Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Middle East Sampler 3/21/2012: New York Times Covers For Ashton

1) How to tell the truth and lie at the same time

There were two words in Fury in Israel at Remark Linking Gaza to Toulouse by Isabel Kershner that were true, but highly misleading.
Israel’s leaders on Tuesday strongly censured the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, for remarks made a day earlier in which she was perceived as having equated the killing of three children at a Jewish school in France with the death of children during the fighting in Gaza.
In this case the misleading word is "perceived." Kershner explains that Israeli officials were  responding to a statement by Ashton that was released by the EU, but that her actual statement was less inflammatory.
In the transcript of her comments released by the European Union, she continues: “The Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy, and when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world — we remember young people and children who lose their lives.” 
A recording of her comments and a transcript later released by Ms. Ashton’s office show slightly different wording and include a reference to children in Sderot, Israel, a target for rockets fired from Gaza. She finishes by saying, “When we see what is happening in Gaza and Sderot, in different parts of the world — we remember young people and children who lose their lives.”
Even when the statement included Sderot, she was clearly equating the deliberate murders in Toulouse to children killed in Gaza. Using "perceived" allowed Kershner to suggest that it was only Israeli leaders who would make that inference. One doesn't need to be an Israeli leader to draw that conclusion, one only needs to know English.Of course Kershner also only cited Israeli officials.

Last year after Netanyahu returned from the United States the New York Times reported, Israelis See Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure. The reporter cited three critics to bolster the case that "Israelis" saw Netanyahu's performance as a "failure." Here Kershner only cited the Israeli officials bolstering her case that no one else would view Ashton's words that way.

The final paragraph here reads:
In the latest cross-border violence between Israel and militant groups in Gaza, 26 Palestinians were killed over four days, according to the Israeli military. Most were militants, but four were civilians. A 12-year-old boy was among those killed in Israeli airstrikes; another boy, 14, was killed by explosives in disputed circumstances. In the same period, Palestinian militants fired over 150 rockets into southern Israel, none of which claimed a life.
Perhaps I should complain about the use of "militants" instead of "terrorists." I'll leave that alone. The fourteen year old boy was not killed in "disputed" circumstances. Yes, originally it was reported that he was killed in an Israeli airstrike, but later it was confirmed that despite the Palestinian claims, there was no evidence of an airstrike. In other words the "dispute" was based on a lie. "Uncertain" is the word that should have been used here.

Of course what Kershner's doing here is showing that children in Gaza do get killed, suggesting that Ashton was correct. But Ashton's offensive comments ignore a major difference. The twelve year old, wasn't killed because he was an Arab boy, but because he was near someone who was threatening Israeli civilians. Israel doesn't make innocent children their primary targets; the murderer in Toulouse did.

2) "Spooked"

Jeffrey Goldberg wrote:
J Street, the left-leaning pro-Israel group, is having its big conference in Washington starting this weekend. It's not going to be an AIPAC-sized 13,000-person circus, but J Street is still expecting 2,500 people or so. One person who won't be coming is President Obama, even though (or perhaps because) roughly 100 percent of the attendees will be Obama supporters. 
The Administration isn't sending the vice president, the secretaries of state or defense, or the national security adviser, either, to speak at the conference. Instead, in a clear sign that the Administration is spooked by AIPAC, which sees J Street as a left-flank threat, the White House, according to J Street's Jeremy Ben-Ami, is sending Tony Blinken, the vice president's national security adviser and a senior official of the National Security Council, to speak to the gathering next Monday.
The administration isn't "spooked" by AIPAC. The Rabbi of my synagogue attended the most recent AIPAC conference. The word he used to describe AIPAC's operation was "goodwill." AIPAC has cultivated a significant following by reaching out to American officials. This goodwill wouldn't work though, if being supportive of Israel wasn't a widely held American value, regardless of religion.

To his credit Goldberg published a response from AIPAC:
A spokesman for AIPAC, Patrick Dorton, called me to object to my description of the group as "right-leaning." I told him that this is what my eyes and ears led me to believe, but he said, "I object to that characterization. AIPAC is at its core a bipartisan organization, with plenty of Democrats as well as Republicans."
J-Street, by contrast, was founded on resentment. It was founded by a group of people with lots of money but little following. They claimed to be mainstream and were being ignored, but never had the numbers to support their claim of being mainstream. They claim to be pro-Israel, but invite apologists for Iran like Trita Parsi and Hillary Leverett to speak. They've invited anti-Israel activists like Matt Yglesias and M. J. Rosenberg too.

J-Street, despite backing by close friends of the President, never delivered on its original false promises. That's why the President didn't go. The administration wasn't "spooked," just not interested.

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