September 6, 2001
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A dispatch from Jerusalem in today's New York Times reports on Avraham Burg's effort to become leader of Israel's Labor Party. "As party leader, Mr. Burg could be expected to distance himself from the government's hard-line policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, certainly far more that Mr. Ben-Eliezer, who has helped shape those policies," the Times reports.
What is "hard line" about the current policies of the Israeli government? If anything, the government has shown remarkable restraint in the face of attacks on Israeli civilians. It has not launched large-scale retaliatory attacks against Palestinian civilians. It has not fully retaken the West Bank and Gaza. It has not launched any retaliatory strikes against Iran. It has accepted the Mitchell Commission's call for a "settlement" freeze and a return to the negotiating table after the cessation of Arab attacks.
The Times goes on to describe Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Mr. Burg's rival for the Labor Party leadership, as "a security hard-liner." Is anyone in Israel a security soft-liner? Would the Times ever describe them as such? (Answer: No. The opposite of the hard-liners are the "peace camp," at least to judge by today's account.) It seems like anything short of standing idly by and surrendering while Israeli civilians are slaughtered in terrorist attacks will get an Israeli leader branded a "hard-liner" by the New York Times.
Baffling: To get a sense of where the New York Times is coming from in its Israel coverage, check out the dispatch from Cairo in today's Times. "Arab governments do not see any prospect of a wider war growing out of the violence in Israel," the Times announces in the first paragraph of this article, which runs under a headline that reads in part, "Arabs Expect No Wider War." The article goes on for 32 paragraphs about how the Arabs don't expect a wider war -- without a single mention of the June 9 article in Al-Hayat by Saudi Arabia's ambassador in London. That article called for a repetition of the 1973 surprise attack on Israel by the Arabs on Yom Kippur and said, according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute, "I warn you that entirely ruling out the option of war from the agenda, is the surest guarantee for the continuation of Israel's superiority."
And while many of the Arabs the Times interviews say they don't expect a wider war -- and the Times apparently believes them -- the Arabs sure are spending a lot of money on weapons. Egypt, for instance, is arming itself with North Korean missile technology. Given that most of these Arab countries are so poor, it is interesting that they are spending so much on offensive weaponry if they expect "no wider war." The Times doesn't note that, either.
The Times does assert, however, that "Even Syria, an implacable foe of Israel, long avoided any open confrontation during the decades that Hafez al-Assad ran the country." The Times does note Syria's proxy war with Israel in Southern Lebanon. Still, it's just strange for the Times to assert that Hafez al-Assad -- who sent 1,400 Syrian tanks rolling into the Golan Heights on Yom Kippur of 1973 -- avoided open confrontation. He avoided it after he lost the war in 1973, and he ruled a long time after that, but to describe that post-1973 period without noting the 1973 attack is just sophistry. The
Times also asserts that "Both Egyptian and Jordanian officials and analysts said they also found it baffling that Israel, just as it was beginning to win some acceptance in the Middle East with trade offices and the like, should toss it all aside and try to pummel the Palestinians into submission." This is really laughable. The Times lets it slide right by, as if the recent violence was really just a unilateral attempt by Israel "to pummel the Palestinians into submission," and not an uprising of violence orchestrated by the Palestinian Arabs against which Israel has been forced to take defensive measures.
The whole concept of a story headlined "Arabs Expect No Wider War" is pretty absurd to begin with. If the Arabs were about to attack, you think they'd announce it to the visiting correspondent of the New York Times? They didn't in 1973.
Late Again: The New York Times business section reports today on interviews it had with the incoming and outgoing executives of General Electric. The Wall Street Journal yesterday ran news stories about its interviews with the same executives. The Times coverage today adds very little; if you read the Journal yesterday, it's safe to skip today's coverage in the Times.
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