NYT begrudges Israel's membership in the OECD

Israel's success in gaining membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a big deal.  The 31-member, Paris-based group is an elite club of developed, open-market, democratic economies.   Membership inspires investor confidence and opens more avenues for trade.  Israel has been knocking on OECD's door for more than 15 years.  And on Monday, May 10, it was finally admitted by a unanimous vote.  Since the OECD operates by consensus, a single objection would have kept the door closed.  But all members voted "aye," including Turkey, with a government headed by an Islamic party.  In so doing, Turkey brushed aside an all-out campaign by the Palestinian Authority to block Israeli membership in OECD.

There's also a great ironic twist about the timing of Israel's entry into OECD.  It comes at a moment when many European members fall way short of OECD's seal of approval for mature, fiscally responsible economies, while Israel -- kept waiting for so long -- demonstrated far more effective management of its fiscal and monetary affairs in weathering the worst of the recent global recession. 

But this is not the way the New York Times reported Israel's accession to OECD.  Instead, a 10-paragraph article by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner devotes three and a half paragraphs to the usual anti-Israel diatribes by the Palestinian Authority -- while failing to report a vehement rebuttal by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ("Israel Will Join Economic Group of Developed Nations" May 11, page A9).

Bronner seems taken aback by the pro-Israel vote at OECD.  No sooner does he report in his first paragraph that Israel has gained membership in this august, international body than he devotes the entire second paragraph to why Israel's application should or might have been denied. 

"Israel's policies toward the Palestinians, and its war in Gaza in late 2008," he writes, "had drawn strong criticisms from a number of European membrs, raising the possibility of delays or blocks to its admission to the group, an association of market-oriented democracies that promotes international trade.  The decision to accept Israel came despite a letter by the Palestinian Authority asking the OECD not to admit Israel."

And Bronner doesn't just leave Palestinian opposition at that.  He gets back in great detail to Palestinian efforts to derail Israel's accession in his 7th, 8th and 9th paragraphs.  The PA foreign minister, Bronner reports, sent a letter to all OECD member nations expressing "serious reservations" about Israel's application.  The letter accuses Israel of "decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory," charges that Israel's blockade of Gaza denies civilians "basic human dignity of rebuilding their shattered lives after its devastating December 2008 to January offensive," complains of Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank," and accuses Israel of frustrating Palestinian efforts "to build a politically, territorially and economicably viable state on the 1967 border with East Jerusalem as its capital."

Having devoted all that space to Palestinian objections to Israel's membership in OECD, one might have thought that Bronner would include at least a few lines to Netanyahu's rejoinder. Isn't that what fair, even-handed journalism demands?   Instead, Bronner totally ignores Netanyahu's sharp denunciation of the PA's slaps at Israel and only mentions the prime minister's general satisfaction with OECD's acceptance of Israel as a "seal of approval" that promises to "open doors and provide access to many fields" and increase foreign investment.  Not a single word about any Israeli response to the PA's lobbying drive to deny Israel an OECD membership slot -- a sustained campaign that involved far more effort than the sending of a protest letter on the eve of the membership vote.   Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad personally went all out in lobbying OECD members against Israel.

So here's what Bronner and the New York Times failed to tell their readers about Netanyahu's sharp response to the PA's attempt to derail Israel's membership in OECD:

--Netanyahu accused Fayyad of engaging in "economic warfare not compatible with peace and we view it very gravely.  It is a very provocative action."  

--Netanyahu also called the PA's lobbying efforts against Israel "incompatible with Israeli attempts to build economic peace with the Palestinians."

--Most significantly, Netanyahu informed the Obama administration about Fayyad's attacks on Israel at the very time when the Americans warned both sides not to engage in actions that might undermine mutual trust just as proximity talks are getting under way.

Netanyahu also emphasized the historic and political import of Israel's accession to OECD.  "Any one member could have vetoed our inclusion," he declared.  "They chose not to do so.  At a time when we keep hearing lamentations over Israel's isolation, this was a particularly welcome sign of Israel's firm international standing."

This Netanyahu observation didn't make it in Bronner's piece either.  Israel's supposed international isolation has been a basic template of NY Times reporting about the Jewish state for many years.  Yet, here is an important international body, not weighed down like the UN in membership by scores of Arab and radical Islamic countries, which rejects Palestinian moves to isolate Israel, and Bronner doesn't have the grace to acknowledge that.

While Israel succeeds at the OECD, the Palestinian side racks up another success in the pages of the New York Times.
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