Monthly Archives: October 2014

On the Corruption of the Media: Attkisson’s Testimony Helps Understand Mideast Coverage

If Matti Friedman tore off the veil from the AP’s modus operandi in covering the Arab-Israel conflict, then apparently, Sharyl Attkisson has done it for CBS’s modus operandi when it came to the White House over the past two decades. Apparently, Attkisson’s book is an update on Bernie Goldberg’s chronicling of a media militating for Obama with their coverage (A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media2009).

It’s still not out, but the following article by Kyle Smith offers some extensive examples of partisan corruption of the mainstream news media that we in Israel know intimately. Below I draw some (of many) parallels, in order to highlight the way the mainstream news media’s Augean Stables of encrusted bad practices has become a transnational phenomenon.

(H/T Amos Ben-Harav)

Ex-CBS reporter’s book reveals how liberal media protects Obama

Sharyl Attkisson is an unreasonable woman. Important people have told her so.

When the longtime CBS reporter asked for details about reinforcements sent to the Benghazi compound during the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack, White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor replied, “I give up, Sharyl . . . I’ll work with more reasonable folks that follow up, I guess.”

Modal Trigger

Another White House flack, Eric Schultz, didn’t like being pressed for answers about the Fast and Furious scandal in which American agents directed guns into the arms of Mexican drug lords. “Goddammit, Sharyl!” he screamed at her. “The Washington Post is reasonable, the LA Times is reasonable, The New York Times is reasonable. You’re the only one who’s not reasonable!”

It’s natural for any stakeholder (political, corporate, personal) to want to protect itself from revelations that embarrass it. Anybody who can (i.e., has power), threatens with loss of access, hence access journalism. Nobody who can does not favor favorable journalists, and punish with exclusion (at the least) those who tend to reveal unpleasant information. The question is, how far will they go? How does the naturally self-protective agent respond to the failure of access journalism to control the situation?

The role of the journalists in a democracy is to fight against this disadvantage for reporters who need access, to resist the kinds of pressures that powerful and influential people can exercise. The remark by White House deputy press secretary Eric Shultz, enumerates some of the more prominent of the submissive journals: Wapo, LATimes, the Grey Lady. They all play nice (reasonable).

Sharyl, on the other hand, is doing her job as a professional journalist with a code. Her kind of journalist was once the pride of the profession. She has, however, become “unreasonable.” “Reasonable” here means someone who knows that, in order to stay in the game (that of access journalism, not real journalism), they will submit their work to a self-imposed censure.

For those trying to understand the Middle East conflict, if mere partisanship (liberal vs. conservative) in the West could produce such damage to the screens upon which we observe our world, imagine what kind of an impact the implicit, constant threat of sudden death, has on reporters working in Palestinian territories.

Fisking Peter Beinart’s Compulsive “Blame Israel” Approach

Guest post fisking Beinart from Saadia Eisenberg. Beinart’s original article is actually deeply disturbing, evidence of a systematic need to indict Israel, based on a gratuitous hypothesis of Israeli ill will and desire to dominate the poor Palestinians. Full of the, “of course Israel has a right to defend herself against this inexcusable behavior, but… she really needs to make major concessions to the Palestinian good cops.

Among his many moves, Beinart argues a counterfactual designed to establish a fair marker.

If Abbas had declared that because of the Gaza War he no longer supports two states, American Jewish groups would have screamed with fury.

Instead, it further skews the sample, not only because it’s a faulty analogy (see below), but because it distracts from the real imbalance, Beinart’s own systematic use of a hermeneutic of suspicion against Israel (Netanyahu), never even remotely applied to Palestinian leaders and their negotiating strategies.

If Beinart were to apply to his analysis of Abbas (or any other Palestinian leader) the same principles of suspicion of bad faith, which he systematically applies to Netanyahu, this analysis would short-circuit in a flash. 

Where’s the bad faith here, Peter?

By Peter Beinart               |   Jul. 16, 2014 | 4:34 PM

What is Israel fighting for?

Most Jews think the answer is clear: Israel is fighting to keep its people safe from rockets. Most Palestinians think the answer is clear too: Israel is fighting to maintain its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (According to the United States government, Israel still occupies Gaza despite withdrawing its settlers because it controls access to Gaza from air, sea, and—along with Egypt—land. If the United States controlled whether boats could dock, and planes could land, in Canada, we’d be occupying it even if no Americans lived there.)

I don’t know what Peter’s source for the Palestinian viewpoint is, but Israel didn’t start fighting before Hamas shot their rockets. In fact, Israel accepted numerous ceasefires which Hamas rejected throughout this conflict.

Moreover, how does this escalation support Israel’s ‘occupation’ of the West Bank?

A tremendous amount rides on how one views Israeli intentions. If Israel is only seeking to protect its people, then Hamas’ rocket fire really is – as Israeli spokespeople insist – the equivalent of Canada shelling the United States. Even if you acknowledge that the Canada-U.S. analogy is flawed because Israel occupies the West Bank and Gaza while America doesn’t occupy Quebec, it’s still possible to justify Israel’s behavior if you believe Israel wants that occupation to end.

First of all, let’s leave the West Bank out of this. There are no rockets being fired out of it. Or into it. For the time being.

Moreover, Israel was not actually occupying — if you want to call it it that — the Gaza Strip from the disengagement until Hamas rose to power there. Granted, it was a short time, but even if Israel wants the occupation to end theoretically, how can they completely relinquish the terrain to a terror state?

If, on the other hand, you believe that Israel desires permanent dominion over territories whose non-Jewish residents lack basic rights, then Israel’s behavior doesn’t look all that defensive. That doesn’t justify launching rockets into Israel. Hamas’ attempted murder of civilians is wrong, period, irrespective of Israel’s intentions. It is even more egregious because Hamas rejected a cease-fire, which Israel embraced. But as appalling as Hamas’ behavior has been, it’s hard to endorse Israel’s response if it is aimed not just at safeguarding its own people but at controlling another people as well.

Again, if we’re talking about Gaza, the non-Jewish residents — who constitute the only residents, by the way; Gaza is Judenrein — lack basic rights because of their elected leadership, and on many levels. Their right to freedom of speech and petition is directly taken by their government, and the normal lives they deserve are taken indirectly, as their government forces Israel into occupying and blockading Gaza. And no, almost nobody in Israel views this as ideal.

Which is why Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments last Friday were so important. “There cannot be a situation, under any agreement,” he declared, “in which we relinquish security control of the territory west of the River Jordan.” With those words, explained Times of Israel editor David Horovitz, a Netanyahu sympathizer, the Prime Minister was “insisting upon ongoing Israeli security oversight inside and at the borders of the West Bank. That sentence, quite simply, spells the end to the notion of Netanyahu consenting to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Publicly, at least, this is an earthquake. Until last Friday, Netanyahu was on record as supporting a Palestinian state. For five years, in fact, American Jewish leaders have insisted that he sincerely desires one. So what has changed on the ground to make Netanyahu change his mind? Nothing.

No, Peter. Everything.

Back in mid-July, before Peter (or any other analyst, for that matter) knew this, Israel had been in the midst of a quiet operation against Hamas in the West Bank.

Hamas had planned a military takeover of the West Bank, reminiscent of the takeover in Gaza after Israel gave it up. The PA was not stopping this; Israel was.

Now, had the Palestinians been more independent, and had Israel not got involved, they would have another ‘Hamastan’ terror state overlooking the coast.

This is very possibly what Netanyahu had in mind when he said in mid July that in no agreement could Israel relinquish more land.

Peter was unaware of these developments, but Netanyahu was.

Netanyahu now says he cannot relinquish control of the West Bank because Hamas could use it as a base from which to shell Israel, as it is now doing from Gaza. But that danger didn’t arise last week.

But we saw how tangible and imminent it was last week.

Hamas has been shelling Israel, and refusing to recognize its right to exist, for a long time. The argument for the two state solution—which most top former Israeli security officials endorse – has always been that once Palestinians gained the rights and dignity that came with a state, their government would have a strong incentive to keep Hamas and other militants from imperiling that state by using it as a launching pad for attacks on Israel, as the governments of Egypt and Jordan have done in the decades since they signed peace deals.

But thanks to Hamas’s popularity and power, this ‘government’ may be run by Hamas itself, who would have no reason to stop themselves from attacking Israel. As is proven time and time again, Hamas does not care as much for the Palestinians and they would like to claim.

One can dispute this logic. But it is no less persuasive this week than it was last week. And last week, Netanyahu publicly supported a Palestinian state.

First of all, it is far less persuasive than it was last week.

Second of all, a Palestinian state could be in the PA-controlled territories. Why must Israel give over land for a Palestinian state? There are ways of working out the contiguity problem, such as tunnels and bridges.

In reality, what has changed are not Netanyahu’s views but his willingness to publicly acknowledge them. Bibi is a man, after all, who in A Durable Peace, his major book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, reissued in 2000, repeatedly compares a Palestinian state to the Nazi takeover of the Sudetenland.

Some background: the year 2000, Second Intifada. The PA is headed by Yasser Arafat, who funds and supports terrorists. If even the legitimate, ‘moderate’ head is supporting terror, which wants to eventually take over all of Israel, who is to say this isn’t true?

When elected prime minister in early 2009, he still publicly opposed a Palestinian state. And even when he supposedly embraced Palestinian statehood that June in a speech at Bar Ilan University, his own father told Israel television it was a ruse: “He doesn’t support [a Palestinian state]. He would support it under terms they [the Palestinians] would never accept.”

That doesn’t mean he doesn’t support it. It means that the Palestinains won’t accept his terms. Again, Peter, this must be Israel’s fault, even if we’re not sure how.

Netanyahu has made no effort to get his Likud Party to endorse Palestinian statehood nor did he try to prevent it from running a parliamentary slate in 2013 dominated by avowed two state opponents.

The Likud slate was chosen by the Likud members, not by Netanyahu himself. Netanyahu tried to promote his own political allies, with partial success.

He’s doubled funding for settlements.  And according to the best reporting on John Kerry’s now-aborted peace effort, Netanyahu adamantly refused to discuss the boundaries of a Palestinian state while insisting, according to U.S. negotiators, that Israel’s “control of the West Bank would continue forever.”

What constitutes the ‘best reports’, Peter? The one that makes Israel look the worst?

Even Abbas recognizes that Israel will always control some of the West Bank (in mutually agreed upon swaps). Netanyahu himself said — to Israel’s public — that Israel would have to relinquish some territories, so these American officials could not have meant all of the West Bank either. So what is so bad about that?

All of which is to say that Netanyahu’s statement last Friday, as Horovitz correctly observes, did not represent “a new, dramatic change of stance by the prime minister. It was a new, dramatic exposition of his long-held stance.”

No, it is different from what he told the israelis during the negotiations. There were new circumstances, and his position shifted accordingly.

Why is Netanyahu coming clean now?

Because he saw the imminent Hamas plan to take over the West Bank, which Israel was forced to stop by itself, given the proven impotence of the PA to resist Hamas violence.

 Because he can do so without risking a confrontation with the Obama administration, which has given up trying to broker a two state deal. For all those on the American Jewish right who claimed that Netanyahu would grow more willing to compromise once America ceased its diplomatic meddling and simply offered its unconditional support, the results are now in. Without American meddling, Netanyahu feels free to broadcast his rejection of the two-state solution to the world.

Again, he still isn’t rejecting the two-state solution. He’s saying, justly, that Israel cannot give up land. Again, Israel cannot afford a larger, stronger, and more strategically placed ‘Hamastan’.

He’s also free to do so because he knows that the American Jewish establishment will not publicly challenge him. It’s extraordinary, when you think about it. Had Mahmoud Abbas declared that because of this week’s Gaza War he no longer supports the two state solution, American Jewish groups would have screamed with fury. But when Netanyahu does the same thing, they say nothing. As of Monday afternoon, in fact, not a single major American Jewish group had even commented on Netanyahu’s about-face.

Because unlike you, Peter, they recognize that they know less than Netanyahu does.

Moreover, one cannot compare Netanyahu’s statement to Abbas’s theoretical statement. Netanyahu continues to support a smaller Palestinian state but recognizes that he cannot give them too much land. Had Abbas not recognized Israel at all, this would be much more serious.

Netanyahu’s statement could be compared to Abbas saying he would not relinquish any land from the West Bank, not to Abbas rejecting the two-state solution. Indeed, by reading the matter as you do, Peter, you essentially take PA intransigence as a given, and identify Israeli concerns for their condition after an alleged

What this silence proves is that for major American Jewish organizations, publicly supporting the two-state solution has little to do with actually achieving it. For the American Jewish mainstream, the real purpose of claiming to support Palestinian statehood is two-fold. First, it maintains the fiction that Israel’s almost half-century long control of the West Bank and Gaza is temporary, which allows American Jewish leaders to praise Israeli democracy without grappling with the fact that Israel controls millions of people who cannot vote for the state that dominates their lives.

Should the USA have let Iraqis vote in American elections when they occupied Iraq?

They can vote in Palestinian elections. And had they not supported Hamas, the temporarily of the occupation would be much less of a fiction.

Second, it serves as a cudgel to wield against Palestinians. After all, were American Jewish groups to admit that neither they, nor Netanyahu, really support the two state solution, they would find it harder to brand Palestinian activists as anti-Semitic because they oppose the two-state solution too.

American Jewish groups do support the two state solution, as does Netanyahu, (as Netanyahu was also recorded saying secretly). They just feel it is impossible given the current conditions. (RL: Peter, your formula is actually pernicious: the very incitement to genocidal hatred that makes giving back the land no matter how much we might want to becomes the whiny complaint of people who don’t want to give the Palestinians their freedom, i.e., to destroy us.)

I’m not a pacifist. Although the images of Gaza’s dead sicken me, I could support this war if I believed it was aimed merely at safeguarding the right of Israelis to live free of terror. That’s why I found it easier to justify Ehud Olmert’s Gaza War in 2008. Because back then Israel had a prime minister who genuinely wanted to end its unjust, undemocratic dominion over millions of Palestinians.

Leaving aside Peter’s neglect of the fact that Abbas rejected Olmert’s offer of virtually 100% of the lands Abbas demanded, we must make note of the fact that he has called the occupation ‘unjust’. He is forgetting that Israel conquered the West Bank in a defensive war from Jordan, and has tried to give up the land multiple times.

So by ‘dominion’, does Peter mean the security fence? Because that has saved tens of thousands of lives.

The electricity and water? Oh, right, Israel gives that to the Palestinians, who don’t pay their bills, or produce their own, for that matter.

Today, by contrast, Israel’s prime minister wants to make that control permanent. And that means Israel’s missiles are instruments not only of self-defense, but also of conquest.

In that case, why is the escalation only happening now? And why is Israel accepting so many ceasefires? And why, oh why, are virtually no Israeli officials supporting retaking Gaza and staying there?

How on earth is fighting hamas in gaza bolstering the occupation of the West Bank? Because it attacks Hamas?

And what does Israel have to gain from its ‘occupation’ or blockade of Gaza that aren’t security needs? There are no settlers in Gaza!

Netanyahu has now said as much himself. Even if our leaders won’t, American Jews must be prepared to listen.

Prelude to a fisking: Biblio of Responses to Maher-Affleck dustup

I am preparing a post (response to Fareed Zakaria) on the Maher-Harris-Affleck-Kristof dust-up on Maher’s show.

I think the issues raised there and in subsequent discussion, deserve close scrutiny, because, better understanding and weighing the evidence and arguments, could represent the point at which the conversation changes, and people start talking about real problems, realistically. We cannot afford to operate in this denial based community that continues to lose a cognitive war with global Jihad that we should be winning handily, a war whose loss would be catastrophic for civil society and progressive principles the world over.

Below is a preliminary bibliography of subsequent discussions of the exchange, crudely divided into pro and con. I welcome other suggestions of material and categories, as well as comments on the various pieces. Interested in pieces that analyze Affleck’s electric response (and performance). He is, I think, a good example of that form of Islamophobia that is afraid to criticize Islam. Indeed, he’s an enforcer.

In favor of Affleck:

H.A. Goodman, “Why Ben Affleck Is Right, Bill Maher Is Wrong, And Sam Harris Is Jaded About Islam,” Huffington Post, October 6, 2014.

Nicholas Kristoff, “The Diversity of Islam,” NYT, October 8, 2014

Peter Beinart, “Bill Maher’s Dangerous Critique of Islam,” Atlantic, October 9, 2014

Ben Child, “Ben Affleck: Sam Harris and Bill Maher ‘racist’ and ‘gross’ in views of Islam,” Guardian, October 7. 2014.

Reza Aslan, “Bill Maher Isn’t the Only One Who Misunderstands Religion,” NYT, October 8, 2014

 

In favor of Maher/Harris

 

Jerry Coyne, “Maher, Harris, Kristof, Steele, and Affleck squabble about Islam,” Why Evolution is True, October 4, 2014

Mark Tapson, “Maher and Harris Educate Affleck about Islam,” FrontPage, October 6, 2014.

Adam Corolla, “Carolla Defends Maher In Brawl Over Islam: Affleck Not Used To Sitting There And Eating It,” RealClearPolitics, October 7, 2014

Sam Harris, “Can Liberalism be Saved from Itself?,” Sam Harris Blog, October 7, 2014

Andrew Bostom, “From Obscenity to Clarity: A Factual Understanding of the Maher-Affleck Islam ‘Debate’,” Dr. Andrew Bostom, October 10, 2014

Robert Spence, “Five Ways Bill Maher Is Right and Reza Aslan Wrong About Islam,” PJ Media, October 17, 2014.is;

Peace When: Ten Reasons why a Palestinian State (now) is Bad for the World

In (dis)honor of the Swedish and British initiatives to recognize a Palestinian state right away, and Meir Javedanfar’s announcement of a blogpost on the topic:

I write the following counter-list: 10 reasons why a Palestinian State (right now) is a bad idea for everyone.

Please note: I do think a Palestinian state is by far the most desirable outcome for everyone (except the jihadis), if we’re talking about a state that behaves the way European Union nations behave: they disagree, but understand they’re on the same side. If however, as is every person with power in Palestinian culture right now, they are bent on our destruction, then trying to make a state with them will weaken us and strengthen them (good for no one but the jihadis). I am a member of Peace When, not Peace Now.

  1. There is no serious evidence that the Palestinian leadership both “secular” (Fatah) and religious (Hamas) want a state of their own that will live in peace with an Israeli state. There is, on the contrary, ample evidence that they will treat anything they get as a staging ground for further attacks.
  2. The Palestinians have, for all their opportunities, never been able to set up the infrastructure of a responsible state. The miserable career of Fayyad illustrates how far from a transparent governance, a fair juridical system, a competent administration they are. Why create a sure failure?
  3. This likelihood is all the greater if they get their concessions by means that involve going around the backs of the Israelis and having things forced on the Israelis. In honor-shame cultures, any time a foe is forced to make concessions it’s a sign of weakness, and an occasion to make further (violent) claims.
  4. As the withdrawal from Gaza showed, Hamas will eat Fatah within months of any power vacuum. Thus it is a near certainty that a Palestinian state will become a militant Jihadi state. Indeed, Daesh (ISIS) would probably eat Hamas as quickly as Hamas eats Fatah.
  5. With 51 Muslim majority states in the world, 22 Arab states, all of them either failures or worse, none of them solid democracies, most of them consistently belligerent to neighbors whether Arab or Muslim or not, why on earth would the world community want yet another guaranteed failed, bellicose, fascist, Jihadi state? Giving the current Palestinian leadership a state is like giving a crack-addicted teenager the keys to a fully-armed tank.
  6. There are people with a much greater claim on the world community’s values to have a state, peoples with their own language, in some cases their own religion, their own (real) history: Kurds, Berbers, Tibetans, Tamils, Chechens, etc. To give a state to a group with the same language, religion, and (until a generation ago) the same identity, as 22 other Arab ones sets a terrible precedent.
  7. The West faces an implacable enemy in global Jihad. It would be nothing short of reckless to create another major opening for Jihadi forces to take root and use state privileges to expand operations (e.g. diplomatic immunity).
  8. Israel represents the only civilizational ally the West has in the Middle East (pace Obama’s delusions about Turkey and his BFF Erdogan). To undermine her in a battle for her existence by empowering a genocidal movement with state power would be little short of insanely self-destructive. Without Israel, no Jordan, no Lebanon (however dysfunctional). No intelligence, no counter-weight to Jihadi impetus.
  9. To give in to the tyranny of a democracy of tyrannies in the UN is to undermine the very principles of international democracy.
  10. At this time, with an incompetent if not malevolent Palestinian leadership, with global Jihad the “strong horse,” and a Western world falling ill to the disease of anti-semitism and the outbreak of an aggressive Muslim “street,” it would be suicidal to press so foolish a policy.