Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Middle East Media Sampler 4/9/2013: New York Times Bias Index For March

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

New York Times op-ed Index for March, 2013


1) Argentina’s About-Face on Terror - by Fabian Bosoer and Frederico Finchelstein - March 1, 2013
Mrs. Kirchner’s decision to abandon Argentina’s longstanding grievances against Iran is particularly galling because it comes just weeks after Bulgaria, another country victimized by Iranian-sponsored terrorism, accused Hezbollah of staging a suicide attack on Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian town of Burgas last year. That attack, like the 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires, was part of a shadow war against Jewish civilians across the world. Bulgaria’s government, unlike Argentina’s current administration, decided to stand up to Hezbollah and forthrightly accuse it of the crime.
Though the article only mentions "Israeli" once, it is about the whitewashing of Hezbollah and Iran by Argentina. In a sense it is substantially about Israel, because it is about Israel's enemies and an effort to normalize relations with them.

Tally - Anti-Israel- 0 / Pro-Israel - 1

2) To Achieve Mideast Peace, Suspend Disbelief - Dennis Ross - March 2, 2013

I propose a 14-point agenda for discussions. Twelve of the points — six on the Israeli side and six on the Palestinian side — would be coordinated unilateral moves that each party would be willing to discuss and implement provided that the other side would do its part. The final points would be mutual steps taken concurrently by both sides. The goal would be to chip away at the sources of each side’s disbelief about the other’s commitment to a genuine two-state solution.
Recall the 1997 Hebron Accords. Attached to it was a "Note for the Record" in which the United States insisted on certain actions from each side and spelled out points of reciprocity. Ross was the point man for getting the "Note for the record" approved including a provision that allowed Israel to determine the size of future redeployments. Subsequently the Palestinians failed to keep any provisions of the note and when Netanyahu insisted on smaller withdrawals than Arafat thought were suitable, Clinton sided with Arafat. Ross's modest proposal here may be made in good faith, but it would likely lead to the same result: force material Israeli actions and change nothing on the Palestinian side. I will call this one neutral.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 0 / Pro-Israel - 1

3) End the Arab Boycott of Israel - Ed Husain - March 6, 2013

President Obama is due to visit Israel and Jordan this month. Talk of renewing peace negotiations is once more in the air, but talks will fail again unless there is a wider change in attitudes. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for all his faults, is correct in identifying a wider strain of intolerance of Israel. The nations of the Arab Spring cannot be serious about wanting democracy when they are banning their citizens from visiting Muslim (and Jewish and Christian) holy sites.
I don't believe that Ed Husain is pro-Israel, but there's no denying that he's making an important point. In most cases conflicts between two countries, there is mutual recognition. There is no such recognition of Israel by Muslim countries. For there to be peace in the Middle East there needs to be acceptance of Israel. For too long the West has tolerated the immoral boycott of Israel, allowing the Muslim world to feign outrage at Israel, which treats Palestinians better than most if not all of them treat their own citizens.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 0 / Pro-Israel - 2

4) Congress gets in the way - Editorial - March 8, 2013

One is a Senate resolution sponsored by Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Lindsey Graham, a Republican. It says that if Israel “is compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States government should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military and economic support to the government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people and existence.” No one doubts that the United States would defend Israel if it was attacked by Iran; that commitment has been made repeatedly by President Obama and his predecessors. The nonbinding resolution, promoted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying group, would not authorize any specific action, but it would increase political pressure on Mr. Obama by putting Congress on record as backing a military operation initiated by Israel at a time of Israel’s choosing. It could also hamper negotiations by playing into Iranian fears that America’s true intention is to promote regime change.
One would assume that an Israeli attack on Iran would take place only if Israel determined that it was the only course of action. One would hope that the United States would support Israel if it came to that. Since this resolution doesn't authorize any action it is window dressing: a statement of support for an ally. What's objectionable about that? Unless you object to supporting that ally.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 1 / Pro-Israel - 2

5) On Questioning the Jewish State - Joseph Levine - March 9, 2013

I conclude, then, that the very idea of a Jewish state is undemocratic, a violation of the self-determination rights of its non-Jewish citizens, and therefore morally problematic. But the harm doesn’t stop with the inherently undemocratic character of the state. For if an ethnic national state is established in a territory that contains a significant number of non-members of that ethnic group, it will inevitably face resistance from the land’s other inhabitants. This will force the ethnic nation controlling the state to resort to further undemocratic means to maintain their hegemony. Three strategies to deal with resistance are common: expulsion, occupation and institutional marginalization. Interestingly, all three strategies have been employed by the Zionist movement: expulsion in 1948 (and, to a lesser extent, in 1967), occupation of the territories conquered in 1967 and institution of a complex web of laws that prevent Israel’s Palestinian citizens from mounting an internal challenge to the Jewish character of the state. (The recent outrage in Israel over a proposed exclusion of ultra-Orthodox parties from the governing coalition, for example, failed to note that no Arab political party has ever been invited to join the government.) In other words, the wrong of ethnic hegemony within the state leads to the further wrong of repression against the Other within its midst.
Levine, a professor of what can only be called "philosophistry" applies his rules to only Israel and determines that Jews alone lack the right of self-determination. In nearly two years of covering Israel related op-eds in the New York Times I can't recall a more offensive anti-Israel op-ed, though there's been plenty of unworthy competition for that title. Unfortunately I can only count as a single anti-Israel op-ed.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 2 / Pro-Israel - 2

6) The Old Peace is Dead by a new Peace is Possible - Ari Shavit - March 12, 2013

The New Peace will be very different from the Old Peace. There will not be grandiose peace ceremonies in Camp David or at the White House, no Nobel Prizes to be handed out. The New Peace does not mean lofty declarations and presumptuous vows, but a pragmatic, gradual process whereby the New Arabs and the New Israelis will acknowledge their mutual needs and interests. It will be a quiet, almost invisible, process that will allow Turks, Egyptians, Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese, Palestinians and Israelis to reach common understandings. The New Peace will be based on the humble, pragmatic assumption that all the participants must respect, and not provoke, one another, so that conflict does not disrupt the constructive social reforms that all seek to promote.
Had this article been written in 1993, it would have been brilliant. By making peace a primary goal, it forced the peace processors to ignore the failing process. Shavit's too ungenerous to his own country. But that doesn't make it anti-Israel. I'd call this one neutral.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 2 / Pro-Israel - 2

7) Mr. Obama goes to Israel - Thomas Friedman - March 12, 2013

That’s why I think the most important thing Obama could do on his trip is to publicly and privately ask every Israeli official he meets these questions: 
“Please tell me how your relentless settlement drive in the West Bank does not end up with Israel embedded there — forever ruling over 2.5 million Palestinians with a colonial-like administration that can only undermine Israel as a Jewish democracy and delegitimize Israel in the world community? I understand why Palestinian dysfunction and the Arab awakening make you wary, but still. Shouldn’t you be constantly testing and testing whether there is a Palestinian partner for a secure peace? After all, you have a huge interest in trying to midwife a decent West Bank Palestinian state that is modern, multireligious and pro-Western — a totally different model from the Muslim Brotherhood variants around you. Everyone is focused on me and what will I do. But, as a friend, I just want to know one thing: What is your long-term strategy? Do you even have one?”
Any article that argues that Israel is somehow failing as a democracy is, by definition, anti-Israel. The fact that this is a typical Thomas Friedman trope makes it no less offensive and no less wrong.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 3 / Pro-Israel - 2

8) Is there any hope left for Middle East peace - Rashid Khalidi - March 12, 2013

The American-led “process” has ultimately strengthened the Israeli far right and made Palestinian self-determination more unattainable than ever. Continuing with the Orwellian grotesquerie that is the “peace process” is contrary to any enlightened definition of American self-interest. It has burnished the image of the United States as Israel’s uncritical defender and enabler. Furthermore, it insults the intelligence of the Palestinian people. Despite the complicity of some of their leaders in a process that has left them stateless while the unending colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem continues, they deserve to be more than prisoners in their own land.
Incapable of making a reasoned argument the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab studies resorts to false epithets to make his argument. The Israeli far-right is marginalized, not strengthened. That's really all you need to know.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 4 / Pro-Israel - 2

9) The Life and Soul of the Party - Shmuel Rosner - March 12, 2013

Likud’s liberals always struggled to live under the same tent as its populists. But for a long time, when the party’s leaders were in charge of selecting candidates for elections, the co-existence seemed mutually beneficial. The populists were expected to secure the votes of the masses, while the liberals gave Likud respectability. But when just before the 2006 elections, a system of primaries was introduced, popularity on the street became all-important. Since then, the liberals have lost ground within the party.
It's a funny argument. Did you ever read a New York Times editorial prior to 2006 praising Menachem Begin for upholding liberal principles? I think that Rosner's right that this is about popularity not principle. But I hardly think that ought to be a criticism. That's the way politics works. Later he uses a really offensive metaphor from the the French Revolution. This is a very disappointing effort from Rosner.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 5 / Pro-Israel - 2

10) Mixed Expectation - Yossi Alpher - March 20, 2013

Far less friendly heads of state, from Egypt’s Anwar Sadat through a long list of Europeans, have delivered tough messages to the Israeli public from the Knesset podium and have been all the more respected and appreciated for the deference they thus demonstrated for Israel’s institutions. There is a danger that Obama’s choice of audience will remind Israelis of his historic March 2009 address in Cairo. And history, in the form of the Egyptian revolution, has judged that occasion harshly.
I was pleasantly surprised by Alpher's survey of the issues to be discussed during President Obama's visit. His discussion was free from the loaded terms and biases I had expected. I was also impressed with his concluding paragraph. As it turned out, at least in the short term, President Obama seemed to improve his standing among Israelis.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 5 / Pro-Israel - 3

11) It’s Up to Obama - Mustafa Barghouti - March 20, 2013

We, as Palestinians, are doing what we can to break the deadlock and work toward peace. Last year, we took the diplomatic initiative to enhance our status at the United Nations to that of an observer state, in part to salvage the internationally endorsed two-state solution and to create positive pressure to restart a political process. It is a shame that the United States and Israel did not support our bid, which ultimately would have been in all parties’ interests.
Barghouti, though it's not acknowledged by the New York Times, is active in the BDS movement, meaning that he believes Israel to be an illegitimate nation. Of course going to the United Nations was not working towards peace but a rejection of the accepted bilateral framework that had been in place since 1993.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 6 / Pro-Israel - 3

12) 'I speak to you as a friend' - Editorial - March 21, 2013

Will Mr. Obama also take the risks that will be needed to be a credible mediator and nudge the parties forward? His new secretary of state, John Kerry, is eager to begin and will be in Israel this weekend, but will he have the space to conduct real diplomacy? And is there a sense of urgency on anyone’s part? In recent years, Israel has built so many settlements that the options for finding a two-state solution are dwindling.
I might have judged this editorial to be neutral, but in the next to last paragraph the editors mostly blamed Israel for the "dwindling" prospects for peace with a patently false claim.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 7 / Pro-Israel - 3

13) Obama in Israel - Patrick Chapatte - March 21, 2013


This is a Chapatte cartoon and it's not anti-Israel. It's pedestrian and unimaginative, but there's nothing wrong with that, especially considering his usual output. This is neutral.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 7 / Pro-Israel - 3

14) In Defense of Palestinians - Carol Giacomo - March 22, 2013

In a passionate speech on Thursday in Jerusalem, Mr. Obama acknowledged that Israel has had to confront Palestinian factions, like Hamas, who sometimes turn to indefensible acts of terror. But he also made a strong case for recognizing the Palestinian peoples’ right to self-determination and justice.
"Confront Hamas?" What does she mean? Negotiate with it? Accept it as legitimate? "[S]ometimes turn to indefensible acts of terror?" What the hell is she talking about. Hamas is a terrorist organization that sometimes doesn't commit terror, when Israel responds forcefully and makes them realize that they have more to lose by continuing the fight. This should have been titled "In Defense of Palestinian terrorists (like Hamas.)"

Tally - Anti-Israel - 8 / Pro-Israel - 3

15) Overdue Reconciliation - Editorial - March 22, 2013

Turkey was Israel’s closest Muslim friend until Israel’s 2010 attack on a ship carrying aid to Gaza killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. A United Nations investigation the following year found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza was legal and that Israeli commandos boarding the vessel were justified in defending themselves against “organized and violent resistance.” But it said the force used by the Israelis was “excessive and unreasonable.”Turkey rejected the findings, expelled Israel’s ambassador and said it was freezing military ties until Israel apologized for the deaths and compensated the victims’ families. On Friday, with Mr. Obama by his side, Mr. Netanyahu telephoned Mr. Erdogan, expressed regret for the raid (an apology he had long resisted) and offered compensation. After Mr. Erdogan accepted the gesture, officials said diplomatic relations had been fully restored.
The editorial ignores Erdogan's distancing his country from Israel prior to the Mavi Marmara. (Remember his outburst in Geneva directed towards Shimon Peres?) No one said that full diplomatic relations were restored already, though perhaps a process was started. Still Erdogan has been backsliding on his commitment for two weeks now and the editors haven't seen fit to criticize him.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 9 / Pro-Israel - 3

16) A friend spoke truth to friends - Jeremy Ben Ami - March 22, 2013

Obama did not shy from portraying the ugly face of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land: the children who cannot grow up in a state of their own and live with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of their parents every day; the settlers who commit violence against Palestinians and go unpunished; the Palestinian farmers who cannot cultivate their land; the families displaced from their homes.
As it always is with the head of the self-described "pro-Israel, pro-peace" organization (and identified as such by the New York Times), the blame for the lack of peace lies solely with Israel. In this, he is no different from the editors of the New York Times. Nowhere did he talk about pressuring the Palestinians to do anything. A better description for J-Street would be a "pro-pressure-Israel organization."

Tally - Anti-Israel - 10 / Pro-Israel - 3

17) Israel - Bits, Bytes and Bombs - Thomas Friedman - March 23, 2013

Indeed, the crazy dream Israel is keeping alive is that it can permanently occupy the West Bank, with its 2.5 million Palestinians, to satisfy biblically inspired settlers, who now hold major cabinet positions, like the housing portfolio, in Israel’s new government. With nearly 600,000 Israelis now living in Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the window for a two-state solution “is slowly vanishing from the earth,” notes the Hebrew University philosopher Moshe Halbertal. Amazingly, polls still show a majority on both sides for a two-state deal, “but there is a deep trust problem” that has to be overcome — fast.
There is no window closing, except to those who expect Israel to make more and more concessions in exchange for vague promises of peace.

Tally - Anti-Israel - 11 / Pro-Israel - 3

18) A Palestinian writer remembers Anthony Lewis - Raja Shehadah - March 27, 2013

Tony was not one to accept Israel’s usual justifications: military necessity, the country’s security. When the first intifada began, in 1987, he recognized the futility of Israel’s attempt to suppress a popular uprising. When the Oslo Accords were signed, in 1993, he warned that with its policy of building more settlements Israel was squandering an opportunity for permanent peace with the Palestinians.
From 1993 to 2000 Israel surrendered land for peace and got terror instead. Only after Defensive Shield did Israel get the peace it was supposed to have achieved by signing the Oslo Accords. But to Anthony Lewis and Raja Shehadah the terror never mattered.

Final Total - Anti-Israel - 12 / Pro-Israel - 3 / Neutral - 3


Note about methodology
: I surveyed all opinion articles that were substantially about Israel at the New York Times website for the month of March, 2013. Letters to the editor were not part of the survey. The impetus for this exercise was an op-ed by the then-public editor of the New York Times, Clark Hoyt, The danger of the one sided debate. Hoyt's dubious argument was that it was necessary for the paper to publish an op-ed written by a spokesman for Hamas so that opinions in the paper would be too pro-Israel. For the time I've been doing these indexes, the ratio of anti-Israel to pro-Israel articles is about 4 to 1. Hoyt needn't have worried.

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