After spending two years condemning Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks as impediments to peace, President Obama congratulated Egyptian demonstrators – reportedly members of the Muslim Brotherhood – for setting up checkpoints and conducting body searches.
The double standard is troubling, yet no longer surprising.
In his speech celebrating the success of protesters in removing President Mubarak, Obama said something remarkable when he reached the part highlighted below in italics:
“We saw a military that would not fire bullets at the people they were sworn to protect. And we saw doctors and nurses rushing into the streets to care for those who were wounded; volunteers checking protesters to ensure that they were unarmed.”
The PBS “Frontline” show “Revolution in Cairo” reported that the checkpoints Obama praised were set up by the Muslim Brotherhood. Correspondent Charles M. Sennott explained, “The Brotherhood played a quietly effective role in bringing their hundreds of thousands of followers to the square and organizing checkpoints to keep the regime’s thugs from trying to trigger violence.” Advertisement
While stopping short of Obama’s outright praise, others in the media echoed Sennott in portraying the unauthorized searching of bags, checking of IDs, and pat-downs as sensible precautions, never as “controversial” intrusions.
The BBC’s Yolande Knell depicted the security measures as reasonable and necessary, noting, “They searched everyone who entered the square to make sure they had no weapons. There was even a separate queue for women – I was patted down apologetically several times.” BBC reports on Israel’s West Bank checkpoints mention two sides to the story – Israeli claims they are necessary for security, and Palestinian complaints that the restrictions are collective punishment. In Knell’s coverage of the Egyptian checkpoints, however, only one side of the story – the need for security -was reported.
Were the Brotherhood’s security measures proportional to a demonstrable threat? Obama and the media simply accepted at face value that the checkpoints were necessary.
In dramatic contrast, Obama has pressured Israel to remove anti-terror checkpoints, resulting in terrorist atrocities.
As Reuters reported in June 2009, “Israel lifted restrictions at two checkpoints in the West Bank after U.S. President Barack Obama urged Israel to take concrete steps to improve the lives of Palestinians in occupied territory . Washington wants Israel to lift army roadblocks and checkpoints and to freeze settlement building as part of a policy that would lead to establishing a Palestinian state.”
At least 19 anti-terror checkpoints were lifted by mid-2010. The results of yielding to Obama’s pressure were predictably tragic. In June 2010, an Israeli policeman was shot to death and two civilians wounded; two months later, four Israelis, including a pregnant woman, were murdered. All the killings occurred on the West Bank’s Route 60, where all checkpoints had been lifted.
The difference between the Jewish state and other targets of terror is that wicked motives are ascribed only to the Israelis when they defend themselves. PBS’s Bill Moyers speaks for many on the Left when he alleges, “Israel misses no opportunity to humiliate the Palestinians with checkpoints, concrete walls, routine insults, and the onslaught in Gaza” (this from the same PBS whose man in Cairo, Charles Sennott, lauds the Muslim Brotherhood as nonviolent moderates devoted to charitable works). When checkpoints are removed and terrorist prisoners released, such sacrifices do not fit the hate-Israel script and are ignored.
Perhaps it could be argued that comparing a government’s use of checkpoints with that of protesters is not an exact analogy. In that case, let’s hypothetically imagine the security measures of Muslim Brotherhood volunteers being taken by other volunteers. Picture Tea Partiers protesting in a heavily traveled section of a major city and cordoning off the zone, demanding IDs, searching bags, and patting down everyone who wishes to enter the area. Imagine Israeli volunteers stepping forward to do the same, with no legal authority, in a dangerous area they feel their government is not protecting sufficiently. Would our president congratulate them? Would the media accept the necessity of their checkpoints without question? Or would we be hearing words like “vigilante,” “unlawful,” “extremist,” and worse?
This troubling contradiction is simply a microcosm of the broader double standard practiced by the administration, the media, and “progressives.” The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in Americanoted that in February, “The New York Times has run two op-eds sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and a news story favorable to the group’s leader, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.”Edward Olshaker