August 21, 2010
NY Times derogates Netanyahu, covers up Abbas's rejectionism
Instead of giving readers a straightforward, accurate picture of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the New York Times sprinkles its coverage of their respective records in the run-up to direct peace talks with profuse pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel spin.
For example, in an Aug. 21 analysis, Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner flatly asserts that Netanyahu has "no desire to reach an agreement." Evidently, Bronner has no intention to wait until the talks actually get under way to test his thesis. He already dishes out as absolute gospel his view of Netanyahu as an unbending rejectionist. In fact, the history of previous Israeli-Palestinian negotiations points in the opposite direction - Netanyahu, when the chips are down, has shown that he's willing to compromise. I'm referring to the Wye River negotiations between Netanyahu -- in his first incarnation as prime minister during the Clinton administration -- and Yasser Arafat. Under strong White House pressure, Netanyahu ceded control of virtually all of Hebron, Judaism's second holiest city, to the Palestinian Authority.
Here's another example: Bronner, in forecasting that the talks are likely to fail, finds fault with Abbas -- he describes him as "too weak" and constrained by Hamas rule in Gaza. True enough. But when Bronner points out that nothing came of Israeli peace initiatives in 2000 and 2008 (that would have given Palestinians a state in nearly the entire West Bank, all of Gaza and half of Jerusalem) he fails to tell readers that these offers were flatly turned down by Abbas -- in 2000 when he was No. 2 to Arafat and in 2008 when Abbas was in overall command of the Palestinian Authority.
Thus, Bronner falsely depicts Netanyahu as a rejectionist when his record indicates otherwise, while Bronner skips over the real rejectionist record of Abbas. Not exactly fair, objective, even-handed journalism.
Finally, Bronner uncorks a humdinger of an anti-Israel poison pill when he mentions that among the final-status issues is the question of Palestinian refugees. Bronner's tendentious description of that issue is as follows: "The fate of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 creation of Israel." This formulation is, of course, in sync with a historically false narrative embraced by the Palestinian side. The actual reason there is a refugee problem is that half a dozen Arab armies attacked Israel at its birth in violation of the UN's 1947 two-state partition plan and Arab broadcasts assured Arab residents in Israel that they could leave their homes for a short while and then return when Israel was wiped out. Yes, some Arabs also were displaced by Israeli forces during that war. But the bottom line is that there would have been no refugee problem if the Arab side, unlike the Israeli side, had accepted partition. In addition, an even greater number of Jews in Arab lands were persecuted and expelled about the same time, but found permanent homes in Israel, Europe and the Americas. Most of them ended up in Israel, which welcomed them as first-class citizens -- something that's been totally lacking in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, which to this day keep generation after generation of Palestinians bottled up in refugee camps to use them as political pawns against Israel.
Given this history, for Bronner to assert that the Palestinian refugee problem is due to the creation of Israel is nothing short of obscene.
As for a companion "news article" by Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, they also tilt the scales against Israel, hitting on Israel's prime minister for "lack of any public signal by Netanyahu that he would make any concessions." Why should he at this point, when direct talks haven't even begun? And if it's OK to demand that Netanyahu signal in advance Israeli concessions, why not demand the same of Abbas?
Cooper and Landler also are off-base when they write that President Obama has been pressuring Netanyahu to curb "building Jewish settlements." There has been no building of Jewish settlements under Netanyahu and his predecessor, Ehud Olmert. Not a single new settlement has sprung up. Cooper and Landler fail to point out that under both Netanyahu and Olmert, the only building has been WITHIN existing settlements. That's an important distinction that somehow escapes these two Times reporters. Just as they also fail to recognize an Israeli ban under both Olmert and Netanyahu on expanding the boundaries of existing settlements and setting aside any public or other lands for any additonal settlements or for expansion of existing ones.
If the Times is going to delve into the settlements issue, at least it should get it right. Obama has pressured Netanyahu to curb building within settlements for the simple reason those are the only places where any building was going on -- at least until the current freeze on such construction that's due to end on Sept. 26.