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 firstname.lastname@example.org