October 31, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for February 1, 2012


New York Times Mideast Op-Ed Index for January 2012

A) Preventing a Nuclear Iran, Peacefully – Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull – January 15, 2012

Most important, when asked whether it would be better for both Israel and Iran to have the bomb, or for neither to have it, 65 percent of Israeli Jews said neither. And a remarkable 64 percent favored the idea of a nuclear-free zone, even when it was explained that this would mean Israel giving up its nuclear weapons.

The Israeli public also seems willing to move away from a secretive nuclear policy toward greater openness about Israel’s nuclear facilities. Sixty percent of respondents favored “a system of full international inspections” of all nuclear facilities, including Israel’s and Iran’s, as a step toward regional disarmament.

If Israel’s nuclear program were to become part of the equation, it would be a game-changer. Iran has until now effectively accused the West of employing a double standard because it does not demand Israeli disarmament, earning it many fans across the Arab world.

The peace process has been supplanted as the top concern of the opinion section of the New York Times, with concerns about  a nuclear Iran. A number of articles mention Israel, but for the most part, aren't about Israel. This one is. Telhami is famous for promoting the results of his polling (done by Zogby International) as the final word in wisdom.

Here he informs us that Israel should discard part of its strategic doctrine because the utopian ideal of a nuclear free Middle East is popular with Israel's citizens.

A few years ago, Michael Goldfarb wrote in response to President Obama's promotion of the Non-proliferation treaty:

The Obama administration may make Israel's nuclear deterrent a bargaining chip in their negotiations with Iran — negotiations that Secretary Gates says today have only a "very remote" chance of producing a favorable outcome. It's a big bet, but at least Obama's playing with someone else's security.

Telhami and his co-author are doing the exact same thing here. (Worse they're whitewashing Iran's belligerence and exaggerating Israel's.)

Current Scores – Anti-Israel – 1 / Pro-Israel – 0  

B) Don't Do It, Bibi – Roger Cohen – January 16, 2012

This sharp riposte reflects Obama’s fury at several things: the way Netanyahu has gone over his head to a Republican-dominated Congress where he is a darling; Netanyahu’s ingratitude for solid U.S. support, including the veto of an anti-settlements resolution at the United Nations last year and opposition to the unilateral Palestinian pursuit of statehood; the delaying tactics of Netanyahu reflecting his conviction Obama is likely a one-term president; and Netanyahu’s refusal to pause a second time in settlement building for the sake of peace negotiations.

I would add a further piece of advice to Netanyahu if he cares about his dysfunctional relationship with Obama — and he should because Israelis know the United States matters and might be disinclined to re-elect a man who has poisoned relations with Washington. That advice is: Do not attack Iran this spring or summer.

Netanyahu is tempted to bomb Iran in the next several months to set back its opaque nuclear program and — despite a call from Obama last Thursday and messages from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta — has declined to reassure the United States that he will not. Several factors, Iranian and American, incline Netanyahu to move soon.

These are all tropes, sentences Cohen writes automatically without thinking. He writes as if he is privy to  Netanyahu's thoughts (as well as the same intelligence reports the Prime Minister reads). His only goal here is to promote an image of Israel as a reckless, ungrateful ally. I suppose that if the year passes without an attack on Iran, Cohen can puff out his chest and boast that he persuaded Netanyahu not to attack. That would only be slightly more absurd than presuming that he knows what Netanyahu is going to do.

Current Scores – Anti-Israel – 2 / Pro-Israel – 0  


C) The Justice of Occupation – Ra'anan Alexanderowicz – January 24, 2012

Since the early years of the occupation, the Supreme Court has unwittingly found itself pushed into a corner time and again. Rather than functioning as the bastion of human rights that it was established to be, it has instead become the entity responsible for balancing the needs of a state engaged in a prolonged occupation with basic principles of democracy.

The is an accompanying film that I haven't watched, but if this is Alexanderowicz's premise, it's dishonest. Any effective occupation was over after 1995, when Israel withdrew from a vast majority of the areas captured in 1967, so that over 90% of Palestinians were now under Palestinian jurisdiction. Claiming that Israel's occupation unique, is undermined by the fact that it isn't an occupation and even it were it is not unique.

Aggravating this calumny is the fact that Israel's high court has taken the word of activists over that of the professional military to reroute the security barrier, when the barrier is deemed to inconvenience Palestinians too much despite the security concerns of the military.

Given that the New York Times often publishes op-ed decrying the supposed loss of freedom and assaults on democracy in Israel, it's odd for the editors to give space to someone who claims Israel isn't really a democracy. It's as if there is no libel too outrageous to be directed towards Israel.

Final Scores – Anti-Israel – 3 / Pro-Israel – 0  


About the methodology: I searched the New York Times website for opinion articles about Israel for the month of January, 2012. I didn't include letters to the editor and didn't include articles that were not substantially about Israel.
There were a number of op-eds in which Israel played a role but they weren't really about Israel. One Lechery, Immodesty and the Talmud, was really about a segment of Israeli society, so I didn't include it. The op-ed was neither pro- nor anti-Israel. However, it paled in comparison to Enough: Israel Crushes Extremism. Others Promote It at PJMedia, which covered the same controversy and showed how the controversy put Israel in a positive light. That is an approach that the New York Times isn't likely to take.
The impetus for this exercise is public editor Clark Hoyt's 2007 column The danger of the one-sided debate, in which he defended the publishing of an op-ed by Ahmed Yousef, a spokesman for Hamas. With the usual ratio of  at least 3 to 1 favoring Israel's critics, it can be safely said that the New York Times
need not fear that its opinion pages are too sympathetic to Israel.

About Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.