At a time when many major cities may soon have no major newspapers, Philadelphia is still blessed with two. One of the beauties of two newspapers is that they serve as a check on each other. For example, when a regular columnist of one of the papers consistently displays moral blindness, intellectual bankruptcy, overarching bias and overpowering stupidity, in a one-newspaper town you have to grin and bear it. But in a two-newspaper town, when a columnist displays the qualities I’ve enumerated above, someone can tell you why and send a message to the other newspaper and the world. (As the readers of this column know, in my heart of hearts I think there would be more beauty in a one-newspaper Philadelphia… provided it was The Bulletin and not The Inquirer.)
So here we go with my explanation of why Trudy Rubin, who regularly writes on the Middle East and foreign policy for The Inquirer, displays all the qualities I’ve enumerated above. That’s just my opinion, and I’ve tried to be kind so I have not given you what might be a more complete enumeration of my opinion.
Let me try to convince you that I’m right with my analysis of Ms. Rubin’s Philadelphia Inquirer column of March 15, titled “Decision Time on the Middle East.” The column addresses three tough decisions that Ms. Rubin says the Obama administration will have to make in the near future on the Israeli/Arab conflict.
What is so striking about the column is that her criticism is only directed at Israel. I would suspect the uninitiated reader would assume that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are governed by angels or at least great statesmen. Yet every tic in every Israeli leader is expounded upon with the full fury of the columnist sparing us no detail, but no reference is made to Palestinian leadership.
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She starts by noting that Benjamin Netanyahu is about to form a “right-wing” government for Israel and his policies will “complicate nearly every aspect of Obama’s strategy for the Mideast.” For example, he has chosen Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister. Ms. Rubin writes that he is “a figure whose inflammatory views may undercut any new peace moves in the region.” Mr. Lieberman has said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak should “go to hell” and proposed Israel bomb the Aswan Dam in the event of a war with Egypt. (I have to agree with Mr. Lieberman: Anyone that facilitates the work of terrorists, by not policing tunnels on the Gaza-Israel border, should go to hell, and as far as I’m concerned, they should make the trip sooner rather than later.) But I should add any “inflammatory” views of Mr. Lieberman are mild compared to the calls for the destruction of Israel and the killing of Jews made by Hamas all the time with machine-gun regularity. But Ms. Rubin only has time to criticize the Israeli and cannot find it in her heart to utter criticism of terrorism and genocide.
Now consider Ms. Rubin’s indictment of the Israelis – a right-wing government, with someone who said Mr. Mubarak should “go to hell.” She goes on and on nit picking the Israeli leadership to death to prove it is an obstacle to peace. But she has no criticism of Hamas, the terrorist organization, ruling Gaza, or the Palestinian Authority, that like Hamas is dedicated to inciting its people to hate and murder Israelis. I ask my readers as fair-minded observers which leadership poses the greater obstacle to peace. Don’t you think Hamas’ genocidal dedication just might be a greater obstacle to peace than that posed by Israel?
You decide what is the threat to peace – the right-wing Israeli government or the terrorists and advocates of murder and genocide that represent Palestinian leadership in Gaza and the West Bank. You probably know enough about the terrorist organization Hamas to know where it stands – its very charter and all the pronouncements of its leadership call for genocide to be committed to exterminate the Israelis. Hamas also reject any concept of negotiation with Israel or accepting Israel’s right to exist. What would you rather face and what do you consider the greater threat to peace?
You may know less about the Palestinian Authority, which in fact is the same kind of “peace partner” as Hamas. Consider what it just broadcast on its official television station – on March 12 and March 15, 2009, the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast an hour-long special celebrating the single most murderous attack against Israeli civilians in the history of Arab terrorism.
Let me refresh your memory of what the Palestinian Authority commemorates, celebrates, and glorifies. Arabs penetrated Israel using rubber dinghies from Lebanon and then carried out what is known in Israel as the Coastal Road Terror Attack on March 11, 1978. The terrorists hijacked a tourist bus and killed 38 civilians including 13 children. Among the dead were Gail Rubin, an American nature photographer and a cousin of the late Sen. Abraham Ribicoff, D-Conn.
This is how this hour-long terror attack celebrated, commemorated and glorified the slaughter of men, women and children. The Palestinian Media Watch reported what the narrator said in opening the special:
“… one of the most important and most prominent special actions, executed by the Palestinian revolution by sea, on the coast between Haifa and Tel Aviv. The action, which was carried out by a group of heroes and led by the heroic fighter Dalal Mughrabi [a woman], had a great impact on continuing events in the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
Notice the Arabs and the Palestinian Authority not only perpetrate the slaughter of innocents, but they call those that carry out this kind of barbaric butchery “heroes.” An article published in the July 10 edition of the Palestinian Authority’s Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda daily newspaper called the leader of the slaughter of men, women, and children “a living legend and a wonderful example for all women.” This broadcast should tell the world what kind of a peace partner Israel has in the Palestinian Authority.
This hero worship of those who butcher of men, women and children is widely held in the Palestinian and Arab world. All Jazeera TV aired a program in 2008 focusing on Al-Mughrabi and praised her exploits. This occasion for paying tribute to these barbarian butchers was the transfer of her body to Hezbollah as part of the ransom for the bodies of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
I wrote most of this column before I saw the Monday newspapers (March 16, 2009). But when I first saw a notice of the Palestinian broadcast, I knew it would not be reported on in the traditionally anti-Israel and anti-Semitic Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times. I so describe those papers not because of one edition, but of a long history, which sadly thoroughly documents my conclusion on them. It is also interesting The Bulletin not only reported on the story on Monday, but also made it the lead front-page story. Almost alone among the 12 newspapers I check daily, it recognized the importance of the story as it reveals once again that the Israelis still do not have a partner for peace and that the Palestinians should not be trusted with statehood at this time. And The Bulletin, unlike The Inquirer, has someone on the scene in David Bedein, one of the best reporters on what is going on in the Middle East.
But all this is of no concern to Ms. Rubin. She only has time to worry about an Israeli saying Mr. Mubarak should go to hell. She apparently is not offended by the slaughter of innocents, but is outraged by a comment that someone should go to hell.
She also complains about the fact that Israel (to keep terrorists at bay) has imposed constant blockages of imports and exports, but she has no complaints or concerns about the parade of terrorists and child-killers that Hamas and the Arabs have tried to get into Israel. Like most of the mainstream media, she would deny Israel its right of self-defense and its right to take measures at its border to protect itself.
With that in mind, Ms. Rubin says Mr. Obama must make his first decision: “He must declare his administration believes ‘economic peace’ cannot substitute for political progress.” In the context, Ms. Rubin clearly intends this declaration be directed to Israel. That’s because Mr. Netanyahu believes in economic development in the Palestinian Authority before statehood. So Ms. Rubin advises Mr. Obama to tell Israel to start making political progress. But based on her views here and her writing in general, she thinks Israel should start moving toward peace and making concessions, while the Palestinian Authority and Hamas continue to wage war against it and continue to incite their people to hatred, murder and genocide directed at Israelis. Ms. Rubin only has declarations, orders, and concessions for the Israelis. She has none for the terrorists, who will continue their usual work… unimpeded by Ms. Rubin.
If Ms. Rubin were acquainted with the negotiating posture of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, she would call him the hardliner, not Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. Abbas wants the return to the 1949 boundaries of Israel that would make it absolutely indefensible. In addition, he wants the right of return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants. That would overwhelm Israel with a hostile population and destroy it as a Jewish state. So he wants Israel to accept a guaranteed national suicide pact certain to destroy Israel in two different ways. He could hardly take a more unreasonable and unacceptable negotiating position if he tried.
In contrast, Mr. Netanyahu, in Ms. Rubin’s own account, has two reasonable approaches. He wants to stress economic development in the Palestinian Authority, something that is workable and sensible. In addition, he doesn’t think the Palestinians are ready for statehood. Ms. Rubin admits in the column that there are more than three million “bitter” Palestinians in the disputed territories (which she mistakenly calls occupied territories, a term only applicable to territory seized by aggression… not in a defensive war). They are not only “bitter” but have been brainwashed by their leadership into hating Jews and Israelis and told that they must drive them into the sea. Statehood would only give the Palestinians additional methods of stepping up their ongoing war against Israel that has gone on for decades. So you can understand why Mr. Netanyahu is not eager to equip these people that have been taught only to hate and destroy Israel with the power to do so. The Palestinians must stop their incitement and try to bring forth new generations ready to leave in peace, not with hate and genocidal intentions in their DNA.
Notice that Ms. Rubin does not call for Mr. Obama to tell the Palestinians to stop their incitement.
Then she comes to Mr. Obama’s second decision. He must firmly confront the Israeli government and tell it to stop its settlement expansion. She forgets that Israel has a right to expand settlements and only promised to stop on condition that the Palestinians stop the terrorism, stop waging war against Israel, honor its previous agreements, and stop inciting its people to hatred, murder, and genocide of Israelis. The settlements can be viewed as a defensive measure. But Ms. Rubin, as is her custom, only has duties and responsibilities for the Israelis, but apparently is content to let the Palestinians continue terrorism, murder, genocide, and incitement… business as usual for the Palestinians – and Ms. Rubin.
Then comes Mr. Obama’s third decision. Ms. Rubin says this decision involves talks with Syria. Mr. Netanyahu said he would never give up the Golan Heights and return them to Syrian control. He said he is willing to talk to Syria, but he hasn’t said he’s open to giving back any territory.
Ms. Rubin writes, “Obama must try to convince Netanyahu that such an effort is in Israel’s interest, and decide how hard to push if the Israeli leader resists.” This suffers from sloppy and ambiguous writing on Ms. Rubin’s part, but apparently she means Mr. Obama should push for a return of territory such as the Golan Heights. She doesn’t tell us why Mr. Obama or anyone else knows better than Israel how to protect its security. Remember that the Golan Heights were taken from Syria in response to Syrian aggression. Israel paid a terrible price in blood for the capture of the Golan Heights, and perhaps that gives them a better insight into their security and strategic importance.
Ms. Rubin concludes: “This is a crucial moment. The new U.S. president needs to show that, besides being a close ally of Israel, he is committed to a stable Middle East.” I think that President Obama and Ms. Rubin should both be advised that the first order of business to bring about a stable Middle East and a real and lasting peace there is to start pressuring the Arabs to stop terrorism, to stop murder, to stop attempts at genocide, and to stop incitement to hatred of Israelis. Ms. Rubin should also be advised that if you want a real and lasting peace and stability in the Middle East, you should not limit your criticism to Israel and call on concessions and actions by Israel, while writing and thinking like you are perfectly happy to let the Arabs, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas continue to wage a genocidal war against Israel.
By chance, right next to Ms. Rubin’s column in The Inquirer is one by Michael Smerconish titled, “As newspapers fight for life, a reminder of their vital importance.” That title tells you exactly what the column is about. But the column overlooks one important consideration. Newspapers are valuable and are of vital importance when they are fair and balanced, not when they are biased, fraudulent and dishonest. They play a vital role when they advocate American values and America’s best interests. But, as this column has often reported, when newspapers are anti-American, anti-military, anti-family-values, anti-law enforcement, and seem to be more interested in protecting terrorists and America’s enemies than in protecting Americans, and when their coverage is so distorted they do not present a truthful portrayal of the world scene, then newspapers may be doing more harm than good.
We would be better off if newspapers like the Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and New York Times went out of business… as well they might. In discussing the reasons for the trouble most newspapers find themselves in, one factor seems to be overlooked. One reason readers are turning away from them is that they feel they can’t trust them and they feel they are enemies, not friends, of America and Americans.
I should note that Israel is a tiny sliver of land with a population of about seven million. But it is surrounded by a ring of iron and hate of dozens of Arab and Muslim countries with hundreds of millions of population that want to destroy it, and that anti-Israel faction is backed by an alliance of many more countries in the Third World that subject it to endless unjustified attacks in the United Nations. With that to deal with, I would suggest that Ms. Rubin and The Inquirer kindly get off of Israel’s back.
There’s one more important point, which my brother Mike, the orthopedic surgeon in California, made to me in an e-mail after reading an early draft of this column. It provides a perfect summary of the column and at the same time makes a powerful suggestion on how peace in the Middle East can be obtained, so I reprint it verbatim:
“The irony of Ms. Trudy Rubin, who arrogates to herself knowing how to attain peace in the Middle East, is that writing like hers only delays the conditions that might actually bring peace, and encourages the violence, terrorism and wars the Arabs/Muslims have used against Israel. She shows the Arabs/Muslims that their use of these actions will be accepted and there are no consequences that might encourage them to abandon terrorism, violence and war, which is their stated goal that they may use any means to destroy Israel/Zionism/Jews. By promising them rewards, by putting pressure on Israel to make compromises and relinquish their territory while requiring no reciprocation from the Arab/Muslims, even to stating they recognize Israel’s right to exist and to live in a secure peace, presents no reason for them to offer peace. Her one-sided self-righteous erroneous condemnation of Israel shows she neither understands the Middle East nor knows how to progress toward a peaceful Middle East. The Arabs/Muslims need very, very tough love if there is going to be any hope for peace, and the media only maintains their addiction to violence, terrorism and war. Ms. Rubin should write about other topics, which she hopefully might better understand. Perhaps what would best promote peace in the Middle East best would be better, more balanced and educated journalism on the Middle East.”
Herb Denenberg is a former Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner, and professor at the Wharton School. He is a longtime Philadelphia journalist and consumer advocate. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of the Sciences. His column appears daily in The Bulletin. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.