Nicholas Kristof has published a piece that combines political naïveté with a cloying concern for Israel, and recommends US-assisted suicide. Kristoff is an excellent example of someone who, not understanding the Israeli self-criticism vs. Palestinian demonizing chasm, ignores the latter (like his colleague Erlanger) and uses the former against the Israelis.
Talking About Israel
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
March 18, 2007
Democrats are railing at just about everything President Bush does, with one prominent exception: Mr. Bush’s crushing embrace of Israel.
There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians. And that silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.
Uh oh. Let me guess. He’s going to tell us that there is an opportunity for peace, and that by not pursuing it, we will make things worse for America. Rewarmed Oslo logic: “Land for Peace.” It systematically avoids the painful lessons of the 21st century: “Land for War.” And its advice will produce the opposite of what it claims: harm America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself… not to mention the first and constant victims of this misguided policy — the Palestinians.
Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news media about the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories. Yet no major American candidate is willing today to be half as critical of hard-line Israeli government policies as, say, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper.
First, this is not true. Haaretz is one of the more popular sources for Western journalists. But leave it to Kristof to complain that it’s ignored. And to the degree that some of the more grotesque stuff doesn’t come out, there’s excellent reasons. Haaretz is a ferociously “self-critical” newspaper that makes a specialty of the kind of attacks on the government that characterize”masochistic omnipotence complex.” For the West to report this self-criticism as if it were accurate rather than rhetoric would seriously miinform the public. As it is, by presenting even a watered-down version of this self-critical stuff from Haaretz (Gideon Levy, Amira Hass), side-by-side with the “other side” — i.e., demonizing scapegoating claims of Palestinian press (which practice is called even-handed), skews the picture that the Western media present to their audience profoundly. And apparently Kristoff is both a channel and a victim of such disinformation.
Three years ago, Israel’s minister of justice spoke publicly of photos of an elderly Palestinian woman beside the ruins of her home, after it had been destroyed by the Israeli army. He said that they reminded him of his own grandmother, who had been dispossessed by the Nazis. Can you imagine an American cabinet secretary ever saying such a thing?
Right. No American cabinet member would be so masochistic as to make so ludicrous a moral equivalence, and no American public (so far) willing to tolerate such staggering self-deprecation.
One reason for the void is that American politicians have learned to muzzle themselves. In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic primaries, Howard Dean said he favored an “even-handed role” for the U.S. — and was blasted for being hostile to Israel.
That’s because “even-handed” means treating totalistic Palestinian demands as legitimate no matter how viciously asserted, no matter how much of an affront to the world community. That’s because “even-handed” is a recipe for the destruction of Israel and for the affirmation of Islamic imperialism. And in Dean’s case, this was 2004… during the Intifada. [NB: I gave a talk at the AHA in January of 2004 and before the session a high school history teacher with a big Dean for President pin said loudly and confidently: “It’s clear the Israelis want the Palestinians to keep the war going, that way they can continue to treat them as slaves.” He attracted some real Moonbats.]
Likewise, Barack Obama has been scolded for daring to say: “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.”
That’s because the Darfurians are suffering far more, and only the obsession of the “Left” with accusing Israel of being like the Nazis makes them ignore all the real suffering that goes on around the world at the hands of the people who really do look like the Nazis — global Jihadis.
It’s also because so much of their suffering is self-inflicted, and so little of it can be solved by Israeli concessions, a point quickly made in clarification by Obama.
In contrast, Hillary Rodham Clinton has safely refused to show an inch of daylight between herself and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Ehud Olmert doesn’t even know what he wants or what to do, so how Hilary can “refuse to show an inch of daylight” with so feckless a figure is itslef something of a mystery. But we get the point, here Olmert’s just a cypher for “Sharooooon” and for American politicians as the lapdogs of Israeli prime ministers.
A second reason may be that American politicians just don’t get it. King Abdullah of Jordan spoke to Congress this month and observed: “The wellspring of regional division, the source of resentment and frustration far beyond, is the denial of justice and peace in Palestine.” Though widely criticized, King Abdullah was exactly right: from Morocco to Yemen to Sudan, the Palestinian cause arouses ordinary people in coffee shops more than almost anything else.
So what does that tell us about the nature of their”sense of justice,” and the “source of resentment and frustration.” They aren’t moved by the fate of their fellow Muslims in Darfur or Algeria, certainly not by the fate of infidels in southern Sudan. They only burn for “Palestinian justice”? Does the source of this anger come from a sense of injustice and a desire for a Palestinian state? Or pride and a desire to destroy Israel and reassert Muslim dominion? If the former, then maybe “solving” this to the Arabs’ satisfaction might hold out promise, but if the latter, then “solving” it would merely intensify Arab appetite for conquest.
So what kind of a favor does Kristof do his readers by presenting these highly dubious demands for justice without the slightest critical distance?
You can argue that Arabs pursue a double standard, focusing on repression by Israelis while ignoring greater human rights violations by fellow Arabs. But the suffering in Palestinian territories, while not remotely at the scale of brutality in Sudan or Iraq, is still tragically real.
Okaaay. So Kristof knows there’s a problem. He should. He’s one of the few to sound the alarm about Darfur. But basically, he seems to say, that’s a distraction. Rather than open up the key to just how foolish it is to ignore this absurd obsession with Israel (which distracts people from real oppression in places like Darfur), he seems to think that all he needs for a response is to reassert how “still tragically real” the Israeli-Palestinian situation. That should be good enough to get us back on track. If Irshad Manji has called Anti-Zionism as a “Weapon of Mass Distraction,” then we can call Kristoff a victim of that weapon. He’s distracted. And he’s convinced he’s telling you straight by continuing to distract his readers.
B’Tselem, a respected Israeli human rights organization, reports that last year Palestinians killed 17 Israeli civilians (including one minor) and six Israeli soldiers. In the same period, B’Tselem said, Israeli forces killed 660 Palestinians, triple the number killed in 2005. Of the Palestinians killed in 2006, half were not taking part in hostilities at the time they were killed, and 141 were minors.
B’Tselem is an increasingly criticized human rights organization. They have proven to be as gullible to the claims of victimization from “Palestinian sources” — or as biased — as their sister “human rights” NGOs in the West.
[NB: When I showed a copy of Pallywood to the folks at B’Tselem, the head of the organization told me she couldn’t see what relevance the propensity of Palestinian sources to systematically lie might have for B’Tselem’s work, and her top Arab-Israeli field researcher wanted details on the woman who “gave birth in the car” [from Pierre Rehov’s Road to Jenin so he could investigate another Israeli violation.]
These figures are cooked. All the categories are subject to deconstruction – “not taking part in hostilities at the time they were killed,” “minors,” and above all, “killed by Israelis” – all these identifications are based on taking at face value, testimony that has proved itself radically untrustworthy. Garbag in, garbage out.
Now it’s altogether possible that Kristof, on other topics apparently perceptive, doesn’t know what he’s channeling here. After all, if he read his own paper’s journalist, how would he know about the depth of the hate-speech that drives the devouring maw into which he pushes Israel with his “friendly advice.” Perhaps he trusts his friends in the progressive NGOs to give him reliable information.
But as a professional journalist — indeed here, he presents himself as a counselor — doesn’t he owe us at least due diligence?
For more than half a century, the U.S. was an honest broker in the Middle East. Presidents Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan were warmer to Israel and Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush a bit cooler, but all sought a balance. George W. Bush has abandoned that tradition of balance.
Good grief. This potted history looks a lot like Malt Weirsheimer. And Clinton doesn’t even fit… but Bush has gone off the deep end even though he supports a Palestinian State.
Hard-line Israeli policies have profoundly harmed that country’s long-term security by adding vulnerable settlements, radicalizing young Palestinians, empowering Hamas and Hezbollah, isolating Israel in the world and nurturing another generation of terrorists in Lebanon. The Israeli right’s aggressive approach has only hurt Israeli security, just as President Bush’s invasion of Iraq ended up harming U.S. interests.
This is quality PCP1 concentrate. Kristof’s “causative” model — “Hard line Israeli policies harmed… radicalized… empowered… isolated… and nurtured…“– has been radically disproven by empirical events over the last 7 years since the Palestinians opened the Oslo Trojan Horse and unleashed their war against Israelis. It turns out, it was not “land for peace” as the PCPers confidently believed and pressed Israel to believe, but “land for Jihad.” Israel’s “hard-line policies” come far down on the list of spurs to violence, indeed the situation may be exactly the reverse.
We cannot forget, in analyzing the situation, that Arab political culture is so far, an astonishingly raw and depressingly consistent struggle for dominion. Vast massacres of one’s own civilians, as in Iraq and Syria, nail down the public order. This is a world where, as we have just learned, removing tyrants roils up suicidal religious wars of annihilation. In this context, Israeli forms of retaliation — exceptional for their restraint — make no sense.
Any Arab nation with Israel’s military superiority would have conquered the entire Middle East and controled the world’s oil in, at most, a matter of years. That inexplicably vast Israeli military superiority drives the entire Arab world mad with a shame that only worsens as the decades of failure accumulate.
And yet, despite this vast power differential and the immense provocation of suicide terrorism — can one imagine anything more heinous? — the Israelis respond with a fraction of the power at their disposal. From October 2000 to April of 2002, Israel endured an unending crescendo of violent assaults on its civilians from the genocidal forces the Palestinians had fostered in their Oslo Horse. Among the most incomprehensibly vicious, the Palestinians pioneered suicide terrorist attacks which had Palestinians dancing in the street.
Only after enormous restraint for months, did the Israelis eventually “re-occupy” Palestinian territory to seek out and destroy these factories of death. And yet, rather than blast the place from the sky as either Assad or Hussein would do, they went door to door, bringing their soldiers right in front of the enemies guns.
Israel’s restraint is incomprehensible to the Arab world. They assume it is an act of weakness.
And, unfortunately, it seems incomprehensible to the Western world as well. At least the MSM don’t know what to do with this moral chasm. Indeed, for reasons that continue to astonish me, they manage to invert reality, to present, for example, an image of Jenin as a Massacre, or Qana as an Israeli warcrime. Thus the media greatly magnifies the spiral of violence, affirming the most intolerable hatreds by blaming those who defend themselves — the Israeli Goliath vs. the Palestinian David.
As a result, we can have experienced journalists present Israeli restraint in the face of outrageous provocation, as “hard-line Israeli policies that have profoundly harmed that country’s long-term security…” This is the logic of Oslo, pursued long after the Palestinians opened the Trojan Horse and launched a new stage of global Jihad which now threatens democracy everywhere.
This is willful stupidity and scary stuff. Presumably Kristoff is not malevolent, just misled. But how badly can an expert “get it”?
Now get ready for the recommendations, which follow from (actually, I think, dictate) these foolish analyses.
The best hope for Israel in the long run isn’t a better fence or more weaponry; they can provide a measure of security in the short run but will be of little help if terrorists turn, as they eventually will if the present trajectory continues, to chemical, biological or radiological weapons. Ultimately, security for Israel will emerge only from a peace agreement with Palestinians. We even know what that peace deal will look like: the Geneva accord, reached in 2003 by private Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
This accord was a joke, done with Yasser Abd Rabbo, the head of the Palestinian Ministry of Information, the very man who presided over the hate industry. The key players were Palestinian demopaths and Israeli dupes, desperate to make the Oslo process work even after it had blown up in their faces. I can’t believe that gun went off in my face, let me try it again. As any clear observer saw that it was “land for war,” these people pretended it was “land for peace.”
M. J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum headlined a recent column, “Pandering Not Required.” He wisely called on American presidential candidates instead to prove their support for Israel by pledging: “If I am elected president, I will do everything in my power to bring about negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of achieving peace and security for Israel and a secure state for the Palestinians.”
This is more silly Oslo logic, the kind of stuff . The Israel Policy Forum is an NGO far from the general consensus emerging now in a sobered and disoriented Israel. A “self-critical” Jewish group in a league with the moral masochists, and about as reliable as B’Tselem. Reading Kristof, you’d think it was centrist. And in 20th century terms, it might have been.
Last summer, after Hezbollah killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two others, Prime Minister Olmert invaded Lebanon and thus transformed Hezbollah into a heroic force in much of the Arab world. President Bush would have been a much better friend to Israel if he had tried to rein in Mr. Olmert. So let’s be better friends — and stop biting our tongues.
It was not the bumbling Olmert that transformed Hizbullah into a heroic force, it was a media ready to whitewash them and accuse Israel of disproportionate response if not massacres — any Arab leader would have carpet bombed — together with a European diplomacy ready to allow Hizbullah to rearm itself and take any advantage remaining from Israel. (NB: In the same deft move the French betrayed their Maronite cousins.)
Good grief. Kristoff is a 20th century fossil in the making, stuck in congealing amber, repeating the same disastrous information from the same unreliable sources that have given us a disastrous 21st century. He embodies all the failures of the current MSM – unreliable sources presented as dependable, inverted historical reasoning, catastrophic advice.
And he does it with confidence and style. He illustrates perfectly the performance of the MSM described so poignantly in a speech by Arnold Roth, father of a Sbarro Pizza bombing victim: “You would never return to a dentist who had so little knowledge and operated so incompetently.”
What a catastrophe for the West to have its best news media fail so signally at a time so critically in need of accurate and reliable information and intelligent analysis!
You’re invited to post your comments about this column on Mr. Kristof’s blog, www.nytimes.com/ontheground
Dear Nicholas, I wasn’t kind. Do you really believe this stuff? Or do you have another agenda in mind?
UPDATE: Tamar Sternthall of CAMERA has an excellent piece on this article (despite it’s slightly polemical title): Kristof’s Blame-Israel Rant.