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Posts Tagged ‘Yasir Arafat’

After Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation: The Endless Futility Of Israel’s ‘Peace Process’ (Second of Five Parts)

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011
            The Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO have always been in violation of international law.  Israel, therefore, has always been obligated to abrogate these non-treaty agreements.  A comparable argument could be made regarding PLO/PA obligations, but this would make little jurisprudential sense in light of that non-state party’s antecedent incapacity to enter into any equal legal arrangement with Israel.

           Taken by itself, the fact that the Oslo Accords do not constitute authentic treaties under the Vienna Convention, because they link a state with a non-state party, did not call for prima facie abrogation.  But, as the non-state party in this case just happened to be a terrorist organization whose leaders must be punished for their documented egregious crimes, any agreement with this party that offered rewards rather than punishments was immediately null and void.  In view of the peremptory expectation known in law as Nullum crimen sine poena,  “No crime without a punishment,” the state party in such an agreement, here the State of Israel, actually violated international law by honoring the illegal agreement.

            How little has been understood by politicians and pundits. According to Principle I of the binding Nuremberg Principles: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.”  It is from this principle, which applies with particular relevance to Hostes humani generis (“Common enemies of Humankind”), and which originates in three separate passages of the Torah, that each state’s obligation to seek out and prosecute terrorists derives.  Hence, for Israel to honor agreements with terrorists, agreements that sometimes required, among other pertinent violations, the release of thousands of other terrorists, was to dishonor the core meanings of international law. There is also an additional and particularly shameful irony here, as Israel repeatedly released large number of terrorists by its own volition.
           
During his later years, after Oslo had already “entered into force,” considerable attention was focused on Yasir Arafat. Was Arafat a terrorist? Although the answer is perfectly clear to anyone who thinks (there is nothing exculpatory about being a Nobel Peace laureate), it can also be supported in formal legal terms: In the U.S. case of Klinghoffer v. Palestine Liberation Organization (1990), the U.S. court unambiguously answered the question of Arafat as terrorist in the affirmative. 

           In the Israeli courts, a petition to charge Yasir Arafat with terrorist crimes was submitted to Israel’s High Court of Justice in May 1994.  This petition, filed by Shimon Prachik, an officer in the IDF reserves, and Moshe Lorberaum, who was injured in a 1978 bus bombing carried out by the PLO, called for Arafat’s arrest.  The petition noted correctly that Arafat had been responsible for numerous terror attacks in Israel and abroad, including murder, airplane hijacking, hostage-taking, letter-bombing and hijacking of ships on the high seas.

            The petitioners’ allegation of Arafat’s direct personal responsibility for terrorism was seconded and confirmed by Dr. Ahmad Tibi, then Arafat’s most senior advisor:  “The person responsible on behalf of the Palestinian people for everything that was done in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Yasir Arafat,” said an uncharacteristically truthful Dr. Tibi on July 13, 1994, “and this man shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin.”

            But what of the argument that international law may sometimes permit insurgent force that is directed toward legitimate support of fundamental human rights and rules?  It is certainly correct that international law has consistently proscribed particular acts of terrorism.  Yet it has, at the very same time, entitled insurgents to use certain levels and types of force against any regime that represses their peremptory human rights, especially “self-determination,” “independence” and “national liberation.”  Fatah, therefore, so goes this argument, might have represented an authentic national liberation movement, one that had been operating within the boundaries of permissibility under international law.

           To address this position, two essential criteria must first be examined: just cause and just means.  These criteria allow us to distinguish a lawful insurgency from terrorism. The principle of just cause maintains that certain forms of insurgency may exercise law-enforcing measures under international law. 
            To qualify as lawful insurgents, this group must also display appropriate respect for humanitarian international law – i.e., just means.  It follows that in order to determine whether a specific group actually satisfies the requirements of a lawful insurgency, its resort to force must first be tested against the established expectations of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity.

             Terrorism is always underway whenever a group engages in campaigns of force that are deliberately directed against broad segments of the general population, campaigns that blur the always-essential distinction between combatants and noncombatants.  Similarly, the group becomes terroristic whenever it begins to apply force to the fullest possible extent, restrained only by the limits of available weaponry. The policy implications of these expectations for any proper evaluation of Palestinian insurgency are manifest and straightforward.

             National liberation movements that fail to meet the settled and codified restraints of the laws of war are never protected as legitimate or permissible.  Under international law, the ends can never justify the means.  As in the case of war between states, every use of force by insurgents must always be judged twice:  once with regard to the justness of the objective, and once with regard to the justness of the means used in pursuit of that objective.

           Even if we were to concede to Fatah a just cause (a concession that no reasonable observer could conceivably countenance), Arafat’s flagrant and indisputable disregard for just means necessarily did make his organization a terrorist group.


 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law.  In the United States, he has worked for over forty years on international law and nuclear strategy matters, both as a scholar, and as a lecturer/consultant to various agencies of the United States Government.  In Israel, he has lectured widely at various academic centers for strategic studies, at the Dayan Forum, and at the National Defense College (IDF).  Professor Beres was Chair of Project Daniel. Born in Zürich, Switzerland, he is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Still No ‘Peace Process’ For Israel (Part I)

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
            The more things change, the more they remain the same.  From its imperiled beginnings, from the plainly one-sided inception of Oslo, the so-called “Middle East Peace Process” never gave Israel a chance. Widely animated by a distinctly lascivious Arab will to exploit the agreement in order to hasten Israel’s incremental elimination, a Final Solution to the Israel Question, it remains, even today, little more than an enemy Trojan Horse. Ironically, from the standpoint of current U.S. and other national foreign policies, the “Peace Process” is now routinely characterized as a road map.

 

            The benign cartography is sorely misleading. Oslo I, known generally as the Declaration of Principles, was concluded and signed in Oslo, on August 19, 1993, and resigned in Washington D.C. on September 13, 1993. Oslo II was signed in Washington D.C. on September 28, 1995. As expressed in a still-steadily enlarging Palestinian terrorist movement against Israel, and in the total numbers of Israelis killed and maimed by suicide bombers and other terrorists since August 19, 1993 (the present “calm” will not last), the Middle East Peace Process has been a resounding failure.

 

            Let us not kid ourselves.  From Rabin onwards, all of Israel’s prime ministers seemingly felt more-or-less obligated to honor the Oslo Accords. From the standpoint of an informed jurisprudence, this obligation was never supported by authoritative norms or expectations, but rather by the gratuitously popular notion that such signed documents were valid and binding ipso facto. From the start, in fact, the law of nations actually required abrogation, not compliance, with what were unassailably invalid and illegal agreements.  Moreover, as Israel’s position on Oslo has affected its overall nuclear security posture, I will, in this three-part column also explain the relevant interrelatedness of law and power.

 

            The Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO were always in violation of incontrovertible international law.  Israel, therefore, has always been obligated to abrogate these nontreaty agreements.  A comparable argument could be made regarding PLO/PA obligations, but this would make little jurisprudential sense in light of that nonstate party’s antecedent incapacity to enter into any equal legal arrangement with Israel.

 

            Taken by itself, the fact that the Oslo Accords do not constitute authentic treaties under the Vienna Convention, because they link a state with a nonstate party, did not call for prima facie abrogation.  But, as the nonstate party, in this case just happened to be a terrorist organization whose leaders must be punished for their documented egregious crimes, any agreement with this party that offered rewards rather than punishments was immediately null and void.  In view of the peremptory expectation known in law as Nullum crimen sine poena,  No crime without a punishment,” the state party in such an agreement, here the State of Israel, actually violated international law by honoring the illegal agreement.

 

            How little has been understood by politicians and pundits. According to Principle I of the binding Nuremberg Principles: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.”  It is from this principle, which applies with particular relevance to Hostes humani generis (“Common enemies of Humankind”), and which originates in three separate passages of the Torah, that each state’s obligation to seek out and prosecute terrorists derives.  Hence, for Israel to honor agreements with terrorists, agreements that sometimes required, among other pertinent violations, the release of thousands of other terrorists, was to dishonor the core meanings of international law. There is also additional irony here, as Israel repeatedly released large number of terrorists by its own volition.

 

            During his later years, after Oslo had already “entered into force,” considerable attention was focused on Yasir Arafat. Was Arafat a terrorist? Although the answer is perfectly clear to anyone who thinks (there is nothing exculpatory about being a Nobel Peace laureate), it can also be supported in formal legal terms: In the U.S. case of Klinghoffer v. Palestine Liberation Organization (1990), the U.S. court unambiguously answered the question of Arafat as terrorist in the affirmative. 

 

            In the Israeli courts, a petition to charge Yasir Arafat with terrorist crimes had already been submitted to Israel’s High Court of Justice in May 1994.  This petition, filed by Shimon Prachik, an officer in the IDF reserves, and Moshe Lorberaum, who was injured in a 1978 bus bombing carried out by the PLO, called for Arafat’s arrest.  The petition noted correctly that Arafat had been responsible for numerous terror attacks in Israel and abroad, including murder, airplane hijacking, hostage taking, letter bombing and hijacking of ships on the high seas.  The petitioner’s allegation of Arafat’s direct personal responsibility for terrorism was seconded and confirmed by Dr. Ahmad Tibi, then Arafat’s most senior advisor:  “The person responsible on behalf of the Palestinian people for everything that was done in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Yasir Arafat,” said an uncharacteristically truthful Dr. Tibi on July 13, 1994, “and this man shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin.”

 

            What, however, of the argument that international law may permit insurgent force that is directed toward legitimate support of fundamental human rights and rules?  It is certainly correct that international law has consistently proscribed particular acts of terrorism.  Yet, it has, at the very same time, entitled insurgents to use certain levels and types of force against any regime that represses their peremptory human rights, especially “self-determination,” “independence,” and “national liberation.”  Fatah, therefore, might have represented an authentic national liberation movement, one that had been operating within the boundaries of permissibility under international law.

 

            To address this argument, two essential criteria must first be examined: just cause and just means.  These criteria allow us to distinguish a lawful insurgency from terrorism in all cases.  The principle of just cause maintains that certain forms of insurgency may exercise law-enforcing measures under international law. 

 

            To qualify as lawful insurgents, this group must also display appropriate respect for humanitarian international law – i.e., just means.  It follows that in order to determine whether a specific group actually satisfies the requirements of a lawful insurgency, its resort to force must first be tested against the established expectations of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity.

 

             Terrorism is underway whenever a group engages in campaigns of force that are deliberately directed against broad segments of the general population, campaigns that blur the always-essential distinction between combatants and noncombatants.  Similarly, the group becomes terroristic whenever it begins to apply force to the fullest possible extent, restrained only by the limits of available weaponry. The policy implications of these expectations for any proper evaluation of Palestinian insurgency are manifest and straightforward.

 

             National liberation movements that fail to meet the settled and codified restraints of the laws of war are never protected as legitimate or permissible.  Under international law, the ends can never justify the means.  As in the case of war between states, every use of force by insurgents must always be judged twice:  once with regard to the justness of the objective, and once with regard to the justness of the means used in pursuit of that objective.

 

            Even if we were to concede to Fatah a just cause (a concession that no reasonable observer could conceivably countenance), Arafat’s flagrant disregard for just means necessarily made his organization a terrorist group.

 

(To Be Continued)

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971), and is the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law.  In the United States, he has worked for over forty years on international law and nuclear strategy matters, both as a scholar, and as a lecturer/consultant to various agencies of the United States Government.  In Israel he has lectured widely at various academic centers for strategic studies, at the Dayan Forum, and at the National Defense College (IDF).  He was Chair of Project Daniel, and is the Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

A Date To Remember

Monday, October 19th, 2009

October 23 is a date the Monitor will always remember, and so should you. It was on that day in 1995 that Mayor Rudy Giuliani threw Yasir Arafat out of a UN event – and in so doing brought down upon himself the opprobrium of the Clinton administration, New York’s political elite, and not a few feckless Jewish “leaders.”

As noted in this space four years ago on the tenth anniversary of the happy occasion, the UN was marking its fiftieth anniversary with a series of galas around New York City, including an Oct. 23 invitation-only Lincoln Center concert performed by the New York Philharmonic for a glittering list of dignitaries and diplomats.

When Giuliani spotted Arafat and his entourage making their way toward a private box seat near the stage, the mayor immediately ordered the Palestinian leader off the premises. After initial disbelief and some heated words on the part of Arafat and his cronies, the group finally skulked out of the building.

The man in the street cheered the mayor’s gutsy move, but the city’s liberal establishment was appalled.

“The proper role of New York, as the UN’s home city,” sniffed The New York Times, “is to play gracious host to all of the 140 or so world leaders present for the organization’s gala 50th birthday celebrations.”

Former mayors David Dinkins and Ed Koch, who rarely had a good word to say about each other, held a joint press conference to denounce Giuliani.

“Mayor Giuliani has behavioral problems dealing with other people,” a peevish Koch told reporters.

A spokesman for the Clinton administration, which had done so much to build up Arafat’s reputation as a statesman, termed Giuliani’s action “an embarrassment to everyone associated with diplomacy.”

Two days after the concert, Giuliani was unrepentant. “I would not invite Yasir Arafat to anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace,” he said. “I don’t forget.”

While many of the city’s Jews applauded Giuliani’s stance, there was a noticeable divide between Orthodox Jews and their secular counterparts: A rally outside City Hall in support of the mayor drew “dozens of mostly Orthodox Jewish leaders and elected officials,” the Times reported on Oct. 26.

Just what Giuliani was up against is clear from some of the remarks made that week by Jewish bigwigs like Dr. Lawrence Rubin, executive vice chairman of the National Jewish Community Relations Council, who sought to portray Giuliani’s action as one motivated by politics.

“We think it’s important to demonstrate that the normalization of relations between Israel and the Palestinians can go forward,” said Rubin. “But clearly Mayor Giuliani has domestic political considerations.”

Let’s recall where things stood in October 1995. In the two years since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Arafat had time and again spoken to Arab audiences about his dreams of jihad for Jerusalem and about how Oslo was simply the implementation of the PLO’s long stated goal of destroying Israel in stages.

Buses were exploding in Jerusalem. Support among Israelis for Oslo had fallen precipitously and polls showed Prime Minister Rabin losing to Benjamin Netanyahu, an outspoken critic of Oslo, in a hypothetical match-up.

But Jewish leaders just couldn’t help themselves. Hours before getting the heave-ho from the Lincoln Center event, Arafat had met in Manhattan with about 100 prominent American Jews. A jolly time was had by all, and Arafat apparently made a real nice impression.

“He’s got a very good sense of humor, by the way,” said Israel Levine – described by the Times as “a spokesman for many Jewish organizations” – of the man responsible for the murder of more Jews than anyone since Hitler and Stalin.

Speaking at a UJA-Federation fundraising breakfast shortly afterward, Giuliani said he was “proud of that decision [booting Arafat]. I’d make it again, and the day I’d stop making it is the day I’d resign as mayor…. When I write my memoirs, this is one of the things that I probably will be proudest of.”

According to news reports, Giuliani’s comments were applauded by only about a quarter of his audience – this at an ostensibly Jewish event, mind you. Such was the mesmerized state of organized Jewry during those surreal years of the mid-1990s when a mass killer of Jews was feted and honored around the world and invited countless times to the White House by an admiring Bill Clinton.

The aforementioned Israel Levine may have loved Arafat’s sense of humor, but Rudy Giuliani found nothing amusing about the Palestinian terror chief. And that’s the difference between real leadership and Jewish leadership.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

The Oslo Accords/Road Map Were Always A Deathtrap For Israel (Part I)

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Some military and diplomatic failures should come as no surprise. One of these is surely the so-called “Peace Process” in the Middle East. From the imperiled beginning, from the start time of “Oslo,” the entire genocidal enterprise has effectively been framed from the standpoint of Israel’s phased destabilization and, ultimately, its elimination. To be sure, this grotesque outcome has never been the deliberate objective of assorted American presidents, or even of most Europeans – leaders and ordinary citizens − but the de facto implications and consequences were always easy to discern. Indeed, the probable results of these inherently asymmetrical agreements should always have been obvious.

Oslo I − known generally as the Declaration of Principles − was concluded and signed in Oslo on August 19, 1993, and re-signed in Washington D.C. on September 13, 1993. Oslo II was signed in Washington D.C. on September 28, 1995. As expressed in a steadily enlarging Palestinian terrorist movement against Israel, and in the staggering numbers of Israelis killed and maimed by suicide bombers and other terrorists since August 19, 1993, the Middle East Peace Process has certainly been a resounding failure. There is not a single dimension of evaluation that could reasonably be used to suggest otherwise. It follows that the currently still-fashionable Road Map warrants exactly the same negative judgment.

Let us be clear. From Rabin onwards, all of Israel’s prime ministers seemingly felt obligated, under international law, to honor the Oslo Accords. Significantly, from the standpoint of an informed jurisprudence, this obligation was never supported by authoritative norms or expectations, but only by the popular notion that such signed documents were simply valid and binding ipso facto. From the start, in fact, the law of nations actually required abrogation, not compliance, with what were invalid and illegal agreements. Moreover, as Israel’s position on Oslo has affected its overall nuclear security posture, I will – in these three continuous columns for The Jewish Press − also explain the relevant interrelatedness of law and power.

The Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO were always in violation of incontrovertible international law. Israel, therefore, has always been obligated to abrogate these non-treaty agreements. A comparable argument could be made regarding PLO/PA obligations, but this would make little jurisprudential sense in light of that non-state party’s intrinsic incapacity to enter into an equal legal arrangement with Israel.

Taken by itself, the fact that the Oslo accords do not constitute authentic treaties under the Vienna Convention − because they link a state with a non-state party − would not necessarily call for abrogation. But as the non-state party in this case just happened to be a terrorist organization whose leaders must be punished for their egregious crimes, any agreement with this party that offered rewards rather than punishments was null and void. Significantly, in view of the peremptory expectation known in law as Nullum crimen sine poena, “No crime without a punishment,” the state party in such an agreement − here, the State of Israel – actually violated international law by honoring the agreement.

How little has been understood by politicians and pundits. According to Principle I of the binding Nuremberg Principles: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefore and liable to punishment.” It is from this principle − which applies with particular relevance to Hostes humani generis (“Common enemies of Humankind”) and which originates in three separate passages of the Torah − that each state’s obligation to seek out and prosecute terrorists derives. Hence, for Israel to honor agreements with terrorists − agreements that sometimes required, among other pertinent violations, the release of thousands of other terrorists − was to dishonor the very meaning of international law. There is also considerable and additional irony here, since Israel, as recently as August 2008, has released large number of terrorists utterly by volition.

During his later years, after Oslo had “entered into force,” considerable attention was focused on Yasir Arafat. Was Arafat a terrorist? Although the answer is perfectly plain to anyone who thinks, permit me to also support this judgment in formal legal terms: In the U.S. case of Klinghoffer v. Palestine Liberation Organization (1990), the court unambiguously answered the question of Arafat as a terrorist, in the affirmative.

In the Israeli courts, a petition to charge Yasir Arafat with terrorist crimes had been submitted to Israel’s High Court of Justice in May 1994. This petition, filed by Shimon Prachik, an officer in the IDF reserves, and Moshe Lorberaum, who was injured in a 1978 bus bombing carried out by the PLO, called for Arafat’s arrest. The petition noted that Arafat, prima facie, had been responsible for numerous terror attacks in Israel and abroad, including murder, airplane hijacking, hostage-taking, letter-bombing and hijacking of ships on the high seas.

The petitioner’s allegation of Arafat’s direct personal responsibility for terrorism was seconded and confirmed by Dr. Ahmad Tibi, then Arafat’s most senior advisor: “The person responsible on behalf of the Palestinian people for everything that was done in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Yasir Arafat,” said an uncharacteristically truthful Dr. Tibi on July 13, 1994, “and this man shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin.”

But what of the argument that international law may permit insurgent force that is directed toward support of fundamental rights and rules? It is certainly correct that international law has consistently proscribed particular acts of terrorism. Yet, it has, at the very same time, entitled insurgents to the right to use certain levels and types of force against a regime that represses their peremptory human rights, especially “self-determination,” “independence,” and “national liberation.” Wasn’t Fatah, therefore, an authentic national liberation movement, one that had therefore been operating within the boundaries of permissibility under international law?

To answer this question, two essential criteria must be examined: just cause and just means. These criteria allow us to distinguish a lawful insurgency from terrorism, in all cases. The principle of just cause maintains that an insurgency may exercise law-enforcing measures under international law. To qualify as lawful insurgents, however, this group must also display appropriate respect for humanitarian international law − i.e., just means. It follows that in order to determine whether a particular group actually satisfies the requirements of a lawful insurgency, its resort to force must be tested against the expectations of discrimination, proportionality and military necessity.

Terrorism is underway whenever a group engages in campaigns of force directed against broad segments of the general population − campaigns that blur the essential distinction between combatants and noncombatants. Similarly, the group becomes terroristic once it begins to apply force to the fullest possible extent, restrained only by the limits of available weaponry. The implications for any proper evaluation of Palestinian insurgency are clear.

National liberation movements that fail to meet the settled and codified restraints of the laws of war are not protected as legitimate or permissible. The ends do not justify the means. As in the case of war between states, every use of force by insurgents must be judged twice: once with regard to the justness of the objective, and once with regard to the justness of the means used in pursuit of that objective. This translates that even if we were to concede to Fatah a just cause (a concession that this writer would certainly not offer), Arafat’s disregard for just means necessarily made his organization a terrorist group.

Copyright © The Jewish Press, December 12, 2008. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law. In the United States he has worked for over thirty-five years on international law and nuclear strategy matters, both as a scholar and as a lecturer/consultant to various agencies of the United States Government. In Israel he has lectured widely at various academic centers for strategic studies, at the Dayan Forum and at the National Defense College (IDF). He was Chair of Project Daniel, and is the Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

A Decade of Media Monitoring

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

When I agreed to take over the Media Monitor column (the first with my byline ran 10 years ago this week), both it and I were relatively recent additions to the paper – the column as basically a repository for press releases put out by media watchdog groups and I as a staff writer with a longtime interest in the way the media work.

My intention from the start was to turn the column into a highly personal, vigorously argued, take-no-prisoners vehicle of press criticism – one that would articulate the views of those who felt marginalized by a news media grown increasingly elitist and defiantly liberal. In time, the column expanded its range of targets, taking on various political and communal figures in addition to the usual array of media suspects.

Everyone and everything was fair game – current and former Jewish leaders like Abraham Foxman, Edgar Bronfman, Henry Siegman and the late Nahum Goldmann; politicians like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Joseph Lieberman, Jimmy Carter, Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo (who called to angrily complain about a column that quoted him linking terrorist attacks against Americans to U.S. support of Israel); Jerrold Nadler, Barack Obama and John McCain (who responded almost immediately to a column razzing him for comments he allegedly made to Haaretz); and media personalities like Dan Rather, the late Peter Jennings, Mike Wallace, Matt Lauer, Pete Hamill, Phil Donahue, Patrick Buchanan, Joseph Sobran, Robert Novak, and of course The New York Times – always The New York Times.

* * * * *

Of the Times, the distinguished author (and long-ago Times film critic) Renata Adler has written (I’ve used this quote in more than one column):

“For years readers have looked in the Times for what was once its unsurpassed strength: the uninflected coverage of the news. You can look and look, now, and you will not find it there. Some politically correct series and group therapy reflections on race relations perhaps….But nothing a reader can trust anymore….Certainly no reliable, uninflected coverage of anything, least of all the news.”

One of my earliest Monitor columns concerned Times foreign affairs columnist and former Middle East correspondent Thomas Friedman who, I wrote, “presents himself as someone basically sympathetic to Israel but with a distinct preference for Labor over Likud.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that Friedman has a history of supporting Palestinian ‘aspirations’ and criticizing Israeli policies that goes back to at least the mid-1970′s, several years before the Likud first came to power.”

Friedman, I noted, “as much as admitted, in his 1989 bestseller From Beirut to Jerusalem, that he allowed his dislike of Menachem Begin and opposition to the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to affect the tone of his dispatches from Lebanon. Remember, these events occurred while he was a reporter supposedly gatheringnews, not a pundit paid to give his personal views.”

But Friedman was a mere piker in his antipathy toward Israel when compared with Deborah Sontag, who served as the Times’s Jerusalem bureau chief in the late 1990′s and was the featured attraction in many of those early Monitor columns.

Space permits but one example of Sontag’s routinely skewered reporting. Referring to a 2001 dispatch by Sontag, I wrote: “On February 14, this is how Sontag opened her front-page piece on the Arab bus driver who the day before rammed his vehicle into a bus stop, killing eight Israelis: ‘After years of shuttling Gazan laborers into Israel without incident, a Palestinian bus driver who passed a strict Israeli security clearance just two weeks ago veered wildly off course today with deadly consequences.’ “

Sontag, I continued, “makes it appear as if the poor soul might simply have lost control of the steering wheel. Yasir Arafat, whose initial reaction to the incident was to shrug it off as just another ‘road accident,’ couldn’t have put it better.”

I contrasted Sontag’s writing with that of the Boston Globe’s Vivienne Walt (“A Palestinian driver slammed a bus into a crowd of young Israeli soldiers outside Tel Aviv yesterday, killing eight people. It was the deadliest attack on Israelis since 1997″) and even the Independent’s Phil Reeves, usually a vehement critic of Israel, who described “a Palestinian bus driver who saw no need for bombs or bullets but used his own vehicle as his weapon, crashing it into a crowd waiting at a bus stop and popular hitchhiking post.”

* * * * *

Jordan’s King Hussein died in February 1999 and journalists fell all over themselves praising him as a man of peace and principle.

Appalled at such historical amnesia, I wrote, “Nearly forgotten in the rush to sanctify Hussein was the scorn that had come his way over the years for such behavior as his constant double-dealing in relations with Israel, the U.S. and his fellow Arabs; his allowing the desecration of Jewish holy places when Jordan had possession of East Jerusalem (gravestones of Jews were used as latrines in army camps, and dozens of synagogues were demolished or turned into stables and chicken coops); and his support of Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War coupled with his circumvention of the U.S.-led blockade of Iraq.”

I was particularly taken aback by the usually sensible Daily News columnist Richard Chesnoff, who unashamedly delivered up this sugary tribute to the departed king: “Now this great son of the desert is gone, and all the children of Abraham weep. We will sorely miss this brave brother of ours.”

* * * * *

When Seth Lipsky – who would go on to found the New York Sun as an intelligent, well-written conservative alternative to The New York Times – was forced to leave the English weekly Forward, the paper he essentially founded and then nurtured through the 1990′s, I wrote:

“The commissars of the Forward Association never much cared for the subversive tendencies exhibited by Seth Lipsky – subversive in the sense of his apparent inability to recite by rote the dreary, discredited dogma of the socialist left.

“And so news of Lipsky’s ouster as editor of the English-language Forward comes as hardly a shock to anyone acquainted with the mindset of those who think of God as a labor unionist and Moses as His first shop steward.”

I added that while “Lipsky describes himself as a neoconservative, theForwardunder his watch was by no stretch of the imagination a conservative publication. News coverage was expansive and balanced, and editorials usually came down squarely on the liberal side of the political spectrum (including endorsements of Mayor Dinkins in 1993 and President Clinton in 1992 and 1996).

But Lipsky drew the line at parroting the party line of the Yiddish-speaking socialists – a species nearly extinct in America everywhere outside of perhaps a few Miami Beach condos and the Forward building in Manhattan – and for this he was viewed as a reactionary by detractors whose ideological forebears would no doubt have condemned him as an ‘enemy of the people.’ “

* * * * *

The news in early August 2000 that Al Gore had selected Joe Lieberman as his vice-presidential running mate electrified Jews everywhere – even those who had no intention of voting for the Democratic ticket, with or without Lieberman on it.

But within days of his selection, the moderately liberal Connecticut senator began pandering to ultra-liberal party activists, and it wasn’t an edifying spectacle.

“If you happen to come across a backbone lying around somewhere,” I wrote at the time, “chances are it belongs to Joseph Lieberman, who lost his shortly after signing on as Al Gore’s running mate. At least that’s what many of the nation’s pundits were sayingas the Connecticut senator backpedaled, prevaricated and obfuscated his way through the Democratic National Convention.

One of the quotes I cited was from then-New York Post columnist Sid Zion, who wrote, “Don’t let [Lieberman's] yarmulke fool you.His Senate record reveals a man who has trimmed his sails more than a little to satisfy Bill Clinton and his pro-Palestinian Jewish advisers in the State Department and National Security Council.”

Lieberman’s flip-flops and sudden desire to make nice with the likes of Pat Buchanan and Louis Farrakhan had, as Zion put it, “made some Jews stop kvelling in their tractates over the first Jew to make a major-party national ticket.”

* * * * *

The way most of the media told it, the election in early 2001 of Ariel Sharon as Israeli prime minister was a catastrophe of historic proportions. One of my columns focused on the reaction in England, “where,” I wrote, “raw and unvarnished anti-Israel bias in much of the mainstream press is as reliable as the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Reuters predictably headlined a post-election report ‘Sharon Win Casts Pall Over Mideast Peace Prospects,’ as if all was well until the former general showed up to spoil the fun.

“But the Reuters headline paled in comparison to this outrage from London’s left-wing Guardian: ‘Israel Gives Up On Peace With Sharon Victory.’That headline was only the appetizer to the story that followed – a witch’s brew of anti-Israel slop cooked up by Jerusalem correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg (you expected a Smith or a Jones?), whose lead paragraph immediately got to the point: ‘Israel,’ she wrote, ‘yielded to the dark fears unleashed by a Palestinian uprising yesterday, voting by a staggering margin to entrust their future to a man famous for making war, Ariel Sharon.’

“Same day, same paper: Jonathan Freedland (still no Smith or Jones) began his analysis of the Israeli election with this comparison: ‘It’s as shocking as if Jean-Marie Le Pen had become president of France, or Ian Paisley ruled over Northern Ireland.’ “

* * * * *

Not surprisingly, several Media Monitor columns dealt with the late Peter Jennings, whose anti-Israel spin, delivered night after night from the ABC anchor desk, was unmistakable to anyone other than his colleagues and those who shared his bias (but I repeat myself).

As a young reporter based in Lebanon, Jennings, I wrote, “marinated himself in Arab society and culture.one of Jennings’s paramours in those days – he still speaks of her with great fondness – was the shrill Palestinian mouthpiece Hanan Ashrawi.After his first marriage broke up, Jennings married Anouchka Malouf, a Lebanese photographer with a Syrian mother and an Egyptian father. Through Anouchka, wrote Robert and Gerald Jay Goldberg in their 1990 book Anchors, “Jennings was immersed in the local [Beirut] community in a much deeper way than most journalists.”

Here, from a 2002 broadcast, is a typical Jennings opening: “Good evening everyone. We’re going to begin in the Middle East tonight where the U.S. has so much at stake. The Israelis have been on the attack again against the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat.”

* * * * *

It’s hardly news that Israel has more than its share of hard left journalists whose ill will toward their own country rivals and in many cases surpasses the animosity of even Israel’s severest foreign critics.

Arguably the worst of the worst is Amira Hass, who (naturally) writes for Haaretz and of whom I wrote, “Unlike her fellow Israeli leftists who satisfy the dark places in their souls by vilifying their country and countrymen from deep inside the Green Line, less than a stone’s throw from the faux Eurotrash atmosphere of their favorite Tel Aviv nightspots, Hass chooses to live among Palestinians, the people whose cause she champions as her own.

“Hass, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, [makes] her home in the Palestinian town of Ramallah, a locale that any normal Jew would consider one of the most inhospitable on earth. Before moving to Ramallah she spent three years living in Gaza, an experience she recounted in loving detail in her memoir Drinking the Sea at Gaza.

“Far from harboring the slightest worry for her safety, Hass basks in the warm welcome she says the Palestinians have extended her. ‘The longer I live [among the Palestinians], the more secure I feel,’ she once told a reporter fromLe Monde.”

* * * * *

Amira Hass is nothing if not the ideological progeny of Uri Avnery, the grand old man of the Israeli left. When Yasir Arafat died in 2004, Avnery eulogized him as one of history’s great men and said his passing bore “a great similarity to the death of Moses, who removed a people from slavery and led its march to freedom for 40 years, almost exactly like Arafat.”

It was with Avneri in mind that I created the Schwarzschild Award – named for Henry Schwarzschild, a leftist lawyer who, when the Israeli army surrounded Beirut in 1982, very publicly renounced Israel and literally declared himself its enemy – to annually recognize a prominent Jew who, in my opinion, had by his or her statements done harm to Jews and Israel.

Winners subsequent to Avneri have been the ADL’s Abraham Foxman, Tikkun magazine publisher Michael Lerner, and Haaretz editor David Landau.

* * * * *

Though I don’t necessarily share Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s famous credo “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit next to me,” my column by necessity is relentlessly negative in tone. But there have been occasional grace notes – George F. Will, Cal Thomas, and the late William F. Buckley are just some of the pundits of whom I’ve had nice things to say.

A politician who came in for appreciative treatment on several occasions was former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, never more so than in a 2005 column on Giuliani’s removal, ten years earlier, of Yasir Arafat from a Lincoln Center concert marking the UN’s fiftieth anniversary. The city’s political and Jewish establishments were appalled at Giuliani’s effrontery.

“Hours before getting the heave-ho from the Lincoln Center event,” I wrote, “Arafat had met in Manhattan with about 100 prominent American Jews. ‘[Arafat's] got a very good sense of humor, by the way,” said Israel Levine – described by The New York Times as ‘a spokesman for many Jewish organizations’ – of the man responsible for the murder of more Jews than anyone since Hitler and Stalin.

“The aforementioned Israel Levine may have loved Arafat’s sense of humor, but Rudy Giuliani found nothing amusing about the Palestinian terror chief. And that’s the difference between real leadership and Jewish leadership.”

* * * * *

Given the space limitations of even a longer format, I was unable to highlight nearly as many old Media Monitor snippets as I would have liked. Anyway, it’s almost impossible to get the full flavor of the columns from anything other than lengthy extracts. Most of the columns dating back to mid-2001 are archived on www.jewishpress.com, for those who are interested.

Let’s Make More Global Warming!

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

      For years many of us believed the Nobel Peace Prize could not possibly be debased any worse than it was when Shimon Peres and mass murderer Yasir Arafat were honored for plunging the Middle East into an endless cycle of terrorist aggression against Israel and for putting Israel’s very survival in jeopardy.
 
      Of course, there have been others whose receipt of a Nobel Prize stood truth and justice on its head. Bishop Desmond Tutu, an inveterate Israel-basher and apologist for anti-American dictators, was a winner, as was Jimmy “Israel is an apartheid state” Carter.
 
      (No wonder that for years now Israel’s Loony Left has been trying to nominate the Grand Old Man of Israeli self-haters, Uri Avnery, for a prize and Israeli communists have promoted terrorist accomplice Tali Fahima as a possible Peace Prize laureate.)
 
      But the decision to grant a Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore for his environmentalist hysterics and pseudo-scientific posturing must surely rival any earlier absurdities.
 
      Gore, who was defeated in the 2000 presidential election despite his effort to steal it by demanding a recount of ballots only in Florida’s Democratic counties, is also the guy who claims to have invented the Internet. He has reinvented himself in recent years as a groupie of radical environmentalist nuttiness.
 
      It seems that whenever countries get too rich and comfortable, their chattering classes start wringing their hands over the environment. It is part of the price those countries pay for not having more serious national problems and challenges.
 
      Global Warming has become the leading pseudo-cause of those who practice recreational compassion – individuals looking for a cheap way to impress their friends and neighbors about how caring they are.
 
      Global warning is the cause celebre of moral posturers – except when they are warning us about the dangers of global cooling (and there are many who still do that). They discover thinning ice shields in the polar regions – except in the areas where it is getting thicker. They chant the mantra that America’s refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol is what’s behind the warming and the hurricanes.
 
      Of course, if the earth really is getting a smidgen warmer it has nothing to do with humans. Mars is getting warmer and its ice caps are melting a bit. Gore will no doubt attribute that to selfish Republicans as well.
 
      I have always thought the idea that humans can change a planet’s climate is a striking example of megalomania. A more believable take on planetary survivability can be found in last week’s Torah portion, about Noah and the rainbow.
 
      While there is doubt as to whether global warming is even taking place, there is no doubt at all that if it were for real, humans would have nothing to do with it.
 
      The global warming hysteria ignores the many benefits and positive aspects of global warming. Even those who are convinced beyond a doubt that it is occurring agree that slightly warmer winter nights are one of its prime manifestations. Since my heating system does not work very well, I would welcome warmer winter nights. No one knows how a warmer climate affects rainfall, but it is likely to cause more of it, and that surely is good for Israel – and the British certainly would deserve it.
 
      Ever since the first shrieks about global warming were heard, I have been checking the beaches of Haifa, hoping to see a visible sign of some rise in ocean surface levels. Alas, not even a little bit of change has been evident. But seeing as there are so many benefits to be had from global warming, I think it behooves all of us to do our parts to create more of it.
 
      First, if the ice pack over Greenland really does melt, that might be a nice place to create a Palestinian state. The terrorists could undergo career reorientation and take to cod fishing. They could even throw grenades at the whales, if their politically correct friends on the Left won’t object.
 
      I can also see numerous benefits for the world from any rise in ocean surface levels. It would solve most of the problems of the Middle East. Flooding the Gaza Strip with ocean water due to rising sea levels would surely stop the Kassam rockets. Now that’s something worth buying an SUV for.
 
      True, some other areas might be inundated. But what is wrong with Ramat Aviv being under some nice seawater? The leftist yuppies in the upper floors of their buildings would not be affected and would get capital gains on their oceanfront property. The others could simply relocate and make aliyah to biblical Eretz Yisrael, getting new homes in Gush Etzion, Efrat and Ariel.
 
      Elsewhere, rising sea levels would erase such leftist California strongholds as Venice and Santa Cruz. The hills in Berkeley where the employed professionals live would be safe, but the Berkeley lowlands, where the radicals posture and protest, would be eliminated. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea!
 
      Israel is so small that it cannot be seen on most global maps. Even so, we Israelis really should be doing more in order to hasten global warming. Cutting taxes on imports of SUVs would be a good place to start and would also lower the traffic fatality rate.
 
      So let’s do our part to hasten global warming. A Nobel Peace Prize may be in it for us!
 

      Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at steveneplaut@yahoo.com.

Aiding Fatah To Eliminate Hamas: Bush/Olmert Missing The Point, Yet Again

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

Fatah is a movement of blood sacrifice Our people gave the world a chance, and unless the world takes this opportunity, violence and havoc will come.

Othman Abu Gharbiya,

Deputy Chief of the National and Political

Guidance Bureau of Fatah

(Al-Hayat al-Jadida, May9, 1998)

They will fight for Allah, and they will kill and be killed, and this is a solemn oath. Our blood is cheap compared with the cause which has brought us together. but shortly we will meet again in heaven.

Yasir Arafat, Speech to Fatah security forces in Gaza, August 2001

Israel and the United States still think of counter-terrorism as a narrowly military and geopolitical task. What both fail to realize is that Arab/Islamic terrorism in general, and Palestinian terrorism in particular, are driven by religious notions of sacrifice. As these notions are common to both Fatah and Hamas, the developing Bush/Rice/Olmert plan to aid the former against the latter is misconceived. This plan will fail promptly and calamitously.

In public, Fatah leader and Palestinian “president” Mahmoud Abbas has abandoned the plain language (above) of Othman Abu Gharbiya and Yasir Arafat. This is understandable, because neither the Americans nor the Israelis could discover any usable pretext for aiding Fatah if its leader were more honest about enduring religious meanings. In private, Abbas remains beholden to all those who commit to the murder of “infidels” as divinely mandated. He has no choice.

Although Palestinian “suicide bombing” terrorism can sometimes prove useful in political, strategic and tactical terms (to wit, former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon’s “disengagement” from Gaza), its true rationale lies elsewhere. It is a primal example of blood sacrifice, a sacred ritual designed to enlist divine assistance inobligatory Jihad. Expressed in ritual slaughter of innocents, Palestinian suicide bombing is never really about land or rights or justice or peace or self-determination. Rather, for the pious murderer and his celebrants, it is an attempt to elicit both public adulation and personal immortality.

The terrorist’s “martyrdom” is not posthumous. He regards his fiery death here on earth as only a momentary inconvenience. For him (sometimes also for her), such discomfort is a small price to pay for perpetual hero worship and life everlasting.

In the unending war between Israel and Arab/Islamic terror, Palestinian hatred of Jews is generally deep and far-reaching. But if the religiously despised Jew did not exist, the terrorists would have to invent him.

For them, the explosive sacrifice of Jewish men, women and children in buses, playgrounds, ice-cream parlors and nursery schools offers not “merely” the promise of eternal life. It also serves to protect the Palestinian community from its own violence.

When Jews are maimed and burned by suicide-bombers – whether by Hamas’ “military wing” or by Fatah’s Al Aqsa “martyr’s brigade,” it makes no real difference – elements of dissension within the Palestinian community are drawn conveniently to the sacrificial victims. Such terrorism thus serves the very compelling interests of social solidarity.As soon as Fatah and Hamas began to slow their attacks against Israelis, they started to slaughter each other.

In human sacrifice, the victims should bear a basic resemblance to the killers. But this resemblance must never be carried too far, lest it diminish the sacrificer’s murderous ardor. This evokes a paradox. The Fatah or Hamas terrorists must acknowledge that their intended Jewish victims are also human, but just barely.

In Euripides’ Medea, the substitution of one sacrificial victim for another appears starkly. Because the true object of Medea’s hatred – her faithless husband Jason – is out of reach, she substitutes her own children as objects of her rage. Medea prepares the death of her children exactly like a priest preparing for sacrifice. And Medea’s sacrifice reveals the following overriding truth, one that should be at the very top of the list for Israeli and American officials now wrongfully convinced that Fatah will act differently than Hamas: Violence will accumulate until it overflows its confines and floods the surrounding areas. The role of sacrificial suicide-bombing terror is nothing less than to stem this rising tide and to redirect murderous fear into “proper” channels.

For all Palestinian terrorists, sacrificial violence against Israel must have two distinct categories of victims. One category is the “vile, infidel Jew.” The other is the “glorious martyr” who kills the despised Jew (it is always the “Jew,” never the Israeli) and who earns eternal glory by “dying for the sake of Allah.” This “martyr” need not fear personal death in sacrificing himself as a suicide. On the contrary, by choosing to “die” in this way he buys himself free from the horror of mortality: “Do not consider those who are slain in the cause of Allah, as dead,” says the Koran. “They are living by their Lord.”

“Strive for death, and you will receive life,” believes both the Fatah and Hamas terrorist. Each presumes a very basic human sameness, but both also emphasize a vital difference from Jews. The Jews, they allege, fear death above all. This is an unfounded and ironic allegation, as the main rationale of the “suicidal” Palestinian terrorist, is always to avoid death. For this “martyr” what is uppermost, is to obtain a “seat in Paradise,” and to be saved “from the torture of the grave.”

In practice, Israeli officials who would understand Arab/Islamic terror against Israel as a form of sacrificial religious worship might now seek ways to disabuse intended “martyrs” of their particular search for immortality. But this strategy would lie far beyond the scope of operational possibility. Palestinian terror-violence takes shelter in religion, but, reciprocally, religion also allows Fatah/Hamas terrorists to combine ecstatic bloodletting with internal harmony.

As Israel and America continue to mistakenly project their own Western, rational model of geopolitics upon Palestinian terrorist thinking, celebrated “martyr” Samy Rahim’s words speak truthfully about the nature of both the Fatah and Hamas enemy: “Every day on which the sun rises and no Jew is killed, nor any martyr has died, will be a day for which we will be punished by Allah.” This punishment will arise because both obligatory aspects of sacrificial terror will have been neglected: The sacrifice of the Jew and the sacrifice of the “martyr”. The two-sided nature of terror/human sacrifice is also codified in the Charter of Hamas: “…the Palestinian problem is a religious one, to be dealt with on this premise….’I swear by that who holds in His Hands the Soul of Muhammad! I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill.’”

Before the open civil war erupted between Fatah and Hamas, the jointly appointed clergy, preaching on the Temple Mount, sermonized: “Palestinians spearhead Allah’s war against the Jews. The dead shall not rise until the Palestinians shall kill all the Jews…. All agreements with Israel are provisional.”

This Palestinian terrorist view still favors only a Final Solution for Israel. It is a view shared by both Fatah and Hamas. Aiding and arming the former to destroy the latter therefore misses the point. Only when Washington and Jerusalem begin to see that their common enemy is rooted in the Islamist-based linkage of terrorism to human sacrifice, can they finally embrace a real progress.

Copyright, The Jewish Press, July 20, 2007. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters, terrorism and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

Steven Erlanger’s Unhidden Bias

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Steven Erlanger is so openly pro-Palestinian in his reporting that he’s beginning to call to mind perhaps his most biased predecessor in that post – the truly execrable Deborah Sontag, whose transparently one-sided dispatches would invariably read as though she wrote them with a PLO flag draped over her word processor.

On page 7 of this week’s Jewish Press, the always incisive Rick Richman of Jewish Current Issues (jpundit.typepad.com) cuts the heart out of Erlanger’s futile pretensions at objectivity and just plain old reading comprehension. Rarely does a book review come in for such thorough dismemberment, and the resultant carnage is a beautiful thing to behold.

Erlanger is not particularly shy about trumpeting his bias: as reported in August on Ynetnews.com, he told a convention of journalists in Jerusalem that Israelis “were not interested in whether 1,000 Lebanese civilians needed to die” in the recent war with Hizbullah, and admitted he rejected an IDF offer of accessibility that would have enabled him to write about Israel’s efforts to ensure the arrival of humanitarian aid to Lebanon. He was not interested in the story, he told the panel.

Erlanger is the character who, in an August 5, 2005 story on a claim by an Israeli archaeologist that the palace of King David may have been unearthed, gave the politically motivated lies of Yasir Arafat equal billing with historical fact.

“The find,” Erlanger wrote, “will also be used in the broad political battle over Jerusalem – whether the Jews have their origins here and thus have some special hold on the place, or whether, as many Palestinians have said, including the late Yasir Arafat, the idea of a Jewish origin in Jerusalem is a myth used to justify conquest and occupation [italics added].”

As the Monitor noted at the time, “Just try to imagine a New York Times story on slavery that would accord historical weight to a statement by, say, David Duke, or a piece at the height of the civil rights movement in which a Times reporter would cite as potentially authoritative the ravings of some discredited boor.”

This, the Monitor conjectured, using Erlanger’s basic framework but changing a handful of words, is what such a piece of drivel would look like: “The dispute hinges on whether Negroes are being deprived of their constitutional rights or whether, as many white Southerners have said, including Alabama Governor George Wallace, the idea of their systematic mistreatment is a myth to justify sympathy and federal intervention.”

Unfortunately, such mindless moral relativism – unimaginable in a Times story on civil rights in 1966 or 2006 – is a defining characteristic of the paper’s coverage of the Arab-Israel conflict.

In September 2005, in a front-page story ostensibly about the burning by Palestinians of recently abandoned synagogues in Gaza, Erlanger led with this bit of disinformation: “Throughout the abandoned Israeli settlements of Gaza, Monday was a carnival of celebration, political grandstanding and widespread scavenging for a Palestinian population whose occupiers vanished overnight….”

Nothing about burning synagogues.

A couple of paragraphs later Erlanger gave us this cheerfully misleading depiction: “Donkey carts were piled with bathroom fixtures, pieces of metal, skeins of wire and long pieces of wood, to feed home ovens. Men, women and children worked with a seriousness of purpose, trying to take home some little personal benefit from the return of lands many feel will somehow, as usual, end up in the hands of the wealthy or well connected.”

Still no mention of any synagogues set afire.

A hint of the fate that befell the Gaza synagogues came several paragraphs later: “…a settlement synagogue built in the shape of a huge Star of David was smoldering, fires inside sending smoke through the edges of the star.”

But even there Erlanger neglected to say who or what caused those “fires inside sending smoke through the edges of the star.”

Finally, in the sixteenth paragraph of his 26-paragraph story, Erlanger wrote, rather ambiguously and without identifying the perpetrators: “In Kfar Darom, there was an extensive march of armed fighters, but the synagogue there was protected from burning by security forces who made a kind of headquarters out of it.”

“Paper of Record” indeed.

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