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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Anti-Semitism, The New York Times

Following publication of Roger Cohen's op-ed, "Obama in Netanyahu's Web", I complained, again, to Clark Hoyt, The Times' Public Editor, concerning the title of this op-ed and anti-Semitic comments permitted by The Times' "moderators" in response to this and past op-eds. In addition, I have asked that The Times' publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., issue a public, printed apology to Israel's Prime Minister for the title of Cohen's op-ed.

Meanwhile, I heard back from a staffer of the Public Editor's office - not Clark Hoyt:

I have written to you many times telling you that Mr. Hoyt is planning a comment on column approval. He is planning to and will write one. I imagine that he will get into your claims. But, it is one of many he is planning. I have all your messages and will make sure he sees the ones he has not yet seen.

These are good examples and make your case. I will continue to send them on to the Web, which has removed some of the comments you have sent to us. Mr. Hoyt is interested in this and other aspects of the comment moderation. I again, will make sure he sees your message.

I appreciate that this staffer took the time to respond to my message; however, I do not think the issue of anti-Semitism surfacing in The Times can or should be treated in a lackadaisical manner, particularly given The Time' past history (see, e.g., Max Frankel's "Turning Away from the Holocaust", www.racematters.org/turningawayfromholocaust.htm, and read Laurel Leff's "Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper"). My reply to the staffer:

I am disappointed by your response that Mr. Hoyt is "planning" a column about "comment approval", and you "imagine" that he will "get into" my "claims", but "it is one of many he is planning".

My complaint, as evident from the subject and content of my e-mail [an example of an anti-Semitic NYT's online comment and examples of anti-Semitic images portraying Jews as voracious, ugly spiders], concerned anti-Semitism, not "comment approval" as indicated in your e-mail.

Within recent months, The Times' "moderators" have permitted the posting of many anti-Semitic comments, some rabid, and notwithstanding my complaints, only after a senior editor received my correspondence were several of these comments removed.

Furthermore, as explained in my prior e-mail to Mr. Hoyt, the title of Roger Cohen's op-ed, drawing a comparison between the Prime Minister of Israel and a spider that has ensnared President Obama, should never have been published by The New York Times.

I am appalled that the issues that I have raised are "just one of many" topics which Mr. Hoyt is planning to address in future columns.

I will expand upon my concerns in an open letter to Mr. Hoyt.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Weaving Hatred on the Web

In my response to Roger Cohen's op-ed, "Obama in Netanyahu's Web", I noted that the title of this essay was likely to fan the flames of online hatred. Apparently unknown to Cohen, the portrayal of Jews as spiders has a long history in the annals of anti-Semitism. One need only do a Google search using the words "anti-Semitism" and "spider" to find Nazi-era propaganda images depicting Jews as ugly, voracious arachnids.

Notwithstanding The New York Times' purported policy that "Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive," The Times' "moderators" (an oxymoron) posted the following comment, number 159, to Cohen's op-ed:

Seeing the destruction and misery that the current Jewish Israeli population is capable of, and willing to commit, against poor and defenseless people leaves one to wonder what they would do had the Holocaust never taken place and there were twice as many of them as there are now. "Never forget" is hollow and meaningless when it is used to justify committing the same basic acts against others.

The submission of such a comment in response to an op-ed entitled "Obama in Netanyahu's Web" comes as no surprise. I am, however, horrified that The Times' "moderators" continue to post such abuse, notwithstanding my past entreaties to The Times' editors.

[In response to my correspondence with The Times, the said comment has been removed. Regretably, the title of Cohen's op-ed cannot be changed.]

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Roger Cohen's "Obama in Netanyahu's Web"

I have submitted the following comment to The Times in response to Cohen's op-ed, "Obama in Netanyahu's Web":

Another week, another obsessive op-ed mixing fact and fiction, citing anonymous sources, and employing smoke and mirrors. Forgive me, Roger, as I dissect your ungainly sleight of hand.

You say, "Netanyahu won the first round" and that's "not good . . . for Israel's long-term security." Since when did you ever care about the security of Israel? Think back to April 2008, prior to Operation Cast Lead: I invited you to visit the beleaguered Israeli town of Sderot, which was being rocketed daily by Hamas. You wrote back : "Thanks, Jeffrey, and will do," but never came. Sorry, Roger, but I'm not interested in your "concern", not for me, not for my family.

"All the overblown, reciprocal compliments could not hide evident tensions - over Iran and Israel-Palestine and how the two are linked." Linkage? I didn't realize it was an established fact. Dennis Ross, Hillary's special adviser on Iran, in his new book, "Myths, Illusions, and Peace: Finding a New Direction for America in the Middle East," acknowledges that dialogue with Iran should not be linked to Israel and Palestine and that "linkage" is the "Mother of All Myths".

"Obama also allowed Netanyahu to compliment him for 'leaving all options on the table" - the standard formula for a possible U.S. military strike against Iran - when he said nothing of the sort." How would you know, Roger? We both know you weren't there.

"Score one for Netanyahu, who, in the words of one former American official who knows him well, 'is the kind of guy who negotiates the time he will go to the bathroom.'" Now I realize this fits well, i.e. links, with your recent op-eds, "Of Loos and Language" and "When Nature Calls", but I think you can disclose this highly sensitive information's "secret" source, who doesn't know Bibi very well at all.

"[W]hile the worst has already happened in Kim Jong-il's isolated state, it has not yet happened in Iran and is still avoidable if determined and creative policies are pursued." "Determined and creative policies"? It sounds great, but what do you have in mind? Allowing Iran to pursue its oppression of Baha'is, Kurds, Jews, homosexuals, women, political opponents of the regime, free spirited journalists, and bloggers in exchange for temporary cessation of Iranian atomic bomb development? Even were Iran to agree (they wouldn't), there would be no one capable of policing the deal. (If someone from the Obama administration were to ask me, I would suggest threatening the banking privileges in the U.S. of the European banks doing business with Iran; Obama would quickly have Ahmadinejad's ear.)

"Many more young American men and women will die in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next several years if no Iranian breakthrough is achieved." Sorry, Roger, but this is delusional. If Obama feels there is no reason for the continued presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, then he should arrange for their immediate withdrawal. But this has nothing whatsoever to do with Iran, and blaming Israel for future U.S. casualties is baseless and worse, but apparently not for someone with an agenda.

"An attack on Iran that would put the Jewish state at war with Persians as well as Arabs". How does anyone write an op-ed of this nature without mentioning Sunni/Shiite tensions? Do you know that the dozens of tribal conflicts among the Arab nations and between Iraq and Iran have claimed an exponentially larger number of lives than the combined Israeli/Arab wars? Do you know that America's
allies, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, are more worried than Israel by Iranian atomic ambitions?

Finally, a word about the title of this op-ed, "Obama in Netanyahu's Web", which will necessarily inflame anti-Semitism on the web. I didn't vote for Netanyahu, but he is not an ugly, venomous spider. Rather, he is ardent in his determination to prevent a second Holocaust, and although I do not share all his views, I share his existential concerns. Moreover, Netanyahu and his family have demonstrated dedication and courage of a kind beyond anything that the itinerant and fanciful Roger Cohen could ever hope to fathom.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Brain Dead at 55, Not Attuned to The Times

Listlessly approaching my 55th birthday, I remarked to myself, why not try my luck and respond with another online comment to a New York Times op-ed, and sure enough, Providence sent Bob Herbert's "Our Crumbling Foundation" to my feebleminded attention.

Acccording to Mr. Herbert: "The link between the need to rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure and the crucial need to find new resources of employment in this economic downturn should be obvious, a no-brainer."

Hmmm. I racked what is left of my gray matter and shot off the following rejoinder:
It is not just about creating jobs.

It is more important to nurture workplaces that proffer needed and desired products and services that assure future American economic leadership and provide the basis for sustainable employment.

Foolish me. I sent this epistle early, it was included on the first page of online comments, and I reaped my just rewards: Whereas comment no. 7 received some 250 reader recommendations, I received 15, and if I hadn't cheated by recommending myself, I might have ended up with the lowest total on the page.

Where did I go wrong? Had I only made referrence to those avaricous banks and nefarious Republicans! Alas, too late.

Suddenly a vision dawned on me, a bolt of lightning shooting across neglected neurons and synapses: Armies of obese MBAs, formerly employed by Lehman Brothers and General Motors, crisscrossing the U.S. with picks and shovels, singing "Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go", repairing the nation's decrepit bridges and highways . . . and 20 years later, with America's bridges and highways impassable and a white-haired Mr. Herbert acknowledging that civil engineering is a skilled profession, teams of talented Chinese laborers undoing the damage and securing these vital transportation links for America's fleets of Hondas, Mazdas and Toyotas.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Just Say No to Iran!

Over the course of recent months we have been forced to suffer Roger Cohen's paeans to Persian "civility" scrawled over the pages of The New York Times. Now, in a May 24, 2009 op-ed published by The Times entitled "Are We Losing Iran?", Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett also implore President Obama to forge "a new approach toward Iran." The Leveretts contend:

On its present course, the White House's approach will not stop Tehran's development of a nuclear fuel program - or, as Iran's successful test of a medium-range, solid-fuel missile last week underscored, military capacities of other sorts. It will also not provide an alternative to continued antagonism between the United States and Iran - a posture that for 30 years has proved increasingly damaging to the interests of the United States and its allies in the Middle East.

Does this mean that Israel is no longer an ally of the U.S., or, do the Leveretts presume to know what is best for Israel as well as America's other Middle East allies, i.e. Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan?

The Leveretts go on to say:

The notion of an Israeli-moderate Arab coalition united to contain Iran is not only delusional, it would leave the Palestinian and Syrian-Lebanese tracks of the Arab-Israeli conflict unresolved and prospects for their resolution in free-fall. These tracks cannot be resolved without meaningful American interaction with Iran and its regional allies, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Sorry, Leveretts, but you've got it wrong. Hamas and Hezbollah are not Iran's "regional allies", but rather Iran's regional surrogates, busying themselves with murder, suicide bombings, terror aimed at civilians, the undermining of governments allied with the U.S., and illegal drug dealings. Are you asking the U.S. to be nice to Iran in the hopes that Iran will call off its dogs? Do you presume that Iran is capable of dictating terms to Syria, which views Lebanon as its backyard?

More to the point, how does anyone write an op-ed of this nature without mentioning Sunni/Shiite tensions? Do you know that the dozens of tribal conflicts among the Arab nations and between Iraq and Iran have claimed an exponentially larger number of lives than the combined Israeli/Arab wars?

And how does anyone call for "a new approach toward Iran" without mentioning the oppression of Iran's Baha'is, Kurds and Jews?

Yes, the ascension of President Obama undoubtedly marks a sea change in U.S. foreign policy, but does this mean that the U.S. need befriend every rabid totalitarian regime, every savage repressive theocracy, with the goal of fostering "change"? Guess what? You cannot and should not be friends with everyone, and in the instance of Iran, Obama should just say no -

  • Because Iran persecutes its Baha'i minority in much the same way that the Nazis persecuted the Jews;
  • Because Iran brutally persecutes its Kurdish minority;
  • Because Iran stones to death alleged adulterers with their children watching;
  • Because Iran severs the hands of alleged thieves;
  • Because Iran tortures and murders unfriendly journalists;
  • Because Iran imprisons anti-regime bloggers;
  • Because Iran calls for Shiite revolution across the globe;
  • Because Iran funds suicide bombings directed against civilians;
  • Because Iran sponsors terrorist bombings against Jews as far away as Argentina;
  • Because Iran supports genocide in Darfur;
  • Because Iran hangs homosexuals;
  • Because Iran has called to "wipe Israel off the map";
  • Because Iran oppresses and sanctions violence against women;
  • Because Iran seeks to undermine governments friendly to the U.S., e.g., Egypt;
  • Because a regime crazy enough to do all of the above is crazy enough to let its nukes fly;
  • Because if Iran has the bomb, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will also be quick to follow (strange how these four countries are not perturbed by the Israeli arsenal, but then Israel is not calling for Shiite revolution).

If Obama turns a cold shoulder to Iran, does this mean that tiny Israel will be reenacting Thermopylae against the Persian hordes? Nah. As already noted, enmity between Shiites and Sunnis far exceeds Iran's hatred against the Jews, and with oil at $60 a barrel, Iran cannot meet its domestic budget while pursuing foreign intrigue.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Gaza, Today's Warsaw Ghetto?

Several months ago, UN rapporteur Richard Falk asserted with respect to Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza: "To lock people into a war zone is something that evokes the worst kind of international memories of the Warsaw Ghetto". Falk's hollow similitude spawned a new genre of twaddle, particularly popular among closet anti-Semites. What better than to turn the Holocaust upon the children of its victims? As such, a day does not go by without online comments referring to Israel as "The Fourth Reich", labeling Cast Lead as a "Blitzkrieg", and condemning Israel's actions vis-a-vis the Palestinians as "genocide".

But let's get down to brass tacks: Is there a basis for comparing the Warsaw Ghetto with the Gaza Strip? True, the Warsaw Ghetto was, and the Gaza Strip is, overcrowded. The Nazis herded 450,000 Polish Jews into an enclave, which, at its largest, measured 3.5 square miles. However, the Gaza Strip, where 1.5 million people live, measures 139 square miles. There seems to be a significant difference.

By comparison, Manhattan, which also has a population of some 1.5 million, occupies an area of 23 square miles. Are the Jews to blame for Manhattan's population density, which far exceeds that of the Gaza Strip? Many neo-Nazis would answer in the affirmative.

But there is another reason for the density of population in the Gaza Strip. According to the CIA World Factbook, in Gaza there are "5.19 children born/woman (2008 est.)". In contrast, in Holland there are "1.66 children born/woman (2008 est.)". Hence, the population explosion in the Strip from under 600,000 in June 1967 upon Israeli occupation after the Six Day War, to some 1.4 million in August 2005 when Israel evacuated Gaza. If Israel is attempting "genocide", it is doing a very bad job of it.

In the Warsaw Ghetto, countless Jews starved to death, but is this also happening in Gaza? Again, let's have a look at the numbers: According to the CIA World Factbook, the average life expectancy at birth in Gaza is 73.16 years (2008 est.). This differs markedly from the life expectancy of an infant born in the Warsaw Ghetto, whose life expectancy could be measured in days as opposed to years.

What about talk of "Greater Israel" which is again making the rounds in blogs and online comments and sounds much akin to the Nazis' lust for "Lebensraum"? Israel long ago returned Sinai to Egypt and offered all of Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to Arafat in exchange for peace at Camp David in 2000. Re Gaza, Israel has no territorial aspirations whatsoever; every square inch was unilaterally handed over to the Palestinian Authority in 2005. No negotiations: "Take it, it's yours." On the other hand, Hamas is calling for the obliteration of Israel (preamble of its charter) and avers that Jihad is the only solution for the "Palestinian problem" (article 13 of its charter).

Did Polish ghetto Jews call for the extermination of Germans or lay claim to German soil? Not to my recollection. Nor did they target civilians of any creed. Gazans, however, overwhelmingly elected Hamas to manage their affairs, which, according to article 7 of its charter, calls for the murder of Jews: "The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him."

Does Hamas indiscriminately attempt to murder Jews? More than 10,000 missiles, rockets and mortar rounds were fired from Gaza at Israeli civilian targets between 2001 and the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead. Suicide bombings? Probably the most heinous occurred in 2002 when a Hamas operative blew himself up at a Passover Seder in the Park Hotel in Netanya, leaving 30 dead and 14o wounded. These suicide bombings led to the closure of the border to thousands of workers from Gaza, who crossed daily into Israel to support their families.

Internal politics in the Gaza Strip and the Warsaw Ghetto? Arafat's Fatah Party was corrupt, the Palestinians sought "change", and "change" they got, in much the same way that Germans democratically voted Hitler into power. Not only did they vote Hamas "in" and Fatah "out", they also watched as Hamas, after the 2007 civil war with Fatah, executed Fatah supporters. Muhammad Swairki, a cook for Abbas's Presidential Guard, was thrown off a 15-story building. In comparison, there were many different political factions in the Warsaw Ghetto, but there was never internal bloodletting of this kind.

In short, although the suffering of Gazans is real, and steps can be taken by Israel to alleviate their pain, it is also self-imposed by Hamas and its patron, Iran. Any comparison between the Gaza Strip and the Warsaw Ghetto is a canard, which joins Jew-haters from the left and right as bedfellows.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What Iran's Jews Don't Say

Exactly two months ago, I wrote to the Public Editor of The New York Times concerning Roger Cohen's op-ed, "What Iran's Jews Say" (". . . the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran - its sophistication and culture - than all the inflammatory rhetoric"), and asked:

  • In 'What Iran's Jews Say', as a matter of journalistic ethics, should Cohen have included in his op-ed all of the above facts, i.e. that his conversations were with a limited number of Jews, via a translator reporting to the Iranian Government, and that the persons he interviewed might have felt duress?
  • Was the title of the op-ed appropriate, given the above?
  • Are NYT op-eds subject to journalistic standards different from other reported stories?

I received the following response, dated March 20, 2009, from the Public Editor's office: "I am looking into this further, and doing some homework on the case right now. I also have Mr. Hoyt [The New York Times' Public Editor] looking into it, and I will report our findings to you as soon as they are ready."

Meanwhile, I have heard nothing back from the Public Editor or anyone else from The New York Times.

It is worth noting that in the guidelines promulgated by The New York Times in "Ethical Journalism, A Handbook of Practices for the News and Editorial Departments, September 2004", it is stated in section 15:

The Times treats its readers as fairly and as openly as possible. In print and online, we tell our readers the complete, unvarnished truth as best we can learn it. It is our policy to correct our errors, large and small, as soon as we become aware of them.