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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler

Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Tuesday, December 4.
1)Outstanding with omissions
Scott Wilson wasn't a very good Israel correspondent for the Washington Post, but his front page Tunnels between Gaza and Egypt are back in business since cease-fire in Sunday's paper is excellent.

The business of Rafah is the tunnel network that circumvents the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and business once again is booming.
For Israeli leaders, who are seeking assurances since the recent cease-fire that Hamas be prevented from restocking its potent weapons arsenal, the thriving return of tunnel commerce poses a daunting strategic challenge.
Since leaving Gaza seven years ago, Israel’s military has lost its on-the-ground ability to stop tunnel smuggling. Since the cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sought guarantees from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi that he will do more to prevent the illegal trade into Gaza — a diplomatic negotiation between uneasy neighbors that in the past has proved fruitless.
There's an important point here too:
Hamas security officials who monitor the tunnels — and collect “taxes” from the merchants who buy the imports — say at least 50 were collapsed along one busy mile-long stretch alone. Diggers think that hundreds of tunnels span the border.
Hamas monitors the tunnels. When reporters write that "Hamas largely upheld the ceasefire," they ignore this. If Hamas was serious about ceasefires, it would prevent arms from reaching other terrorist groups since it controls access to Gaza's tunnels. There are, two significant omissions here. As Wilson noted above, Israel "...lost its on-the-ground ability to stop tunnel smuggling." Part of this was a concession Israel made to American pressure to cede control of the Philadelphi corridor.

Though I couldn't find a specific report about this pressure, the Post reported Rice Mediates Gaza Disputes:
Two senior administration officials traveling with Rice said agreements appeared possible within days to dispose of rubble from dismantled settler homes and how to transfer greenhouses and other settler assets to the Palestinians. But Buttu said the Palestinians were opposed to a U.S. plan to use aid money intended for Palestinians to buy the greenhouses.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity under rules set by the State Department, said both sides were posturing as they tried to negotiate broad understandings in advance of Israel's withdrawal. "Coordination is a nice word for what is in effect a negotiation," with both sides wary of making compromises, one official said.
The U.S. officials said Rice's role was to listen to the concerns of both sides and try to identify misunderstandings or mischaracterizations. Rice said she sometimes provides "an answer if one does not appear self-evident to each of the parties."
Note that the administration view was that "both sides were posturing." History, unfortunately, showed that Israeli concerns were justified. Wilson ought to have included a mention of this.

Later in the recent article Wilson reported:
Of primary concern to Israel are the weapons — missiles, small arms and explosives — that military officials say have arrived in Gaza from Iran, Sudan and Libya through the tunnels.
Bahrawi points toward clusters of apartment buildings, their walls pocked long ago by Israeli shrapnel. Many of the tunnels, he said, have secret extensions that end out of sight. Those are the ones used to smuggle materials that Israel is not meant to see.
This is important as it shows what Rachel Corrie was doing. When Rachel Corrie was killed, the Washington Post's Molly Moore reported 23-year-old Dies In `Regrettable Accident':
A 23-year-old American woman protesting the demolition of Palestinian houses in the Gaza Strip was killed Sunday by an Israeli military bulldozer that crushed her body as she crouched in its path, according to witnesses from her pro-Palestinian organization.
Rachel Corrie, a college student from Olympia, Wash., was the first international protester to be killed during the 30-month conflict between Israelis and Palestinians here, although some protesters have been injured, arrested or ordered out of the country by Israeli authorities.
Moore portrayed Corrie and her associates as "protesters." What they were doing was interfering with Israeli efforts to discover tunnel entrances that they weren't meant to see.

Wilson could have noted that anti-Israel activists had, in the past, interfered with Israeli efforts to uncover these tunnel entrances.

Last week the Post's public editor argued that a picture of Palestinian man mourning the loss of his son was newsworthy. Absent context, the picture was pure propaganda. The Post's article on tunnels helped provide some of the missing context.

2) The New  York Times's vengeful screed

The editors of the New York Times criticize Mr. Netanyahu’s Strategic Mistake:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel seems determined to escalate a crisis by retaliating against the Palestinians after the United Nations General Assembly voted to elevate Palestine to observer state status.
Instead of looking for ways to halt a downward spiral, Mr. Netanyahu on Monday defiantly dug in on his plans to build 3,000 more housing units in contested areas east of Jerusalem and in the West Bank, and to continue planning a development in the most contentious area known as E1.
Israel also announced that it was withholding $100 million in tax revenues that it has collected from the Palestinian Authority, which is financially strapped. The moves would impose devastating penalties on the only officially recognized representative of the Palestinian people and could doom the chances for a two-state solution because building in the E1 area would split the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. Such measures are puzzling after Israel disparaged the United Nations vote as insignificant.
Note that the editorial begins with the premise that a crisis already existed on account of President Abbas's appeal to the UN last week, but it refuses to criticize Abbas for trying to build international pressure against Israel outside of negotiations.

Why is the withholding of tax revenues a "devastating" penalty? Is it because in the nineteen years since the Oslo Accords were signed Arafat and Abbas have failed to foster a functioning economy? And no, building in E1 won't "split" Palestinian territory.

The New York Times, by the way, described the UN vote as a significant diplomatic defeat for Israel. The move was insignificant in the sense that it is unlikely to change anything. It was, however, a significant breach of the premise of the Oslo Accords - that peace would be achieved through unilateral negotiations.

The minor implicit criticism of Mahmoud Abbas at the end of the editorial doesn't make up for the support the New York Times has given to Abbas's efforts to get what he wants outside of negotiations. Aside from generally favorable coverage in its news section, the New York Times allowed Abbas an op-ed in May 2011 in which he stated his goal of using international institutions against Israel. The Times never repudiated or criticized the op-ed.

I can understand the argument Netanyahu needlessly angered a number of allies. Yet the outrage expressed by the United States and the Europeans demonstrates a hypocrisy associated with the peace process. Palestinian leaders can forsake the premises of Oslo and suffer no political consequences or opprobrium. Israel can act within its rights, but if the Palestinians object, find itself relentlessly criticized.

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