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April 30, 2016 / 22 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Associated Press’

How an Arab Reporter Pushes State Dept. to Deliver His Message

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Few people understand the echo chamber of the mainstream media. How is it that so many of the major media outlets share a particular understanding or take on certain controversial issues? In particular, how is the narrative of the poor, oppressed Palestinian Arabs suffering under the Israeli occupation so wide-spread and so entrenched?  Some reporting on the reporting will help you understand.

One laboratory to examine is the daily press briefing offered by the United States State Department. Just about every weekday either the department’s spokesperson, currently John Kirby – or one of his assistants – enters a small room, set up like a college classroom. The spokesperson strides to the podium, gives a brief overview of travel or other State Department news which has taken place since the previous briefing, and then takes questions from the reporters seated in the room.

The reporters ask about their outlet’s particular areas of interest, usually with respect to some late breaking news, in which the vast State Department plays a role. The  role of State’s spokesperson is to ensure that there is a unified and official “take” on whatever is happening.

National and international media outlets, such as the Associated Press, Reuters, NBC, Fox News and several dozen others, are eligible to be in the room. Somewhere between 10 and 50 reporters attend each briefing.

U.S. State Dept. Press Briefing Room.

U.S. State Dept. Press Briefing Room.

Typical questions of late have been about tensions between Syria and Turkey, or the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Not surprisingly, many questions over the past months have had to do with the ongoing war in Syria, the rise of ISIS and the west’s coalition to end that conflict.

But there is always one reporter in the room who raises differing versions of the same questions about the same topic. That reporter is Said Arikat, the D.C.-based reporter for the Palestinian Arab news outlet, Al-Quds. The JewishPress.com has reported on Arikat before.

Not surprisingly, Arikat is focused on the Arab-Israeli conflict. But what is surprising — what is, in fact, shocking — is that Arikat raises the question many different ways until he gets the very specific response he’s looking for from the State Department spokesperson. Some times they disappoint him.  Much of the time, they play right into his hands.

The responses Arikat fishes for are ones condemning Israel for any number of incidents – some real, but most exaggerated or entirely misrepresented. Sometimes Arikat is unsuccessful at evoking the response he so obviously desires.

Nonetheless, just asking his long-winded and convoluted questions provides him with the forum to present his version of the plight of the aggrieved Palestinian Arabs. And he does that day in and day out, in a room full of Washington, D.C. based national and international journalists.

Arikat is the Arab lobbyist in the briefing room. His audience is the State Department spokesperson, the elite journalists in the briefing room, and the readers and viewers who consume the news produced by those news outlets.

While Arikat is not always successful,  he is dogged enough, and is successful frequently enough, that he has been singularly responsible for headlines in major national and international media.  Watch how the sausage is actually made:

Here is the exchange between Arikat and State Dept. Spokesperson Kirby, on Wednesday, Dec. 9:

STATE DEPT. SPOKESPERSON KIRBY: Yeah, Said.

SAID ARIKAT: Can I have a couple questions about the Palestinian-Israeli issue? Today there was an article written by Israeli President Rivlin in The Washington Post talking about what Israel must do to sort of to pave the road towards peace and so on. I wonder if you saw it. He talks about the exchange of teachers and so on, maybe alleviating some of the hardships on the Palestinians, maybe look after the neglect of the Arab part of Jerusalem and so on. But he also ends by saying – basically expressing sorrow that he cannot bequeath the coming generations a peace that will endure, but he – they can bequeath some accomplishments and so on. Is that a – sort of – are you disappointed that we talk about coming generations, maybe – could you – another, like, 10, 20, 30 years and so on – is that your reading of what he is saying? Arikat is referring to the editorial discussed in Wednesday’s JewishPress.com. Arikat is laying the groundwork for pushing the Palestinian Arab demand for a Palestinian State.

KIRBY: What I would say is – I mean, even we’ve talked about the need for peace and security for coming generations and for the young children of the area right now that are seeing this violence. That’s no way for these youngsters to grow up. So I think we would share the president’s view that we want peace and security in coming generations. But also – and as the Secretary made very clear on Saturday – just – we talk about coming years, but even over the past several months, we’ve been encouraging all parties to take affirmative steps to reduce the tensions and to demonstrate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution. And again, as the Secretary said over the weekend, we hope both sides are going to make the choices that will advance the prospects for a lasting peace. We recognize how hard this is, but that’s our goal and that hasn’t changed. Kirby’s response is the U.S. mantra of seeking to “encourage” the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs to move forward, reduce tensions, and express their commitment to a two-state “solution” to the conflict.

ARIKAT: Because today marks the 27th anniversary of the first Palestinian intifada, and basically here we are, like third intifada later and so on, and they still endure under occupation and so on. There seems to be no end in sight for that occupation. So 22 years after negotiations began and so on, you as the broker of these negotiations really have not offered the Palestinians anything tangible in terms of ending the occupation, have they? The poor Palestinian Arabs are languishing, nearly thirty years after the first “intifada.” As if the intifada represents something that the Arabs did which should have entitled them to their own state, and yet, here they are, still, without one. The intifadas, of course, have been concentrated periods of rampant Jew-murdering by Palestinian Arabs. They have included the intentional shootings, homicide bombings, stabbings and mutilation of Jewish Israelis. This, Arikat seeks to convey, should entitle them to a state of their own, and an end to what he calls “the Occupation.”

MR KIRBY: Well, I think I’d rebut a little bit the idea that we’re the broker of negotiations. But what we want is – what we want is for both sides to work this out, to reduce the violence, and to take positive, affirmative steps to get to a two-state solution. That’s what both of them have said they want to see, and so what we want to see is them take the steps necessary to get there. Kirby pushes back, but not on the idea that the Palestinian Arabs are entitled to a state, or that they are under an occupation, or that the intifadas have been something that should merit a reward. No, Kirby doesn’t like the U.S. being referred to as the “broker of negotiations.” That, according to Kirby, is what was inaccurate about Arikat’s dramatic soliloquy.

ARIKAT: And one more – or maybe two more. Yesterday an Israeli court sentenced a Palestinian legislator woman – who’s really quite been a vocal voice on behalf of women’s rights, against extremism, a very progressive person – Khalida Jarrar for 15 months in prison under some sort of really made-up kind of charges of incitement and so on because she refused to leave her home in Ramallah and so on. Is that something that bothers you or disturbs you, that Israel can go and maybe in the middle of the night take someone and put them in prison for sort of trumped-up charges? Really? This is something that a reporter raises in a U.S. State Dept. press briefing?

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

‘Unify Syria, Divide Israel’ Says Kerry in Major Middle East Policy Address

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about U.S. Policy Towards the Middle East on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Kerry touched on many topics during his hour-long talk, including the Nuclear Iran Deal, ISIS, the war in Syria and, of course, the Arab-Israeli conflict.

GENESIS OF ISIS

Kerry claimed that ISIS – which is apparently now to be known in U.S. Diplo-talk as Daesh – arose out of the chaos during the early days of the Syrian Revolution, when poor, disillusioned Syrians were protesting in the streets because they just wanted jobs and a future.

But Bassar al-Assad’s thugs, Kerry explained, beat up those young people. Then the parents of the young people went out in the streets to clash with Assad’s thugs, who in turn used bullets and bombs on the protesting parents.

“Having made peaceful change impossible, Assad made war inevitable,” Kerry said. And then Assad turned to Hezbollah for help, and then to Iran and Russia, and this exacerbated tensions between Sunni and Shiite communities, and this paved the way for Daesh.

Kerry made clear the U.S. is not pleased with Russia’s role so far in the conflict, because instead of fighting ISIS, Russian airstrikes have been targeting Assad’s enemies.

But Kerry is committed to a political solution to the crisis – he apparently sees ISIS and the Syrian conflict as the same battle – and believes there must and will be a political transition that sidelines Assad.

Kerry claims that all the participants in the conflict agree that “the status quo is untenable.” Sound familiar?

We all agree that we need to find a way to have a political solution, we all agree that a victory by Daesh or any other terrorist group absolutely has to be prevented. We all agree that it’s imperative to save the state of Syria, and the institutions on which it is built and to preserve a united and secular Syria.

Kerry called on the Russians to get with the program and allow a transition “that will unite the country and will enable this beleaguered country to rehabilitate itself, bring back its citizens, and live in peace.”

That’s all. Not asking much. Just stop the fighting, unite the country, have free and fair elections, and all will be good.

SYRIA MUST BE UNITED; ISRAEL MUST BE DIVIDED

In contrast to Kerry’s insistence that Syria – a factionalized country with various warring ethnic groups none of which want to be controlled by the other – be united, Kerry’s diktat for Israel is the opposite.

Although Israel has gained territory repeatedly as the result of wars waged against it by belligerent outsiders, and which since the fall of the Ottoman Empire has never been ruled by any other nations, the U.S. demands that Israel must be divided.

STATUS QUO ON TEMPLE MOUNT GOOD; STATUS QUO IN ISRAEL BAD

And Kerry continued to insist that the status quo must be maintained on the Temple Mount – a status quo which prevents Jews from moving their lips lest they be deemed praying – but the status quo in which Israel does its best to defend its citizens must be terminated.

When not pointedly referring to Har Habayit, Kerry insisted that “the current situation is simply not sustainable. President Obama has said it publicly many times, I’ve said it publicly and it is absolutely vital for Israel to take steps that empower Palestinian leaders to improve economic opportunities and the quality of life for their people on a day to day basis.”

Really? Israel has to empower the leaders of the terrorists so that economic opportunities and their quality of life is improved? The PA, one of the single largest recipients of international aid ever?

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

ObamaDeal Exposed: It’s not ‘Secret’ from Congress but not in Writing

Friday, July 31st, 2015

The State Dept. was caught in yesterday’s press briefing claiming there were no “secret deals” with Iran but admitted that it has no written copy of the arrangements it is defending.

Associated Press journalist Matt Lee questioned spokesman Mark Toner at Thursday’s press briefing about many Congressmen’s concerns over IAEA access to Iran’s nuclear sites under the nuclear agreement.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker has said that IAEA director Dr. Yukiya Amano did not accept an invitation to testify at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the deal.

Toner declined to say whether Dr. Amano should testify but added:

There’s [sic] no secret deals, and we heard that expression thrown out constantly over the last couple of days. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The IAEA, which is the one that verifies – will verify this deal, does create arrangements with countries under what’s called the Additional Protocol.

And Under Secretary Sherman has already had a secure briefing with the House leadership talking about this arrangement, and we’ve continued to provide or we will continue to provide those briefings in a classified setting, as needed….

So the perception that this has somehow been – that Congress hasn’t been looped in on this, and what we know about these arrangements is, frankly, incorrect. But they’ve had to take place in a classified setting.

Fine and dandy, but the reasonable assumption is that someone knows about the arrangements.

Lee told the spokesman:

But the notion – you said the notion that Congress hasn’t been looped in, but you haven’t been looped in because you guys haven’t read it.

Toner admitted:

We haven’t received a written copy of it, but we have been briefed on the contents.

And Lee retorted:

So someone with a photographic memory has looked at it and copied everything down in their brain and then repeated it up on the Hill?

Toner fidgeted and explained that “nuclear experts with much bigger degrees than I can ever attain have looked at this and their comfort level with it is good.”

But that does not answer the question, “If there is no secret deal, why isn’t a written version available?

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Black Monday: Iran and P5+1 to Sign Deal

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

It’s all over except for the shouting and the crying, according to an Associated Press report that a deal with Iran has been completed and will be signed on Monday.

However, a senior State Dept. official maintained that “major issues remain to be resolved in these talks.”

AP’s Matt Lee, a veteran and highly reliable journalist, reported Sunday:

Negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks are expected to reach a provisional agreement Sunday on a historic deal that would curb the country’s atomic program in return for sanctions relief, diplomats told The Associated Press.

The two diplomats cautioned that final details of the pact were still being worked out Sunday afternoon and a formal agreement still awaits a review from the capitals of the seven nations at the talks. They said plans now are for the deal to be announced on Monday.

The regime’s PRESS TV headlined, “Iranian MPs hail nuclear negotiators’ resistance against US’ excessive demands.”

The legislators issued a statement that included a rejection of “any inspection of the Iranian military sites, interviews with Iranian scientists and imposing restrictions on the country’s nuclear research and development.”

The key issue of inspections will be examined with a microscope, especially by Congress, which will have 60 days to review a final agreement.

A deal will be bitter if not deadly pill for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to swallow, and Israel can be expected to hound Congressmen to try to torpedo it, which will not be simple.

President Barack Obama undoubtedly will dismiss as rhetoric for local consumption the belligerent sneers from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the United States is “the absolute embodiment of arrogance” and an enemy of Iran.

Politico reported last week it is “very unlikely” that Congress can kill the deal unless there is a full-scale rebellion by Democrats. Americans, already gearing up for next year’s Congressional and presidential elections, view the ISIS , the economy and immigration policies as more serious issues than a nuclear-armed Iran, which President Obama will claim won’t happen under the agreement.

Congress would have to come up with a solid majority, perhaps even a veto-proof two-thirds majority, in order to nullify the agreement. Ironically, it is the Arab countries that might be able to twist Congressmen’s arms against the deal.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told Politico:

If the Arabs come out and say this is a bad deal, if AIPAC says this is a bad deal, if public opinion says we don’t trust this deal, then our Democratic colleagues will hopefully come forward to say, ‘We can do better.’

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Social Security Administration Paid $20 Million to Nazi Suspects

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

The Social Security Administration of the United States paid 130 suspected Nazi war criminals $20.2 million in benefits before this year’s new “No Social Security for Nazis Act” took effect, the Associated Press reported.

The amount of money is far greater than previously estimated and provides further evidence that thousands of former Nazis, including SS guards, lied their way into the United States, denied their past and then collected federal  benefits after retiring.

The Justice Dept. also used a legal loophole to offer Social Security payments to suspected Nazis who agreed to leave the United States until this year’s act ended the practice.

A full report of a federal investigation, prompted by a previous AP story, is to be released later this week.

The news agency said it obtained a copy of the report of payments to Nazi war criminals since 1962. No names are listed in the report, but the Social Security Administration obviously has the names, raising questions of whether it and the Justice Dept. are protecting them from possible prosecution for war crimes.

The American government was inactive when it came to looking for Nazis until it established its own unit in 1979 to hunt them.

After the original AP report last year, New York Democrat Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney asked Social Security to investigate, and she said on Saturday that the report shows the recipients included confirmed Nazis.

She said in a statement:

We must continue working to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust and hold those responsible accountable. One way to do that is by providing as much information to the public as possible. This report hopefully provides some clarity.

The report said 38 formers Nazis received $5.6 million before being deported while 95 suspected Nazis, whose possible war crimes were not confirmed, continued to collect $14.5 million.

Jewish Press Staff

Tony Blair Steps Down as Quartet Middle East Envoy but No One Cares

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

Tony Blair has stepped down as the Quartet’s Middle East envoy, and there is a possibility that no one will be named to replace him since there really is not much to do except  travel and rack up hotel bills.

The London Daily Record headlined his announcement with:

Tony Blair’s greatest achievement after six years as special envoy to the Middle East? Both sides detest him

Our own headline above actually is a bit misleading, because there really are plenty of people who care that he has quit, mainly the British taxpayers.

Blair is a multi-millionaire many times over. He does not receive a salary as envoy but his perks are enough to keep anyone in the pink forever.

He has flown more than 100 times since he took up the post as Quartet envoy in 2007 and has stayed with his 12-person entourage at a Jerusalem five-star hotel for approximately $1.5 million a year, the Record reported.

He and his staff have a penthouse office in eastern Jerusalem on a road known as Millionaires’ Row.

The Quartet consisting of Britain, the United States, the United Nations and Russia, has been paying $3 million a year for the privilege of letting Blair pretend he is busy.

He has been under constant criticism for doing little except occupying his office one week a month, and his knowledge of the Middle East does not go much beyond the fact that his wife’s half-sister Sarah Jane Booth converted to Islam after a “spiritual” experience in Iran.

U.S. State Dept, Jeff Rathke had a difficult time on Wednesday explaining to nosy reporters exactly what he has done for the Quartet, one of the brainstorms of the American government.

Rathke said:

 Tony Blair has been a valued partner and friend in our effort to bring peace to the Middle East, and as Quartet representative, he’s worked tirelessly and passionately to advance economic growth in the West Bank and Gaza over the past eight years.

What role is there for the Quartet in any kind of future negotiations?” asked one journalist, to which Rathke responded with a long answer that in one word said, “Nothing.”

In his words:

The Quartet plays an important role in keeping the partners – the EU, Russia, UN, the United States – engaged, up to date, and supporting the goal of the two-state solution…. But certainly we think the Quartet is an important format to support, work toward an Israeli – solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee persisted and asked, “But when you say that it plays an important role, surely you have some kind of reason to say that. Right?”

Wrong.

Rathke turned on the tape recorder and stated:

As I said, the members of the Quartet all have important roles to play. The Quartet brings them together, allows them to share views.

But can Rathke “name a single accomplishment that the Quartet [since 2002] has – I mean, they presented – they came up with George Mitchell and the roadmap, but it was never implemented. I mean, what exactly has the Quartet done to further the cause of a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians?”

Here is his non-answer:

Until the goal of a two-state solution has been achieved, then you can’t say that there’s been success…. We think it’s important that the Quartet exists and that the Quartet brings together key parties to support the negotiation process and the outcome we all desire.

Wait a minute, If it is “important that the Quarter exists” then who will replace Blair?

Rathke said:

I’m not aware of current plans to replace Tony Blair as Quartet representative.

But didn’t he say it is an important position?

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

State Dept.: Iran ‘Hoodwinked Countries but This Time It’s Different

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

An assistant Secretary of State has said that Iran “hoodwinked” Latin American countries and did not honor agreements, but Foggy Bottom says nuclear talks are a separate issue, so don’t worry.

Following are remarks from Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere to retirees on Foreign Service Day Friday:

The involvement of Iran in the Western Hemisphere is never benign. I want to underscore that: it is never benign. Iran signed an enormous number of agreements with countries in the region, almost none of which have come to any real fruition or benefit for those – for the countries of the hemisphere….

I do think that there are fewer countries that get kind of – that kind of get hoodwinked by Iran.

She also said that economic sanctions on Iran have made it difficult for it to follow through with several agreements and that Iran’s desire to be a greater influence in the West requires close monitoring.

First of all, sanctions work. Second of all, Iran cannot be trusted.

The third statement would seem to be that the United States cannot trust Iran to honor an agreement on its nuclear activity and should not lift sanctions, but the State Dept. differs.

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked State Dept. spokesman Jeff Rathke on Friday to explain otherwise, and here is how he tried to wiggle out of Logic 101:

That is a separate issue from the nuclear talks which are focused on Iran’s nuclear program…: I think there’s a difference between the types of agreements you’re talking about.  You’re referring to agreements …on economic cooperation and other such things.

What we’re talking about in the nuclear context is, first of all, a situation where there is a unified international community where there are international sanctions, a wide variety of them, UN sanctions, United States sanctions, European Union sanctions, as well as others, that put pressure on Iran and also that make it in Iran’s interest to deal with those sanctions and to negotiate on the nuclear program.

And how about the billions of dollars that would flow into Iran’s coffers when sanctions are lifted in return for a deal? “Are you not concerned at all that what you don’t see now in terms of a growing Iranian threat in the Western Hemisphere will become a concern if Iran suddenly has a windfall of billions and billions of dollars in money? Lee asked.

No problem, Rathke answered.

“We have separate ways of dealing with other problematic behavior by Iran, whether it’s in regional context, whether it’s support for terrorism, and so forth.  So that’s why we’re focused on the nuclear issue.  And if Iran meets all of its required steps under an eventual joint comprehensive plan of action, then the world will be a safer place because of it.” he said.

Note the two-letter word “if.”

But didn’t Asst. Sec. of State Jacobson say Iran’s presence in the west is “never benign”? So this time it will be different?

“Well,” Rathke said, “we remain concerned about those – about Iran’s activities and we will remain vigilant about them and we retain the tools to deal with them.”

Vice-President Joe Biden is very concerned, or at least that is what he said last week to a Washington think tank, to wit:

“Despite good reasons to think that most of it [money] will go to urgent domestic needs, some or all of it may fund further mischief in the region.”

Rathke reiterated “we are vigilant.”

Therefore, so the “logic” goes, Obama won’t get hoodwinked.

 

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/state-dept-iran-hoodwinked-countries-but-this-time-its-different/2015/05/03/

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