Saturday, April 10, 2010

WaPo, NYT spike coverage of Obama Admin Denunciation of Abbas, Palestinian Authority

Leo Rennert
In his press briefing on April 8, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the following:

"Regarding the Middle East, we are DISTURBED by comments of Palestinian Authority officials regarding reconstruction and refurbishing of Jewish sites in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's Old City.

"Remarks by the Palestinian ministry of Information denying Jewish heritage in and links to Jerusalem UNDERMINE THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE needed for substantive and productive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. "We also STRONGLY CONDEMN the GLORIFICATION OF TERRORISTS.. Honoring terrorists who have murdered innocent civilians either by official statements or by the dedication of public places HURTS PEACE EFFORTS and MUST END.

"We will continue to hold Palestinian leaders ACCOUNTABLE FOR INCITEMENT."

Not one word of Crowley's statement appeared in the April 9 editions of the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Yet, this official U.S. statement with its STRONG CONDEMNATION of Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority, accusing it of HURTING PEACE EFFORTS and UNDERMINING U.S. efforts to restart peace negotiations was highly newsworthy for at least four compelling reasons:

1. It was the strongest slap yet at Abbas and the PA by the Obama administration. Yes, from time to time, Team Obama has criticized anti-Israel incitement by the Palestinian Authority, but mostly in a muted, non-specific way. In this instance, Crowley referred specifically to PA incitement against the reopening of the Hurva Synagogue, the most prominent of the Old City's Jewish houses of prayer, which was destroyed by Jordan in 1948. Crowley's statement linked the PA's denial of Israel's right to revive the Hurva Synagogue to a wider PA campaign of denial of historic and Jewish connections to Jersualem, which in turn has fostered violent Arab riots in the Old City Also the tone and substance of Crowley's condemnation of Abbas's PA was much harsher than the usual slaps on the wrist the administration has used to give an appearance of balance and even-handedness in its dealings with both sides.

2. Under the U.S.-drafted "road map" toward a Mideast peace deal, the Palestinians are obligated at the very outset to end all incitement against Israel. Abbas has been saying for months that the PA is in full compliance with this provision. Crowley's statement belies any such Abbas claim. Instead, it accuses him and the PA of harming the peace process by continued glorification of terrorists.

3. This is the first time the Obama administration has cited Jewish rights in Jerusalem's Old City based on historic and religious links. As far as Abbas and the PA are concerned, the Old City is "occupied" Palestinian territory because it was captured by Israel during the 1967 war. By siding with Israel on the Hurva Synagogue, the administration separates itself sharply from Abbas over Jewish rights and claims in the Old City.

4. Crowley's statement was not an ad-lib comment by a lower-level State Department official. Crowley read his statement at the top of the briefing. The statement has all the earmarks of careful preparaton and review at the highest level of the Obama administration.

The failure of the Times and the Post to cover the administration's strong condemnation of Abbas's PA points up a wider anti-Israel bias among the vast majority of reporters who cover the State Department and the White House -- especially in view of their meticulous and detailed reports of every jot and tittle of any administration slap at Israel.

White House and State Dept. reporters troll press briefings with great alacrity to find any morse of anti-Israel criticism, repeatedly pelting administration spokesmen with questions designed to elicit another slap at the Netanyahu government or to ratchet up Israeli-U.S. tensions. But they show absolutely no such fervent interest in pursuing angles that bear on Palestinian transgressions of the peace process, the grooming of future generations of Palestinians to venerate suicide bombers and Palestinian rejection of any practical concessions and compromises to move toward an end of the conflict.

That's one of the reasons Crowley came to the April 8 briefing with his prepared statement, knowing full well that he wouldn't get any questions from the assembled reporters that would allow him to make the same comments.

And with a press corps that includes full-time New York Times and Washington Post diplomatic correspondents, it's also quite revealing that, once Crowley made his statement at the top of the briefing, there was not a single follow-up question from reporters from the start to the end of the briefing.

Since they weren't going to write about his statement condemning Abbas and since their editors couldn't care less about the administration's hard knock on Abbas's PA, why waste time on follow-up questions like:

1. Has the State Department conveyed Crowley's comments to Abbas and the PA?

2. Given your statement, Mr. Crowley, is Abbas lying when he claims to have ended all incitement and has fully complied with the "road map"?

3. Did Secretary Clinton and Mideast envoy George Mitchell have a hand in the drafting of your statement?

4. Will President Obama himself bring up with Abbas the kinds of Palestinian incitement against Israel and Jewish historic links to Jerusalem, that are emphasized in your statement?

Page Printed from: at April 10, 2010 - 12:03:49 AM CDT