Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Middle East Media Sampler 2/3/13: New York Times in January

From +David Gerstman:

New York Times Op-Ed Index for January, 2013

A) Rape, Lies and Videotapes - Shmuel Rosner - January 2, 2013
Statistically, illegal immigrants account for far fewer rapes than Israel’s legal residents. Yet statistics don’t mean much in the lead-up to election day or in areas where immigrants are heavily concentrated. There, those figures don’t do much for the locals, who feel scared in their own neighborhoods, or the immigrants, who often live in inadequate conditions and face discrimination from residents, or the local authorities, who have to manage a problem their superiors seem uninterested in solving.
I'm very uncomfortable with this, given the record of the New York Times. But unlike a news story last week which attempted - with no credible evidence - to smear Israeli society with the "racist" label, Rosner limits his criticism to a small number of politicians attempting to exploit grievances. Because Rosner's criticism is limited and not general, I won't rate this anti-Israel. But it isn't pro-Israel either. Neutral.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 0 / pro-Israel - 0

B) Nominations for Defense and the CIA - Editorial - January 7, 2013
Mr. Hagel’s independence and willingness to challenge Republican orthodoxy on Iraq, sanctions on Iran and other issues — both in the Senate and later as an administration adviser — have so alarmed neocons, hard-line pro-Israel interest groups and some Republican senators that they unleashed a dishonest campaign to pre-emptively bury the nomination. It failed, but the confirmation process could be bruising. The opponents are worried that Mr. Hagel will not be sufficiently in lock step with the current Israeli government and cannot be counted on to go to war against Iran over its nuclear program if it comes to that. 
 Despite the obnoxious language here, ("hard line pro-Israel" without a comma, "lock step") I was prepared to give this editorial a pass. It didn't appear to be about Israel. However, following Senator Hagel's abysmal performance last week, the Times followed up with an editorial faulting Senate Republicans for the disaster. The editorial even acknowledged implicitly that Hagel was unprepared, but again used the term "in lock step with the current Israeli government..." suggesting that his disagreements with Israel are a major reason that the editors at the Times support Hagel.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 1 / pro-Israel - 0

C) Israel's true friends - Roger Cohen - January 7, 2013
Five years on, that needed dialogue has scarcely advanced. Self-styled “true friends” of Israel now lining up against the Hagel nomination are in fact true friends only of the Israeli right that pays no more than lip service to a two-state peace (when it even does that); scoffs at Palestinian national aspirations and culture; dismisses the significant West Bank reforms that have prepared Palestine for statehood; continues with settlement construction on the very shrinking land where a Palestinian state is envisaged (and was granted nonmember observer status at the United Nations last November by 138 votes to 9 with 41 abstentions, including Germany); cannot find a valid Palestinian interlocutor on the face of the earth despite the moderate reformist leadership of Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad; ignores the grave implications for Israel of its unsustainable, corrosive dominion over another people and the question of how Israel can remain Jewish and democratic without a two-state solution (it cannot); bays for war with Iran despite the contrary opinions of many of Israel’s intelligence and military leaders; and propels Israel into repetitive miniwars of dubious strategic value. 
The photograph accompanying this op-ed is a protest by Jewish Voice for Peace, an extreme anti-Israel group. Was the picture included for the sake of irony or out of naivete? I'm guessing the latter. Most of the above paragraph is a poorly constructed run on sentence. As I've noted previously, given the decrease in rocket fire from Gaza since Pillar of Defense, shows that November's war against Hamas accomplished a very real goal. There's nothing dubious about that. How is it that someone who criticizes Israel for defending its citizens presumes to identify Israel's true friends? That's what's dubious about Cohen's column.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 2 / pro-Israel - 0

D) Extreme Makeover, Israel - Shmuel Rosner - January 8, 2013
You can’t want to be seen both as a fun-loving, entrepreneurial society and as a hardy frontiersman fighting for your survival. You can’t be both a start-up nation and a place on the verge of annihilation. But what if you are?
It's a generally sympathetic look at Israel. I could have done with a little less cynicism, though.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 2 / pro-Israel - 1

E) In defense of Hagel for Defense - Nicholas Kristof - January 9, 2013
It’s bullying and name-calling to denounce people as anti-Semitic because they won’t embrace the policies of a far-right Israeli government that regularly shoots itself in the foot. In a world in which anti-Semitism actually does persist, this is devaluing the term so that it becomes simply a glib right-wing insult. Maybe that’s why Jewish Voice for Peace, a liberal American Jewish organization, has announced that its supporters have sent 10,000 e-mails to President Obama in support of Hagel’s nomination.
The Jewish Voice for Peace is not liberal and it's also not pro-Israel. (Understand that JVP supports dialogue with Hamas - no doubt part of why Hagel appeals to the group - and the Palestinian right of return, which would destroy Israel.)

Current tally - anti-Israel - 3 / pro-Israel - 1

F) Financial crisis in the West Bank - Editorial - January 10, 2013
There are many causes. After Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, won an upgrade for the status of Palestine as a nonmember observer state at the United Nations General Assembly last fall, Israel retaliated by withholding the $100 million in monthly tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. Congress, meanwhile, has been withholding more than $450 million in American aid. Last year, Mr. Fayyad said he hoped to improve the authority’s financial condition by cutting spending and raising taxes on wealthier Palestinians. The tax plan ran into strong protest and the West Bank’s modest economic growth has slowed.
Much as I want to classify this editorial as being anti-Israel, I'm not sure that it is. It is certainly critical of Israel and unfairly so. It absolves the Palestinian Authority of any responsibility for its financial woes. But this editorial really isn't mostly about Israel. Neutral. (Reluctantly.)

Current tally - anti-Israel - 3 / pro-Israel - 1

G) President Morsi's repulsive comments - Editorial - January 15, 2013
The problem goes deeper than just Mr. Morsi, however. The remarks were made at a time when anti-Israel sentiment was running high in Egypt and the region after the three-week Gaza conflict in 2009 between Israel and Hamas. The sad truth is that defaming Jews is an all too standard feature of Egyptian, and Arab, discourse; Israelis are not immune to responding in kind either.
There's a significant point here about defaming Jews. However it's undermined by the false equivalence and even the degree to which the editorial seeks to justify Morsi's comments (by attributing it to Cast Lead.) Neutral.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 3 / pro-Israel - 1

H) Reckless driving - Shmuel Rosner - January 15, 2013
But if Israel is riding a safety tide, it is riding it high, with even better results than most other countries. Australia, Canada, the United States, France and Japan were all ahead of it 10 years ago; now, they are all behind.
By objective measures Israel has improved its road safety. No negativity. Wow.
Current tally - anti-Israel - 3 / pro-Israel - 2

I) The Blight of Return - Roger Cohen - January 17, 2013 
When I was in Cairo recently, I saw a senior Western official who meets regularly with President Morsi. She told me she has no doubt of his belief in Israel’s right to exist and the urgent need for a two-state peace. Power is responsibility; it can change people. The United States should test Morsi by pressing him hard to forge Palestinian unity in pragmatism. That would remove an Israeli excuse for oppression that tramples on the Jewish state’s own best interests.
Oh, good! A "western official" told Cohen that Morsi is really a pragmatist even as he asserts control over the military and the media! And he insists that trusting Morsi to oversee a merger between Hamas and Fatah would be "pragmatic." I keep on repeating that the occupation has long been over. The only matter left is borders. If the Palestinian wish to negotiate they will get their state. Cohen does Israel (not to mention the cause of peace) no good by insisting that Israel must trust extremists to reform or to buy into compromise when there's no constituency for it in the Palestinian political sphere. Cohen is correct that the Palestinians need to give up on the right of return. It's a shame that he doesn't note that even the moderates are still insisting on it.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 4 / pro-Israel - 2

J) The Countersettlement - Raja Shehadeh - January 17, 2013
Then came the Oslo Accords, which divided the West Bank into Areas A, B and C. The Palestinian Authority was given some jurisdiction over Areas A and B; Area C, amounting to 60 percent of the West Bank [pdf], was placed under exclusive Israeli control. This helped create the impression among Israelis that settlers in Area C would be safe from eviction because under any final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians the zone would be fully annexed to Israel. Since the beginning of the occupation, 120 settlements sanctioned by the Israeli government and 99 unofficial outposts have been erected in the West Bank.
What Shehadeh doesn't mention is that portions of Gaza were Area C also, and those were all evacuated. Earlier he made a claim about "state lands" that is objectively designated as propaganda (scroll towards the end of the post). Please also read Barry Rubin's The Ultimate Settlements are not the problem article.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 5 / pro-Israel - 2

K) Bibi forever - Shmuel Rosner - January 21, 2013
The Israeli public also agrees with Netanyahu’s skepticism about finding a negotiated settlement on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, about the Palestinian peace process and about the long-term prospects of the Arab Spring. Shelly Yacimovich of the Labor Party paid a price for trying to bypass all this by focusing on social and economic issues. Her peers and rivals of the center-left criticized her for abandoning a core issue of the left: peace. And for many Israelis that position made her irrelevant in the race. What’s the point of having a leader with no clear agenda on the most urgent matters?
Rosner effectively argues that Netanyahu is mainstream. Is anyone else at the New York Time paying attention? Roger Cohen in his latest, Israel's Mr. Normal, clearly isn't.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 5 / pro-Israel - 3

L) U.S. Inaction, Mideast Catacalysm? - Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour - January 21, 2013
Second, the status quo is not a path to a one-state solution, but to Bosnian-style ethnic cleansing, which could erupt as quickly as the Gaza fighting did last year and spread to Israeli Arab cities. Right-wing Israelis and Hamas leaders alike are pushing for a cataclysmic fight. Mr. Abbas, whose Fatah party controls the West Bank, has renounced violence, but without signs of a viable diplomatic path he cannot unify his people to support new talks. If his government falls apart, or if the more Palestinian territory is annexed (as right-wing Israelis want), or if the standoff in Gaza leads to an Israeli ground invasion, bloodshed and protests across the Arab world will be inevitable. Such chaos might also provoke missiles from Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group based in Lebanon.
Abbas has, of course, avoided any "viable diplomatic path" in hope of bringing international pressure on Israel to make concessions without his having to concede anything in return. In the meantime his media and schools delegitimize Israel and glorify terror. The idea that the status quo is untenable is baseless fear mongering.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 6 / pro-Israel - 3

M) Break all the rules - Thomas Friedman - January 22, 2013
On Israel-Palestine, the secretary of state should publicly offer President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority the following: the U.S. would recognize the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank as the independent State of Palestine on the provisional basis of the June 4, 1967, lines, support its full U.N. membership and send an ambassador to Ramallah, on the condition that Palestinians accept the principle of “two states for two peoples” — an Arab state and a Jewish state in line with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 181 — and agree that permanent borders, security and land swaps would be negotiated directly with Israel. The status of the refugees would be negotiated between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, which represents all Palestinians inside and outside of Palestine. Gaza, now a de facto statelet, would be recognized as part of Palestine only when its government recognizes Israel, renounces violence and rejoins the West Bank.
It's kind of remarkable that Friedman's analysis doesn't mention "Hamas." Yes, there's implicit reference "de facto statelet," but I think he's not mentioning Hamas explicitly because he knows how absurd his argument is. Why should Israel make any further concessions - political or territorial - when Hamas has not moderated and could still very well gain power in the West Bank? Furthermore the very fact that when Israel made the sort of concessions Friedman calls for, the result in Gaza was to empower Hamas, which has been threatening southern Israel ever since.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 7 / pro-Israel - 3

N) Peace Process? Check the back burner - Mark Heller - January 23, 2013
Finally, nothing Obama does can be effective unless it fully complements an equally visible redefinition by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, of the purpose of the process. For while Obama may inject an element of urgency, only Abbas can dispel the sense of pointlessness — by clearly communicating that positive movement will culminate not just in Israeli concessions on territory but also in a definitive termination of the conflict, the renunciation of any further claims, and the peaceful coexistence of two states for two peoples.
There's a lot of sense in this article. Heller explains why Israel doesn't feel urgency about the peace process (something that Thomas Friedman occasionally) but explains that further progress is out of Israel's hands (something Friedman never does.)

Current tally - anti-Israel - 7 / pro-Israel - 4

O) The Israeli Center Lives - Roger Cohen - January 23, 2013
Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned as the incarnation of a strong Israel, square-jawed before the Western Wall. He emerged weakened and chastened. The Israeli people delivered the one thing he believed an early election would not produce: A comeuppance.
P) Israel's election - Editorial - January 23, 2013
The White House on Wednesday renewed its call for peace talks to resume. This won’t mean much if President Obama is not ready to invest political capital in a new diplomatic initiative. Unlike the bungled effort in his first term, though, he needs to carefully prepare the political ground, including making his first trip to Israel as president and explaining to the Israeli people how any peace plan will enhance their security.
Q) A better Bibi - Shmuel Rosner - January 28, 2013
As I was detailing last week, one can’t beat something with nothing, and Netanyahu couldn’t be beat by rivals who are inexperienced or unable to articulate an agenda that contrasts with his on the most serious issues facing Israel. It is true, as many have noted, approvingly or disapprovingly, that Israeli voters cast their ballots this time based on domestic issues — another trend I had not anticipated.
Unlike Roger Cohen or the editors of the New York Times, Rosner acknowledges that he got the Israeli election wrong in underestimating the strength of Yair Lapid and domestic issues generally. Cohen and the editors were more concerned with scoring points off of Bibi rather than acknowledging their hysterical fear mongering about a "right wing" Israel government. The discredited hysterics should have occasioned some humility, but didn't. Of these three election reviews, only one can be called pro-Israel.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 9 / pro-Israel - 5

R) Sitting down with Amos Oz - Roger Cohen - January 28, 2013
At 73, Oz has been surprised often enough not to regard the worst as inevitable, even if war has been Israel’s leitmotif since 1948. He asks this question: “Who ever expected Churchill to dismantle the British Empire, or De Gaulle to take France out of Algeria, or Sadat to come to Jerusalem, or Begin to give back the whole of Sinai for peace, or Gorbachev to undo the whole Soviet bloc?”
His message to the incoming Israeli government is clear: Peace is impossible without boldness; nothing is beyond the capacity of an open-ended, surprise-prone humanity.
Boldness? Sounds like a Thomas Friedman line. Yes Begin gave up the Sinai for peace. Now there are many who say even that wasn't enough. Peres withdrew from most of the West Bank, Netanyahu from Hebron, Barak retreated from southern Lebanon and Sharon withdrew from Gaza. Agree or disagree with these actions, the question is did any of these "bold" moves bring peace closer? The so called "Aqsa intifada," the Israeli war with Hezbollah in 2006, Operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense, followed each of these bold moves. When Cohen explains why none of these bold moves brought peace closer, then he'll be in a position to lecture Israel.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 10 / pro-Israel - 5

S) Why Palestine should take Israel to court in the Hague - George Bisharat - January 29, 2013
The Palestinians’ first attempt to join the I.C.C. was thwarted last April when the court’s chief prosecutor at the time, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, declined the request on the grounds that Palestine was not a state. That ambiguity has since diminished with the United Nations’ conferral of nonmember state status on Palestine in November. Israel’s frantic opposition to the elevation of Palestine’s status at the United Nations was motivated precisely by the fear that it would soon lead to I.C.C. jurisdiction over Palestinian claims of war crimes. 
 In response Elder of Ziyon quoted international law expert, Eugene Kontorovich as to why Bisharat's scenario is hogwash. Regardless of how fanciful Bisharat's scenario is, it's the continuation of a campaign announced by Mahmoud Abbas on the op-ed pages of the New York Times in May, 2001. At that time Abbas said that he would international fora to pressure Israel. Since then, the New York Time has lent its pages to those who would abet this campaign all the while regretting that there was no movement on the peace process. The hypocrisy is mind boggling.

Current tally - anti-Israel - 11 / pro-Israel - 5

T) Israel ducks on human rights - Editorial - January 30, 2013
Human rights reviews are an important tool for judging all countries by universal standards and nudging them to make positive changes. By opting out, Israel shows not only an unwillingness to undergo the same scrutiny as all other countries, but it deprives itself of an opportunity to defend against abuse charges. The decision could also undermine the entire review process by providing an excuse for states with terrible human rights records — like North Korea, Iran and Zimbabwe — to withdraw as well. It certainly will make it harder for Washington to argue for reviews when an ally rejects the process.
The illogic of this editorial is stunning. Two paragraphs earlier the editorial noted, "...Israel is the only country that is a standing item on the agenda for the council’s biannual meetings." Acknowledging the special treatment Israel gets from the despots who run the Human Rights Council shows that Israel does get unfair scrutiny from the council; a perfectly good reason to avoid the kangaroo court.

Final Total - anti-Israel - 12 / pro-Israel - 5 / neutral - 3

Methodology: I surveyed all opinion articles at the New York Times website from January 1 - 31, 2013. I included articles that were substantially about Israel in the count, but not letters to the editor. A bulk of the opinion was driven by the Israeli election and the Hagel nomination.

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