More on Anthony Lewis, Tom Friedman and the Moon at Camp David

Israel/Palestine
on 20 Comments
I asked Jerome Slater, the author of a groundbreaking paper on the ways
in which the Times has failed to inform Americans of the human right crisis
in Palestine, to respond to my post this a.m. on
Anthony Lewis, the former Times columnist. His comments follow.

Since Lewis's retirement, there have been three Times columnists who regularly discussed Israel and its policies: Abe Rosenthal, William Safire, and Thomas Friedman. Rosenthal and Safire were straight Likudish propagandists, therefore worse than useless. Friedman is sometimes critical of Israeli policies, but on the whole he has been part of the problem of the uninformed and uncritical U.S. media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Friedman was particularly disastrous on the 
responsibility for the breakdown of the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process in the
summer of 2000 and the outbreak of the
Palestinian intifada several months later.
During the 2000-2003 period Friedman
wrote some twenty-five columns claiming
that at the 2000 Camp David U.S./Israeli/
Palestinian summit conference, Barak offered
a generous peace settlement
to Arafat, who turned it down, made no
counteroffers, and ordered a violent
uprising, thereby proving that he had no
interest in a compromise settlement with
Israel.
Soon after the failure at Camp David, however,
a number of Israeli, American, and
European scholars (including me), journalists,
and officials who were directly involved
in the events of 2000 began demolishing every
part of this mythology; it is no longer
regarded as intellectually respectable by informed
observers, including a number of
high-level Israeli officials who participated in the negotiations.


Nonetheless, Friedman evidently remained unaware
of, or chose to disregard, his critics,
for he regularly repeated his uninformed, irresponsible,
and sometimes even inflammatory rhetoric.Given the
importance of the Times in general, and Friedman in
particular, in molding elite public opinion and perhaps
even influencing governmental policy, the
consequences of Friedman’s mythology have been
devastating.
I covered some of this in my article. 
The one comment I'd add is that the headlines on Camp David blaming Arafat 
remain one of the most important events of the last few years. My pro-Israel
friends often reflect this view: Arafat rejected a generous offer. Though I'm
not well-informed on this issue, I'd note that Clayton Swisher's book, published
by Nation Books, is extremely impressive. And let us not forget:
The Times also did wonderful journalism on this subject, a famous
piece by Deborah Sontag:

A potent, simplistic narrative has taken hold in  Israel and
to some extent in the United States.
It says: Mr. Barak
offered Mr. Arafat the moon at  Camp
David last summer. Mr. Arafat 
turned it down,
and then ”pushed the button” and chose the path of
violence. The
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is insoluble,
at least for the forseeable future.
But many diplomats
and officials believe that the dynamic was far more
complex and
that Mr. Arafat does not bear sole
responsibility for the breakdown of the

peace effort. There were missteps and
successes by Israelis, Palestinians and

Americans alike over more than seven
years of peace talks between the 1993
Oslo interim
agreement and the last negotiating sessions in  Taba,

Egypt, in January.Mr. Barak did not offer Mr. Arafat

the moon at Camp David.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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20 Responses

  1. Jim Haygood
    March 17, 2008, 2:12 pm

    I was able to read the cut-off right margins of this essay, by copying and pasting it into a Word document.

    Thanks for making me aware of Slater's article. I'm glad someone is on the case of the deplorable role of the U.S. Lamestream Media in distorting the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.

    A more general indictment of media credibility can be found in the book "Into the Buzzsaw," edited by Kristina Borjesson, with a foreword by Gore Vidal. Warning: read this book, and you will never again be able to take anything in the media at face value. Particularly not the "stenographic media" such as the Slimes and the WaPo.

  2. Chuck
    March 17, 2008, 2:31 pm

    Israel has continued building settlements despite having agreed not to in the Oslo Accords. And Israel continues building settlements despite having promised the current administration they would cease doing so. Last week, Barak stood up General Fraser at a scheduled meeting on roadmap compliance. Is this the type of context that Witty jabbers away about?

    And if Americans don't read the Israeli press, they are kept in the dark about all these matters which Tom Friedman and the rest of his ilk so dishonestly keep off limits in the American press. The notion that their was ever a "generous offer" made by Israel is simply more spinning by the same folks who prove their dishonesty day after day.

    Right now, NPR is discussing the new book on the 3 Trillion dollar venture in Iraq designed to keep Saddaam from paying $25,000 stipends to suicide bombers. There is a direct connection between Israel, the War in Iraq, and the economic poop hitting the fan in America. How much longer is the Hebrew managed press in America going to keep this hushed up? Has the Israeli Lobby ever conceived of the concept of "unsustainability"? Just who might be bitten by the camel once too many pieces of straw are pile upon his back? Will James Cayne be able to honor all his pledges to those Jewish charities?

    Will Sword, Sims et al be able to read through this without going vulgar? Apparently their rhetorical skill set is void beyond their customary potty mouth and crude sex talk. It speaks so highly of the cause they vigorously support to be represented by such upstanding personalities.

  3. Richard Witty
    March 17, 2008, 2:49 pm

    "But many diplomats
    and officials believe that the dynamic was far more
    complex and that Mr. Arafat does not bear sole
    responsibility for the breakdown of the
    peace effort. "

    The Freidman points do inform, they just don't inform enough.

    Anthony Lewis – "I covered some of this in my article". Some of what specifically?

    So, you stated what wasn't exactly accurate, then what about the next step. What is accurate?

    Arafat was offered the most that any Israeli administration had offered. Certainly, much more than Rabin specifically discussed.

    From the Israeli perspective, from the prior norm of "no Palestinian state", it was the moon.

    And, the rejection of that offer did delay the peace process. And the introduction of the intifada was prepared for in advance, unlike the far more grassroots first one.

    It was a long-shot to begin with, on the eve of any election, in which Sharon had 24 hours/day to campaign, while Barak had 3.

    With no continuity between the Barak and Sharon administrations.

    I hope you get that the Lewis and Sontag conclusions are very different.

  4. Joachim Martillo
    March 17, 2008, 3:14 pm

    Obviously, in order to solve the problem of Palestine and to end the threat that Zionism poses to the American democratic system, we need a new narrative.

    Were Jews Weak and Powerless in E. Europe?

    Obviously, they aren't in the USA.

    Take a look at link to eaazi.blogspot.com .

    Yediot Aharonut discusses Soviet Jewish mass murderer's in Stalin's Jews link to ynet.co.il .

    From link to eaazi.blogspot.com

    Why Study Yiddish Culture?

    The Foundations of Modern Europe
    by Joachim Martillo ([email protected])

    From Paul Kriwaczek, Yiddish Civilization, The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation, pp 5-6.

    "We have forgotten that Yiddish-speaking Jews were no mere religious or linguistic minority but formed one of Europe's nations, ultimately more populous than many others — eventually to outnumber Bosnians, Croats, Danes, Estonians, Latvians, Slovaks, Slovenians and Swiss, not to mention the Irish, the Scots and the Welsh. What is more, their contribution to central and eastern Europe's economic, social and intellectual development was utterly disproportionate to their numbers. The Yiddish people must be counted among the founder nations of Europe. (Please take note Ireland, Spain, Italy and Poland, who have pressed for "the Christian roots of the continent" to be proclaimed in the constitution of the European Union.)
    In other words, we cannot understand modern Europe without studying the history of ethnic Ashkenazim."

    For this reason the Martillo Hypothesis (Les origines des juifs actuels , The Origins of Modern Jewry) ranks in importance with the complementary Pirenne Thesis (Mahomet et Charlegmagne) and with the equally complementary proposals of Crone, Cooke, Nevo, and Koren about the development of early Islam (Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World by Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Crossroads to Islam by Yehuda Nevo and Judith Koren, Islamic Marcionism in Malaysia).

    The disproportionate contribution of ethnic Ashkenazim resulted from higher levels of education and disposable income.

    Unfortunately, the same combination made it possible for ethnic Ashkenazim to do a lot of damage when they became disaffected as happened in Czarist Russia in the second half of the nineteenth century.

    Pointing out the harm that ethnic Ashkenazim have done and continue to do* is no more racist or illegitimate than pointing out that Germans wracked tremendous havoc in the first half of the twentieth century.

    In fact, the importance of the Jewish political economic elite in the USA has created a categorical imperative to bring up this issue (the dark side of Yiddish culture) however much American Jews whine that the discussion is anti-Semitic.

    I recommend Kriwaczek's book up to Chapter 13, which seems too dependent on Martin Gilbert, who either has not gone beyond old political propaganda or who simply lies.

    Kriwaczek apparently does not have enough Russian to analyze Soviet Yiddish culture or to discuss the role of Soviet Ashkenazim as the quintessential Soviet class. He probably should have addressed American Jewish, Soviet Jewish, and Israeli Jewish cultures as three daughter currents of Yiddish civilization.

    Notes

    * Here is the short list.

    1) Jews were the leading and most important element of the Russian Communist movement. Without Communist Ashkenazim there would have been no Soviet Union.

    2) Jewish communists tried to take over the Bavarian state after WW1.

    3) Subversive and genocidal Zionists murdered Arab Palestine and made major contributions to wrecking the British Empire.

    4) American Jewish Communists served the Soviet Union while Jabotinskian Zionist Neocons have manipulated the USA into genocidal anti-Arab anti-Muslim policies that will harm the USA for decades.

    =============

    Obviously ethnic Ashkenazim had enough power to cause mayhem in the Russian Empire and to murder Arab Palestine.

    I have to ask Richard Witty, who is our resident ethnic Ashkenazi Nazi.

    Would he be willing to have any sort of dialogue with a German that showed no remorse for the crimes of German Nazism and denied German Nazi racism, mass murder, and genocide?

    Why should any decent person conduct a dialogue with an Israeli Jewish Nazis and their subversive Ashkenazi American Nazi fellow travelers when both groups show no remorse for the crimes of Zionism and when both groups deny Zionist racism, mass murder and genocide?

    Witty only differs from Nadia Matar because he is more subtle and more hypocritical and occasionally pretends to weep when Israeli Jewish Nazis whack Palestinians.

    In order to do what it takes to stop the whacking, progressive American Jews must attack the State of Israel as a genocidal terrorist Nazi state, and they must demand that American Zionists be treated exactly like German Nazis, and Jews must be subjected to the anti-terrorism laws just like everyone.

    In other words, Jews like Richard Witty, Charles Jacobs, Bill Kristol, Alan Dershowitz, and Sheldon Adelson, who give material aid to Zionist terrorism, must go to jail at least until the Bush administration anti-terrorism legislation is repealed and normal juridical standards are restored.

    After the incineration of Iraq, incarceration of the American Zionist leadership is far too mild a penalty.

  5. Richard Witty
    March 17, 2008, 4:27 pm

    Hard to know the basis of your contempt for me.

    I don't see any resemblence between your statements and my identity nor politics.

    Why the name-calling?

  6. Joachim Martillo
    March 17, 2008, 5:27 pm

    Duh, maybe because you periodically accuse me of anti-Semitic attitudes and expression.

    In any case, I doubt someone sympathetic to Jews during the 30s would be any less contemptuous of a German Nazi than I am of ethnic Ashkenazi Nazis of which I consider you an example.

  7. MJ Rosenberg
    March 17, 2008, 6:01 pm

    Clay Swisher's book is the definitive volume on this subject. He interviewed all the Camp David participants and they told him the truth, probably because he was a kid and they didn't think he'd find a publisher. But he did. "The Truth About Camp David" is just that.

  8. Jim Haygood
    March 17, 2008, 6:13 pm

    .

    "There is a direct connection between Israel, the War in Iraq, and the economic poop hitting the fan in America. How much longer is the Hebrew managed press in America going to keep this hushed up?" – Chuck

    Let me take the liberty of providing an illustration to flesh out Chuck's point. This is from an AP article today:

    ————

    On cable news networks: 24 percent of the time [was] spent on Iraq last year, just 1 percent this year.

    It's possible to pinpoint the exact week that the switch turned off. The war averaged 30 minutes per week of coverage last year on the three network evening newscasts up until Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. forces, testified in September about the surge's progress, according to news consultant Andrew Tyndall. In the last 15 weeks of the year, the broadcasts collectively spent four minutes per week on the war.

    link to miamiherald.com

    ————

    If you believe that the overnight change which occurred after Betrayus spoke is due to some nebulous "fatigue factor" which the networks suddenly identified the very next day, then you are a "coincidence theorist."

    "Into the Buzzsaw," the book I mentioned earlier, provides chapter and verse to illustrate how such anomalies are engineered. They don't "just happen."

  9. Glenn Condell
    March 18, 2008, 1:30 am

    'Arafat was offered the most that any Israeli administration had offered.'

    Which is to say 'five eighths of bugger-all'.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall the plan involved the Palestinians accepting Israel's right to (a) reserve all the best bits of land for itself, cantonising the rest, (b) 'maintain security', (c) control (and steal) water and power supplies, and (c) build Jews-only roads thru their land.

    How much of that would Barak have accepted? How much of that would you accept Richard?

  10. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 6:19 am

    At the time, the offer sounded better than any before, but that it didn't add up to a viable Palestine, and that it should have been rejected.

    I was disappointed that Arafat rejected the process as well as the offer though.

    I think at this point, the offer and the story is lost to history.

    And, all that people bring to the story is their prejudice.

    As you presumed what my understanding of the events were.

  11. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 6:27 am

    Its being repeated now.

    Israel is signaling that it is playing precipice negotiation (which it accused Arafat of), and that they have the upper hand and will attempt for advantage.

    Why? Why not define what is necessity and hold to that, then the remainder negotiate for greater good, rather than advantage?

    Its because all of the players are hedging politically. Even if Abbas and Olmert's political legacy's are based on their ability to achieve an agreement, their "allies" (and not allies) are not.

    Hamas' and Likud's political future is dependant on them NOT achieving an agreement.

    The anti-Zionist portion of the left's political validity (to say "I told you so") is dependant on them NOT achieving an agreement.

  12. Charles Keating
    March 18, 2008, 10:19 am

    So Richard, should we conclude all players are not really concerned with peace, but merely playing to their respective
    home audience, the group that put them in power? If so, it seems we can look forward to another peace table fiasco.

    Do you see any one in power who might take on a real leadership role at a peace table? Any American candidate, for instance? Any Israeli? Any Palestinian? Any European? Or anyone else who actually has a chance and real sense of fair play?

  13. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 10:46 am

    I'm suggesting FOCUS and clarity rather than militancy and generalization.

  14. MM
    March 18, 2008, 11:24 am

    "Hamas' and Likud's political future is dependant on them NOT achieving an agreement."

    This part may or may not be true: Hamas seems to be positioning itself for the "two-state solution" now, which in my cynical mind means "endless war," but to some more trusting and hopeful lite Zionists, is nothing other than the last best hope for peace.

    As far as I know Likud is in favor of the Sharon unilateral bantustan solution, a deal to be certified under the soles of Israeli Occupation Force rubber boots.

    In Richard's mind, these are equally "rejectionist" postures, since he all but ignores power dynamics in his long-running sophist ballet here at Mondoweiss. There is an undercurrent in everything he writes, that Jews (a label used to hide Zionist intentions when "Americans" would be just too audacious), are the real victims here, the underdogs, those in need of protection, of special privileges to exterminate those who are out there, endlessly plotting their destruction.

    My point of view on the other hand is that the Likud is calling the shots. The facts on the ground demonstrate this: while Olmert pays lip service to the "two state solution" which is exactly what it exists for, being mentioned publicly and simultaneously sabotaged behind closed doors, the formerly Palestinian land turns, turns, turns into more colonial settlements, with more rubber boots and "peace barriers". That's the Likud vision, and that vision is a reality.

    Here, let us perform a quick comparison between Witty's two, equally self-serving, equally rejectionist political movements, Hamas and Likud:

    Hamas is a reasonably well-funded but stateless organization, internationally vilified, poorly armed, the object of scorn of many moderate Muslims, forced to resort to kamakazi tactics.

    Israel meanwhile is a member of the U.N. (yet like its big brother, el império, beyond any meaningful reproach), it's the benefactor of an absurdly well-funded propaganda campaign to manage its image in the media, receives the institutional backing of organized Judaism, and is sitting on hundreds if not thousands of fat mans and little boys.

    "The anti-Zionist portion of the left's political validity (to say "I told you so") is dependant on them NOT achieving an agreement."

    This total non-sequitor is just evidence that Witty wants to lump activists who are interested in peace and justice, and saner American foreign policy, with "extremism" and "rejectionism," to marginalize our reasonable voices while genocide and war, the status quo, continue. Why reckon with Zionism when you can ponder the infinite alternate universe, in loquacious 5 line stanzas?

  15. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 12:06 pm

    I think the reality is of a tension between the civilists that propose peace with considerable compromise from their original positions; and militancy (that still seeks to achieve its advantage).

    Militancy includes Hamas, Likud, the anti-Zionist left (not all of the left is anti-Zionist), the left/right (those on the left that accept neo-fascist bedfellows, where the difference between progressive and reactionary is indistinct).

    There are all kinds of "activists". Some reject, some propose.

    Anti-Zionists, by definition "reject" half of the parties involved.

  16. MM
    March 18, 2008, 12:36 pm

    No, they reject a murderous ideology. Just as anti-apartheid activists rejected the system that allowed sub-human treatment of black South Africans.

    Your attempt is to make Hamas and Likud seem equally responsible for the current state of affairs, but nothing could be further from the truth. The right-wing Zionist side holds all the cards, Richard.

  17. MM
    March 18, 2008, 1:19 pm

    From Phil's link to Breaking the Silence, a press release on the Hillel event referred to in the next post:

    “This is a fight over the identity of Israel and Judaism,” said group co-founder Yehuda Shaul, a 25-year-old company sergeant who still serves in the reserves and co-founded the veterans’ group, called Breaking the Silence. “This is why American Jews must take part in the debate.”

    But Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, declared he would call the national president of Hillel this week to protest the Harvard chapter’s decision to provide Breaking the Silence a venue.

    “Harvard Hillel should be ashamed of itself and should immediately rescind giving legitimacy to a program that only promotes hatred against Israel and Jews,” he declared. “They should not be allowing programs that harm Israel’s image, in this case falsely. Donors give to Hillel because they think they will be promoting love for Israel, not a negative and distorted image of the Israeli Army.”

    So, in Wittyan positivist terms, what do you PROPOSE should happen in the Zionist Organization of America, which currently parrots the Likud line, Witty?

    Is there any room whatsoever for the institutions predicated on Zionism to abandon the quest to cleanse the land of non-Jews so that Israel can grow?

    Is a zero-growth Israel in the interests of the major backers of Zionism? Would it ever be?

  18. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 2:29 pm

    Well, there we are.

    You describe all Zionism as a "murderous idelogy" that you believe justifies condemnation of ALL those that are Zionists (peace activists and expansionists).

    I describe Zionism itself as a good, as a transformation of a people persecuted to affirmation, but that the policies of the state varies between laudable and reprehensible.

    And, you express that from your "knowledge" that Zionism is inevitably an evil, you feel that it is your place to demean Zionists, to encourage the isolation of Israel, to boycott Israel including academics, and to appear to encourage violent "resistance" (including "crocodile tears" for terror stated as a form of resistance – as you accuse me of "crocodile tears" for my statements of sympathy for Palestinian civilians harmed).

    You equate me with ZOA (whom I don't know at all) and interrogate me to "EXPLAIN" for their defense.

    I agree with you that Israelis can effect the situation greatly, and should do everything that they can without endangering their citizens, to proceed honestly to a just mutally consented peace.

    And, at the same time, I know that they are weary of being yelled at, shot at, bombed, blamed, told that they should "go somewhere else".

  19. MM
    March 18, 2008, 5:38 pm

    Is a zero-growth Israel in the interests of the major backers of Zionism? Would it ever be?

  20. Richard Witty
    March 18, 2008, 8:18 pm

    For security and peer recognition, I think it would.

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