October 25, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for March 26, 2012


1) The Perils of Lara

When we last found Lara Friedman, the Director of Policy and Government Relations of Americans for Peace Now, she was in Doha Qatar attending the International Conference on Jerusalem at the end of February. This was an Arab League event dedicated to fighting the "Judaization" of Jerusalem.

Her first day at the conference was an eye opener. As she wrote in the Forward at the time.

Speakers at Sunday’s opening session, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, one after another laid out laundry lists of criticisms of Israel — many of them regrettably marked with exaggerations. All also spoke a great deal about Muslim and Christian attachments to Jerusalem and the importance of defending the holy sites and communities associated with both religions. However, only one speaker, Michel Sabbah, formerly the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, mentioned any Jewish connection to the city. This is a serious problem. If President Abbas cannot acknowledge Jewish claims in Jerusalem, even as he asserts Palestinian claims (a problem Yasser Arafat suffered from), he should not be surprised if it is more difficult for Israelis and Jews, wherever they are, to believe that he can be trusted in a peace agreement that leaves Jerusalem sites precious to Jews under Palestinian control.

If representatives of the organization that sponsored the Arab Peace Initiative cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the legitimacy of Jewish equities in Jerusalem, they should know that they discredit their own professed interest in peace. Their framing of the future of Jerusalem as a zero-sum game only makes it more likely that Israel will continue asserting its current power over East Jerusalem to hinder the vision of two states living in peace with a Jerusalem as a shared capital.

All throughout the day, it was unfortunately the same story. Participants talked about Jerusalem as if Jewish history did not exist or was a fraud — as if all Jewish claims in the city were just a tactic to dispossess Palestinians. Here I do need to acknowledged the one person the entire day who I heard speak in a serious, credible way on this matter: veteran Palestinian diplomat Afif Safieh. In closing one of the afternoon sessions, Safieh emphasized the international consensus around the idea that in Jerusalem it is necessary to reconcile two national narratives — Israeli and Palestinian — and three religious narratives, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. Safieh made clear that he thought this was still possible with a two state solution with two capitals in Jerusalem, an Israeli capital in the west and a Palestinian capital in the east.

Note the tone. It is not one of anger but of disappointment. Never mind that she had just heard the President of the Palestinian Authority effectively violate the agreements the PA had signed with Israel.

The next day she felt better, though.

There were four committees that met and delivered final reports at the conference. The Civil Society committee was the only one of the four that mentioned anything like this. And while I didn't agree with every word of the entire report, I think this report's framing is thoughtful, constructive and pro-peace — framing anchored in tolerance and recognition of the equities of all parties in Jerusalem.

I can't say for sure how the report of this committee would have come out if I had not been there and had not spoken up. I am confident that it would not have looked like this. For those who demand that we refuse to engage with people who hold different points of view, my experience in Doha is a powerful reminder of how small-minded such an approach is.

This is the her great victory. She got her working group to issue a statement that didn't totally deny Jewish history! Wow! I challenge you to find any reference to this declaration at the conference's website. The website's only acknowledged statement is called the "Doha declaration." Here's how it starts:

International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem has praised the proposal of HH the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani calling for approaching the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution on forming an international commission to investigate all the actions taken by Israel since the 1967 occupation in Arab Jerusalem, in order to erase its Islamic and Arabic identity.

Friedman's been very clear. She went as a private individual, not as a representative of APN. APN said that they had nothing to do with the conference. But it's very clear that she was invited to Doha because of her affiliation which is listed at the conference's website. She was used by the Arab League to be a token "Zionist" at the conference. That her views were ignored and that the views expressed were antithetical to peace did not bother her too much.

Yesterday, Lara Friedman took to the JTA, to tell us the real problem with the Middle East with Stop the excuses, boycott the settlements (via Daled Amos):

Dayenu. Enough with the handwringing and self-righteous declarations that boycotting fellow Jews is wrong. If the Jewish community is looking for a kosher stamp on a settlement boycott, it should look directly at Israel and follow the lead of engaged, unapologetically patriotic Israelis who are taking a stand by boycotting settlements, including prominent academics and artists and Peace Now, which last year launched its campaign: So sue me, I'm boycotting settlement products.

These Israelis know that settlements are an existential threat to Israel. They're fed up waiting for Israeli leaders to come to their senses and end this suicidal policy. They’ve given up hoping that the international community will pressure Israel on this issue. They're voting with their feet — and their pocketbooks — against settlements.

For those who argue that boycotting settlements won’t make any difference politically or economically, the Israeli right’s reaction to boycott efforts says otherwise. Indeed, the pro-settler lobby and its Knesset partisans are terrified of settlement boycotts — so much so that they passed an openly undemocratic law criminalizing them. As a result, in Israel today it's legal to boycott everything but settlements.

First of all note the tone. It's not disappointment, but outrage with, perhaps, at little hatred thrown in for good measure. Oh, and she uses a Hebrew word.

It's interesting that Friedman calls Israelis who agree with her view of settlements to be patriotic. I believe that election results show that maybe 20% of the electorate (including Arabs) would be patriotic by her standards.

Really, I'm not bothered by her boycotting settlements. I am much more bothered by her giving cover to Israel's enemies and pretending that there was some noble purpose in doing so. Friedman's outrage directed at Israelis who disagree with her contrasts sharply with the seeming understanding she extends to Israel's enemies. How she calls herself a "Zionist" is beyond me. Over this past month, Friedman has thoroughly discredited herself. APN must take the next step now and cut all ties to her.

2) Fisking Fisk

In the blogging age the term to "fisk" has come to be defined as "pointing out the factual mistakes in a reporter's work." The term derives from Robert Fisk, an anti-Israel, anti-Western writer who "reports" for The Independent. Now it appears that Fisk has received the ultimate fisking.

3) The baby libel

For a while now, Gaza has been suffering from power outages due to a dispute between Hamas and Egypt. It has gotten precious little press, presumably because Israel could in no way be blamed for it. Elder of Ziyon has been covering this ongoing story and noted last week that Hamas was blaming everyone else, but Gazans were catching on.

Hamas used the energy crisis to blame Israel for the death of a baby, but the AP caught on. Anti-Israel writer, M. J. Rosenberg (defended by J J Goldberg as someone who loves Israel) has also blamed Israel for the baby's death.

The New York Times has finally seen fit to report on Gaza's energy crisis:.

At the request of the Palestinian Authority, which has no access to Gaza, Israel allowed some 450,000 liters of fuel to be trucked through its Kerem Shalom border crossing on Friday, when it is usually closed. Maj. Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the Israeli authority responsible for the crossings, said that amount would be enough for no more than two days..

Over the last year, Hamas stopped paying the Palestinian Authority for Israeli-supplied fuel and relied on cheaper fuel smuggled through tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egypt border. In recent months Egypt has tried to end the practice and to have Gaza import fuel from Egypt legally, also via the Israeli border crossing, a request that Hamas refused. Hamas wants the fuel to arrive directly from Egypt to Gaza.

Question: If Israel could have been blamed for the gas shortage, would the New York Times have waited so long to report on it?

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.