Israel/Palestine issue is source of Muslim mistrust of US, but NYT and NBC can’t touch that one

on 12 Comments

Why do they hate us? And can the mainstream media ever talk about Israel/Palestine? Yesterday Meet the Press devoted an entire hour to the upheaval in the Middle East without touching on the Israel/Palestine issue (as Alex Kane has noted). More notes from the front…

Robert Wright has a very good post up at the Atlantic about why they hate us in which he focuses on three American policies that Muslims don’t like: drone strikes that kill lots of civilians, the presence of US troops in Muslim countries, and the Israel/Palestine issue. Wright’s wrap on I/P:

Again, don’t expect to hear about this from Romney or Obama. During an election campaign, especially, neither man wants to dwell on the downside of America’s essentially unconditional support of Israel even as Israel pursues policies that violate both international law and basic principles of justice, such as the expansion of settlements in the West Bank. But rest assured that the Israeli-American relationship gets plenty of airtime in Muslim, and especially Arab, nations. And, while some of this assumes the form of wild conspiracy theories, the core fact that American support helps sustain highly objectionable Israeli policies is not a figment of anyone’s imagination. Neither is the fact that when President Obama did try to get Israel to freeze settlement expansion, he encountered so much blowback in Israel and America that he had to give up.

Well, now: The New York Times has a front-page piece on “cultural clashes” that are feeding the Arab revolt against the U.S. in the Middle East. And the piece leaves out Israel/Palestine:

Others said that the outpouring of outrage against the video had built up over a long period of perceived denigrations of Muslims and their faith by the United States or its military, which are detailed extensively in the Arab news media: the invasion of Iraq on a discredited pretext; the images of abuse from the Abu Ghraib prison; the burning or desecrations of the Koran by troops in Afghanistan and a pastor in Florida; detentions without trial at Guantánamo Bay; the denials of visas to prominent Muslim intellectuals; the deaths of Muslim civilians as collateral damage in drone strikes; even political campaigns against the specter of Islamic law inside the United States.

The Times is not alone. Richard Engel did the same thing on NBC last week. Steve Walt’s report:

I hardly ever watch network news, but I happened to stumble across this appalling report on NBC’s “Rock Center” last night. In this clip, reporter Richard Engel blames this week’s anti-American violence on “conspiracy theories” that Arab populations have been fed over the years by their rulers, including the idea that the United States and Israel are colluding to control the Middle East.

It’s no secret there are conspiracy theories circulating in the Middle East (as there are here in the good old USA: Remember the “birthers?”) I’ve heard them every time I’ve lectured in the region and done my best to debunk them. But by attributing Arab and Muslim anger solely to these ideas, Engel’s report paints a picture of the United States (and by implication, Israel) as wholly blameless. In his telling, the U.S. has had nothing but good intentions for the past century, but the intended beneficiaries of our generosity don’t get it solely because they’ve been misled by their leaders.

In short, Operation Cast Lead never happened, Lebanon wasn’t invaded in 1982 or bombed relentlessly for a month in 2006, the United States has never turned a blind eye towards repeated human rights violations by every single one of its Middle Eastern allies, drones either don’t exist or never killed an innocent victim, the occupation of Iraq in 2003 was just a little misunderstanding, and the Palestinians ought to be grateful to us for what they’ve been left after forty-plus years of occupation. To say this in no way absolves governments in the region for responsibility for many of their current difficulties, but Americans do themselves no favors by ignoring our own contribution to the region’s ills.

I appreciate Wright’s comments about the Arab street too. The protests represent popular opinion:

Obviously, the fact that an American policy contributes to anti-Americanism in the Muslim world isn’t by itself a decisive argument against the policy. But ever since terrorism became a significant threat to American interests, this consideration has belonged in the policy cost-benefit calculus. All the more so in the wake of the Arab Spring, when the policies of Egypt and some other Muslim countries are more responsive to popular opinion, and anti-American sentiment can therefore translate more directly into anti-American policies.

This is why the Israeli failure to accept either the Saudi peace initiative of 2002 or Obama’s “settlements must end” challenge of 2009, represents a form of national suicide. By failing to cut a deal with authoritarian leaders when it could on the ’67 borders, Israel now has, as a world constituency, the Arab street; and Arabs are concerned about refugees and justice, and won’t shut up about these questions. I suppose the ’67 lines and dignity for Palestinians might satisfy the Arab street; but Israel is incapable of going that way, which is why realistic people fear that apartheid will only end with massive bloodshed.

Back in ’47 and ’48 State Department officials warned Truman that recognizing Israel was a prescription for endless strife. One of those officials later produced this warning:

“President [Roosevelt] told [mideast envoy Lt. Col. Harold] Hoskins that he ‘fully agreed that a Jewish state in Palestine could be installed and maintained only by force.'”

US policy in the Middle East has long been to contain these anti-Israel forces so as to maintain peace. These forces are breaking loose…

    Leave a Reply