Monday, January 2, 2012

Was NY Times Channel-10 'Exposé' Retaliation by Proxy for Netanyahu's No-Thank-You Letter?

Ron Dermer's rejection letter on behalf of Netanyahu could not go
unchallenged by the Times, could it? 

This post goes under the heading of Just Sayin. But, you gotta wonder if there is a connection between the no-thank-you letter Prime Minister Netayahu's senior advisor sent to the NY Times and the Times' subsequent hit-piece claiming that Netanyahu is trying to exercise control over Israel's press. Was this retaliation by proxy?

Of course you wouldn't have read about it in the Times, so I'll quote the start of Ron Dermer's letter, 'leaked' to Israeli newspapers on December 16th, and you can read the rest here:

Dear *Sasha, 
"I received your email requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu submit an op-ed to the New York Times.  Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline.

On matters relating to Israel, the op-ed page of the “paper of record” has failed to heed the late Senator Moynihan's admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.

"A case in point was your decision last May to publish the following bit of historical revision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:

'It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative.  Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.'

"This paragraph effectively turns on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state.  It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking."

Dermer's other objections included the by-now notorious line by Thomas Friedman that Netanyahu's House standing ovation was "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby," the outrageous 'pinkwashing' article by Sarah Shulman, and, notably, the Times' rejection of Richard Goldstone's mea culpa op-ed that ultimately ran in the Washington Post.

Now, here is the coincidence that intrigues me: Ten days after Dermer's letter made it all over the internet (except on NYTimes.com) Ethan Bronner's piece, Israel TV Station’s Troubles Reflect a Larger Political Battleground was published front and center on page one.  

His story essentially comes down to this: Channel 10 is in financial trouble, is unable to pay an $11 million debt to Israel's version of the FCC and Netanyahu's Knesset cronies are refusing to extend the deadline for payment. The Times alleges that because Channel 10 has been very critical of Netanyahu, he is out to bring it down. Hence, we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Israeli free press. 

There's plenty of inside baseball material related to this story that makes one wonder if it really belongs on the front page of an American paper but you can be sure that those who want to read into it the decline and fall of Israel's democracy, will do so. I'm not defending Netanyahu here at all. I'm just sayin' that the story reflects my previous concerns that the Times is exploiting its Israel fixation to sell papers (or online hits), has a set of opinion writers who blame Israel exclusively for the impasse in the 'peace process' and often shows bad faith in its coverage of Israel. So, given its problem with Israel, given how embarrassing the viral dissemination of Ron Dermer's letter  must have been, is it possible that Ethan Bronner's exposé served as a way for the Times to hit back to save face?

*Sasha Polakow-Suransky is a staff editor for the op-ed page.

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