Wash. Post relies on anti-Israel J Street as only source of impeccable truth
In its Dec. 8 edition, the Washington Post runs an article by its long-time Israel-bashing reporter Scott Wilson with the following headline: "Romney and Gingrich court Jewish support with barbs at Obama's policies -- GOP front-runners vow strong support for Israel" (page A7).
The problem with the headline is that it doesn't do justice to Wilson's piece, which is as much a defense of Obama policies on Israel as a report on the Israel-support agenda of Gingrich and Romney, which they spelled out at a forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Wilson gives Post readers only the briefest, abbreviated summary of the positions of the two GOP presidential front runners before turning defense counsel for Obama.
Thus, we are told in the third paragraph that readers ought to be aware that Obama "has consistently supported Israel's security needs and political interests, noting his opposition to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations."
Countering GOP attacks on Obama, Wilson continues in similar vein in the fourth paragraph, stressing that "Obama's poll numbers among Jews have remained stable throughout the fall," with a Gallup poll showing a majority of Jews approve of the way he is handling his job.
Further emphasizing Obama's pro-Israel credentials, Wilson then points out in the fifth paragraph that "Obama has endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" and urged the two sides to negotiate a peace agreement based on the 1967 lines with sufficient modifications to accommodate "large Jewish settlement blocks built on territory claimed by the Palestinians as part of their future state."
Then, in the six paragraph, Wilson takes a poke at Gingrich and Romney for not mentioning the two-solution in their remarks at the GOP forum.
So far, readers know far more about Obama's Israel-support claims than about what the GOP front-runners had to say about their Israel positions and their critiques of Obama's dealings with the Jewish state - the purported reason for Wilson's article.
But Wilson isn't through substituting his own pro-Obama agenda for the Republican speeches at the GOP forum. Seeking to give more heft to his own anti-Israel twists and turns, he cites for confirmation J Street, a far-left Jewish group, lavishly financed by anti-Israel billionaire George Soros.
Wilson, however, doesn't present the real J street, which lobbied the White House not to veto a UN resolution condemning Israel and whose president Jeremy Ben-Ami cautioned administration policy-makers that "ever harsher sanctions are unlikely to get the Iranian regime to cease its weapons development."
Ben-Ami initially denied that J Street was taking big sums of money from Soros, only to issue a retraction when Soros' generosity became public knowledge.
None of this appears in Wilson's piece. Instead, he informs Post readers that J Street is a "Jewish lobbying group that favors the two-state approach."
Having put his Kosher seal of approval on J Street, Wilson proceeds to cite Ben-Ami sounding the alarm that Israeli politics have "warped" administration policy "to the extent in which you may get a president who longer thinks that a two-state solution is a good thing."
And this front an outfit that falsely labels itself "pro-Israel."
Wilson's piece - after finally reporting a few details about what actually was said at the forum - then switches to another topic, a controversy swelling from a statement by Obama's ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, that rising anti-Semitism in Europe was due to Israel's policies in the Middle East. Leaders of genuine Jewish groups have urged Obama to fire Gutman. So did Gingrich and Romney at the GOP forum.
But Wilson predictably comes to Gutman's defense, with an assist from J Street's Ben-Ami. Wilson emphasizes Gutman's Jewish roots, how his father tried to enlist in the anti-German resistance and the loss of his family in the Holocaust - as if this mitigates his vicious slander that Jews are responsible for anti-Semitism.
Also, quite predictably, Ben-Ami gives Gutman a certificate of good behavior. "You may take a line or two out of any speech and blow it up, but there's no denying that Israel's policies have an impact on public perception," Ben-Ami tells Wilson.
Wilson and the Post might argue that, in covering a GOP forum where Obama was sharply criticized, it behooves a newspaper to inject in its report some White House rebuttal. And I agree. Yes, by all means, after having presented Republican views and positions, a couple of counter-arguments from the White House would be in order. But not the kind of profusion of pro-Obama citations that Wilson injects at the top of his article so as to signal to readers that they might just as well disregard the views of Romney and Gingrich.
It will be interesting to find out if the Washington Post, the next time Obama takes to the hustings to brag about his pro-Israel credentials, will devote as much rebuttal to Obama in its coverage as is evident in its treatment of the GOP presidential contenders.
To match its treatment of Gingrich and Romney, Wilson might rely on a real pro-Israel Jewish leader like Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, for example, to parse Obama's pretentions - not a con job by a phony outfit like J Street.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers