Friday, March 23, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 3/23/2012: Do Jews Wag The Dog?

From DG:
1) Do the Jews wag the dog?

Aaron David Miller has a long article up at Foreign Policy, Six Big Lies About How Jerusalem Runs Washington. It does not start out promisingly:
Several years after leaving government, I wrote a piece in the Washington Post titled "Israel's Lawyer." The article was an honest effort to explain how several senior officials in U.S. President Bill Clinton's administration (myself included) had a strong inclination to see the Arab-Israeli negotiations through a pro-Israel lens. That filter played a role -- though hardly the primary one -- in the failure of endgame diplomacy, particularly at the ill-fated Camp David summit in July 2000. 
Unsurprisingly, the piece was hijacked in the service of any number of agendas, especially by critics of Israel only too eager to use my narrow point about the Clinton years to make their broader one: America had long compromised its own values and interests in the Middle East by its blind and sordid obeisance to the Jewish state and its pro-Israeli supporters in the United States.
I still don't see a huge difference between Miller's op-ed and what critics of Israel allege. Miller was saying that America was too pro-Israel to be effective and that's what Israel's critics saw his op-ed as proving. The only difference might be is that Miller doesn't see being "Israel's lawyer" as being a matter of bad faith. 

Does Miller really believe eleven and a half years later that if the Clinton administration had been a bit more solicitous of Arafat there would have been agreement at Camp David? If so he has learned nothings since he left government.

Still overall, he does make one useful point.
The idea that American Jews in collusion with the Israeli government (and, for some time now, evangelical Christians) hold U.S. foreign policy hostage is not only wrong and misleading but a dangerous, dark trope. It coexists with other hateful -- and, yes, anti-Semitic -- canards about how Jews control the media and the banks, and the world as well. It's reality distortion in the extreme, with little basis in fact. The historical record just doesn't support it. Strong, willful presidents who have real opportunities (and smart strategies to exploit them) to promote U.S. interests almost always win out and trump domestic lobbies. 
A number of people have quoted this article favorably for one point or another. This article is limited by Miller's myopia and his unwavering faith in the peace process.

For a point of reference, consider Dennis Ross's recounting of Clinton's first meeting with PM Netanyahu in 1996:
Bill Clinton also had his run-ins. One such incident was described by Dennis Ross in his memoir about his work as the top US Mideast negotiator.
Ross described a meeting in Washington with Netanyahu shortly after he became prime minister the first time in 1996. "In the meeting with President Clinton, Netanyahu was nearly insufferable, lecturing and telling us how to deal with the Arabs." Ross recounts that afterwards a frustrated President Clinton remarked, "He thinks he is the superpower and we are here to do whatever he requires." Ross added, "No one on our side disagreed with that assessment." 
"[O]ur side" in this case, I would assume, included Miller.

Three years later, after Clinton's repeated run-ins with Netanyahu led to the latter's electoral defeat, Charles Krauthammer noted:
Having failed to topple Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, Bill Clinton had to settle for Benjamin Netanyahu. In a characteristic display of partisan glee, Clinton toasted political consultant Robert Shrum on Tuesday night (reports Lloyd Grove in The Washington Post) to congratulate him (and implicitly, the administration) for helping the Israeli opposition bring down the prime minister Washington loves to hate.
But, Krauthammer warned: 
Yet for all the gloating at the White House, there is deep trouble ahead in the peace process. A momentous shift has occurred that has almost completely eluded the radar screen of the Western media and the attention of this administration. While Palestinians, Americans, Egyptians, other Arabs and many Israelis assiduously assailed Netanyahu for this or that alleged violation of the spirit of the Oslo peace accords, Yasser Arafat went on a 60-nation diplomatic tour--hardly a stealth campaign--to kill the accords.
The Clinton administration outmaneuvered Netanyahu and got the Prime Minister it wanted, Ehud Barak. Fifteen months later, in the wake of the failed Camp David summit, Arafat started a new terror against Israel. If Miller learned anything from these episodes, it is not apparent from this article. While I welcome his fight against the Israel lobby canard, I wish he would take the time to address some his remaining blind spots.

1) Ready? Yes. Credible? Not so much.

In his defense of the New York Times's treatment of Israel, Neil Lewis lists a number of factors that led to changes in the way the paper covered Israel. One factor was:
The development of non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) within Israel as advocates for the Palestinians which gave Western journalists a ready and credible source which could be used to criticize the Israeli government.
Anyone familiar with the behavior of human rights NGO's in the Middle East recently would question the modifier, "credible." As Avi Bell wrote earlier this week:
NGO Monitor, which contacted UC-Davis to protest Whitson's invitation to the school, has catalogued the most egregious instances of her selective advocacy. 
Whitson's actions in Libya are particularly revealing. Only a year and a half before the International Criminal Court indicted Saif al Islam Gaddafi for crimes against humanity for his role in the torture and massacre of Libyan civilians, Whitson hailed him for helping to create a supposed "Tripoli Spring." Though Saif al Islam is the son of Moammar Gaddafi and was one of the tyrannical regime's top officials, Whitson focused on his leadership of a quasi-governmental charity foundation and his establishment of two semi-private newspapers. Committed to marketing "a shift in the Libyan winds," Whitson did not mention that the Libyan regime had already closed the papers and was censoring the internet. Eight months later, Whitson called Saif al Islam one of Libya's "forces of reform" and praised a "hard-hitting" human rights report released by his foundation. 
While lauding tyrants, Whitson was measured in her advocacy on behalf of Fathi al-Jahmi, Libya's foremost dissident. Al-Jahmi died in 2009 after years of torture and solitary confinement. His family continued to suffer persecution from the Libyan regime following his death, with his brother singling out Whitson, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International as illustrations of the corrupted human rights complex in Libya.
Now it's true that this is only one NGO, but Gerald Steinberg writes about how widespread dishonesty is among NGO's is and how it has impacted Israel.
From the apparently staged death of Mohammed al Dura in 2000, filmed dying in his father’s arms, through the inventions of the 2009 Goldstone Report and the recent responses to missile attacks from Gaza, Israel has been repeated and falsely accused of deliberately killing Palestinian children. As Joe Hyams wrote, this is the modern version of the blood libel. As often happens in this crude propaganda war, the terrorist targeting of Israeli and Jewish children is flipped into an accusation against the defenders. Even the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, echoed the ignominious comparison in a public statement. 
In this long campaign, many of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that claim to promote human rights and humanitarian assistance have become accomplices, both willingly and unwillingly. The leaders of international organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International propagated the al Dura accusations based entirely on the claims of a single Palestinian cameraman working for French television, without any independent corroboration. In the notorious 2001 UN Durban conference in which 1500 NGOs, including HRW and Amnesty, launched a deadly political war to isolate Israel as a “racist” and “apartheid” state, the image of al Dura was dominant. 
As part of the Durban plan of action, a 2009 HRW “report” on Israeli drone strikes in Gaza had an emotionally laden cover picture with photos of two children – alleged victims of these attacks. The graphic and HRW’s entire report were based on a combination of unverifiable Palestinian “eyewitness” testimony and pseudo-technical claims that were contradicted by military experts. 
The lead author this report, Marc Garlasco, was forced to leave HRW after his obsessive collection of Nazi memorabilia was revealed, but no independent review of the accuracy of his reports was undertaken. This report reinforced the propaganda campaign that seeks to label Israelis as child murderers and war criminals.
Still many NGO's in Israel find themselves increasingly marginalized, so they look for friendly media outlets where they can lament over the supposed threats to democracy in Israel so they can drum up some more donations.

If Peace Now, for example, were honest, it would be celebrating the fact that Israel now looks a lot different than it did 18 years ago instead of assailing the Israeli government for not sweetening a deal to a man who has already rejected a peace deal once.

If B'Tselem were honest it would stop claiming that Israel has failed to investigate alleged abuses that occurred during Cast Lead adequately. Given that hundreds of thousands of Israelis are living under a threat of rocket attacks, makes their complaint tasteless.

The out of touch attitude displayed by these organizations is the reason they have little real influence within Israel. If must be nice for them to have an outlet willing to accept their self-interested press releases uncritically. 
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