Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 04/15/2012: Myths Of The New York Times

From DG:
1) The second myth

 In a recent column, The Three Myths that Distort Every Discussion of Israel and the Middle East, Barry Rubin discusses the second myth:
The concerted international campaign by various groups in the West against Israel damages it and helps the Palestinians. Again, this should be obviously true--that the tireless anti-Israel propaganda campaign materially damages Israel--but the truth is quite the opposite. To date, despite all the noise, Israeli interests—including businesses—have suffered little damage. On the contrary, the attacks encourage support, including increased buying of Israeli products and energetic loyalty by Israel's supporters abroad. But all of these endless demonstrations, teach-ins, books, articles, documentaries, boycott, disinvestment, and sanction labors do absolutely zero to help the Palestinians. On one level, they do nothing politically to advance their cause in a real way. On another level, they contribute nothing to their welfare.
Moreover, by convincing the Palestinian leadership that they can eliminate Israel completely, that Western support is swinging toward them, and that they don't need to change their own policies or strategies, all of this behavior leads them charging down a dead-end street at the end of which it collides with a stone wall. 
By encouraging the Palestinians and Arabs to fight in order to destroy Israel, when they cannot win, their well-wishes cause them to lose the two-state solution, which is indeed available to them, and to throw away years of time, millions of dollars, and thousands of lives.
The New York Times provides an excellent exhibit of how this phony encouragement backfires. As the Palestinian effort to gain acceptance of its unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) started to gain momentum, the Times offered PA President Abbas an op-ed, The Long Overdue Palestinian State. Aside from his dubious history Abbas wrote:
Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalization of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.
Rather than accede to the provisions of the Oslo Accords or any established peace making protocols, Abbas here threatened to to pursue legal action against Israel violating the spirit, if not the letter of previous agreements. This did not elicit a single word of outrage from the editors of the New York Times.
However the New York Times had other concerns.

In September, a news article, Beyond Cairo, Israel Sensing a Wider Siege in the Times began:
With its Cairo embassy ransacked, its ambassador to Turkey expelled and the Palestinians seeking statehood recognition at the United Nations, Israel found itself on Saturday increasingly isolated and grappling with a radically transformed Middle East where it believes its options are  limited and poor.
An editorial, Israel and New York's Ninth District stated:
 Mr. Netanyahu should be worried that his country is more isolated now than when he took office. That isolation will deepen so long as negotiations remain stalemated.
And the Middle East expert of the New York Times, Thomas Friedman, opined in Israel - adrift in sea alone:
Unfortunately, Israel today does not have a leader or a cabinet for such subtle diplomacy. One can only hope that the Israeli people will recognize this before this government plunges Israel into deeper global isolation and drags America along with it.
Note that none of these articles acknowledged the truth that it was Abbas not Netanyahu who refused to negotiate or moderate his positions. For all the crocodile tears shed by the New York Times about Israel's supposed isolation (a charge refuted by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in the Washington Post,) things have worked out pretty well for Israel and even for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

In early March a New York Times article, illustrated by an inflamatory and irrelevant pictureMideast Din drowns out Palestinians reported:
"The biggest challenge we face — apart from occupation — is marginalization," Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, said in an interview. "This is a direct consequence of the Arab Spring where people are preoccupied with their own domestic affairs. The United States is in an election year and has economic problems, Europe has its worries. We're in a corner."
The UDI turned out to be a stunt that achieved nothing. And as Shmuel Rosner ruefully observed a month earlier:
Many of Israel's allies appear to dislike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some — including Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and, it has been rumored, President Barack Obama — also entertain fantasies about seeing him replaced. Yet the next election, whenever it is, will probably make clear that, like it or not, Netanyahu is the only viable candidate for the job.
The New York Times is one of many institutions to sell illusions to the Palestinians. But even the New York Times implicitly recognizes that nothing has been accomplished by its campaign to make Israel cede more and get nothing in return.

2) Where are those moderate Islamists?

At a conference at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Prof. Jeffrey Herf goes past the panelists to as the moderator, New York Times reporter, Scott Shane, why his newspaper fails to report on the antisemitism of the Muslim Brotherhood. Shane can't give a coherent answer, but mumbles something about such sentiments not being newsworthy because they're so prevalent. (h/t Challah Hu Akbar) It doesn't explain why, when having a chance to deal with the related topic of Palestinian anti-Israel incitement, New York Times reporter, Isabel Kershner downplayed the issue.

Former New York Times reporter, Joel Brinkley - now years removed from his reporting - concludes that the Islamist parties in Egypt and Tunisia (contrary to a recent Washington Post editorial) are not at all moderate. (h/t Legal Insurrection):
Ever since Islamists took office in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, they have been trying to convince us that they are advocates of moderation, democracy, women's rights and individual freedoms. And most people in the West, after jubilantly watching the Arab Spring's amazing revolutions last year, wanted to believe them. 
But now we can see that these Islamic groups are taking us for fools…
I especially liked this example:

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood promised that it would not field a candidate for president. But this month it went back on its word and put Khairat al-Shater, a wealthy businessman, on the ballot. 
Defending that broken promise, one Muslim Brotherhood leader after another explained that they changed their mind to save Egypt's budding democracy, in jeopardy now because of the military's reluctance to step aside. 
If that is so, how do you explain the speech Shater gave in Alexandria last year in which he disparaged the whole idea of Western democracy and its social conventions, calling them the enemy of Islam - including the concept of elections, even though he is now running in one. Voting for your leader, he said, is un-Islamic.
Al-Shater's anti-democracy speech (and other anti-Western ideas) were studiously avoided in two recent profiles of him in the New York Times.

For now the Al-Shater and two other candidates have been disqualified from running for president of Egypt.
Egypt's volatile presidential race was jolted Saturday when the election commission disqualified three controversial front-runners — the nation's former spy chief and two impassioned Islamists — just five weeks before voters go to the polls. 
The commission removed Omar Suleiman, the intelligence director under deposed President Hosni Mubarak; Khairat Shater, a leading voice for the ascendant Muslim Brotherhood; and Hazem Salah abu Ismail, an ultraconservative Salafi Islamist with wide populist appeal. Seven other candidates were also expelled, and appeals were expected.
The disqualifications of the leading contenders revive the chances of Moussa and others, including former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. Anticipating Shater would be expelled from the race, the Brotherhood had entered a second candidate, Mohamed Morsi, head of its Freedom and Justice Party. The other notable Islamist is Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate and former Brotherhood member.
Unsurprisingly, the Brotherhood is appealing the decision.

Given the remaining candidates, it doesn't really appear that disqualifying these three will make much difference. Perhaps the reason for the disqualifications was to eliminate the candidates most likely to alarm the United States or the West.

In February Barry Rubin wrote
There are three serious Islamist candidates, and they have few differences between them: Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, and Muhammad Salim al-Awa. The Brotherhood likes Aboul Fotouh, a high-ranking official who resigned from the group to run for president. Presumably the Salafists will back one of the other two, perhaps more likely Abu Ismail. Al-Awa is a long-time collaborator with al-Qaradawi, but the powerful cleric gave Aboul Fotouh the nod as the more electable candidate.
The only strong alternative to these men is Amr Moussa, the radical nationalist former foreign minister and Arab League head. He is simultaneously an experienced diplomat and pragmatist, a rabble-rousing populist, and a strongly anti-American, anti-Israel figure. He is the great hope for a more pragmatic though still radical regime. 
But he is no threat to the Islamists. If he is elected president in June, he will be 76 not long after. The Brotherhood could easily rationalize the idea that he is a transitional figure. By the time the second election is held, projected for 2018, the Islamists would be ready to put their own man into office.
It will be an Islamist now or in the near future running Egypt.

Itzchak Levanon surveyed the shifting political landscape in Egypt during the past year and looked at implications for the future regarding Egyptian relations with Israel.
I believe that there should have been reciprocity during the Mubarak regime. Israeli ambassadors did not have free access to ministries, to parties, were banned by the media, were banned by all the unions, while in Israel the Egyptian ambassador is invited to meet with the top level, including the prime minister, and the media quotes him. I think we should be discussing this issue at the highest level with the Egyptians after things settle down. 
In some respects, the situation prevailing before the revolution and today has basically not changed much. There are still security contacts at the upper levels between Israel and Egypt, and this is because there is an interest on both sides, but there are no bilateral relations. I do not understand why, after more than seven months since the September 9, 2011, attack on its embassy, Israel is not allowed to have an embassy in Cairo. From time to time, we hear some reassuring statements by officials that Egypt is committed to its international agreements. But with the Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood in power today, such statements are not enough.
At this point, I believe that the peace treaty is safe. The military is in power and they support peace between Israel and Egypt. The army supports the treaty because they understand that canceling it is not in the interest of Egypt. Secondly, the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt has three legs; the third leg is the United States. This is why I think the peace treaty is safe, more or less, at this particular time. However, uncertainty about the future raises real concerns. With the new situation where there are extremist ideologies which have entered the political game, it would be wise at this early stage to explain to the Egyptian public that the alternative to peace is a nightmare that we should all avoid.
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