Sunday, January 01, 2012

Mideast Media Sampler 1/1/12: December's New York Times Scorecard

by DG:
New York Times Mideast op-ed Index

A) Come Home to Israel by Roger Cohen, December 6, 2011
My second reaction is that if Netanyahu could show a fraction of the nimbleness evident when American Jews are offended in instances where Turks are offended (by the killing of their citizens in international waters), or where President Barack Obama is offended (by ongoing settlement expansion in the West Bank against his express request), or where Egyptians are offended (by Israel’s dismissal of their democratic aspirations), then Israel would be in a better, less isolated place today.
This is Roger Cohen's second reaction to the videos made by Israel's Foreign Ministry encouraging yordim - Israelis who have left Israel - to return. His first, was that Israel's does lots of things that makes Jews he know uncomfortable. Now he gives three examples of cases where Israel embarrassed him.

By now it's well known that Israeli commandos raiding the Mavi Marmara acted in self-defense. While Israel was still building in "settlements," Israel had employed a construction ban that still hadn't gotten Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate seriously (against President Obama's wishes.) It isn't clear that Israel dismissed Egyptian democratic aspirations, but it was concerned. With the victories of the Islamist parties in voting so far, Israel's concerns were well placed.

In other words, Cohen took three examples of where he differed from Israeli policy, interpreted the Israeli action as uncharitably as possible (if not, falsely) and concluded that Israel was unreasonable.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 1 / Pro-Israel - 0 

B) Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir by Thomas Friedman, December 14, 2011
I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.
Aside from demonstrating his ignorance of American support for Israel this sentence recalled the "respectable" antisemitism of Walt and Mearsheimer. Professor Walt, indeed, endorsed Friedman's op-ed. MJ Rosenberg explained at the Al Jazeera website that Friedman is really pro-Israel.With support like that, it's impossible to say Friedman is, in any way, pro-Israel.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 2 / Pro-Israel - 0 

C) We are Palestinians by Daoud Kuttab, December 14, 2011
The majority of Israelis and Palestinians understand that they must share the land between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan. The last thing we need is for American politicians to use our lives and future as a political football.
Scholars such as Barry Rubin and Daniel Pipes  identify the 1920's as the time a Palestinian identity was first mentioned. However, Kuttab's point about Palestinian support for the need to "share the land" is regularly denied by Palestinian leaders.

Current Scores - Anti-Israel - 3 / Pro-Israel - 0 

D) A Man of the Past - by H. D. S. Greenway, December 15, 2011
But times change, and attitudes, too — although, apparently, not for Newt Gingrich. I have always been impressed how Palestinian nationalism grew up as a mirror image of Israeli nationalism. The Palestinians yearn, as Menachem Begin once wrote about the Jews, to be “a free people ... in our own country.”
The Palestinians have made themselves an historical people, and I believe most Israelis today accept that, and would be happy with a two–state solution if their security could be guaranteed.
As noted above, Gingrich's claim is accurate. There are reasonable questions about the implications of his statement and some of his particulars but that's a far cry from calling him "a man of the past." Still Greenway clams a false parallel between Zionism (or as he calls it, "Israeli nationalism") and Palestinian nationalism. Zionism is based on a belief that there is connection between the land of Israel and the Jewish people; a significant component of Palestinian nationalism denies that connection.

As far as Greenway's quote, it wasn't just Begin. It's from Hatikva, Israel's national anthem. ("lihiot am chafshi b'artzeinu") While Greenway is correct about most Israelis accepting a two state solution, I doubt that the same could be said for the Palestinians.

Final Scores - Anti-Israel - 4 / Pro-Israel - 0 

About the methodology: I searched the New York Times website for opinion articles about Israel for the month of December, 2011. I didn't include letters to the editor and didn't include articles that were not substantially about Israel.

I was happy to see that PM Netanyahu's adviser, Ron Dermer chose to use an approach similar to the index when writing to the New York Times:  
Not to be accused of cherry-picking to prove a point, I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. After dividing the op-eds into two categories, “positive” and “negative,” with “negative” meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were “negative.” 
It's nice to know that we think alike.

The impetus for this exercise is public editor Clark Hoyt's 2007 column The danger of the one-sided debate, in which he defended the publishing of an op-ed by Ahmed Yousef, a spokesman for Hamas. With the usual ratio of 3 to 1 or more favoring Israel's critics, I think it can be safely said that the New York Times need not fear that its opinion pages are too sympathetic to Israel.
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