Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 4/18/12: New York Times Covers For Abbas And Gunter Grass

From DG:
1) Mahmoud Abbas, man of letter

Both the Washington Post and New York Times report on the letter that Mahmoud Abbas delivered to Binyamin Netanyahu. The New York Times reports in Palestinians Restate Demands to Netanyahu:
Israeli-Palestinian talks have essentially been frozen since the fall of 2008, although there have been numerous efforts by Washington to move them forward. In 2010, at President Obama’s urging, Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu held three meetings after Israel carried out a partial 10-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank.
 The Palestinians have said that the halt should continue and include East Jerusalem. The Israelis have countered that they, too, have demands of the Palestinians — including recognizing Israel as a Jewish state — but that the talks should proceed without preconditions. So far, neither side has yielded.
The Palestinian letter also expresses regret that Israel opposes the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to reconcile with Hamas.  
The lack of talks are attributed to both parties, even though it's pretty clear that it is Abbas demanding preconditions.

The Washington Post's article, Palestinians deliver letter from Abbas to Israel’s Netanyahu is a bit more detailed than the New York Times. However the last paragraph was interesting:
Abbas, speaking about the letter Tuesday to reporters during an official visit to Sri Lanka, said, “We stress the status quo cannot continue, and we can’t accept it forever.”  
Sri Lanka? There's an irony in that.

Four months ago, in a column Why do Sarkozy and Obama hate Netanyahu?, Jackson Diehl summed things up.
In other words, Netanyahu has been an occasionally difficult but ultimately cooperative partner. He can be accused of moving too slowly and offering too little, but not of failing to heed American initiatives. And Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas? For nine of the ten months of the Israeli settlement moratorium he refused Obama’s appeals to begin negotiations; after two meetings, he returned to his intransigence. Rejecting a personal appeal from Obama, he took his bid for statehood to the United Nations, where he may yet force the United States to use its Security Council veto. 
France last month joined an appeal from the Mideast diplomatic “quartet” — the United States, European Union, Russia and United Nations — for Israel and the Palestinians to return unconditionally to negotiations. Netanyahu accepted. Abbas said no. 
Abbas, it’s fair to say, has gone from resisting U.S. and French diplomacy to actively seeking to undermine it. Yet it is Netanyahu whom Sarkozy finds “unbearable,” and whom Obama groans at having to “deal with every day.” If there is an explanation for this, it must be personal; in substance, it makes little sense. 
Neither the Washington Post's nor New York Times's coverage suggested that Abbas's stubbornness was the main reason for the lack of negotiations. It's a mark of poor reporting that an article on the opinion pages is more informative and accurate than two appearing on the news pages.

Yesterday I wrote, "The idea of dismantling the PA is not Abbas's though, it belongs to Yossi Beilin." Barry Rubin and Challah Hu Akbar both pointed out that this is incorrect. Abbas has frequently threatened to dissolve the PA, it's just that Yossi Beilin is currently encouraging this course of action.

2) The Grass is always meaner

In a followup to the controversy over German writer, Gunter Grass, the New York Times added a "memo," Once Taboo, Germans’ Anti-Israel Whispers Grow Louder:
Mr. Grass has struck a nerve with the broader public, articulating frustrations with Israel here in Germany that are frequently expressed in private but rarely in public, where the discourse is checked by the lingering presence of the past. What might have remained at the family dinner table or the local bar a generation ago is today on full display, not only in Mr. Grass’s poem, but on Web forums and in Facebook groups. 
One word has surfaced consistently in such discussions: “keule,” which means club or cudgel. The charge of anti-Semitism aimed at Israel’s critics — and in the case of Mr. Grass, by bringing up his past as a member of the Waffen-SS — is widely viewed as a blunt instrument that silences debate, and in the process prevents Mr. Grass from making a point about the dangers of a first strike by Israel against Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
To the New York Times, Grass simply was expressing what a lot of Germans feel, and, that, apparently makes it all right.

Josef Joffe takes a more critical look in The Mendacity of Günter Grass:
This is where obsession comes in: the recurrence of images and ideas that the patient cannot repress. The classic version is about the omnipotence of the Jew—a real-life Satan whose unbounded might explained all evil. The new one is about Israel's cosmic clout. Even as Mr. Grass touts his "attachment" to Israel, recalling the my-best-friends-are-Jewish refrain, he casts the tiny country as an überpower. Apart from threatening the globe, Mr. Grass imagines, Israel enslaves 80 million Germans by wielding the Shoah to gouge U-Boats out of Berlin and to suppress "what must be said." 
This is mendacity to the max, for critical coverage of Israel is a staple of the German media; no other country gets more flak. But the falsehood is a necessary part of the indictment. If we could only speak out, insinuates Mr. Grass, we will save the planet by defanging Israel. By eliminating its nukes through a "permanent control" regime, we will bring peace to the "demented" Middle East and "help ourselves" to boot. Compared to Israel, the "Elders" were a bunch of kindergarten kids.
Instead of the fictional Germany presented by the New York Times where criticism of Israel is scarce, Joffe presents a country where Israel is regularly criticized. But more, Joffe explains what is so vile about Grass's "poem," rather than trying to explain it as being a respectable way to stimulate "debate."
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