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How Leftist Groupthink about Israel is Created-The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg Offers the Model

The June 6 issue of the New Yorker offers a lesson in how the groupthink of editors, writers, and journalists on the East Coast takes place. It reveals how they all have developed the same mindset about Israel, their view that the Jewish state bears the responsibility alone for all the travail in the Middle East.

The lead “Talk of the Town” article by one of its editors, Hendrik Hertzberg, reeks of self-righteousness, arrogance, and an overall know-it-all attitude. It is filled with the platitudes repeated so many times these days by the likes of Hertzberg, Joe Klein, and scores of their lesser-known imitators.

One can easily sum up the argument in the following words: Israel, a great country, is its own worst enemy. The best example of this is that the Israeli people elected Benjamin Netanyahu their prime minister, and his popularity in the country is growing. If you don’t get this, the editors title Hertzberg’s article “O’bama Vs. Netanyahoo.” Get it? Isn’t that so clever? (They took that from a tweet by Chuck Grassley as he was waiting to hear Netanyahu speak.)

Don’t the Israelis know they should make all the concessions to the Palestinian Authority that Obama wants them to make? Israel should start with giving up all settlements in Jerusalem -- yes, the Jewish presence in East Jerusalem is a settlement -- and of course, agree in advance of peace negotiations to going back to the 1967 borders.

Above all, have nothing but contempt for the Israeli PM. As Hertzberg writes:

The Prime Minister sounded more like a Fox News "contributor" than like the leader of an ally dependent on the United States for its survival.

Fear not, our president quickly corrected Netanyahu, claims Hertzberg:

“Since my position has been misrepresented," Obama said, "let me reaffirm what '1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps' means: by definition, it means that the parties themselves -- Israelis and Palestinians -- will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”

Obviously, Hertzberg must be ranked among those who have neglected to read -- as I have pointed out twice already in other blogs -- the explanation of what the issue really is that appeared in the “Fact Checker” column in the Washington Post written by Glenn Kessler, here and here. Kessler does real research; Hertzberg and his kind of leftist journalist simply repeat their own version of the facts as if their saying it makes it accurate. After all, how could anything Benjamin Netanyahu says be the truth?

So to cover Netanyahu, you next commence with many paragraphs putting down anything he says in a tone of utter contempt. Here are Hertzberg’s comments:

The Prime Minister ladled on the bonhomie. “Mr. Vice-President,” he said, turning to Joe Biden, “do you remember the time that we were the new kids in town?” (Biden was more likely to be remembering another town and another time: last year in Jerusalem, when his arrival to promote peace talks was greeted with the announcement of a vast new housing project for ultra-Orthodox Jews in the occupied eastern part of the city.) Bibi took it upon himself to spike the football that Barack had carried into the end zone: “Congratulations, America. Congratulations, Mr. President. You got bin Laden. Good riddance!” He served up chestnuts -- about Israeli democracy, Israeli stability, Israeli pro-Americanness -- that have been roasted for many an Israel Bonds dinner. He had kind, if slightly patronizing, words of praise for the Arab Spring. He reiterated his verbal acceptance of the idea of a Palestinian state. He glided away from his Oval Office misrepresentations. (“As President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”) He praised Salam Fayyad, the technocratic modernizer who serves as the Palestinian Authority’s chief administrator.

Notice the little term “occupied” when Hertzberg refers to east Jerusalem. He might look at Omri Ceren’s post appearing today at Contentions. Ceren points out that to call East Jerusalem a settlement, which Obama does and Hertzberg says is “occupied” territory:

... ignores how Jews have indisputably been the majority in Jerusalem since at least 1853, to saying nothing of the ancient heritage of Jewish Jerusalem. Instead, it picks out the brief period between 1949 to 1967, when Jordan ethnically cleansed East Jerusalem of Jews to interrupt a continuous 1,000-year Jewish presence.

The Jordanians destroyed the Jewish quarter in East Jerusalem, and as Ceren explains:

Because they succeeded in doing that for almost 20 whole years -- in contrast to 1,000 years of continuous Jewish life -- the Obama administration insists that the Jewish State needs to cede portions of East Jerusalem to a future Palestinian entity on demographic grounds.

Hertzberg continues with the usual bromides about how Netanyahu represents “the religious Right, Israeli and American.” He tells us that they occupy the West Bank. He attacks Netanyahu for demanding Palestinian recognition of a Jewish state “as a precondition” for negotiations, and for refusing to “negotiate with a Palestinian political entity in which Hamas is represented,” and for refusing to recognize a Palestinian right of return, and for wanting to control the Jordan river, and maintain an undivided Jerusalem.

All of the above, of course, echo the intransigent demands of the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s enemies, and Hertzberg accuses the Israelis of intransigence while not saying one word about how time after time the Palestinians have turned down every magnanimous deal offered by the Israels -- most recently, that by Ehud Olmert before he let office.

And even worse -- having claimed that Netanyahu represents the religious right -- is our own Congress, who showed “mindlessness” and hence “rewarded [Netanyahu] with ovation after standing ovation.” Oh, if only they read the New Yorker and would learn the truth from the great Hertzberg!

Don’t worry, he tells them, the Palestinians “are beginning to discover the possibilities of nonviolence.” And Israel shouldn’t forget how a UN resolution in favor of creation of a Palestinian state “would damage Israel’s legitimacy.” Really? Don’t Israel’s opponents already claim it has no legitimacy, a task made easier for them by the kind of writing Hertzberg offers -- ostensibly in Israel’s defense?

Writing in the Canadian paper the National Post, Conrad Black provides a great corrective that would teach Hertzberg a lot, if he is willing to learn. At the G-8 meeting in Paris last month, Black notes that Canada’s new PM Stephen Harper openly contradicted Barack Obama, thereby vetoing the G-8’s approval of Obama’s declaration about peace based on the 1967 borders. Black points out:

The problem with the Obama formula was not the concept of 1967 with land swaps, it was the call for peace to be achieved by "negotiation" between Israel and a party that in 44 years has never ceded a square inch of territory or renounced the right of self-proclaimed Palestinian fugitives from inundating with non-Jews what was established and recognized as a "Jewish state.”


The pre-1967 borders were entirely accidental, and left Israel nine miles wide at its narrowest, and the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem in Arab hands. They had no legitimacy and even the United Nations resolutions called for agreed and defensible borders, and a two-state solution. Israel has accepted a two-state solution and Palestine, its government comprised of both Hamas and Fatah, has not, and has shown no disposition to agree on borders, especially any that Israel could defend. It has been clear for decades that the pattern of international intervention in the Middle East has been to promote tangible and practically irrevocable concessions of land by Israel in exchange for insubstantial, easily and instantly revocable professions of reduced hostility, supposedly culminating in peaceful co-existence, from the Arabs. This is the problem of Land For Peace: Israel cedes the land but gets no closer to peace.

Today, the new self-proclaimed “friends” of Israel like Hertzberg would like Israel to satisfy their demands, made from the comfort of the Upper West Side and Park Slope, where it is so easy for them to tell Israel what is in its very best interests.

Somehow, I don’t think most Israelis are going to take their advice.