The American public overwhelmingly opposes U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a new poll claims. It would be cause for concern, until you realize that the poll was carried out by someone who opposes U.S. recognition of Jerusalem, and who crafted the question so that the results would be slanted in that direction.
The pollster is Shibley Telhami, an Israeli-born Arab political scientist who teaches at the University of Maryland. He posed the Jerusalem question in two versions. The first was phrased in the negative, that is, “The U.S. should not immediately move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.” He then gave five arguments against moving it, such as “it would be violating international norms.”
That argument is, of course, absurd. The international norm is that countries decide for themselves what their capital city is, and then the U.S. places its embassy there. The Jerusalem situation is not the norm; in fact, it’s the abnormal one.
Not surprisingly, that question elicited the result Telhami was hoping for: 65 percent said they agree “strongly” or “somewhat” that the embassy should not be moved, while only 28 percent favored moving it.
Telhami then asked the question in affirmative language: “The U.S. should immediately move its Embassy to Jerusalem.” This time he offered only three arguments, all of them weak, such as “the Embassy should be located in Jerusalem to fulfill the president’s pledge” and “to demonstrate the commitment of the U.S. to the state of Israel.”
For some reason, Telhami didn’t think his question should make any reference to the city’s 3,000 year-long status as the capital of the Jewish people, or the wanton desecration of Jewish holy sites when the eastern half of the city was under Arab occupation, or the fact that other countries get to choose their own capital.
Once again, no surprise: the results were another landslide against moving the embassy: 57 percent opposed, 35 percent in favor.
It doesn’t take much research to uncover Shibley Telhami’s anti-Israel bias. He has left a long trail of biased articles and speeches over the year.
In an April 4, 2002 op-ed in the New York Times, Telhami blamed the Israeli “occupation” for Palestinian suicide bombings. The bombers act the way they do “because they think it is effective in making occupation unbearable to Israel,” according to Telhami.
During a discussion on C-Span on June 5, 2011, a caller asked about the danger of Egypt abrogating its peace treaty with Israel, in view of the long history of Arab and Muslim leaders violating peace treaties. Telhami ignored the caller’s point and responded that if Israel doesn’t facilitate “a credible peace process” with the Palestinians, “it will put strain on the relationship between Egypt and Israel.”
Telhami took the same blame-Israel approach in a May 27, 2012 appearance on C-Span. A caller asked about Egypt’s elections. Once again, Telhami replied by obsessively focusing on Israel.
“I think the primary thing for the elections is really American policy in the Middle East, particularly for the Palestine question,” Telhami declared.
Later in the discussion, he was asked about anti-American sentiment in the Arab world. Whom do you suppose Telhami blamed for that? “The core anger with American foreign policy in general is over the Israel-Palestine question,” he asserted. “The policy that matters most now is the Israel-Palestine policy.”
In an op-ed in the Washington Post in December 2014, Telhami said that the American-Israeli-Palestinian trilateral committee on incitement, on which he served, failed because the Israelis “would present, for instance, a statement by a Muslim religious figure against Israel, and Palestinians would respond by citing settlement construction or episodes of Palestinian humiliation.”
In Telhami’s mind, the two positions are comparable. A statement “by a Muslim religious figure against Israel,” which obviously is incitement, is comparable to “settlement construction or episodes of Palestinian humiliation,” which obviously cannot be considered incitement. Telhami is simply incapable of ever acknowledging that the Palestinians are to blame for anything. It’s always either Israel or “both sides.”
And in a September 16, 2016 op-ed in Newsweek, Telhami belittled U.S. aid to Israel. He complained that in the past Israel received increased U.S. aid for giving up territory, but more recently, “Israel is making no major strategic decision to attract this level of aid – and certainly not one over the Palestinian-Israeli or the broader Arab-Israeli conflicts.”
With this kind of track record, is it any surprise that the polls Telhami takes, such as the latest one on moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, coincidentally produce results which advance his pro-Palestinian agenda?