Jewish World Review April 17, 2002/ 6 Iyar 5762


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The home turf, part I... | The bitter debate over the Middle East has spilled into my newspaper, the New York Press, as well. Last week, two of my colleagues, Taki and Mike Signorile, journalists I respect, wrote columns that were kooky enough to drive a man to a diet of tofu and herbal tea. Taki's antipathy toward Israel is so entrenched that he even resorted to quoting a spurious MSNBC website article by Eric Alterman-a cheap-shot artist whose only rival is Michael Moore-that absurdly claimed a dominating pro-Israel bias in the American media.

Let alone the conjecture that Alterman must not be reading The New York Times, or that Taki's politics have virtually nothing in common with the self-aggrandizing Nation writer, when it comes to Israel my Greek-born friend will bed down with any nitwit he can find. Even more amazing is that Taki repeats Alterman's list of the supposed Israeli sycophants, even men and women he agrees with on nearly every other issue, such as Bill Buckley, Rich Lowry Peggy Noonan, and JWR's Michael Kelly, George Will, , John Leo, Fred Barnes and Mona Charen.

Taki, impersonating the fraudulent Kofi Annan, writes: "In Europe, where coverage of the Middle East is far more balanced [say what?], it is the plight of the Palestinian dispossessed that is raised time and again... Although Israel cannot look like it's giving in to terrorism, it also cannot kill every Palestinian. The unqualified support it gets from the punditocracy for Sharon's provocative gambles will only exasperate matters. Just as the harassment of certain individuals like myself from some Jewish groups will only make me more determined to write the truth the way I see it."

A Me, Myself and I Taki-approach.

As for the supposed pro-Israel slant of the Times (which, with the exception of William Safire, has been a virtual mouthpiece for Arafat), what does Taki make of a sickening April 12 editorial, "Bulldozing Hope in the Mideast," in the paper he calls The Big Bagel Times?

The editorialist wrote these Arab talking points: "Israel's long-term interest lies in nurturing Palestinian development, not demolishing it. While Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's determination to strike back at terrorists is understandable, Israel's destruction of Palestinian homes, businesses and public utilities is not... While the ostensible goal of Israel's offensive is capturing terrorists and uprooting their organizations, it has resulted in a prolonged siege affecting hundreds of thousands of civilians trying to go about their everyday lives. Mr. Sharon needs to make it clear to his commanders that Palestinian civilians are not Israel's enemies and that their lives, livelihoods and property deserve respect."

Sulzberger Jr.

Is this plain naivete or a continuation of the Times' policy to downplay its Jewish ownership, an historical embarrassment (reaching its nadir during World War II) for the institution moving-lips readers still call "The paper of record." Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has degraded his family's newspaper in so many weak-kneed boomer ways in the past decade-with a mentality that's resulted in the hiring of Gail Collins, Paul ("The vast-right-wing-conspiracy is hounding me!) Krugman, the promotion of Democratic National Committee front-men Frank Rich and Nicholas Kristof to the op-ed page, any number of reporters and pundits who hew to the politically correct mantra that feminists, gays and "people of color" rule!-that one might think shedding the apparent shame of his ancestry would be at least one constructive by-product of his relative youth.

How would the Times editorial board explain to the relatives of those murdered by Palestinian "civilians" in pizza parlors, discos, buses and markets that Arafat's mindless devotees are just "trying to go about their everyday lives"?


Signorile, whose ultra-liberal weekly column in New York Press contradicts the simpleton's notion that this paper is a monolithic billboard of conservatism, is even more hysterical, taking a more twisted stance than Taki's. He writes, to the delight of Nation/Progressive/Times devotees no doubt: "Only when [Bush] can channel politics through his faith does he even remotely seem to have a passion for politics. Policy wonk Bill Clinton-love him or hate him-was passionate about politics, and even more so about the issues and the details. Not so for Bush, who shows more passion for the things that help him maintain self-control in his own life-exercising daily, sleeping right-than he does for, say, getting campaign finance reform (something he claimed to be adamantly against) squashed."

It would require exhaustive research to find a statement as ridiculous as this one printed in New York Press. Yes, Clinton was passionate about politics, mainly about getting elected and having the trappings of power. But spare me Clinton's love of "issues and the details": Bush's predecessor was an extreme egotist who liked to hear his own voice, coming up with arcane facts, say, about a 1924 voting pattern in New Jersey's Fifth Congressional District, just to show up his cowed aides or campaign contributors who were forced to stay up all night with him.

Never mind that in the course of his bull sessions he'd invariably contradict himself five or six times. And if Bush has no "passion" for politics, a notion most Democrats would dispute, why have he and strategist Karl Rove injected themselves so thoroughly into the midterm races and the President's own 2004 reelection effort? As for the President reluctantly signing campaign finance "reform," that was a purely political tactic, one that earned him enmity within his conservative base: he wanted to mollify scatterbrain-rival John McCain as well as deprive Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt of a campaign issue this fall.

Signorile ends with a rabbit punch that's vintage Paul Begala: "Bush is learning the hard way-and a lot of people are paying the price for it-that the world is more complicated than what they teach in evangelical Bible class. The world is actually more akin to how they explained it while Bush was at Yale, when he wasn't paying attention, out boozing it up and getting bad grades. [As opposed to Al Gore, who was out toking up and getting bad grades.]

Unlike the Afghanistan actions, most future international crises will be as complicated as the Israeli-Palestinian one. And they will require a lot more complexity than 'born-again' foreign policy."

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press ( Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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