The Atlantic Monthly

Dear HonestReporting Member,

What a difference a different magazine makes. After Harper’s vicious assault on Israel last month, it is a welcome treat to read the November edition of The Atlantic Monthly.

The cover story is a brave expose of the facts behind the October 1999 crash of EgyptAir flight 990 that took 217 lives, written by aviation expert William Langewiesche. As described by the magazine, Langewiesche “argues decisively that the crash was intentional, and sees Egypt’s disavowal as symptomatic of a larger cultural clash.”

A second Atlantic story, written by P.J. O’Rourke, reports on “Zion’s Vital Signs,” and his journey “through modern Israel, where terrorism has been a fact of ordinary life for decades — and where ordinary life defeats terrorism.” O’Rourke’s article is witty, irreverent, and good-spirited.

For its bold stories that run counter to conventional reporting, we are proud to present this month’s HonestReporting Award to the editors and writers of The Atlantic Monthly.

As of yet, the Langewiesche article is not online. The O’Rouke article is at: HonestReporting members are encouraged to purchase the November edition — for what greater award than to sell out this month’s edition?! We also provide excerpts below.

If you wish to commend The Atlantic Monthly for the O’Rourke and Langewiesche articles, send comments to:

Thank you for your ongoing involvement in the battle against media bias.


Two years afterward the U.S. and Egyptian governments are still quarreling over the cause — a clash that grows out of cultural division, not factual uncertainty. A look at the flight data from a pilot’s perspective, with the help of simulations of the accident, points to what the Egyptians must already know: the crash was caused not by any mechanical failure but by a pilot’s intentional act…

The flight lasted thirty-one minutes… [co-pilot] Gameel al-Batouti… was now alone in the cockpit. The 767 was at 33,000 feet, cruising peacefully eastward… [then] a strange, wordlike sound was uttered, three syllables … But what is clear is that Batouti then softly said, “Tawkkalt ala Allah … [which] essentially means “I rely on God.”… Apparently Batouti had chopped the power and pushed the control yoke forward. The effect was dramatic. The airplane began to dive steeply…Six times in quick succession Batouti repeated, “I rely on God.”

…[The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that] the apparent cause was pilot error at its extreme: Batouti had gone haywire. Every detail that emerged from the two flight recorders fit that scenario… Batouti had waited to be alone to be in the cockpit, and had intentionally pushed the airplane to its death…

The Egyptian… delegation started to loudly criticize the performance and intentions of Boeing, the FBI, and the entire NTSB. [The delegation head] said that Batouti was the scapegoat, and that this was happening because it was an Egyptian airliner that had gone down…

[According to] Hani Shukrallah, a columnist and one of the more thoughtful observers of the Egyptian scene… “I know that as far as the Egyptian government was concerned, the point that this was not pilot error, and that the Egyptian pilot did not bring it down — this was decided before the investigation began. It had to do with Egypt’s image in the outside world… The government would have viewed this [as]… something that we should cover up. So it got politicized immediately. And this became an official line: You are out there to prove that EgyptAir is not responsible. It became a national duty. It was us versus the West…”


A journey through modern Israel, where terrorism has been a fact of ordinary life for decades — and where ordinary life defeats terrorism.

…The Lord did well by me this Passover — brilliant sunshine on the beaches of Tel Aviv, pellucid waters, no flies in my room at the Hilton, and certainly no lice. I am a first-born myself, but I was not the least smitten…

There was no sign of terrorism’s effects. The Carmel Market was crowded with people either wholly unafraid or indifferent to whether they were blown up singly or in bunches. If police security was pervasive, it was invisible. Israel, I’ve heard, is hated fanatically by millions of Muslims around the world, whereas Congress is loathed only by a small number of well-informed people who follow politics closely. But a walk around anything in Israel is less impeded by barriers and armed guards than a walk around the Capitol building in Washington.

…For those who dislike ideology, the great thing about kibbutzim is that they’re such a lousy idea. Take an Eastern European intelligentsia and make the desert bloom. One would sooner take Mormons and start a rap label. But Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, three-quarters of a mile north of the Gaza Strip, passed the test of ideology. It worked — something no fully elaborated, universally applied ideology ever does. I’d never been to a kibbutz. I don’t know what I expected – Grossinger’s with guns?

… [T]he second wonderful thing about Zionism: it was right. Every other “ism” of the modern world has been wrong about the nature of civilized man – Marxism, mesmerism, surrealism, pacifism, existentialism, nudism. But civilized man did want to kill Jews, and was going to do more of it. And Zionism was specific. While other systems of thought blundered around in the universal, looking for general solutions to comprehensive problems, Zionism stuck to its guns, or – in the beginning – to its hoes, mattocks, and irrigation pipes…

Our [Arab] guide took us up a hill to the Christian Arab village of Beit Jala, which the Israelis had been shelling… “The Israelis shell here for no reason,” [said the guide.] “Um,” Dave said, “why for no reason?” And our guide, speaking in diplomatic circumlocution, allowed as how every now and then, all the time, the Palestinian gunmen would occasionally, very often, use the Beit Jala hilltop to shoot with rifles at Israeli tanks guarding a highway tunnel in the valley…

There are worse things than war, if the intifada is indeed a war. As of this writing, 513 Palestinians and 124 Israelis had been killed in what is called the second intifada. About 40,000 people perished in the 1992-1996 civil war in Tajikistan that nobody’s heard of. From one and a half to two million are dead in Sudan. There are parts of the world where the situation Dave and I were in is too ordinary to have a name. Late Saturday night the particular place where we were in that situation was the American Colony Hotel, in East Jerusalem, sometimes called the PLO hotel for the supposed connections the staff has. It is the preferred residence of intifada-covering journalists, especially those who are indignant about Israeli behavior…


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