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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 12, 2003

Washington Post's Hypocrisy

The Washington Post ran a pretty good editorial today on Jim Moran, "Blaming the Jews"
"The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should." The comment perpetuates a stereotype of Jews as a unified bloc steering the world in their interest and against everyone else's. Over the centuries anti-Semites have used this libel to distract attention from their own failings and to instigate violence and discrimination against Jews. In the United States today, though anti-Semitism is far from eradicated, such violence may seem a mercifully distant danger.
There is a mistake here; one that's honest though. According to the FBI in 2000 hate crimes against Jews were committed at a higher rate than against any other ethnic group. However, the rest of this is reasonably solid from a historical standpoint. The problem with the editorial is that the Post kicks Rep. Moran when he's down. He's an easy target. As the editorial noted at the beginning:
OUR VIEW THAT Rep. James P. Moran Jr. is unfit to serve in Congress is not new. Last July, citing Mr. Moran's ethical obtuseness, we urged Democrats in Alexandria and surrounding neighborhoods to find another candidate for the fall election. Now, by blaming American Jews for an Iraq policy he opposes, the seven-term congressman has confirmed our opinion about him.
One gets the impression that they may not have taken such a strong stand against unless his behavior "confirmed" their previous impression of Moran.

Why the cynicism? Because last month, Robert Kaiser, the managing editor of the Washington Post wrote in "Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical On Mideast Policy":
Over the past dozen years or more, supporters of Sharon's Likud Party have moved into leadership roles in most of the American Jewish organizations that provide financial and political support for Israel.
True the article doesn't use the inflammatory language of Rep. Moran. Still the undercurrent of the article is that the rising prominence of right-wing Jews who are loyal to Israel has had an effect on the administration in terms of the Middle East generally and Israel and Iraq specifically.

The interesting thing is that despite this thesis, Kaiser even undermines his premise:
The State Department pressed for continued negotiations and pressure on Sharon to limit the scope of his military response to Palestinian suicide bombers, while the Pentagon and the vice president's office favored more encouragement for the Israelis, and less concern for a peace process which, they said, was going nowhere anyhow.
Neumann agreed that Abrams's appointment was symbolically important, not least because Abrams's views were shared by his boss, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, by Vice President Cheney and by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "It's a strong lineup," he said.
So the tough line against Arafat and Saddam came from Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld. Not exactly Likudniks. It's true that Rumsfeld has always had a reputation for being pro-Israel. But Cheney and Rice didn't. Read "Broken Covenant" by Moshe Arens. During the Gulf War Defense Secretary Cheney did not come across as pro-Israel. Rice is a protege of Brent Scowcroft whose hostility towards Israel is well-known. (For more on possible expectations of W's orientation toward Israel see "Reorient" by Lawrence Kaplan and Sarah Wildman, originally published in The New Republic. I thought that Kaplan and Wildman didn't give W enough credit, and I think that my instincts have been confirmed.) Instead of attributing the change of policy direction in the current Bush administration to the influence of Jewish supporters of Israel, why doesn't Kaiser try to uncover the reason that Rice and Cheney seem to have changed their views? Even if unintentional, Kaiser's approach was damaging. No matter how dispassionately he wrote his article, the message of overly influential Jews comes through quite clearly.

Certainly Pat Buchanan got the message.
In a Feb. 9 front-page article in the Washington Post, Robert Kaiser quotes a senior U.S. official as saying, “The Likudniks are really in charge now.” Kaiser names Perle, Wolfowitz, and Feith as members of a pro-Israel network inside the administration and adds David Wurmser of the Defense Department and Elliott Abrams of the National Security Council.
For the Post to criticize Moran while giving a platform to Kaiser strikes me as a case of cognitive dissonance.

There are ways to make Kaiser's point but not do it in the same manner. In a recent issue of the New Yorker, Nicholas Lehmann did just that in an article "After Iraq." (No longer available on the Web.)
Yet another argument for war, which has emerged during the last few months, is that removing Saddam could help bring about a wholesale change for the better in the political, cultural, and economic climate of the Arab Middle East. To give one of many possible examples, Fouad Ajami, an expert on the Arab world who is highly respected inside the Bush Administration, proposes in the current issue of Foreign Affairs that the United States might lead "a reformist project that seeks to modernize and transform the Arab landscape. Iraq would be the starting point, and beyond Iraq lies an Arab political and economic tradition and a culture whose agonies have been on cruel display." The Administration's main public proponent of this view is Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who often speaks about the possibility that war in Iraq could help bring democracy to the Arab Middle East. President Bush appeared to be making the same point in the State of the Union address when he remarked that "all people have a right to choose their own government, and determine their own destiny—and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom."
There may be support for the approach of democratizing the Arab world, but it is not exclusively the province of the pro-Israel crowd, or Likudniks. Lehmann credits Fouad Ajami with promoting this idea. But what makes Lehmann's article superior to Kaiser's is that he gives Feith a chance to elaborate on what he's thinking. Lehmann seems impressed with the thought that goes into Feith's ideas even if he doesn't seem to accept them. (Feith declined to be interviewed for Kaiser's article; did he refuse to speak because he thought there was a chance of being misrepresented?)

As I suggested above, perhaps the Bush adminstration took a more supportive view of Israel because of new information not due to the nefarious influence of Likudniks. This is something that David Frum seems to have picked up on:
Then Arafat made what may someday be reckoned as the most fateful miscalculation of his career. On January 5, 2002, Israeli naval forces intercepted a Gaza-bound merchant ship loaded with fifty tonnes of arms from Iran. Arafat hastily sent Bush a letter denying any involvement in the shipment. Probably Arafat did not even intend his denial to be interpreted literally; he may have written it as a social form, like the phrase I regret in a letter declining an invitation to a wedding or a dinner party. If so, Arafat sorely misunderstood his man. Bush does not lie to you. You had better not lie to him.

The Karine A. incident finished off Arafat in Bush's eyes. In conversation, Bush ceased to conceal either his contempt for the thuggish Palestinian or his irritation with the thug's European protectors. "They just luuuuuve Arafat," he would say with elongated wonder.
In other words Bush found Arafat's dishonesty so offensive that he re-thought his views on the Middle East. Why is it so hard to believe that other members of his adminstration were swayed by similarly weighing the evidence in front of them? Why is Kaiser intent on painting the Likud worldview as superstition not as something an open-minded person could conclude when weighing all the evidence. Why did the Washington Post give Kaiser a pass but not Moran?
Cross-posted on "IsraPundit" and "David's Israel Blog."