Not Well Informed
January 22, 2001
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In his speech back in September about "persistent accuracy problems" at the New York Times, the newspaper's executive editor, Joseph Lelyveld, made particular mention of the problem the Times has reporting what the U.N. resolutions say about Israel.
"Three times in recent months we've had to run corrections on the actual provisions of U.N. Resolution 242, providing great cheer and sustenance to those readers who are convinced we are opinionated and not well informed on Middle East issues," Mr. Lelyveld said then.
Well, Smartertimes.com is among those readers who are convinced that the Times is opinionated and not well informed on Middle East issues. Mr. Lelyveld's speech notwithstanding, the Times screws up this issue yet again in today's paper.
A dispatch from Taba, Egypt, in the international section of today's New York Times says, "The Palestinians, however, continue to assert the centrality of United Nations resolutions calling on Israel to dismantle settlements and to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders."
There is no binding U.N. resolution calling on Israel "to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders," no matter how many times the Arabs and the New York Times mistakenly assert that there is.
As Mr. Lelyveld's speech suggested, the key U.N. resolution on the subject is Security Council Resolution 242. As Smartertimes.com wrote on September 6, 2000, Resolution 242 "explicitly does not refer to 'all territory.' The key sentence in 242 speaks of 'Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.' That small three-letter word 'all' may seem like a minor point, but it has a long history, as anyone who knows anything about the Arab-Israeli conflict would understand. As the book 'Myths and Facts' recounts, when Resolution 242 was being debated, the Soviet Union's delegate at the U.N. and the Arab delegates wanted the key clause to say 'all the territories.' As the book records, the American ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Arthur Goldberg, explained, 'The notable omissions -- which were not accidental -- in regard to withdrawal are the words "the" and "all" . . . the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.'"
In other words, the governing resolution explicitly does not call for Israel "to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders." America would have vetoed any such resolution that came to the Security Council. Resolution 242 further recognizes the right of "every State in the area" "to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force." The notion of "secure. . .boundaries" arguably precludes an Israeli withdrawal to the "pre-1967 borders," which leave an Israel so narrow that Abba Eban, no right-wing extremist, referred to them as the "Auschwitz borders."
It's remarkable that after running three corrections on this topic and having Mr. Lelyveld mention it prominently in a speech to the paper's top editors, the New York Times is still getting it wrong.
No Republicans Need Apply: The Arts section of today's New York Times features a warm profile of an architect, James Stewart Polshek. He has designed the Clinton presidential library that is planned for Little Rock, Ark. The Times notes parenthetically, about midway through the story, that Mr. Polshek "said he would never design a library for a Republican president." This isn't particularly troubling -- it's a free country, and architects should be able to choose their clients freely. What's weird is the way the Times lets this comment pass without further comment or explanation -- as if its readers would all understand completely the thinking of a distinguished architect who, just on the face of it, would refuse to accept a commission for a Republican presidential library. Would Mr. Polshek rule out even a building for Abraham Lincoln? The Times doesn't ask, though it does note that Mr. Polshek designed a printing plant for the New York Times.
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