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Biased ‘NYT’ article on Tlaib/Omar trip says Democrats criticizing Israel will undermine US national security

Media Analysis

Consider all the misinformation and bias in the opening of this New York Times news analysis of the politics of Israel’s refusal to allow Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar to enter the West Bank.

By pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel into barring an official visit by the first two Muslim women in Congress, President Trump is doubling down on a strategy aimed at dividing the Democratic Party and pushing some Jewish voters into the arms of Republicans.

First off, this was an Israeli decision. It is not entirely clear that Trump pushed it, though that is now the party-line for the Israel-friendly US press — to blame Trump. Axios reports Trump did push the decision. But Jewish Insider says it was Netanyahu’s call– and he may have requested Trump’s famous tweet once the decision was made.

Israeli government officials claim that Netanyahu made the decision independently earlier this week, and called congressional leaders on Wednesday to inform them. [Israeli ambassador Ron] Dermer himself pushed back against reports that Netanyahu was operating under orders from Trump, telling Jewish leaders on a conference call yesterday that “we were not pressured by the Trump administration to do this.” It was not clear if Netanyahu or Dermer requested Trump’s tweet on the issue Thursday morning, or if the president took the initiative himself.

Second, as we have said often, Trump’s game is not Jewish voters, it is Jewish financial donors. Jewish voters make up a tiny percentage of the population and are only a factor in one swing state, Florida (with 3 percent Jewish population). Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a hardline Israel supporter, said it best in comments to a fundraiser for Jewish Democrats last month: “We have, what I believe is a full-on attempt by the Republican Party to grab a different community and bring them into the fold, and I will just be very honest, right, they are not looking for our votes, because we are a relatively small community, they are looking for our donors, right? They are looking for our donors, and they are trying to sway us. . . ”

Third, the Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg, titled, “Trump and Netanyahu Put Bipartisan Support for Israel at Risk,” reveals that bias in its second paragraph, by embracing an article of faith of the Israel lobby:

But people in both parties warn that over the long term, the president could further erode bipartisan support for Israel, which has long relied on the United States as its most important ally.

It gets worse. That bipartisan support for Israel is (supposedly) a pillar of Israeli and American security.

If Israel becomes a partisan issue in the United States, advocates warn that there could be negative consequences for both countries. Israel’s security would be severely undermined without the political, economic and military support that flows from bipartisan backing in Washington. And if Israel is weakened, so too is the United States’ position in the Middle East, which is always stronger when both parties are behind it.

So allowing progressive Democrats to criticize the treatment of Palestinians is a threat to the American way. . .

“People in both parties.” “Advocates.” Why doesn’t Stolberg ask Palestinians what they think of the politicization of Israel support? Or progressive Democrats? Shibley Telhami’s polling shows that a majority of Dems support sanctions on Israel. Their views have been shut out of the bipartisan ironclad discourse, by gatekeepers like Stolberg, who of course allows liberal Zionists Martin Indyk and Aaron David Miller to fill in the usual blanks in her article.

But progressives want a partisan divide over the question so that someone will stand up for human rights. Andrew Sullivan puts it eloquently in New York magazine. Democratic Party voters want politicians to oppose giving all that aid to an apartheid state.

I wonder if Donald Trump’s sole positive foreign-policy legacy will be the disengagement of the Democratic Party from unconditional support for the Jewish state. . .  The old liberal Zionist argument that Democrats clung to — that we should always support Israel as it tries to find a partner for peace for a two-state solution — is now, undeniably, in rigor mortis. Israel, it has been clear to me for quite a while, has no interest in a two-state solution, and every intent to control the West Bank in perpetuity, immiserating its non-Jewish inhabitants in the hope of, at some point, getting rid of them altogether. It’s very hard to see how Democrats could continue to support such an apartheid state unconditionally — along with levels of military aid no other putative ally can dream of.

Stolberg’s New York Times article also valorizes that bipartisan trip to Israel by 70-odd congresspeople earlier this month without informing readers the trip was paid for by an Israel lobby group, an arm of AIPAC, the American Israel Education Foundation.

Traveling to Israel is a rite of passage for members of Congress, especially freshmen. Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, and Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the Democratic leader, held a joint news conference in Jerusalem on Sunday, along with dozens of members, in a show of bipartisan support.

Once again, who gets a voice here? In fact 2/3 of Americans want those congresspeople to stay home and go to the state fair, instead of giving a standing ovation to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lastly, back to points one and two. The article never mentions Donald Trump’s largest donors, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson. The two have given upwards of $175 million to Republican causes in recent years. Sheldon Adelson has more influence on foreign policy than the Secretary of State, as Times columnist Timothy Egan acknowledged. The Adelsons have one avowed interest, Israel. Sheldon Adelson wanted the last president to nuke Iran. Trump moved the embassy to please the Adelsons, trashed the Iran deal to please him, hired John Bolton, recognized the Golan as Israel’s.

Did Trump push Netanyahu on Tlaib/Omar to please the Adelsons? Sheldon Adelson is also a big backer of Netanyahu. For the Times to leave him entirely out of the story is either deliberate mystification — or journalistic malpractice of a high order.

James North and Philip Weiss

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12 Responses

  1. Peter in SF on August 18, 2019, 3:39 pm

    It was not clear if Netanyahu or Dermer requested Trump’s tweet on the issue Thursday morning, or if the president took the initiative himself.

    I love how this comes from a source that calls itself “Jewish Insider”. How do you cite a source with a name like that to a mainstream audience without sounding like an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist? Brilliant choice of name to avoid attention from people who aren’t actual Jewish insiders.

    • johneill on August 18, 2019, 10:15 pm

      rather than address the own-goal either elicited from netanyahu or directed by trump, you want to focus on the choice of name for a single publisher of a single quote? really arbitrary gatekeeping.

      • Peter in SF on August 19, 2019, 3:36 am

        I don’t keep any gate. I had been looking for some pundit with some audience who was finally going to say that Trump’s tweet might have been Netanyahu’s idea. It wouldn’t occur to most Americans to think that the Israeli PM or his ambassador in Washington might have “requested” Trump to make a tweet like this, but here we’ve got “Jewish Insider” saying that that might have been a real possibility, and talking as if there’s nothing surprising about it. It reminds me of the time I went to see Rob Malley speak in SF last year, and his Q&A with audience members simply assumed (on both sides) that U.S. policy towards Israel is controlled by wealthy Jews. I wrote about that here:

    • CigarGod on August 19, 2019, 9:40 am

      How do you get anything anti-semitic out of Jewish Insider let alone a conspiracy theorist?
      Have you read their site?

      What do you think about The Catholic Insider?
      How about The Viking Insider?

      • johneill on August 19, 2019, 10:04 am

        it seems that they’re only antisemitic cause they shared this idea, despite actual antisemites not needing to look at the ‘jewish insider’ name to justify their racism.

      • Mooser on August 19, 2019, 12:44 pm

        “How do you get anything anti-semitic out of Jewish Insider let alone a conspiracy theorist?”

        If you can’t trust a website’s “About” page, what can you trust?

        “We’re not here to confirm your views or challenge your beliefs.”

        Really? I wonder if the article “Jeffrey Epstein’s history of Jewish giving” will do that.

    • Misterioso on August 19, 2019, 9:51 am

      For the record:

      “Netanyahu banned Omar and Tlaib because he has something to hide” The Forward, Aug. 18/19

      By Peter Beinart

      August 18, 2019 – “Most establishment American Jewish leaders think Israel’s decision to bar Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting the West Bank was, in the words of The Democratic Majority for Israel, ‘unwise.’

      “Benjamin Netanyahu, the American Jewish Committee argued, should have realized that ‘visiting Israel is essential to gaining a better understanding of this… open, democratic society.’

      AIPAC said ‘every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.’

      “Of course they think that. Most officials of mainstream American Jewish organizations have never been to the places Tlaib and Omar planned to go. They’ve never talked to Palestinians whose homes are about to be bulldozed because they lack the building permits that, as non-citizens under military rule, they can’t get. They’ve never heard Palestinian parents explain the terror they feel when Israeli soldiers come in the middle of the night to take their children to be interrogated, often for days, in the absence of a lawyer.

      “They’ve never stood in a Palestinian village that receives a few hours of water per day and seen swimming pools in the settlements nearby. They’ve never visited the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, home to Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother, where according to a 2015 report, local children waded through sewage channels to reach a high school enclosed by the separation barrier on three sides. American Jewish leaders think Netanyahu is a fool because they don’t realize how much he has to hide.

      “He’s not a fool. He may have barred Omar and Tlaib partly because Donald Trump asked him to. He may have felt the stunt would appeal to right-wing voters in Israel’s upcoming elections. But he likely also under stood that if Omar and Tlaib brought the American media with them to the West Bank, they might begin to puncture the cocoon that he and his American Jewish allies have worked so hard to build.

      “That cocoon shields both American Jews and American politicians from Palestinian reality. AIPAC maintains it with trips—like the one it hosted for members of Congress earlier this month—that afford them barely any opportunity to hear ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank (let alone the Gaza Strip) talk about life without basic rights.

      “A few years ago, a member of Congress who travelled with AIPAC told me that when his delegation visited the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, they did so in an armed convoy and ‘saw almost no actual people.’ As a result of this isolation, he noted, most of his colleagues never realized that West Bank Palestinians ‘live under a different legal system’ from their Jewish neighbors. This ignorance is by design. ‘We call it the Jewish Disneyland trip,’ one ‘pro-Israel’ official told The New York Times.

      “But when Americans leave this cocoon, the effect is often shattering. The organization Encounter takes American Jewish officials to meet ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

      “’After one day on your trip I felt like I had never been to Israel before,’ admitted one participant. ‘And I am considered a professional Israel expert who travels to Israel several times a year.’

      “When six members of Congress—five of them African-American—travelled with J Street to the West Bank city of Hebron in 2012, they saw alleys where Palestinians walked because they were banned from the streets nearby.

      “In The New York Times Magazine, Nathan Thrall described how the representatives looked up from those alleys ‘to see garbage-filled nets hanging above their heads, put up [by local Palestinians] to catch trash thrown by Israeli settlers.’

      “Former Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards said that Hebron ‘looked like the stories that my mother and my grandmother told me about living in the South.’ When Israeli soldiers stopped Edwards and her colleagues from visiting the non-violent Palestinian activist Issa Amro, they ‘locked arms and sang ‘We Shall Overcome.’” That’s what Netanyahu is afraid of.

      “Because Tlaib and Omar cannot serve as witnesses, the responsibility falls even more heavily on us.

      “Like the white (and often Jewish) college students who went to Mississippi during Freedom Summer in 1964, we who are white and Jewish and can name our Bar Mitzvah Parshas at Ben Gurion Airport must use our privileges to go to the places Omar and Tlaib could not.

      “We must find creative ways of showing other Americans what we see there. And we must make it unacceptable for Democrats to continue to visit Israel with AIPAC—as 41 did last week—and thus sustain the cocoon that keeps Americans comfortably ignorant about Palestinian suffering.

      “When journalists start asking Democratic politicians why they visited Israel without visiting Hebron or Khan al-Ahmar, and why they met Benjamin Netanyahu without meeting Issa Amro or Fadi Quran, then the cocoon will start to crack.

      “And when Democratic politicians began demanding, by the dozens, to see the things that Omar and Tlaib were planning to see, then the cocoon will fall apart and the American debate over Israel will change.

      “Israel can bar two members of Congress from seeing the truths it wishes to hide. It cannot bar two hundred. I hope Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother lives to see the day.”
      Peter Beinart is a Senior Columnist at The Forward and Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York. He is also a Contributor to The Atlantic and a CNN Political Commentator.

  2. eljay on August 19, 2019, 6:20 am

    If Israel becomes a partisan issue in the United States, advocates warn that … Israel’s security would be severely undermined without the political, economic and military support that flows from bipartisan backing in Washington. …

    Yeah, it’s funny how political, economic and military support can make or break a state. And yet Zionists – who routinely insist that Israel don’t need nuthin’ from nobody nohow to survive a Thousand Years! (or maybe even forever) – never advocate taking all the “unshakeable” political, economic and military support that American unnecessarily gives to Israel and giving it instead to the Palestinians to help them build a healthy and robust state of Palestine. Go figure.

  3. James Canning on August 19, 2019, 3:31 pm

    Sheldon Adelson clearly is undermining US national security. How many trillions of dollars has the US spent in recent decades, to protect Israel?

  4. Kay24 on August 19, 2019, 5:02 pm

    The New York Times has “undermined” the Palestinian people, by their thousands of pro Israeli articles, written by zionist journalists. They have many apologists who keep justifying the deadly occupation, the shameful land thefts and the killing of thousands of young kids. The NYT has hired zionists like Brett Stephens and Bari Weiss, to write what I called “refined Hasbara” articles
    trying to convince Americans that Israel is the poor little victim of occupied people.

  5. CHUCKMAN on August 20, 2019, 2:49 am

    “Biased ‘NYT’ article on Tlaib/Omar trip says Democrats criticizing Israel will undermine US national security”

    The only “security” at risk here is the security of politicians’ campaign funds and favorable publicity from the Israel Lobby.

    Indeed, in the sense of genuine national security, seeing some serious change in Israel is genuinely in America’s long-term interest.

    A great deal of what Israel does and the problems it creates do not serve America’s long-term interests at all.

    Quite the opposite, much of it is destructive. Just look at the Israel-inspired Neocon Wars in the Middle East.

    A couple of million people killed.

    Millions more turned into refugees, and parts of Europe almost destabilized by their movement.

    Some decent, if non-democratic, governments destroyed and replaced by chaos. Libya is a prime case. Gaddafi helped is people and kept them at peace.

    Years ahead of resentment over what America has done with these wars.

    Wars conducted to pursue what Condoleezza Rice arrogantly called “the birth of a new Middle East.” She called the screams of the people, “birth pangs.”

    And just look at Israel’s relations in the region. Good, close friends with bloody tyrants like the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and the Generalissimo President of Egypt.

    Israel actively works against the emergence of democracy in the region. It likes leaders who keep their people in line.

    And it ain’t much of a democracy itself, with about half the people ruled having no votes and no rights.

  6. Jasonius Maximus on August 20, 2019, 10:53 am

    Yup! The propaganda machine is in full batshit, pull the fire alarm, overdrive!

    The accusations, doublespeak, and outright baseless smears from Israel, its lobbying arm, their military social media trolls, biased op-ed columnists and even the members of media have started flying around like crazy.

    Reps Omar and Tlaib have yet again been personally tarred and feathered as anti-Semites for daring to champion social justice, civil and human rights and even mentioning the word “Occupation”. They’ve been falsely accused of intending to meet with actual “terrorists” and planning attacks to destroy the state of Israel. Dan Abrams literally ran and entire show on POTUS on Friday dedicated at nothing short of victim blaming Rashida Tlaib for refusing to accept Israel’s “generous offer” to let her visit the West Bank under full government censure. He shutdown any discussion of the initial ban, any discussion of the ridiculous conditions Israel were imposing on a sitting member of Congress, and even cut off callers talking about the cruel conditions facing ALL Palestinians with snarky comments like “maybe they should stop firing rockets at Israel!” – as if Gaza and the West Bank were the same place, and focused on nothing but HER supposed “hypocrisy”, accusing her of crocodile tears and “playing games”.

    The asymmetrical response and hysteria to a deliberate own goal by Netanyahu has shown us exactly how terrified they have become of BDS. It also shows that they will stop at nothing and stoop as low as possible in their baseless attacks on anyone daring to stand up for justice in the region.

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