THE TIMES LOSES IT ONCE AND FOR ALL: Today's lead editorial
is a masterpiece, even by Times standards. It demands a full-length treatment:
The announcement last night that the Israeli military was pulling out of two Palestinian cities was welcome but it was far from clear that it signaled the start of the full, immediate withdrawal from the West Bank towns and refugee camps repeatedly requested by President Bush. Earlier in the day, Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, brushed off Mr. Bush's demand in a defiant speech to the Knesset, insisting that the campaign would end only when its mission had been accomplished.
Check out the text of Sharon's speech,
which the editors seem to not have read. In my opinion, the only "defiance" in the speech is Sharon's insistence on repeating facts which the Times would rather ignore.
But see for yourselves.
Perhaps Mr. Sharon does not understand. The president of the United States, speaking out of profound friendship and growing impatience, has asked him to withdraw "without delay." This was not a request made lightly. Mr. Bush has expressed sympathy with Israel's plight and made clear that its security and well-being are of the highest concern. He has sent his secretary of state to the region to try to end the bloodshed. Yet Mr. Sharon says he will remove the tanks and troops whenever it suits him. This is an insult to Mr. Bush and the United States.
It is unbelivable how churlish the Times can get when authorities - especially conservative or Israeli ones - do not obey its commands. Sharon stated that the incursion will continue
"until the mission has been accomplished, until Arafat's terrorist infrastructures are uprooted and until murderers holed up in various places are captured." Is that identical to "whenever it suits him?" If so, he has good judgment.
...It is increasingly clear that the costs to broader Israeli interests far outweigh whatever short-term security benefits this military operation may be yielding. Mr. Sharon's actions may be netting some terrorists and some of the terrible tools they employ, but they are inflaming the fury of thousands more Palestinians and millions of Arabs whose governments are being asked by Mr. Bush to press for more responsible Palestinian leadership. The prestige of the United States is on the line in an effort to help Israel, and the Israeli government is doing nothing to make the job easier.
1) Let's see...what has not happened in the last week? Oh yes - there have been no successful suicide bombings since the Israeli operation got underway. That's a pretty broad Israeli interest. Would that have happened without the Israeli incursion? 18 months of experience says no.
2) What if Israel had not invaded? The Times need only consult its newest Pulitzer winner, Thomas Friedman, who recently described how
the Palestinians feel that suicide bombings work. Is there any chance the attacks would not have continued and increased? As Friedman noted: "[T]he Palestinians have not chosen suicide bombing out of "desperation" stemming from the Israeli occupation. That is a huge lie.... President Clinton offered the Palestinians a peace plan that could have ended their "desperate" occupation, and Yasir Arafat walked away." Or, as Jonah Goldberg
puts it succinctly: "The more hope, the more murder."
So, in sum - the Times would rather have Israel continue to have its citizens murdered in grisly, steadily-increasing terror attacks than inflame "the fury of thousands more Palestinians and millions of Arabs whose governments are being asked by Mr. Bush to press for more responsible Palestinian leadership." As anyone who's ever checked out MEMRI
(which does not seem to include the Times editors) knows, those thousands of Palestinians and millions of Arabs had pretty inflamed furies already. A largely successful action to prevent such terror attacks seems worth the cost.
Israel's declared objective is to dismantle the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure, but Mr. Sharon has also targeted leaders and offices of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli gunfire, curfews and military checkpoints have abused the lives, livelihood and dignity of the civilian population.
For all those who still believed that there was a distinction between "the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure" and the "leaders and offices of the Palestinian Authority," the documents recently discovered and publicized by the Israelis
should put paid to that concept. If the Times editors had followed the news lately (or even read Sharon's speech cited in its own pages or the work of its own Douglas Frantz
), they might have figured it out.
Mr. Sharon says he needs more time to destroy the terrorist network. Israeli forces, however, have already badly damaged the Palestinian civilian infrastructure, with supplies of water, food and medicine disrupted, independent television shut down and residents trapped in their homes. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded since Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships rolled into the West Bank on March 29. The refusal of Israeli forces to let wounded Palestinians be removed to hospitals is inexplicable.
1) Elementary logic: Even assuming that Israel has "already badly damaged the Palestinian civilian infrastructure, with supplies of water, food and medicine disrupted, independent television shut down and residents trapped in their homes," why is that necessarily incompatible with needing "more time to destroy the terrorist network?" Presumably the Times feels that it is worth leaving the terrorist network in place rather than inflict the damage on Palestinian civilians. That is understandable, but if you are unwilling to risk civilian casualties, how can you ever attack terrorists who use civilian centers as human shields? I don't see any recognition of the issue.
2) I am reading the "Parody" section (unfortunately not available online) from this week's Weekly Standard,
a supposed memo to journalists covering the Israeli invasion. Here are a couple of excerpts:
a) "In the West Bank, [w]e do not care if the terrorist organizers of Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Al Aksa are killed or captured. We will simply not ask that question."
The Times righteously states that "More than 200 Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,500 wounded." Did you notice any attempt to distinguish between terrorist and civilian casualties? Was there any intimation that any of those casualties may have been part of the "terrorist network?" Of course not.
b) "[R]eferences to the terrorist practice of using ambulances to transport explosives
shall not be included in the top 67 paragraphs of any story."
The Times goes beyond this directive, not mentioning it at all. Is it really so "inexplicable" that the Israelis are chary about letting wounded Palestinians be transported to hospitals?
It is also true that the Arab states have reacted shamefully to Mr. Bush's efforts. The president asked them to condemn Palestinian terrorism and make clear that suicide bombers are murderers, not martyrs. There has been no response. King Mohammed VI of Morocco, greeting Mr. Powell in Casablanca yesterday, asked the American why he had not gone directly to Jerusalem, as if the Arabs had nothing to account for. In Bahrain, the American ambassador is the focus of fierce protests because at a mock United Nations session there for students, he requested that along with a moment of silence for Palestinian victims, a moment be observed for Israelis as well.
Mr. Powell's Mideast mission was never going to be easy. Even before the Israeli invasion, Arab leaders refused to denounce Palestinian suicide bombings. Mr. Arafat still refuses to call on his people to give up violence.
All true. But what conclusion is drawn?
A wise Israeli leader would use the Bush initiative to show that he stands ready to talk peace with any responsible partner. Instead, Mr. Sharon embarrasses Mr. Bush and gives the Arabs easy excuses.
Let's pretend to be a "wise Israeli leader." Would you rather: a) try to keep your citizens from being massacred, or b) forego the one course of action that can largely succeed in that aim in favor of showing the people described in the previous bolded section that you are ready to "talk peace." That doesn't seem to be a tough decision, but don't ask the Times to make it.
The Times editorials are often suffused with paternalistic conviction that the paper knows best, and all other objections should be stifled for that reason (parents' authority is self-justifying, so they certainly don't have to justify their decisions). When George Bush or Ariel Sharon refuses to understand that the proposed action is for his own good, the paper often gets churlish. All these qualities are on display in this editorial. Rarely, though, are the consequences so dire.
UPDATE: A warm welcome to all those who are visiting for the first time through Instapundit!