Essential George Will

Outstanding column by George Will today that should not be missed in the frenzy surrounding the Rantisi strike. Will recognizes that Bush’s support of Sharon’s plan is simply an accurate reading of UN Resolution 242 that recognized the right of every state in the region to “secure and recognized boundaries,” which Israel’s 1967 borders were not:

Palestinian spokesmen, denouncing the new U.S. position, speak not of the 1949 armistice lines but “the 1967 borders.” It is not in the interest of the Palestinian Authority to have the world reminded — being willfully forgetful, it needs much reminding — that Israel’s 1967 borders were accidents of the military facts on the ground 18 years before that.

Bush, by emphasizing 1949 rather than 1967, reminds those who forever say “Israel is being provocative” that for 56 years — since Israel’s founding in May 1948 — the problem has been that, to Israel’s enemies, Israel’s being is provocative. Hostility to Israel predated 1967 and would not be cured by a return to 1967 realities.

Will also makes a point emphasized in last week’s HR communique:

Wednesday’s policy flowed ineluctably from Bush’s June 24, 2002, pronouncement that the first prerequisite for progress is for the Palestinian people to produce “regime change”: “I call upon the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror.” That prerequisite being unattainable, Sharon has chosen unilateral disengagement — the fence — and a long wait for the time when, in Bush’s words, “the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements.”

Read the whole article (req. reg.), and send it on to your local editor as an important articulation of the historical facts.

April 19, 2004 1:05 By Category : Backspin

Lionizing Rantisi

The (UK) Observer has a Rantissi obituary that urges readers to remember the Hamas leader’s softer side:

The man who loved the Palestinian children so much that he admitted openly that he was prepared to slaughter Israeli infants to guarantee the future of their Palestinian counterparts – and could see no contradiction…

He spoke hate, and ordered the suicide bombers into Israel. But, despite speaking of driving the Jews into the sea, he knew that a negotiated settlement was inevitable, that neither his organisation nor the other militias could defeat Israel.

His organisation had the influence and discipline to deliver a real settlement as well as carnage…

Despite his strident voice, Rantissi, like Yassin, would often hint that he regarded the armed struggle against the Israelis as more negotiable than his sermons and speeches might have suggested, believing that violence was an essential tool to Palestinian liberation…

For while Hamas has proved the catalyst for the some of the most fervently anti-Israeli feelings in the Palestinian areas, it has often provided the most subtly thought out.

Love of children, subtlety, discipline, reasonable negotiation…these are the memories the Observer has of Abdel Aziz Rantissi (they also happen to be the most valued traits of the Observer’s English readership). How’s this for subtlety:

“We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims. America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon. … The war of God continues against them, and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas.” – Rantisi, 3/28/04

April 18, 2004 23:36 By Category : Backspin

Rantisi strike coverage

The IDF killed Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi tonight.

Here’s the first item of absurd coverage, two sentences into the main BBC report :

The [IDF] attack came hours after a suicide bomber killed himself and an Israeli soldier at the Erez checkpoint just north of Gaza city.

The BBC’s Peter Greste in Gaza City says people are speculating that the attack was in response to the suicide bombing.

Right…the IDF suddenly decided to target mass murderer Rantisi, a couple of hours before.

Reuters, meanwhile, has decided that Rantisi’s interior decorating is an essential part of this breaking story:

With Rantissi filling the role of Hamas spokesman, camera crews from around the world have trooped to his modestly furnished living room to hear him issue vows of revenge, often in calm, even tones, for Israel’s killing of militants.

But then there’s Jerusalem NewsWire’s take:

Israel executed the blood-soaked Yassin less than one month ago as the venerated terror chief left a Gaza mosque.

At the time, Rantisi vowed to “open the gates of hell” in response.

Tonight those gates opened for him.


April 17, 2004 23:06 By Category : Backspin

NY Times and WashPost on Bush/Sharon

David Adesnik at OxBlog critiques NY Times and WashPost coverage of yesterday’s Bush statement:

No question about it, this morning’s Bush-Sharon press-conference is the top story of the day. But why, exactly? If you get your news from the WaPo or NYT, the answer to that question is far from self-evident.

Adesnik nicely boils down the day’s events, with perspective beyond the media coverage:

By staking out a clear position in advance of final-status talks, Bush is essentially saying that important aspects of Israel’s demands are simply non-negotiable. If the Palestinians negotiators accept those demands, they will now come across as giving in to American pressure rather than compromising in the name of peace. Thus, if you think that only a negotiated accord can end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then Bush and Sharon really have thrown a wrench in the works. Clearly, that is the premise on which the NYT and WaPo correspondents are operating.

But there is another premise out there which also deserves a fair hearing: that a negotiated settlement is no longer possible and that Israel simply has to find the best way to let go of the occupied territories. That is why Sharon wants to pull out of Gaza. That is why he is building a massive wall to separate Israel from the West Bank. While one can argue that good fences don’t make good neighbors, a strong majority of Israeli voters have taken Sharon’s side on this one.

The whole thing is worth a read.

April 15, 2004 18:36 By Category : Backspin

The backlash

Heavy media coverage today of Palestinian anger at President Bush’s support for Sharon’s disengagement plan. Many journalists are far from neutral on this — consider this sentence from a Reuters report:

Sharon will fly home on Thursday armed with what he came to Washington for — U.S. “guarantees” he can flaunt in the face of opponents of his proposal.

‘Flaunt in the face of opponents’?! A neutral report would never portray a democratic national leader in such a derogatory manner.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie, seeing the sum of all his people’s fears realized, immediately denounced the statement as unacceptable.

‘The sum of all [Palestinians'] fears’?! Hyperbole at its worst. This was a setback to the PA, but the loss of US support for the ‘right of return’ and American acceptance of large blocks of Israeli settlements are certainly not the ‘sum of all Palestinian fears.’

The article is by the same Jeffrey Heller mentioned in the blog entry below…

Comments to Reuters: click here


April 15, 2004 13:50 By Category : Backspin

Reuters wrong on Likud

From a Reuters article yesterday by Jeffrey Heller:

Sharon, who in the late 1970s emerged as the architect of a plan to vastly expand the settlements, heads a right-wing party that views the West Bank as part of the Biblical territories of Judea and Samaria, given by God to the Jews.

Actually, Likud is a secular party that recognizes an ‘unassailable Jewish right’ to the West Bank, but not due to divine mandate.

The official Likud platform describes the party’s position this way:

The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting.

Even the full, Hebrew version of the Likud party platform lacks any mention of the land ‘given by God to the Jews.’

As stated in the platform, Likud tends to value West Bank settlements for their strategic, defense-based value, rather than any spiritual value.

Reuters should issue an immediate correction.

Send comments to: or use Reuters’ online editorial feedback form.

Monitor for Reuters corrections here.

April 15, 2004 11:02 By Category : Backspin

Public cynical about news business

From Boston Globe:

At a time when public distrust of the news media appears to be at a dangerously high level, there is evidence of a deep and fundamental disagreement between those who produce news and those who consume it.

Although most journalists believe quality and values are vital elements of their work and see themselves as providing an important civic function, the reading and viewing public seems to think of journalism as a bottom-line-driven enterprise populated by the ethically challenged. Last month, the Washington-based Project for Excellence in Journalism released a wide-ranging study — “The State of the News Media 2004″ — that concluded that a key factor in journalism’s sagging image is “a disconnection between the public and the news media over motive.”

“Journalists believe they are working in the public interest, and are trying to be fair and independent in that cause,” the survey found. “The public thinks these journalists are either lying or deluding themselves. The public believes that news organizations are operating largely to make money, and that the journalists who work for these organizations are primarily motivated by professional ambition and self-interest.”

‘Ethically challenged’ – great term! Perhaps studies like this will push journalists to continue some of the important self-critique that’s come in the wake of the plagarism scandals, and undeniable bias in Mideast coverage.

April 14, 2004 18:46 By Category : Backspin

Junking the Road Map?

Today’s HonestReporting communique on media coverage of Ariel Sharon’s Washington visit is now posted on our site: Junking the Road Map?

To receive HR communiques by email, just sign up above.

April 14, 2004 17:24 By Category : Backspin

Palestinian deaths at hands of Palestinians

Another aspect of the oft-distorted death counts in the conflict — from Haaretz:

Over 11% of Palestinians killed since September 2000 died at the hands of other Palestinians, according to a report by the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG), headed by Bassem Eid. The report states that 297 Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians.

See also:

The HonestReporting communique Skewing the Death Tolls

An Engineered Tragedy by the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT)

‘The Intra-fada: An analysis of Internal Palestinian Violence’

April 14, 2004 17:21 By Category : Backspin

Arafat authorized attack on US convoy

Middle East Newsline reports evidence that Yassir Arafat personally OK’ed the attack on a US convoy that killed three Americans:

The United States has determined that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat approved an attack on a U.S. embassy convoy in which three Americans were killed in 2003.

U.S. diplomatic sources said a U.S. investigation into the bombing of the embassy convoy in the Gaza Strip in October 2003 pointed to a clear role by Arafat. The sources said Arafat granted approval to a plan to strike U.S. interests in PA areas.

Arafat, the sources said, did not draft or approve any details for a Palestinian attack. But they said Arafat agreed to a proposal relayed by a high-level aide for the Palestinians to “pass a message” to the United States.

So far UPI is the only major wire agency to cover this story.

April 14, 2004 14:01 By Category : Backspin