WAJ Note — As mentioned yesterday, David produces an almost daily Mideast Media Sampler newsletter, which we will be running at LI. It is a great way to keep up with media reports about the Middle East.
1) One last Hagel post
In the Hagel Pinata, Marc Ambinder complains:
Democrats tend to do this as well when Republican presidents nominate people. But Republicans have done it out of pique and spite. And they’ve abdicated their advice and consent function, which, after all, is supposed to help the president govern, and not to force people out of the mainstream who have unorthodox views. Indeed, when you do that, you push people like Chaz Freeman, an incredibly intelligent thinker who was once a top Obama intelligence board nominee, over the edge. You ratify their suspicions that there is only one way to think about Israel.
If Hagel was actually an anti-Semite, we would know, and he wouldn’t have survived the first week of his nomination. He’s not. It’s been interesting to watch Democrats play the game of listening to Hagel’s contrition for not adopting the public pro-Israel consensus that seems to be required of all those who want national office. They know very well what they’re getting: a man who believes that Israel is a strong ally, and also believes that the U.S. needs to push them, our friends, more than they do.
Like so many others Ambinder absurdly reduces opposition to Hagel to a narrow subset of the pro-Israel community, which holds sway over the Republican party.
You would think that Hagel distinguished himself in his hearings. He didn’t. You would think that he has a reputation as being a great strategic thinker. He doesn’t.
(Ambinder thinks that opposition to Freeman sent him “over the edge!” Freeman didn’t get around to disclosing his financial records before withdrawing. I suspect that the foreign ties his records would have shown would have disqualified him.)
Michael Rubin points out that Hagel (and his supporters) wasn’t so prescient about Iran:
As Newsweek’s former diplomatic correspondent, Hirsh is well aware of the full range of facts; he just chooses to ignore them in pursuit of a political agenda and, by so doing, sullies the National Journal. What did Bush know and both Hagel and Hirsh ignore?
- The Karine-A. While Hagel was praising Iran and castigating his President for—gasp—harsh rhetoric, Iran was shipping 50 tons of weaponry to the Palestinian Authority in order to support terrorism and quash the fragile cease-fire.
- Iran’s covert nuclear enrichment facility which was yet to be exposed publicly, but was known in intelligence circles (including presumably the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, on which Hagel served) and to the White House.
- North Korea-Iran cooperation of nuclear and missile proliferation is now well established. Iranian and North Korean scientists and nuclear engineers regularly attend each other’s tests and visit each other’s facilities.
Barry Rubin lays out a more general case against Hagel:
First and foremost among these is that he has expressed objectively anti-American views, as was shown, for example, in his agreeing with an al-Jazeera caller who described the United States as an aggressive bully. Anti-Americanism may be fashionable among the U.S. elite today but it is not a good characteristic for a secretary of defense. Aside from everything else, if the United States has always been bad for pursing its interests in the past, why should this secretary of defense compound the sin by championing U.S. interests today?
Second, it is painfully clear — even to his supporters who would never admit it in public — that Hagel doesn’t understand the issues and is incapable of running a huge bureaucracy. Hagel even admitted his incapability in his own defense, boasting that this didn’t matter since he wouldn’t be making any decisions anyway!
Once again, though, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 election advertisement test applies: Who do you want to answer the call at three a.m.? We have before us at this moment a perfect example. The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, where four Americans were murdered, was dropped into the lap of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. How many Americans might die when Hagel is given the responsibility for action?
Third, one could point out that the ultimate choices for Benghazi were with Obama. But that’s also a reason for understanding why Hagel shouldn’t be confirmed. A secretary of defense should not just be a “yes-man.” He should represent an independent point of view and also represent his department’s interests.
It’s hard to avoid the feeling that Hagel’s supporters are motivated by his – I’ll put it nicely – skepticism towards Israel. There really is little else to recommend him.
2) Building his anti-Israel cred one blog post at a time
One of the most anti-Israel “journalists” currently working, is Robert Mackey the lead blogger the New York Times, The Lede. He didn’t disappoint this week with Palestinian Blogger Chips Away at Israel’s Image, One Ill-Advised Instagram at a Time At issue was an Instagram picture taken by an Israel solider showing a Palestinian boy in the crosshairs of his weapon.:
Like the activist bloggers in Syria who are working to undermine their enemies, Mr. Abunimah and his colleagues at the Electronic Intifada scour the Web for material to counter the effort by Israelis who use social media platforms to cast their army’s activities in a positive light.
In an online chat with The Lede on Tuesday, Mr. Abunimah explained that the Electronic Intifada bloggers, “monitor social media content produced by Israelis and Palestinians in the context of the ‘conflict.’ This has proven to be a source of newsworthy content that is often raw and unfiltered by P.R. machinery.”
Mr. Abunimah added: “we’re always on the lookout for sock puppetry and astroturfing — that Israel or surrogates may launch P.R. campaigns that are not overtly identified as such. So we look at the output of individuals because we cannot assume that all propaganda is put out with the state’s name on it.” The Electronic Intifada helped uncover one such covert campaign in 2011, in which an Israeli actor pretended to be a disillusioned supporter of the Gaza flotilla movement for a fake video blog post.
Israel’s army usually does act admirably. What Mackey is doing here is sanitizing the efforts of an anti-Israel activist. The fact that the soldier was ostracized speaks of what sort of society Israel is.
Mackey’s credulity contrasts with the treatment reporter Isabel Kershner gave Itamar Marcus on the latter’s efforts to show extremism that pervades Palestinian society.
“Reconciliation comes only after matters have been settled,” said Radwan Abu Ayyash, a veteran Palestinian journalist and former director of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, the parent of the authority’s television and radio stations with headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
“Thinking of Jaffa and Haifa is still there as an old dream, as history,” he said, referring to the Palestinian refugees’ desire to return to the homes they occupied before 1948, “but it is not reality.”
Some Israelis struggle with the practice of monitoring the Palestinian news media, acknowledging the importance of knowing what is being said in Arabic, yet disturbed by how its dissemination is exploited by those not eager to see Israel make concessions.
On the one hand Mackey supports Abuminah’s efforts to generalize about Israeli society from isolated incidents; on the other Kershner attributes ulterior motives to Marcus’s well documented research.