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Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks to the UNGA, Sept. 29, 2014.

The caricaturization of the Israeli leader’s lengthy description virtually requires a rejection of the position by the state department, and that is what he gets. And that is what goes into the articles describing the U.S. response to Netanyahu’s speech, and it becomes the understanding by all who even pay some attention to what happens at the United Nations: that the Israeli head of state claims all Muslims want to control the world and that the United States rejects the Israeli Prime Minister’s characterization.

While it is true that AP’s Lee is cantankerous and badgers the state department spokespeople fairly ecumenically, there are at least two members of the state department press corps who can be counted on to always and virtually only attack Israel’s positions, while cheerleading for the Palestinian Arab or other Muslim positions.


Reuters’ Arshad Mohammed met expectations with his truncated version of Netanyahu’s description of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

It is true that the Israeli leader was critical of the UNHRC. But the Israeli prime minister focused on the fact that during this summer’s war in Gaza, Hamas used Gazan civilians as human shields, executed Gazans without judicial process, and sought to maximize civilian – both Gazan and Israeli – casualties, while Israel sought to minimize casualties on both sides. And yet, Netanyahi made the point, it is Israel that is being investigated for war crimes, not Hamas. This, Netanyahu explained, served to legitimize the actions of terrorists. And his statement was that as a result, what the UNHRC was doing was “acting as a Terrorists Rights Council.”

But this is how Mohammed characterized that position:

QUESTION: Can I ask just on – going from what Matt said. I didn’t actually see the speech myself, I’m afraid, but if Prime Minister Netanyahu suggested that the UN should be called the “UN Terrorist Commission,” would you not say that that was offensive language?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve spoken about our concerns in the past. We certainly wouldn’t characterize it that way. We don’t see the need for heated rhetoric. But obviously there are times when we certainly agree, and we’ve expressed concerns, as Matt noted, in the past as well about the same organization and how they operate.

QUESTION: But you don’t think equating the world UN body to a terrorist —

QUESTION: It was the Human Rights Commission.

QUESTION: — or was it the Human Rights Commission? I —

MS. PSAKI: I think we certainly haven’t used that language. I think that speaks to how we view it.

What the Reuters’ correspondent was doing, was tag-teaming with the Al Quds correspondent, Said Erekat. Erekat tried repeatedly during this press briefing to find a chink in the state department spokesperson’s characterization the previous week of acting leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas’s UN speech as “offensive.”

QUESTION: Jen, I just wanted to ask you: What did you find offensive in Abbas speech? What particular – what in particular was so offensive in his speech?

MS. PSAKI: I think – I don’t think I need to repeat it, Said. I —

QUESTION: I mean, do you find the whole speech offensive?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure, knowing you – knowing you, I’m sure you read it closely and —

QUESTION: I read it very closely, but —

MS. PSAKI: — and there are the – were the use – was the use of some terminology in there that we felt we needed to speak to.


MS. PSAKI: But I don’t think I need to outline that from here.

QUESTION: Okay. So you find the – that the terminology he used, as genocide; that’s offensive? Is that it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think – I think I would point you to —


MS. PSAKI: Said, let me finish. I’ve already spoken to this. I don’t think we need to – it’s productive to get into a —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: — more of a back-and-forth about it. I will note again that the Palestinian people, President Abbas – Secretary Kerry had a lengthy, I think 90-minute meeting with President Abbas last week. He’ll have ongoing discussions. It doesn’t mean we don’t voice our concerns when we have them.

QUESTION: Let me ask you in a different way. I mean, do you find part of it offensive? The whole thing offensive? 10 percent offensive? What is offensive?

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate the opportunity, but I’m not going to go down this rabbit hole with you.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just continue on with the —

There were more efforts by the press corps to ridicule, denigrate and minimize the seriousness of the points made in Netanyahu’s UN speech. In fact, that is all that happened during the briefing regarding Netanyahu’s UN address. And every time the state department spokesperson relented on some point or other regarding the imbecility of Netanyahu’s positions, as characterized by a member of the press corps, that statement becomes the headline or the gist of the articles that become the historical record of relations between Israel and the U.S.

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: [email protected]