized holding and distributing of classified information.” But the memory of the espionage charge and the implied notion that informing the public can somehow be equated with treason will continue to poison the Israeli public sphere for years to come.
I don't know enough about the legal matters involved to comment on this case. However Yaacov Lozowick does. Here's an excerpt:
Since Haaretz had so helpfully shown the stolen documents, the counter-espionage officials came to talk with Blau. Had he been anything other than a journalist, he'd have been summarily arrested and facing many years of jail. But since he's a journalist, and democracy needs journalists to be able to act freely, he wasn't arrested. A deal was cut with him and he agreed to give back the stolen documents, so that they'd never reach someone more dangerous than Haaretz.
Blau returned 50 documents. When the investigators found Kamm independently of him, she told them there had been 2000 documents, not 50. The went back to Blau and his newspaper to retrieve the other 1950 documents, but he absconded, and his lawyers - who are the lawyers of Haaretz - have refused to return the documents.
All the attorneys I talked to over the weekend agree this is illegal. It's also stupid, I'd think. If I were in the Iranian intelligence services I'd be frantically looking for Uri Blau about now, obviously. Our counter espionage forces say this fear is what lead them to insist on that gag order until after they got the documents back, which makes sense but was probably a bad decision for other reasons. Yet if that's how it happened, Haaretz carries some responsibility for the gag order, too.
Didi Reimer is a self-interested activist. The only reason to publish the op-ed was to continue misinforming the public of what really happened.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 1 / Pro-Israel - 0

B) Israel and the Apartheid Slander by Richard Goldstone - November 1, 2011
In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts ... committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.
After the damage he did by leading an investigation into Operation Cast Lead, it was refreshing to read Judge Goldstone write a defense of Israel against one of the more offensive slanders hurled at the Jewish state.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 1 / Pro-Israel - 1

C) The Last Jew in Zagare by Roger Cohen - November 8, 2011
Carrying Zagare in my blood, aware of what centuries of Jewish precariousness have wrought, I believe the case for Israel was and remains overwhelming, but an Israel that condemns another people to permanent exile is not the one its founders imagined.
I went to see the grave of Mendelsonas — the last Jew in Zagare.
So, I thought, Zagare is finally Judenrein. In a sense the Nazis have won. Then, nearby, I saw a European Union flag and thought, no.
By Roger Cohen's standards this isn't as awful as his usual anti-Israel diatribe. Still he writes evocatively about the Holocaust seemingly just to score rhetorical points about Israel. If Jews (and Europe) could get past Nazism, surely Israel can get past Arab hatred of the Jewish state. The difference is that the Nazis have been defeated; the Arabs who hate Israel are still trying to destroy it.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 2 / Pro-Israel - 1

D) Release Marwan Barghouti by Avinoam Bar Yosef - November 9, 2011
The trouble is that Fayyad is regarded by the Palestinians as a professional, as the C.E.O. of the Palestinian Authority, but not as its leader. Many experts believe that Israeli and Western negotiators should encourage cooperation between Fayyad and Barghouti. The endorsement of Tanzim would bring Fayyad and his reforms critical support from the Palestinians.
This may be why some in the Israeli leadership, those who are interested in achieving a two-state solution to the conflict, see Barghouti as a possible partner, even if his sins are not forgiven. At least he is honest, and has the trust of the Palestinian people. Abbas, after all, is Arafat’s former deputy, and hardly a saint in Jewish eyes, and at 76 he appears largely concerned now with his legacy.
So this argument boils down to: Barghouti is a murderer but at least he's an honest one. Maybe I could understand the argument if Barghouti demonstrated remorse, though I still wouldn't agree. This is just a bad idea.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 3 / Pro-Israel - 1

E) After Egypt’s Revolution, Christians Are Living in Fear ... by Andre Aciman - November 20, 2011
“Hidden hands” stands for Satan. And with Satan you don’t use judgment; you use cunning and paranoia. Cunning, after all, is poor man’s fare, a way of cobbling together a credible enough narrative that is at once easy to digest, to swear by, and pass around. Bugaboos keep you focused. And nothing in the Middle East can keep you as focused (or as unfocused) as the archvillain of them all: Israel.
Say “Israel” and you’ve galvanized everyone. Say Israel and you have a movement, a cause, a purpose. Say “Israel” and all of Islam huddles. Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and now Turkey.
No this one wasn't primarily about Israel (and I did leave out a few items that were about Iran, but accused Israel of sabre rattling), but Aciman makes an important point here. Reporters and analysts celebrating the Arab spring usually fail to note that whatever reforms are being considered, the antisemitism or anti-Zionism of the dictators is still extant. True Aciman's focus is on the military's treatment of the Copts, but I expect that he'd agree that the Muslim Brotherhood would not improve the situation.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 3 / Pro-Israel - 2

F) Israel and 'Pinkwashing' by Sarah Schulman - November 22, 2011
In Israel, gay soldiers and the relative openness of Tel Aviv are incomplete indicators of human rights — just as in America, the expansion of gay rights in some states does not offset human rights violations like mass incarceration. The long-sought realization of some rights for some gays should not blind us to the struggles against racism in Europe and the United States, or to the Palestinians’ insistence on a land to call home.
For sheer viciousness, it's hard to imagine a worse op-ed. Schulman takes Israel's virtue and turns it into a vice. There's no way to win. Worse, as one time public editor of the New York Times, Clark Hoyt, argued (defending an op-ed by a member of Hamas) the reason to publish offensive ideas is to get them out into the open where they will wither. But Schulman here is identified simply as a professor not as an anti-Israel advocate. If bad ideas need to be exposed, then the source needs to be correctly identified. The only reason for publishing this was to slander Israel, not to stimulate debate.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 4 / Pro-Israel - 2

G) Israel's other occupation by Gershom Gorenberg - November 25, 2011
Israel’s courts, human rights groups and large parts of the public have fought back, seeking to preserve the principle of equality and the fragile sense of a shared society. The problem they face is that Israel remains tied to the West Bank and the settlement enterprise. And the ethnic struggle cannot be kept on one side of an unmarked border.
If and when Israel finally leaves the West Bank quagmire behind, it will face a further challenge: the settlers need to be brought home. But allowing them to apply their ideology inside Israel, or to transplant whole communities from the West Bank to the Galilee, will only make the situation worse in Israel proper.
There's something odd in the second paragraph quoted above. Even as Gorenberg demands equality for Arabs in Israel, he acknowledges that his vision of peace requires that Jews not live in a Palestinian state. He even would tell Jews who lived in Judea and Samaria where to live in what he calls "Israel proper," even if he objects to telling Arabs where they can and cannot live. As with many of Israel's critics he applies two sets of standards; one for Israel and another for the Palestinians.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 5 / Pro-Israel - 2

H) The Arab awakening and Israel by Thomas Friedman - November 28, 2011
Israel’s best defense is to strengthen Fayyadism — including giving Palestinian security services more areas of responsibility to increase their legitimacy and make clear that they are not the permanent custodians of Israel’s occupation. This would not only help stabilize Israel’s own backyard — and prevent another uprising that would spread like wildfire to the Arab world without the old dictators to hold it back — but would lay the foundation for a two-state solution and for better relations with the Arab peoples. Remember, those Arab peoples are going to have a lot more say in how they are ruled and with whom they have peace. In that context, Israel will be so much better off if it is seen as strengthening responsible and democratic Palestinian leaders.
When critiquing this op-ed yesterday, I referred to Friedman as a global thinker. The reason for that appellation was this silly "special report" at Foreign Policy. Fayyad and Abbas are global thinkers. So is former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan for opposing Netanyahu. And of course, Friedman, whose columns about the Middle East are consistently anti-Israel or, at least anti-Netanyahu.
Regardless, a shorter version of this column would be: "Israel has a significant reservations of the Arab spring, but Israel is still wrong." The premise of the article that "Fayyadism" is Israel's lifeline in the turmoil, is easily dismissed. "Fayyadism" was never a serious analysis; if it had been, we would have seen a Friedman column condemning the Fatah / Hamas rapprochement. After all, if "Fayyadism" is a necessary element of Palestinian statehood, and that statehood is essential to Middle East peace, shouldn't a rejection of "Fayyadism" by Fatah be characterized as inimical to peace? Since there was no such column, clearly, "Fayyadism" is a cudgel with which Friedman can condemn Israel for failing to recognize a moderate peace partner. "Fayyadism" is convenient but meaningless.

Final Scores - Anti-Israel - 6 / Pro-Israel - 2

About the methodology: I searched the New York Times website for opinion articles about Israel for the month of November, 2011. I didn't include letters to the editor and didn't include articles that were not substantially about Israel.
The impetus for this exercise is public editor Clark Hoyt's 2007 column The danger of the one-sided debate, in which he defended the publishing of an op-ed by Ahmed Yousef, a spokesman for Hamas. With the usual ratio of 3 to 1 or more favoring Israel's critics, I think it can be safely said that the New York Times need not fear that its opinion pages are too sympathetic to Israel.

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