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Israel is at war over nature of a Jewish state, and NYT spins it as ‘changing of the guard’

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We can all agree that this is the chain of events in Israel over the last eight momentous weeks:

  1. An Israeli medic executes a wounded Palestinian prisoner lying on the street in Hebron and a video of the shooting goes around the world.
  2. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his cabinet defend the murdering medic; Netanyahu even calls the medic’s family to offer support. The army brass is angered by the politicians’ apologia for the killing. This culminates in deputy chief of staff Yair Golan giving a speech on Holocaust remembrance day likening Israel to Nazi Germany and Netanyahu summoning Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who stands up for Golan.
  3. Yaalon is fired/quits, and warns of fascistic strains in Israeli society.
  4. Avigdor Lieberman is named to replace Yaalon. Lieberman’s Israel Home party is in negotiations to join the Netanyahu coalition.

The Israeli press is describing these events in apocalyptic terms. Serious journalists are talking about revolutions and “military coups.” Even the usual government cheerleaders are scared.

Everyone is diagnosing the problem. Those who have been spinning for 30 years continue to spin. Here is Netanyahu mentor Moshe Arens blaming a couple of bad apples for all the trouble.

The two hyperactive Likud politicians who put together the plot to unseat Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and replace him with Avigdor Lieberman have a myopic view of Israeli politics….

And even non-hyperbolic observers– Chemi Shalev of Haaretz —  are getting very specific indeed about  1930’s analogies.

Instead of reining in the radical right, Netanyahu kowtows to it. He may not like analogies to Germany of the 1930s but he might find himself one day being compared to Franz Von Papen or Kurt Von Schleicher, the conservative German chancellors who thought they could rein in the Nazis by coopting them: they were ultimately devoured by the monster they helped create.

Some don’t want to let Netanyahu off the hook so easily as saying the “monsters devour”.  Ronen Bergman in his New York Times op-ed placed the blame for these “disturbing trends” squarely on Netanyahu’s shoulders. The only question his article leaves is what exactly is wrong with Mr. Netanyahu. Why is he doing these things over and over again year after year, that everyone agrees are terrible for the security and the mental and moral health of the state of Israel? Will Lieberman “ruthlessly squash” the opposition? Could there even be a military “coup”?

Finally the New York Times is putting its two cents in. The Times editorial board has had enough! But wait, what is the story here? Titled “A Baffling, Hard-line Choice in Israel,” the editorial bewails Netanyahu’s decision to “shore up his coalition”: that for  “political needs” he offered the second most powerful position in the Israeli government to someone like Lieberman. Netanyahu “seems to think that bringing peace to his shaky coalition” is worth Lieberman in defense.

What is the paper of record telling its readers has been going on in Israel the last couple of months? Nothing more than a political reshuffling. No mention of Yair Golan’s Holocaust Nazi talk. Nor of Netanyahu’s urgent meeting with Yaalon about it. Nothing about  fascism and coups. The whole editorial is bemoaning the old Kissinger “Israel has no foreign policy only domestic policy” syndrome.

So Netanyahu is going to get his usual mild tongue lashing. The NYT has run the same tsk tsk editorial about Israeli government decisions for 40 years. What is it going to take for them to write about Israel as if it were any other country? Will the Times even run an editorial  if there actually was a coup in Israel? Or will it make some vague reference to Israel’s “tumultuous and unruly” democracy? What will it take for the NYT to stop making the most preposterously generous interpretation of everything Israel ever does?    

For Americans, this was the most insulting paragraph in the editorial:

Mr. Netanyahu may think his political needs are more important than relations with the soon-to-end Obama administration, relations that are already severely strained by the nuclear agreement with Iran. But the administration had at least established a working relationship with Moshe Yaalon, the tough but pragmatic defense minister who resigned once the offer to Mr. Lieberman became known. The timing of this changing of the guard is particularly sensitive because a critical 10-year defense agreement establishing new levels of American military aid for Israel is in the final stages of negotiations.

Is that really what strained the relationship, the Iran agreement? The strain had nothing to do with Netanyahu’s conduct over the last year?

As for the” particularly sensitive” timing of this “changing of the guard,” because of a critical defense agreement…. Listen to what the Times is saying. What are you doing Netanyahu! Why bring in Lieberman — who the Obama administration didn’t let into the White House– because hey, it’s just not in Israel’s interest what you’re doing?  You’re so close to reaching an agreement!

The Times needn’t have worried.  Five minutes after Netanyahu got rid of Yaalon, the US put out a statement saying this won’t affect our negotiations over aid. Netanyahu understands the “special relationship” just a wee bit better than the NY Times does.

As for the beginning of this drama, did the Times mention the murdering medic? Of course. It found its way into the editorial:

“Mr. Lieberman’s ties with Israel’s own military establishment are frayed, [my emphasis] most recently by his defense of an Israeli soldier arrested for executing a wounded Palestinian”

Wow, NY Times editorial writer, that story sure sounds interesting. Is that the really only connection between the murdering medic and the story you’re telling us about Lieberman?

This editorial is retelling the last act in a play and it is baffled, baffled that nothing makes sense.

There is a war going on in Israel right now over the very nature of the Jewish state, and this misleading NY Times editorial is an embarrassing and obfuscating contribution to the discourse.  

I will continue to track the writers’ responses to these dramatic events. And while I am no expert on Israeli political reality, now and then I will put in my own pessimistic view: I wonder if the problem is a lot bigger than Netanyahu, the problem is Israeli society. And just as more “facts on the ground” make a 2 state solution less and less likely, so too do “myths in the mind” make any peaceful solutions to this political crisis impossible. Have Netanyahu and people like him poisoned and incited the Israeli mind against the Palestinians to such an extent, that the “end of the conflict” will never be the end of the conflict? Is it too late for Israelis  to be told  that Palestinians are not Nazis? Will it be enough to announce, “The hasbara campaign claiming that the Palestinians just wanted to kill Jews has been a rousing success, it has allowed us to kill and destroy far longer than we  could have otherwise; however  now we have peace, and that’s all ancient history, and they are no longer Nazis?”

And meantime, the world’s biggest expert on Israel still remains silent. Jeffrey Goldberg, please help us understand: what’s going on in Israel!

Yakov Hirsch

Yakov Hirsch is a professional poker player and a writer. His twitter handle is @Yakovhirsch and his articles are posted at

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16 Responses

  1. pabelmont on May 24, 2016, 2:30 pm

    Poor NYT, balancing competing myths on the head of a pin. Not easy! Let up on them a little! Ole’ NYT has this list of things that cannot be said at all, other things that cannot be said earlier than paragraph 32 (and editorials, alas, have fewer paragraphs). All the news and all the views that fit within the Procrustean arrangements to which we have grown accustomed. And other American papers (I suppose) don’t dare get ahead of NYT for fear of, * * * what ?

    • Sulphurdunn on May 26, 2016, 12:30 pm

      Being bought by Sheldon Adelson?

      • YoniFalic on May 31, 2016, 4:52 pm

        Carlos Slim who is richer than Adelson has right of first refusal to purchase the NY Times.

  2. yourstruly on May 24, 2016, 3:53 pm

    Netanyahu is but the latest Israeli PM to advance the myth about one nation between the river and the sea. Indeed, it should be evident by now that what’s holding Israel back from completing its ethnic cleansing of Palestine isn’t the particular makeup of its government, but concern for the effect that such a crime would have upon its special relationship with America. In other words the players may change, but the name of the game, colonialism, stays the same. And so it has been since Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. Until, that is, the natives rise up and liberate themselves from their colonizers.

  3. MHughes976 on May 24, 2016, 5:44 pm

    Amid the whirligig of what may or may not be news there’s a report in HaAretz that Tony Blair was trying to bring Herzog into government and was promising that if negotiations with Abbas were started the Arab governments would rally round. Another ingenious British scheme fails to work as intended.

  4. JLewisDickerson on May 24, 2016, 10:26 pm

    RE: “Have Netanyahu and people like him poisoned and incited the Israeli mind against the Palestinians to such an extent, that the ‘end of the conflict’ will never be the end of the conflict?” ~ Yakov Hirsch

    “Israel’s Weird Elections”, by Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, 1/04/13:

    [EXCERPTS] . . . The Israeli media are already to a large extent neutralized, a creeping process not unsimilar to what the Germans used to call Gleichschaltung. [SEE: Gleichschaltung @ Wikipedia – J.L.D. ]

    All three TV channels are more or less bankrupt and dependent on government handouts. Their editors are practically government appointees. The printed press is also teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, except the largest “news” paper, which belongs to Sheldon Adelson and is a Netanyahu propaganda sheet, distributed gratis. [Naftali] Bennett repeats the ridiculous assertion that almost all journalists are left-wingers (meaning traitors.) He promises to put an end to this intolerable situation. . .

    . . . In the coming four years, the official annexation of the West Bank to Israel may become a fact. . .

    . . . If the government continues on its present course, this will lead to certain disaster – the entire country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River will become one unit under Israeli rule. This Greater Israel will contain an Arab majority and a shrinking Jewish minority, turning it inevitably into an apartheid state, plagued by a permanent civil war and shunned by the world.

    If pressure from without and within eventually compels the government to grant civil rights to the Arab majority, the country will turn into an Arab state. 134 years of Zionist endeavor will come to naught, a repetition of the Crusaders’ kingdom.

    This is so obvious, so inevitable, that one needs an iron will not to think about it. It seems that all major parties in these elections have this will. Speaking about peace, they believe, is poison. Giving back the West Bank and East Jerusalem for peace? God forbid even thinking about it.

    The weird fact is that this week two respected polls – independent of each other – came to the same conclusion: the great majority of Israeli voters favors the “two-state solution”, the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders and the partition of Jerusalem. This majority includes the majority of Likud voters, and even about half of Bennett’s adherents.

    How come? The explanation lies in the next question: How many voters believe that this solution is possible? The answer: almost nobody. Over dozens of years, Israelis have been brainwashed into believing that “the Arabs” don’t want peace. If they say they do, they are lying.

    If peace is impossible, why think about it? Why even mention it in the election campaign? Why not go back 44 years to Golda Meir’s days and pretend that the Palestinians don’t exist? (“There is no such thing as a Palestinian people…It is not as though there was a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away. They did not exist.” – Golda Meir, June 13, 1969) . . .


  5. Blownaway on May 25, 2016, 12:27 am

    The only people who believe the NYTripe is the dwindling choir. The real pulse is in the readers picks comments . It’s there where you really see how disconnected the times is from its readers

    • bryan on May 25, 2016, 6:07 am

      Truly amazing set of readers comments. I read the readers’ picks and there was virtual unanimity regarding the abhorrence of Netanyahu / Lieberman, the desperate need to reshape the US relationship with Israel and the urgent necessity of ending / cutting American aid until Israel pursues peace. I say virtual unanimity because the single post that I read that was supportive of Israel was an off-topic post relating a “humanitarian” visit the correspondent had recently made to Israel where she had seen no evidence of unequal treatment for Jews / Arabs.

      Two thoughts:

      (1) Reference is often made to the self-censorship imposed by editors and journalists terrified of the torrents of hostile letters they will receive from readers if open criticism is made of Israel. Why is there this one-way street, where the NYT imposes self-censorship, despite the torrent of readers’ letters they apparently receive demanding and endorsing criticism of Israel? Or do readers seeking to influence editorial policy need to employ not reasoned argument but death threats and advertising boycotts? Or is it just that ordinary readers / members / voters are powerless to challenge or influence those who wield power in the media, just as in Jewish institutions and democratic institutions?

      (2) We see everyday the success of hasbara trolls in disrupting and diverting reasoned discussion not only on this forum but every other one. Yet the NYT readers picks appears to be a hasbara free zone, not only in this article but many others I have perused recently. (I only read the readers’ picks, but these were a substantial majority of all comments made). So just thinking out loud about the various methods employed on-line to manage audience feedback:

      (a) the Guardian employs “Community standards”, which appear to very vigorously policed by a team of not terribly well-informed administrators, and often deny the readership any opportunity to provide feedback by either not enabling comments or closing down discussions out of office hours.

      (b) the Daily Mail exercises far weaker control over comments, but enables a like / dislike against each comment. Reading comments is however seldom worthwhile since its readers are even less well-informed and even more bigoted than its journalists.

      (c) I know nothing about NYT moderation policies but to an occasional reader like myself it would appear that the mechanism of Readers’ Picks is a fruitful mechanism for self-policing by the reading community, and an obvious way of filtering out of a conversation (without censoring) comments that are irrelevant or ignorant.

      (d) +972 Mag appears to let nearly anything go, with degeneration into vitriolic attacks and ad hominen insults.

      (e) MW seems to be vigilant in post-moderating, with clear guidelines, but with well-informed moderators who are generally very generous in allowing leeway to a diverse range of opinions. Nevertheless / as a result, hasbara trolls quite often succeed in disrupting / diverting conversation in quite tiresome, but sometimes amusing ways, and do of course provide Mooser (and others) with endless opportunities to exercise his wit and basic common sense. MW more than the others I have cited benefits from threaded conversations rather than pulpit declarations. Nevertheless I wonder has MW considered a like / dislike (or up/down) button, and does your platform permit such a thing? Such a feature would appear to have two significant advantages: (i) it could focus attention on the most fruitful and interesting contributions, and (ii) it might shame those who seek merely to disrupt with outrageous and ill-thought-out comments to see the contempt with which their comments are viewed by the wider community.

      • John O on May 25, 2016, 9:08 am

        Thanks, Bryan. I have often pondered this myself, being an avid reader of, and occasional contributor to, the Guardian’s BTL comments (which, when not on the subject of I/P, are generally entertaining and often enlightening).

        Any Guardian article on I/P that has comments open is most certainly subject to deliberate attack by habaristas and other trolls. The NYT does not appear to be under attack in the same way – which I assume is because its general coverage is strongly pro-Israel.

        If the NYT shifts its coverage of Israel towards fairness and balance, it too will be attacked.

      • Walker on May 25, 2016, 6:38 pm

        John O –

        Year ago, before I was kicked off, a senior official of the Board of Deputies of British Jews used to haunt the Guardian I/P comments section, “helping” readers with explanations. I suspect she also kept the Guardian in shape behind the scense.

        Following some really egregious moderating I posted:

        Whatever happens, they have got
        The Board of Deputies of British Jews
        And you
        Do not

  6. Ossinev on May 25, 2016, 7:48 am

    “Another ingenious British scheme fails to work as intended”

    I`m afraid you are guilty of mislabelling on this one. This is not a “British” scheme it is just another “Blair” scheme to bolster his desperate ego and maintain his narcissistic image as a relevant “international statesman and player”. Oh and there may well be a few squillions involved along the way.

    To get an idea of just how much of a self serving p…k this man is read “Broken Vows” by Tom Bower.

    To describe it as a “British” scheme does great disservice to those of us British who justifiably detest the man and instinctively distrust anything that he is involved in be it in the Middle East , Africa or Antartica.

    • MHughes976 on May 25, 2016, 8:49 am

      I see what you mean, Ossinev, and I must read Bower’s book. I feel some personal guilt over Blair. I didn’t protest when I should have done.

  7. Kay24 on May 25, 2016, 8:30 am

    Tony Blair is supposed to get a savaged in the Chilcot Report, it makes you wonder why liars and war criminals like Bush and Cheney are not held accountable for the biggest blunder still going on in Iraq. This is why we keep doing this over and over again, those responsible are NEVER held accountable nor asked to explain why they let this country down.

    “The long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war is reportedly set to savage Tony Blair and other former government officials in an “absolutely brutal” verdict on the failings of the occupation.

    The former Prime Minister “won’t be let off the hook” over claims he offered military assistance to the former American President George W Bush, a year before the invasion of Iraq, a source told the Sunday Times.

    The Inquiry, which was set up by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in June 2009 to look into the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, will release its 2.6 million word report just two weeks after the EU referendum. It is expected to “damage the reputations” of a number of high-ranking officials. ”

  8. Marnie on May 25, 2016, 10:25 am

    “It is expected to “damage the reputations” of a number of high-ranking officials. ”

    Oh anything but that! How they ever going to find a nice man to marry if they have ‘damaged reputations’.

    I hope it’s going to do a lot worse than that.

  9. jaspeace2day on May 25, 2016, 2:59 pm

    The New York Times is a worthless rag and everybody knows it; they’re not even worth taking one’s valuable time, space or breath writing about…. Afer all, that’s why we have independent media like Mondoweiss,, The Intercept,, etc….

  10. jaspeace2day on May 25, 2016, 3:04 pm

    BOYCOTT the New York Times and get educated via independent media or continue the blind walk towards the inevitable cliff just ahead….

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