1) The ironic headline
A New York Times headline read Violence flares despite despite Arab League Observers.
Human rights advocates have questioned whether the team has the qualifications or enough independence from the government to help end a conflict that many fear is veering toward civil war as growing numbers of armed men join the opposition. Already, more than 5,000 people have been killed since the popular uprising began gathering momentum — and harsh government retaliation — in March, according to United Nations estimates.
The doubts about the observer mission seemed to grow Wednesday after comments by its leader, Lt. Gen. Muhammed al-Dabi, a former head of military intelligence in Sudan. Speaking about a visit on Tuesday to Homs that was interrupted by gunfire — and a city that has seen some of the worst violence in the nine-month conflict — General Dabi told Reuters, “Some places looked a bit of a mess, but there was nothing frightening.”
But there's more to General Dabi. The Washington Times reports Sudanese general linked to genocide monitoring Syrian violence. When a war criminal is put in charge of observing war crimes is he likely to stop them?
But the Arab League in the past has shown little compunction about Sudanese war criminals. In 2009, a Washington Post editorial observed, An Arab Summit Embraces the Butcher of Darfur.
So it was interesting to see what else was in the latest statement issued by the kings, princes and authoritarian presidents of the Middle East and North Africa. First there was a call on "the international community to prosecute those responsible" for alleged "war crimes" committed by Israel in its recent offensive in Gaza. Then came an ardent defense of Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir — who was welcomed to the Doha summit despite an outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court on multiple war crimes charges.
2) Did Bibi miss something?
Former New York Times religion reporter Ari Goldman questions whether PM Netanyahu was correct to refuse to write an op-ed in the New York Times.
I sure hope Netanyahu reconsiders the offer. The best way to counter lies and distortions is with truth. In recent months, Netanyahu has taken Israel’s case to a joint session of the United States Congress (a friendly environment) and to the General Assembly of the United Nations (a hostile environment). At best, the New York Times falls somewhere in the middle. Why not take your case to the pages of America’s most influential newspaper?
Netanyahu was taking a stand. He wished to show that the New York Times had descended into parody, where Israel cannot be expected to get a fair hearing. I've written about this before. The September 13 Sampler included the following observation. My conclusion is in bold:
It is hard to find a pro-Israel, (or, at least, sympathetic to) Israel op-ed in the New York Times and I want to return to yesterday's op-ed, Palestinian Statehood.
Back in May after Prime Minister Netanyahu returned to Israel from the United States and the New York Times reported Israelis See Netanyahu Trip as Diplomatic Failure which starts:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel returned from Washington on Wednesday to a nearly unanimous assessment among Israelis that despite his forceful defense of Israel’s security interests, hopes were dashed that his visit might advance peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
The article then quotes a number of pundits who were critical of Netanyahu's performance in the United States. However that same day Ha'aretz reported, Haaretz poll: Netanyahu's popularity soaring following Washington trip:
It's doubtful that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his wildest, most optimistic dreams, would have dared to imagine when he set off for the United States last week that Israelis would respond to his six-day trip so enthusiastically: According to a new Haaretz poll, they are giving the visit high marks, considering it an overwhelming success.
I'm not going to argue that polls prove anything and, they, of course, can be quite variable. But if there was a single objective measure of the Prime Minister's success, it was a poll. But the New York Times eschewed the poll and constructed a false narrative to fit its editorial position.
The next day the editors of the New York Times opined, The Mideast Peace Process: No Plan for Talks, which argued, in part:
His aides had raised hopes that Mr. Netanyahu would offer new ideas to revive talks, but there was really nothing new there. He insisted that Jerusalem “will never again be divided” and Israel’s Army would remain along the Jordan River. And while he basked in Congress’s standing ovations, Ethan Bronner reported in The Times that in Israel the trip was judged a diplomatic failure. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Mr. Netanyahu’s “same old messages” proved the country “deserves a different leader.” Palestinians dismissed the visit and said they would focus on nonviolent protests leading to September.
In other words the New York Times ignored objective evidence of the popularity of Netanyahu's performance and then used the misleading reporting as basis for a subsequent editorial.
Unfortunately, from the sound of Goldman's article, it doesn't sound like the New York Times got the message.