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January 20, 2010
NYT on good news for Israel
In its Jan. 20 edition, the New York Times carries an article by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner about Israel's pending accession to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- a sign of Israel's growing status as an important economic and financial player on the world stage.
But Bronner is not so much interested in Israel's growing acceptance in international circles as in trying to blunt it. The major part of his piece is devoted to spotlighting factors that in his view still might deny Israel entry into OECD -- notwithstanding a statement from OECD General-Secretary Angel Gurria that Israel will be granted membership this year ("Issues Stand Before Israel In Joining Elite Group" page A7).
So what are these "issues" which have nothing to do with OECD's focus on technical research in the domains of national finance and economic development? Bronner describes them as Israel's "secretive" weapons trade (news to me since financial pages regularly report Israeli arms sales to India, Turkey and many other countries),a "patent-bending" drug industry, and, most important in his eyes, "occupation of Arab lands."
Elaborating on the latter, Bronner explains that this negative "political issue is Israel's declining international reputation because of its Gaza war a year ago and its continuing construction of Jewish housing in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem."
So, as far as Bronner is concerned, Israel may not be worthy of OECD membership because of its "declining international reputation."
But is that really so?
In recent days, global media have been full of kudos to Israel for sending a fully equipped field hospital to Haiti, which has become the go-to place for the most seriously injured victims of the earthquake. U.S. and other international media -- except perhaps the New York Times -- have spotlighted the work of Israel's tireless medical teams, including dozens of surgeons and other highly skilled personnel. Television and other media have shown the birth of a baby boy under Israeli medical care and the decision of its grateful mother to call him "Israel." That doesn't strike me as a "declining international reputation."
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Netnayahu was in Berlin for the first-ever joint German-Israeli cabinet meeting in the German capital -- with Chancellor Merkel standing shoulder to shoulder with Netanyahu, declaring German solidarity against Iran's nuclear program and her readiness to proceed to tougher sanctions. That doesn't strike me as a country struggling with a "declining international reputation."
And again, in recent days, an Israeli minister for the first time paid an official visit to the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Again, this seems hardly a sign of "declining international reputation."
Bronner, however, has his own agenda, which ignores all these and so many other positive signs of Israel's stature on the world stage. His agenda is to knock Israel because it had the audacity to conduct, in its own self-defense, a counter-terrorism offensive against Hamas after absorbing thousands of rockets fired against Israeli civilian targets during most of the last decade. Israel's three-week anti-Hamas incursion last winter may not be popular in the usual blame-Israel precincts like the UN commissariat and much of the Muslim world, or among leftist elements in the West, including the New York Times. But Israel continues to enjoy some of the highest positive poll numbers among Americans -- notwithstanding the Times's and Bronner's best efforts to knock it down a few pegs. In addition, Israel also has great friends in governing circles stretching from the U.S. Capitol to Canada to Italy to Australia and other places.
Israel's image, of course, could be further improved if Bronner stopped using such loaded formulations as "occupation of Arab lands" in East Jerusalem and the West Bank." These are NOT "Arab lands" for the simple reason that their legal status still remains to be resolved in political negotiations under UN Security Council resolutions. If Bronner were interested in journalistic accuracy, he would call them "disputed lands." The Palestinians want East Jerusalem and the West Bank for a state. Israel may or may not accede, in whole or in part. But pending a final peace agreement, they're in legal limbo -- despite Bronner's attempt to jump the gun and impose his own peace terms.
But while Bronner obsesses about political hurdles to Israel's OECD membership -- real or not -- OECD's Gurria strikes a far more bullish tone, which Bronner grudgingly appends at the bottom -- the very end -- of his article: Says Gurria: "Israel was invited to join because of its good economic management focused on knowledge, technology and education. The OECD can gain from its membership and so can Israel."
A view of Israel that evidently sticks in Bronner's throat.