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From Portland to Portland, and Amman to Lahore, ‘NYT’ letter-writers are sharper than ‘NYT’ writers

Mark Landler, NYT

Mark Landler, NYT

Yesterday the New York Times published one of its patented three-headed monsters faulting Palestinians for their manners: “Abbas Takes Defiant Step, and Mideast Talks Falter,” penned by Jodi Rudoren, Mark Landler and Michael Gordon. The three wrote:

The Middle East peace talks verged on a breakdown Tuesday night, after President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority defied the United States and Israel by taking concrete steps to join 15 international agencies — a move to gain the benefits of statehood outside the negotiations process.

The miracle of the internet is that Rudoren, Landler and Gordon don’t have the last word anymore. No, check out the NYT’s comment section on the story and it’s better than the story. Readers who are overwhelmingly critical of Israel see through the Israeli maneuverings, see through the Times’s effort to dress up the maneuverings and shift the blame, and see the historical damage of US imbalance in the conflict. And many you would guess are Jewish from their names.

Yes, now and then a shrill pro-Zionist voice pops in, but this only throws into sharp relief the intelligent, calm, well-informed nature of the other commenters.

OK, so let’s hear from the commenters!

First, the top comment per editors’ pick and readers’ too: Hal Donahue of Scranton is concise and asks the obvious question:

Rather than release an Israeli spy convicted of stealing US secrets, perhaps a better route is to withhold an ever increasing percentage of the massive US aid provided to Israel until a fair agreement is reached?

Guy in NY faults the Times’ framing:

Sure, blame Abbas, and ignore the Israeli sabotage that has been their mode of negotiating since day one. The article title describes his step as “defiant” – for exercising the rights of the Palestinians without permission from Israel of the US? The nerve!
Meanwhile, Israel, in return for the US releasing their spy, agrees to postpone further sabotage for a just little while. Shouldn’t a neutral country be the middle-man for this mess, rather than the US? It’s getting embarrassing.

Jim Michie in Bethesda also faults the Times framing:

“Mr. Abbas moved to join Tuesday included the Geneva and Vienna Conventions and those dealing with women’s and children’s rights.” So this is a “defiant step”, in the distorted minds of the U.S. and Israeli “governments”–for Palestine to join the Geneva and Vienna Conventions and those agencies dealing with women’s and children’s rights? This move on the part of Israel and the U.S. to stop Palestine from joining these agencies is absolutely outrageous, ludicrous and an abomination! What next, U.S. and Israel, what next!

nh in Portland, Me, bridles at the Times’ framing:

The agencies Mr. Abbas moved to join Tues. included the Vienna and Geneva conventions and those dealing with women’s and children’s rights.”
This is a bad thing?

Val Eisman in Portland, OR, is angered at the mainstream media for insulting readers’ intelligence:

What does the release of Mr. Pollard have to do with peace? That is the most absurd thing I have ever read. The Obama administation seems to be growing more ludicrous every day with more and more fantastical allegations which the MSM readily repeats. Only fools would believe them. The press must take us for total nitwits.

Ibaad in Lahore, Pakistan, is a Times editors’ pick, and Ibaad goes after the Times for reflecting the immoral framing of the conflict:

What’s really appalling about all of this is the immorality of this diplomatic equation.

Mr. Abbas is being blamed for pushing the talks “to the verge of a breakdown” since he threatened to exercise the very fundamental rights that every nation in the world is entitled to. Israel on the other hand was only expected to “show restraint” in settlement construction and even that magnanimous concession was not applicable to East Jerusalem.

Essentially, they were trading one side’s moral and fundamental rights for a recession in the other side’s atrocities. With such an unjust basis, how could any such talks ever be expected to succeed? They can make progress only if people of both the nations are treated as equals.

Ziad al-Masri of Amman is also ticked at the Times:

The article title is completely biased and does not mention that the Israeli Goverment did not release the fourth round of prisoners that it already agreed to. Even Secretary Kerry was waiting for the release as promised yesterday morning and after three promises, the Israeli government went back on its written agreement. Israeli government is the one that is defiant to all international laws.

Let’s lay off the Times now and go to more general analyses, which are also excellent. DC from New York says the US is being played once again:

Start from the premise that no Likud-led Israeli government has, or ever will have, any interest in reaching an agreement with the Palestinians. So if Kerry thinks he can achieve a “breakthrough” by giving Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman what they really want — the release of Pollard — in the hope that they in turn will extend peace talks through 2015, he is deluding himself. Netanyahu and Lieberman have nothing to lose and everything to gain by feigning interest in talks until Obama leaves office. It’s a simple equation for them. They have no problem making a fool out of Obama and will use Kerry’s ambition to get there.

Stieglitz Meir, of Givataim, Israel, makes the same point, but sardonically:

Those who are anxious that all Secretary Kerry’s herculean efforts will prove in vain – don’t worry: there’ll be a flood of books entitled something like “A prisoner too far”, with a breathtaking chapter headlined “Shawarma in Ramallah”. Furthermore, the billions of dollars Netanyahu demanded and got from the Obama administration and the hundred millions of dollars Abbas demanded and got from the same source and the EU, all are and will continue to serve a noble cause: the advancement and protection of the settlement project. Be happy.

Andrew from San Francisco is popular with the readers for this homespun:

How’s this…Israel can have Pollard AFTER they successfully conclude a final settlement agreement with the Palestinians.

Children should eat their vegetables before they’re given dessert.

girlperson1 in Nevada samples Bing Crosby in her Israel slam:

Israeli officials say they are not bound by their pledge because no meaningful negotiations have taken place since November.

Israel have never been bound by any pledge, ever. They want land, they want lots of it and, they don’t want to pay for it. That’s their game plan.

Utep3 in Washington, DC, has the vision thing, and a good Americanism:

Drop the negotiation now. By 2050, the US Demographic change will lead to our then President throw her weight behind One state Democratic state. Similar demographics in Israel will work synergistically with the then US President. the new State will be a Cinderella, like Mandela’s South Africa. Easy, peasy. Have the long view.

FB in NY is earnest and describes Americans’ growing anger and resentment:

The “peace process”, which has been crawling on and off for 20+ years and so far achieved nothing positive, is built upon a false premise.

Which is that a negotiation between two parties vastly unequal in strength and power, one of whom is being daily victimized by the other, could succeed in the absence of an external countervailing force acting on the stronger party and forcing it to agree to a fair solution.

The US can and should be that countervailing force. But instead of exerting real pressure on Israel, the US has grossly indulged Israel, almost from the very moment it unilaterally declared itself a state 65 years ago.

That has to stop. It should be noted that among the American people there is growing anger and resentment about their government’s role in enabling Israel to oppress Palestinians and steal their land with impunity. That at least is a good sign.

William Monroe of Providence touches on the same historical problem:

Why should Palestinian statehood depend on Israeli recognition? There is no need for these talks. Two states were to have been created in 1948. Only one now exists: Israel, not dependent on Palestinian recognition. The U.S. should recognize Palestine as an independent state tomorrow, and quit this farce. An independent state within the 1967 borders. Then the two states can begin negotiating about land and population swaps, as equals.

JMS of Winlock, WA, would be caricatured as “isolationist” by the MSM, but he’s voicing a sensible mainstream American position about aid:

Who cares anymore what these people (on all sides) do. They’ve had their chance to resolve their differences. The rest of the world has tried and tried for decades to ‘fix’ their problems for them, apparently they like it as it is.

Let’s keep going toward energy independence and leave them to their own devices. This small area gets much too much attention. We as a nation have our own problems to deal with that we might actually solve if we minded our own business.

Perhaps if left alone, they will begin to make nice with each other and try to get along. If not, they get to live in their own misery.

More anger, from Leo of Chatham NJ. Folks are wising up:

Jonathan Pollard is just the tip of the iceberg. Much of America’s assets are being “transferred” to Israel, and the American people are coming to realize that we are being used, creating animosity against our otherwise good name.

Lately, there has been much talk about sanctions against Russia for their actions in Crimea, but not one word being said about the naked aggression the goes on in the West Bank through settlement building funded by the U.S. taxpayers – on land that the world considers occupied territories.

The double standards have to stop.

S. Peterson, Oxford, CT, is very well-informed and touches on the lobby:

Only the end of Israeli illegal occupation of Arab lands should be the issue. Until the occupation ends, US should impose sanctions on Israel. If Israel then doesn’t change its policy, so be it; at least the US will be on the side of UN Resolutions, international laws and even its own official policy that the occupation is illegal.

In fact Israel is not in US strategic interests as it was during the Cold War. We have the Middle East occupied enough by our troops and through our influence to the degree that Israel is more a drain on US resources than not. And as a country with $34,000 per cap income (just a bit below UK), Israel can do fine without our financial assistance. It is not the US public that supports the bias for Israel but Congresspersons beholden to donations by far right Zionists, whether evangelicals or others.

Patrick in SF offers the lesson of John Judis in his book on Truman (and the lesson Weiss’s mother gave him when he was little and she taught him the name Madlyn Murray O’Hair): separate church and state:

Israel is offering to “slow” the expansion into the West Bank? What kind of offer is that? Until both sides deal with the basic issues, no lasting solution will come to the table. Palestine needs to recognize Israel and accept an equitable compensation package for lands lost in 1945. Israel has to quit encroaching on the Palestinian state and make a real offer that Abbas can sell to his people with dignity. Maybe Jerusalem could become something like the Vatican for both religions.

Having a Jewish state is a large part of the problem. Politics can be argued but religion is faith. With faith, there is no negotiation. Thank God Jefferson (and others) separated the two.

Zoot Rollo III of Dickerson, MD, talks about racism and the American struggle to overcome it:

Oh, if only some of the Pollard/AIPAC apologists here could spend just one day in the shoes of an average Palestinian.

Here in America, we decry – correctly – the abysmal history of African Americans from their original enslavement to the marginalized role they play in the American narrative today; we now recognize the deep, lasting damage that is caused to a group of human beings when, because of the color of their skin, their faith, whatever, they are deprived of opportunity, hope, freedom and, most of all, dignity.

I advert the attention of these people to the fact that the most wretched, uneducated, prison bound African American male youth in America is better off by light years than any Palestinian. If you cannot grasp that reality, then you will never understand why well over 95% of this column’s readership – and a correspondingly high percentage of America as a whole as well as the rest of the civilized world – feel the way they do about Israel and it’s oppresive hypocracy.

MJV in Cambridge also talks about racism, in laying out the new territory to a hasabara-ist:

Thank you, non-Palestinian person, for telling us what Palestinians want. I feel enriched.

We no longer live in a world where you get to control both sides of the argument. Thus begins losing of the argument.

Last word, from Sharon5101 of Far Rockaway:

I’m going to raise my coffee cup in a toast saluting the end of this phony peace process which went round and round in circles for decades and has accomplished absolutely nothing. May the peace process finally rest in peace.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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23 Responses

  1. Donald on April 3, 2014, 1:06 pm

    Most of those comments were great and some were brilliant. But I didn’t agree with you on “JMS of Winlock, WA, would be caricatured as “isolationist” by the MSM, but he’s voicing a sensible mainstream American position about aid”

    If you read what he said, JMS to some degree was repeating a common and inaccurate US government theme, one that Kerry himself used recently–that the US can’t want peace more than the two sides themselves and that the outside world, apparently meaning the US among others, has tried and tried to make peace and the two sides refuse to go along. That’s an excusable attitude in an average American who may not follow the issue closely, but it’s wrong. The US isn’t some innocent party doing its best to bring two intransigent sides together. We’ve been Israel’s lawyer, arms supplier, and enabler as they oppress the Palestinians.

    But the other comments were very good.

    • Boomer on April 3, 2014, 3:36 pm

      “We’ve been Israel’s lawyer, arms supplier, and enabler as they oppress the Palestinians.”

      Yes, sad but true. We have been all that, and more.

  2. DaveS on April 3, 2014, 1:20 pm

    Whenever I read a Times article or editorial that has comments, I always check the reader’s picks to see which are the most popular. On articles relating to Israel, this is the norm. At least the people who bother to recommend comments are overwhelmingly critical of Israel, just about every time. It’s hard to tell if this is typical of the Times readership as a whole. I am a little surprised that hasbarists have not organized a couple hundred of their own to skew the comments sections on these articles.

    • Ellen on April 3, 2014, 1:46 pm

      What can the Hasbarists say to readers like Stieglitz Meir of Israel who nailed it with:

      “the billions of dollars Netanyahu demanded and got from the Obama administration and the hundred millions of dollars Abbas demanded and got from the same source and the EU, all are and will continue to serve a noble cause: the advancement and protection of the settlement project. ”

      This charade is big business. Europeans and Americans (north and south) are paying to enable the Zio colonial dream machine. Grease it and keep it humming.

  3. eljay on April 3, 2014, 1:24 pm

    Great comments. The one by “Ibaad in Lahore” nailed it for me:
    >> ” … Essentially, they were trading one side’s moral and fundamental rights for a recession in the other side’s atrocities.”

    Palestinians want justice. Zio-supremacists want to keep as much as possible of their ill-gotten gains.

  4. seanmcbride on April 3, 2014, 1:55 pm

    It’s great that James and Phil have noticed this phenomenon — on Mideast politics, the readers of mainstream media outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post are in open revolt against the editorial policies of those outlets — and the commenters are often more articulate, more reasonable, better informed and better educated than the paid pundits for those tired and behind-the-times institutions.

    It will be interesting to watch how the Times and Post try to handle what must be for them a very big problem indeed. If they could get away with heavily editing or censoring the comments of their own readers, they would probably do it. But they understand that they can’t afford to alienate their own readership without going out of business.

  5. Krauss on April 3, 2014, 1:58 pm

    In some countries, the newspaper editors have shut off comments because they might be saying “unpopular things”. And I’m not just talking banana republics, some countries in Europe have a “silent agreement” among newspaper editors to do this. The Anglophone press is much better on this. China, of course, is a nightmare.

    But I think many people underestimate how even such a simple thing as comments, a lot of dinosaurs don’t want to relinquish this kind of power. But this is the beauty of the internet and why blogs were invented in the first place.

    If I read only Mondoweiss or only the NYT Middle Eastern coverage, which would provide me with more depth and accuracy of what is actually going on?
    This question is what eats a lot of revenue of the newspaper business these days.

    Of course, the Times has such excellent reporting on other issues that I’m willing to buy a subscription anyway, but far from all MSM have this(notably WaPo which is little less than a neocon rag and a repository for yesterday’s conventional wisdom).

    Still, a dedicated team of journalists will always beat citizens. And I do think the staff at Mondo are journalists in the real sense; going out to the wider world, trying to find out what is happening and then writing about it, professionally and seriously.

    • mikeo on April 3, 2014, 6:38 pm

      I am permanently moderated at the Guardian because I linked to GIYUS & CIF Watch in a comment thread…

      They are totally paranoid about the Zionist internet watchdogs…

      Scared of their own shadow…

  6. Don on April 3, 2014, 2:32 pm

    “And many you would guess are Jewish from their names.”

    Humble apologies for asking an obvious question…the above noted phenomenon is important why, exactly?

    • James North on April 3, 2014, 3:16 pm

      Don: Hasbarists argue that “anti-Israel” means “anti-Semitic.” The large — and growing — number of Jews who advocate justice for Palestine refutes this lie. Hasbarists have to then assert that people like Stieglitz Meir, who actually lives in Israel and is quoted in our post, somehow hates himself.

      • Frankie P on April 4, 2014, 1:17 am

        @James North,

        And you and Phil play right into their bullshit, effectively condoning and seconding their argument, by feeling the need to include disclaimer sentences like the one in Don’s quote above. Advocates of justice for Palestine, be they Gentile or Jew, do not need to produce Jewish or Philo-Semitic bona fides to refute the lies of Hasbarists, who day by day dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole of lies that becomes easier and easier for the common people to discern and ridicule. This routine action of the part of MW leaves one with the unpleasant feeling that the site considers the views of Jews more important than those of Gentiles.


      • NickJOCW on April 4, 2014, 10:15 am

        the site considers the views of Jews more important than those of Gentiles

        In a sense I think it does, and in a sense they are. Claims to represent all Jews are part of Israel’s deceit. If that seems irrelevant to non-Jews it is precisely why it isn’t. There are two not necessarily connected things you might ponder, the first is that all Jews share some things in common, including some things about the Holy Land, and that is something that distinguishes them. The second is that, like it or not, there is an incalculable amount of latent antisemitism in this world which Israel’s activities might release, not the activities themselves which might simply provoke anti-Israeli reactions, but the deliberately obfuscated distinction between that Jew and this one. Such a danger did not exist in South Africa since no one was likely to associate all ‘whites’ with the South African elite, however the same is not true in this case. Think on it.

      • annie on April 4, 2014, 10:45 am

        no one was likely to associate all ‘whites’ with the South African elite

        no one? really? hmm.

      • RoHa on April 4, 2014, 11:07 am

        “there is an incalculable amount of latent antisemitism in this world ”

        If you don’t know how much anti-Semitism there is, can you be sure there is a significant amount?

      • NickJOCW on April 4, 2014, 12:40 pm

        Annie, I meant, of course, those who were the tidal wave behind the sanctions movements that finally brought about change. Obviously the victims of apartheid were less discriminating.

        Roha, In Europe, yes. Surely you can accept my point that a general awakening against Israeli activities among those who know nothing about Zionism, and likely care less, has the potential to spill over.

      • NickJOCW on April 4, 2014, 1:21 pm

        What one does not want to admit is not in consequence obviated. Surely it is not necessary to say that to the people here.

      • MHughes976 on April 4, 2014, 1:52 pm

        I very much agree with Nick’s sentiments. People who value their links to a Jewish community with whose general ways they are comfortable but who disclaim Zionism deserve an especial respect.
        As to latent ideas, they must be beyond measurement if they are indeed latent in the sense of not showing themselves in any way. But it is illogical and dishonourable to use this fact as a reason for some kind of universal suspicion, with everyone guilty until proved innocent by a standard which it is hard even to define.

  7. Walid on April 3, 2014, 4:36 pm

    The 3 clowns wrote: “The Middle East peace talks verged on a breakdown Tuesday night, after President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority defied the United States and Israel …”

    A. Abbas did not defy anyone; he was in his rights to do what he did as the last batch of prisoners was not released as scheduled according to the deal between Abbas and Kerry.

    B. Abbas had made the deal to postpone going to the UN with the Americans only. The Israelis did not have a commitment from the Palestinians about the postponement. Reneging on the prisoners only embarrassed Kerry that had given his word they’d be released.

  8. a blah chick on April 3, 2014, 7:22 pm

    Many years ago I read a story from slave days about a slaveowner who, after whipping her slaves, demanded that they kiss the whip.

    That is what Israel demands of the Palestinians, kiss the whip.

  9. Shingo on April 3, 2014, 10:00 pm

    Brilliant reporting guys.

    I have noticed this very obvious shift. In fact, it’s rare to find a blog entry that is not inundated with similar sentiments, other than the fringe groups like Alder of Zion or Frontpage.

  10. DICKERSON3870 on April 3, 2014, 10:06 pm
  11. Kay24 on April 3, 2014, 11:46 pm

    The zionists are a mean, vindictive lot. They are already threatening sanctions against an already oppressed people, and for what? Because the LEGALLY want to be recognized state in the world? They are not occupiers, but victims of a brutal occupation, and since their occupier does NOT want to recognize their rights, and give them their freedom, they turn to the United Nations (something that should have been done long time ago), and they are going to be punished for that? What next Bibi, more ILLEGAL settlements, get the spineless Congress to cut all aid to them?

    As for New York Times, shame on them for being SO biased, selling the Israeli narrative, and being used as an Israeli tool to once again, to influence it’s readers into thinking Israel is the victim, once again. The comments that responded to their lame article, are very encouraging, and very interesting.

  12. Hostage on April 4, 2014, 8:21 am

    President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority defied the United States and Israel by taking concrete steps to join 15 international agencies — a move to gain the benefits of statehood outside the negotiations process.

    For those who keep track of such things, the government of Israel has deployed the Watania cellphone licensing sanction once again:

    Israel on Thursday informed the Palestinian Authority (PA) of a series of punitive measures against it, following the PA’s request to join 15 international conventions.

    According to Kol Yisrael radio, these measures include a suspension of high-level contacts between ministers and CEOs, and any contacts with the PA will now be led by the Coordinator of Government Activities in Judea and Samaria, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.

    It was also decided to freeze the implementation of 3G cellular technology in PA-assigned areas and stop the transfer into Gaza of communications equipment belonging to the PA cellular phone company Watania. Another punitive measure is a freeze on promotion master plans for new communities in Area C.

    That tactic didn’t work before, when Israel tried to blackmail the PA into withdrawing the complaint it had filed with the ICC or when the PA applied for upgraded UN observer status. It seems to be the only leverage Israel has short of using white phosphorus.

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