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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Camp David’

Those Calls For A Boycott Of The New York Times

Friday, August 31st, 2001

One reading Deborah Sontag's front-page article in the July 26th issue of The New York Times could well understand the calls one hears lately for Jews to suspend their Times subscriptions over its outrageous coverage of the Middle East. Ms. Sontag's piece is transparent revisionism which well serves the seeming omnipresent effort to shift the blame for the collapse of Camp David from the Palestinians to something systemic to the Middle East conflict. It almost seems that Ms. Sontag and others now hawking the same line are following a scenario scripted by Arafat lieutenants intent on minimizing Israeli concessions at Camp David and thereby set the stage for the next phase of negotiations.

It will be recalled that several weeks ago, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Manhattan's Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun and the Ramaz School announced a campaign for a 10 day suspension of subscriptions to the Times during the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. More recently, the president of Brooklyn's Yeshiva of Flatbush wrote to parents informing them that the school was “suspending all of the school's subscriptions to The New York Times and notifying the paper that we are doing so as a direct result of the distortions.” Similar calls abound on the Internet.

Ms. Sontag's piece was entitled “Quest For Mideast Peace: How And Why It Failed,” and carried the sub-heading, “Many Now Agree That All The Parties, Not Just Arafat, Were to Blame.” Early on in the article, she fleshes out what she is about:

During the largely ineffectual cease-fire now under way in the Middle East, peace advocates, academics and diplomats have begun excavating … to see what can be learned from the diplomacy right before and after the outbreak of violence. Their premise is that any renewal of peace talks, however remote that seems right now, would have to use the Barak-Clinton era as a point of departure or as an object lesson ? or both.

In the tumble of the all-consuming violence, much has not been revealed or examined. Rather, a potent, simplistic narrative has taken hold in Israel, and to some extent in the United States. It says: Mr. Barak offered Mr. Arafat the moon at Camp David last summer. Mr. Arafat turned it down, and then “pushed the button” and chose the path of violence. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is insoluble, at least for the foreseeable future.

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.

Sontag's reference to “peace advocates, academics and diplomats” and her use of the phrase “many diplomats and officials believe” should have been fair warning of what was to come. But after all, her story was on the front page of The New York Times and surely we were to be given newly discovered facts.

Unfortunately, in her article, which runs over three pages and is longer than anything in memory since the Pentagon Papers story almost thirty years ago, Ms. Sontag offers up a one-sided pastiche of amateur psychology, anecdotes, dinner stories, opinion, speculation, innuendo and conclusions from an array of second and third tier officials apparently chosen because of their support for her thesis. The public statements of Messers. Clinton and Barak are cavalierly dismissed. That Arafat offered no counter proposal to the Israeli offer is not addressed. Nor is the fact that Palestinian violence erupted promptly after the collapse of the talks. Nor does she mention the public statements of Palestinian officials which confirmed that resort to violence was a calculated Palestinian tactic.

In an editorial several days later, “Looking Back At Camp David,” The Times continued the outrage even as it implicitly acknowledged the shortcomings of the Sontag article:

An article by The Times's Deborah Sontag this week reported on some newly revealed aspects of last year's failed search for a negotiated agreement. The story suggests that both Ehud Barak, who was then the Israeli prime minister, and Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, made political and diplomatic miscalculations, as did President Bill Clinton and his aides….

Mr. Arafat did not offer any proposals of his own at Camp David. When the talks failed, he condoned the violent uprising that broke out in late September. (Emphasis ours.)

Suggests? A news report deemed worthy of the front page of The New York Times suggests? There is nothing to remark about the intentions and motives of someone who does not even respond to an offer? And in context, was the choice of the word condoned really an honest one?

In giving prominence to Sontag's astonishing contrivance and attempting to make it more digestible, The Times, perhaps more vividly than ever before, revealed its pro-Palestinian partisan agenda. So it should not be surprised at the growing feeling in the Jewish community that The Times should not be supported while it pursues that agenda.

Sontag’s New Bandwagon

Wednesday, August 29th, 2001

Is it even the least bit shocking that Deborah Sontag has so eagerly jumped aboard the revisionist bandwagon that seeks to blame former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak for the collapse of last year’s summit at Camp David?

After all, the one thing she’s demonstrated throughout her regrettable stint as New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief is that she’s an absolute sieve through which flows any pro-Palestinian argument or viewpoint.

Sontag’s extraordinarily long July 26 apologia on behalf of the poor, misunderstood statesman Yasir Arafat, which began on the Times’s front page and sprawled across two inside pages, was actually the latest salvo in a new campaign to restore some luster to the Palestinian Authority chairman’s tarnished image.

As Daily News columnist Zev Chafets noted (providentially, his piece appeared the same day Sontag’s did), this all started last month with a New York Times op-ed piece by former Clinton adviser Robert Malley, who complained that the deal proffered by Barak to Arafat at Camp David was not “the dream offer it has been made out to be, at least not from the Palestinian perspective.”

Malley, together with Palestinian academic and activist Hussein Agha, also wrote a lengthy essay on the same theme in the current issue of the liberal-left New York Review of Books, which arrived at newsstands just days before the unveiling of Sontag’s magnum opus.

(In a prime example of left-wing networking, the anti-Israel London Guardian carried a brief adaptation of the Malley-Agha essay two weeks ago, and Americans for Peace Now immediately gave it prominent placement on its website.)

That the Times chose to devote the sheer amount of space it did to Sontag’s seemingly endless editorial disguised as a news story should silence any of the holdouts who still harbor any doubts concerning the newspaper’s political agenda.

All of which brings us to the odd phenomenon of a competing New York Jewish newspaper’s media critic – an uncommonly talented writer, let the record show – who recently began to qualify his critiques of the media in general and the Times in particular, scolding those who in his view mistake the honest reporting of Israel’s shortcomings for out and out media bias.

A nadir of sorts was reached in mid-July, when this critic extended his benefit of the doubt to Washington Post correspondent Lee Hockstader and none other than the horrid Sontag. In a column in which he actually did a great service by exposing the hate-filled rhetoric of the recently deceased Palestinian official Faisal Husseini, the newly de-clawed critic had this to say about Sontag’s and Hockstader’s puff-piece eulogies to Husseini:

“It would be somewhat unfair…to accuse the Times and Washington Post of ‘bias’ for their glowing Husseini obituary. Yes, they missed Husseini’s underlying fraud, but so did half of Israel. Hockstader and Sontag accurately reflected a respect and faith in Husseini that was widely and sincerely held in Israel’s peace camp.”

The critic went on to ask whether the fact that the Israeli government had permitted Husseini’s remains to be interred on the Temple Mount meant that Ariel Sharon was biased against Israel – since that’s what critics would have labeled the Times had it urged such an honor on Husseini.

Now hold on a minute here. It’s the Monitor’s (perhaps misguided) understanding that it’s not up to Sontag, Hockstader and other reporters to have their news coverage “reflect” the views of a segment of the society they’re covering, no matter how “widely and sincerely held” those views might be.

If a media critic fails to point that out, who will?

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com  

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/media-monitor-128/2001/08/29/

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