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Obama, Truth-Telling & Gaza

January 26th, 2009 by Celeste Fremon

gaza-woman-21.jpg


As you’ll note, this time all the Sunday/Monday Must Reads (and a must see) are on the same topic:

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As 60 Minutes’ Bob Simon pointed out in a segment on Sunday night, the situation in Gaza and the West Bank is so high up on Barack Obama’s To Do list that his first foreign calls on his first day in office were to Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

A day or two later, Obama reaffirmed his sense of urgency by appointing former senator George Mitchell, respected for his work in brokering peace in Northern Ireland, as the new administration’s special Middle East envoy.

But if Obama is to have even a ghost of a chance of brokering a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians—he will have to start from the facts as they really are, which has not exactly been the habit for the last two administrations when it came to the Middle East.

To that end, Barack would do well to begin by reading the article in this week’s London Review of books by Henry Siegman.

Siegman is the former head of the American Jewish Congress and the Synagogue Council of America, as well as the the current director of the US Middle East Project in New York. His piece is authoritative, well-sourced and harsh—and this week’s number 1 must read for anyone with an interest in the region.

Here’s how it opens:

Western governments and most of the Western media have accepted a number of Israeli claims justifying the military assault on Gaza: that Hamas consistently violated the six-month truce that Israel observed and then refused to extend it; that Israel therefore had no choice but to destroy Hamas’s capacity to launch missiles into Israeli towns; that Hamas is a terrorist organization, part of a global jihadi network; and that Israel has acted not only in its own defense but on behalf of an international struggle by Western democracies against this network.

I am not aware of a single major American newspaper, radio station or TV channel whose coverage of the assault on Gaza questions this version of events. Criticism of Israel’s actions, if any (and there has been none from the Bush administration), has focused instead on whether the IDF’s carnage is proportional to the threat it sought to counter, and whether it is taking adequate measures to prevent civilian casualties.

Middle East peacemaking has been smothered in deceptive euphemisms, so let me state bluntly that each of these claims is a lie. Israel, not Hamas, violated the truce: Hamas undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel; in return, Israel was to ease its throttlehold on Gaza. In fact, during the truce, it tightened it further. This was confirmed not only by every neutral international observer and NGO on the scene but by Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division…

As a follow-up, read Sunday’s Scott Macleod’s essay for Time Magazine in which he talks about why Obama is the last American president who might be able to help broker a two state solution. If he doesn’t manage it, the window will be gone.

And then watch the aforementioned 60 Minutes segment in which Bob Simon talks about how, for many on both sides of the conflict, the two-state solution may be already impossible.

Posted in international issues, International politics, Middle East, Obama | 8 Comments »

8 Responses

  1. Woody Says:

    60 Minutes?
    TIME?
    Henry Siegman?

    Celeste, your “reliable” sources are predictable. I know that the first two are liberal and idiotic. What about Siegman?

    Well, he’s a former foreign editor of The NY Times. His commentary has been featured in the LA Times and on NPR. He claimed that Israel is worse than the terrorist leader Yasser Arafat. He is heavily funded by European governments and Arab businessmen. He has drawn parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany.

    Henry Siegman’s Expertise: Bashing Israel at Every Turn

    Siegman’s long list of factual errors, his intemperate anti-Israel rhetoric, his indulgent, if not sycophantic, stance toward Hamas, and his endless self-contradiction might make one wonder why main-stream news organizations have so frequently turned to the erstwhile Council on Foreign Relations “expert.”

    …In the interests of full disclosure, publications carrying Henry Siegman’s future essays, should include those connections, giving readers a clearer understanding of the “expertise” of the author.

    You would think…Celeste.

    Here’s another side of your story today. Henry Siegman is an Idiot.

  2. Woody Says:

    Celese, change your filters to allow at least two links per comment. Now, I will have to break my “unposted” comment into two.

    First….

    60 Minutes?
    TIME?
    Henry Siegman?

    Celeste, your “reliable” sources are predictable. I know that the first two are liberal and idiotic. What about Siegman?

    Well, he’s a former foreign editor of The NY Times. His commentary has been featured in the LA Times and on NPR. He claimed that Israel is worse than the terrorist leader Yasser Arafat. He has been heavily funded by European governments and non-American Arab businessmen. He has drawn parallels between Israel and Nazi Germany.

    Henry Siegman’s Expertise: Bashing Israel at Every Turn

    Siegman’s long list of factual errors, his intemperate anti-Israel rhetoric, his indulgent, if not sycophantic, stance toward Hamas, and his endless self-contradiction might make one wonder why main-stream news organizations have so frequently turned to the erstwhile Council on Foreign Relations “expert.”

    …In the interests of full disclosure, publications carrying Henry Siegman’s future essays, should include those connections, giving readers a clearer understanding of the “expertise” of the author.

    You would think…Celeste.

  3. Woody Says:

    Second….

    Here’s another side of your story today. Henry Siegman is an Idiot.

  4. reg Says:

    Department of Unintentional Self-Parody, from “CAMERA”s brief (smear) on Siegman:

    “Demonizing Israel

    (…)

    “Again borrowing language from Israel’s detractors, Siegman occasionally describes Israel’s security barrier, which is a metal fence along over 95 percent of its length, as a ‘wall’ (i.e. June 3, 2003, International Herald Tribune).”

  5. Pokey Says:

    Facing Facts

    Hamas is not interested in peace with Israel!
    Syria is not interested in peace with Israel!
    Iran is not interested in peace with Israel!
    Saudi Arabia is not interested in peace with Israel!

    Israel is not a threat to Arab nations. No one in their right mind would think that Israel would want to occupy or take over Mecca, Damascus, Cairo or Baghdad! However, the Arab Media and culture as a whole is relentlessly perpetuating the fear in Arab minds that Israel wants to take over the Middle East.

    Peace with Israel has never been advocated as a solution in the Arab educational system and media. Jews are portrayed as less than human as “evil blood thirsty aliens from outer space” who are about to destroy the world.

    Muslim countries do not want peace and they don’t want to co-exist with Israel, even if it costs a thousand Muslim lives for every Jew they kill.

    And yes there are many Muslims who want peace but they are the minority and not in power and don’t speak for their countries.

  6. John Moore Says:

    It’s really simple. Hamas is a terrorist organization and always has been. It terrorizes Palestinians in Gaza, and terrorizes Israeli’s by intentionally firing artillery rockets at civilians. Regardless of Israel’s alleged behavior, Hamas’ is unacceptable.

    Israel has a right of self defense. It exercised that right, with considerable care taken to minimize civilian losses.

    It is really tragic that leftists reflexively side with the terrorists, and attack the governments which are radically more humane than those terrorists.

  7. "reg" Says:

    “It is really tragic that leftists reflexively side with the terrorists”

    FU, asshole ! This isn’t commentary, it’s slander – which is your stock in trade.

    Someone posted a link above as “an alternative view” to Celeste’s that not only denies the right of Palstinians to nationhood but states fairly explictly that if they don’t dissolve themselves into existing Arab states, the only alternative is to eliminate them and actually uses the word “genocide” as a threatened solution. This person wasn’t a “leftist.” Funny you engage in your usual smarmy blather but appear to have no objections to that singular incidence of racist insanity in this thread.

  8. "reg" Says:

    “Muslim countries do not want peace and they don’t want to co-exist with Israel, even if it costs a thousand Muslim lives for every Jew they kill.”

    Does this “fact” include the Muslim countries Israel has negotiated peace treaties with, or do you simply consider it okay to make blanket crackpot assertions that suit your prejudices ?

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