Blame Israel First
July 26, 2001
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Today's New York Times features a front-page "special report" on how Israel and Ariel Sharon, as much as Yasser Arafat, are to blame for the failure of the "Quest for Mideast Peace." The article is so flawed it's hard to know where to start, but let's start with the subheadline: "Many Now Agree That All The Parties, Not Just Arafat, Were to Blame."
That's not even what the article says. The article, to the contrary, says that in Israel and the United States, a "narrative has taken hold" that says Mr. Arafat was to blame, "but many diplomats and officials believe that the dynamic was far more complex and that Mr. Arafat does not bear sole responsibility for the breakdown of the peace effort." Of course, a headline that said, "Same 20 Diplomats Who Have Been Pursuing Failed Mideast Peace Process For a Decade Are Still Making Excuses for Arafat, Blaming Israel and Clinging to Flawed Assumptions" doesn't exactly have the same New York Times front-page ring to it.
The first such official or diplomat quoted in the article is the U.N. special envoy. This is an envoy of the same U.N. that declared Zionism is racism and that to this day is refusing to release to Israel videotape that could help lead to the capture of Hezbollah terrorists.
The article's own flawed assumptions are bared later on in the story, in this paragraph: "Yet relatively few Israelis, Palestinian or outside observers believe that there can be a military solution to their conflict -- or that a solution can be imposed. Thus the two sides will eventually have to return somehow to some kind of talks."
Flawed assumption No. 1: There are "two sides." Without support from Iran, Iraq, Syria (and Syria's puppet state, Lebanon) and Egypt, the Palestinian Arabs would be in a much weaker position. If America or Israel succeeds in assisting free, democratic opposition forces in those countries in overthrowing the existing regimes, Israel's strategic position would change dramatically. It's as if the Times were writing about U.S.-Soviet negotiations in 1987 without taking into account the possibility that Poland, East Germany and the rest of the Warsaw Pact countries might ever break free.
Flawed assumption No. 2: "The two sides" are constant. This is like writing about U.S.-Soviet negotiations in 1987 while assuming that the Communist Party will always rule Russia. Perhaps some non-Arafat Palestinians will emerge as Israel's negotiating partner. Perhaps Mr. Arafat will die. Perhaps the Palestinian Arabs will realize that Mr. Arafat and his terrorist gangsters have brought them nothing but trouble.
The diplomats and officials will of course dismiss the possibilities of spreading democracy and freedom in the Middle East as remote, but, of course, they were saying the same thing about Eastern Europe back during the Cold War. And one good way to make sure that the Arabs stay under the boot of dictators is for the diplomats and officials and the Times constantly to dismiss the possibility of change or to not even consider the possibility.
In fact, the headline on today's story -- "Quest for Mideast Peace: How and Why It Failed" -- is unwittingly apt. The reason the quest failed was not, as the article claims, because of Israeli intransigence, but because the diplomats clung -- and still cling -- so persistently to their assumption that Israel can achieve peace by negotiating with an unfree, undemocratic, terrorist partner. Today's Times article, for all its flaws, is a useful contribution because it illuminates how persistently the diplomats and officials and their stenographers at the Times cling to that assumption in the face of the mountain of evidence that contradicts it.
School Evaluation: An editorial in today's New York Times defends the New York City schools chancellor in his refusal to implement a Compstat system under which superintendents and principals would be held accountable in weekly meetings. The Times writes, "The most obvious difference between the police and the school system has to do with the data being collected. The Police Department's Compstat meetings focus on crime data that comes in daily, with the aim of getting officers to tamp down minor outbreaks of crimes before they harden into trends. By contrast, the math and reading scores on which superintendent evaluations will partly depend come from standardized tests that are administered only twice a year." This is pure excuse-making. There are any number of school-performance measures that could be tracked on a daily or weekly basis: student attendance, teacher attendance, crime in schools, leaks in school roofs, student performance on quizzes, grades on homework.
The Times writes, "Surely the schools chancellor is in the best position to judge what approach will work best." Why defer so much to a chancellor who heads a failing system?
Note: Smartertimes.com is in Massachusetts today and is operating off the New England edition of the New York Times.
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