Flawed on Israel
December 3, 2001
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With public attention focused on Israel following the suicide bombings there over the weekend, it's worth taking a careful look at the New York Times's coverage of the Middle East. This morning's news coverage is typically opinionated, contradictory, and riddled with falsehoods and distortions.
The most glaringly error-ridden piece is an obituary in today's Times of Mohammed Kamel. The Times writes that Kamel "resigned as Egypt's foreign minister in 1978 in protest against the Camp David peace accords with Israel, predicting accurately that they would isolate Egypt in the Arab world without resolving the Palestinian question." The Times obituary backs up the claim that Kamel's prediction was accurate by noting that after the Camp David accord, "most Arab nations severed diplomatic relations with Cairo." But the Times never notes that the severance was temporary, and that virtually all Arab nations have now resumed diplomatic relations with Egypt, notwithstanding the Camp David accord. That makes Mr. Kamel's prediction look less "accurate" and more shortsighted.
The Times obituary notes as context that "Efforts to secure greater autonomy for the Palestinians were hampered by the spread of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, by Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem in 1980 and its subsequent invasion of Lebanon. Twenty years later, the Palestinians still have no state, and relations with Israel remain bitter." This summary of the events of 20 years, delivered in the voice of the Times news department without attribution to any diplomat or scholar, is amazingly one-sided. The condition of the Palestinian Arabs, in this account, is entirely determined by Israeli behavior. Left out as factors that may have "hampered" efforts to secure greater autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs are the decisions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization leadership to side with the Soviet Union in the Cold War and with Iraq in the Gulf War. Also omitted are the PLO's refusal to accept Israel's right to exist, and the PLO's decision to use attacks on Israeli and American civilians as tactics in its struggle. Nor does the Times summary reflect the fact that the Palestinian Arabs indeed have secured greater autonomy in the past 20 years. That, too, makes Mr. Kamel's prediction look less "accurate" and more shortsighted.
The opinionated, anti-Israel voice of the Times news department makes another appearance in a front-page dispatch from Washington today. The Times writes, "But Mr. Bush knows that he does not have the luxury of dealing with militant groups in the Palestinian territories, Syria and Lebanon the way he is dealing with them in Afghanistan." It's unclear how the Times can say with such authority what President Bush does or does not "know." Maybe the newspaper has hired a mind-reader as its Washington correspondent. Moreover, what Mr. Bush is said to "know" is in fact highly questionable from a policy perspective. Smartertimes.com could just as easily assert, "Mr. Bush knows that he does not have the luxury of ignoring the terrorist groups in the Palestinian territories, Syria and Lebanon the way he and President Clinton did the ones in Afghanistan before September 11." Senator Schumer, to his credit, is quoted later on in the article saying, "The P.L.O. is the same as the Taliban, which aids, abets and provides safe haven for terrorists. And Israel is like America, simply trying to protect its home front. To ask Israel to negotiate with Arafat is like asking America to negotiate with Mullah Muhammad Omar, the chief of the Taliban." The Times doesn't say Mr. Schumer "knows" this, it just says he "said" it.
Finally, in a front-page "news analysis," the Times bureau chief in Jerusalem asserts, "For 10 months, the Bush administration avoided what it saw as the thankless task of peacemaking here. In retrospect, that looks like a policy of malign neglect, because in the interim, the conflict ground away trust and good will between not only Israeli and Palestinian leaders but also between their people." Well, there wasn't much trust and good will to begin with. And maligning the Bush administration for it is a bit of a reach. A New York Times editorial today refers to Yasser Arafat's "disastrous decision 14 months ago to countenance a new armed campaign against Israel." That decision can't in fairness be blamed on the Bush administration, which had not yet even been elected.
Capital Gains: An article in the international section of today's New York Times reports that Swiss voters rejected a measure to impose a capital gains tax. "The vote leaves Switzerland and Greece the only two European countries that do not impose such a levy," the Times reports. That's inaccurate, so far as Smartertimes.com can tell. Germany in most cases has no tax on long-term capital gains by individuals. And while Poland plans to adopt a capital gains tax on individuals in 2003, it does not impose one now. An Arthur Andersen study conducted in 1998 for the American Council for Capital Formation found that Belgium and the Netherlands had no capital gains taxes on individuals, but it is possible that the tax laws in those countries have changed since 1998 as the European Union has pressed for standardization.
Most Generous: An item in the arts section of today's New York Times reports, "The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington announced on Saturday that it had received a $10 million grant from the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation for a 10-year performance series, the most generous gift to the arts since Sept. 11, said James A. Johnson, Kennedy Center chairman." It's unclear how the Times can let this "most generous" claim slide unchallenged, given that the New York Times itself reported on Sunday that the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater last Wednesday announced a $15 million gift from Sanford I. Weill and his wife Joan. A larger gift is not necessarily a more generous one, but in the absence of any additional details, it is hard to see how the Times can defend airing the Kennedy Center claim without making reference to the Weill gift.
Sub-Sonic: An article in the business section of today's New York Times reports on a new "transportation device." The postal service plans to test the device in "Concorde, N.H.," the Times reports. Hmm. Wonder if the New Yorke Times also thinks the early battles of the American Revolution were at Lexington and "Concorde, Mass."
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