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February 14, 2011
NY Times' willful blindness
I trust many of you have seen the insufferable wannabe savants in the TV or print ads for the New York Times, encouraging you to "join the conversation" or subscribe so you can be "part of the conversation." After all, without reading Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof , Roger Cohen, Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, Frank Rich, Charles Blow or Paul Krugman, how could you attend a cocktail party, and sound scornful enough of Sarah Palin, Israeli settlement activity, John Boehner, W, Rummy, the Koch Brothers, the Tea party, the Christian right, Sarah Palin, Israeli settlements, John Boehner, W, Rummy, the Koch brothers, the Tea party, and the Christian right. But I fear I repeat myself.
The recent events in Egypt highlight how far from reality the Times' foreign policy "great minds" have wandered. Tom Friedman, the single most overrated journalist in America, has been obsessed with Israel and settlements for three decades. In mid 2010, he accused Israel of behaving like Syrian mass murderer Hafez Assad, who put down a protest in the city of Hama in 1982 by killing most everyone in the town, 20,000 in all in a single day. Somehow, Israel's behavior reminded Friedman of this atrocity, since he accused Israel of following Hama rules in the 2006 war with Hezb'allah and the 2008 war with Hamas in Gaza.
Friedman believes the events in Egypt represented a great opportunity for Israel to drop its qualms and just make peace with the Palestinians, since the deal has been out there for a long time, and especially since he exchanged peace plans with the Saudis over sweet mint tea. And of course, for Friedman, Israel's concern over what might follow Mubarak, and the stability of the 31 year peace treaty with Egypt that has prevented a land war between the nations fter they fought 4 in 25 years from 1948 to 1973, is dismissed as Israel choosing to protect the pharaoh, rather than stand for democracy, and disappointing the Obama administration which was such a paragon of virtue, speaking so forthrightly and consistently during the crisis.
The Times devoted its Sunday magazine cover article to a fake story of how close Israel and the PA came to a peace agreement in 2008, until Ehud Olmert backed out. Presumably, Hamas in Gaza was all in on the PA's proposed settlement, since one might ask how a peace agreement means anything, if Gaza is excluded. The account in the Times, written by Bernard Avishai, is similar in concept and deceit to a long article by Deborah Sontag after the collapse of the Camp David talks in 2000 and the intifada that followed. Sontag's goal was to rehabilitate Yassar Arafat, who had taken most of the blame for the failure at Camp David and for starting the second and far more violent intifada. For those who have forgotten this reporting gem, Sontag said a major reason for the collapse of the Camp David talks was the failure of Ehud Barak and Arafat to really get to deal with each other face to face. And the biggest mistake -- placing Chelsea Clinton in between Barak and Arafat at the big initial dinner, ruining their chance to really get to know each other in a less formal setting. Even some loyal Times readers thought that one was a stretch.
And then there is Nicholas Kristof, a man so enamored of his human right legacy that he has probably submitted his own application to the Nobel Committee for the peace prize. Kristof, a full throated cheerleader for the Egyptian protestors for two weeks, and utterly dismissive of any risk of the Muslim Brotherhood filling a power vacuum that might follow Mubarak's fall from power, argued this weekend that there has been more damage that has occurred over recent time from fear of Islamism than from Islamism itself. In 1938, Kristof, had he been alive and bloviating, might have been counted on to argue that there was more danger from fear of Nazism (and western militarization ) than from Fascism itself. Kristof is very comfortable separating Jews in Israel into two categories -- good and bad ones. The good ones, of course are those who try to delegitimize their country abroad, and feed the gullible western media every overwrought atrocity story they need for their twice weekly columns of bad behavior by Israeli settlers, the bad Israelis.
Kristof's latest column also calls for spreading the Egyptian street's message of freedom to the West Bank. a call echoed by Moammar Gaddafi. Of course both men want only peaceful protests, of which there is scant history among the Palestinian population in the West Bank. Note that Kristof makes no appeal for Gazans to protest the authoritarian theocracy in Gaza that Hamas has imposed. Kristof has written about Gaza, but only to complain that Israel was starving the population there in a prison camp. Kristof never mentions that Egypt's restrictions on its border with Gaza were the same as Israel's on its border with the Hamas-controlled strip, even though no rockets were being fired into the Sinai from Gaza. And of course, there was no starvation.
The only conclusion one can take from the appalling obsession and misreporting on Israel is that the Times longs to reach the elevated status of the Guardian in Great Britain in regard to its hatred of Israel. But the Times has a problem: all those Jewish readers and advertisers, and that Sulzberger name next to the publisher category, makes people think it is a Jewish paper. Of course Pinch Sulzberger is as Jewish as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also may have had some Jewish roots way back when.
The role model set by the Guardian? Check out this correction of a front page story in the paper. Which editor slipped up?
Sol Stern destroys Bernard Avishai article from NY Times Magazine:
Barry Rubin rips into Kristof, asking why the beautiful people don't see the threat from Islamic radicalism:
One beautiful person sees the threat (I had to read this one twice). When the woman makes bail, give her a desk a the New York Times.
Earlier Kristof: Good and bad Israelis
Shmuel Rosner responds
Other than the first paragraph, this is a good takedown of Friedman