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Media Analyses





Los Angeles Times Op-Ed Denies Delegitimization


On July 17, 2011, readers of the LA Times were presented with the absurd assertion by guest Op-Ed writer M.J. Rosenberg that “Israel can't be de-legitimized, and no one is trying to do so.”

In fact, one does not have to look beyond the Op-Ed pages of the Los Angeles Times to find a steady drumbeat of columns doing just that. The Times' regular publication of columns calling for the establishment of a “binational state,” meaning the dissolution of the Jewish state, prompted Judea Pearl, professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, to observe in 2008:

Each year, in preparation for Israel's birthday, newspaper editors feel an uncontrolled urge, a divine calling in fact, to invite Arab writers to tell us why Israel should not exist. . . .

I am concerned about the possibility that a non-negligible percentage of Los Angeles Times readers, especially the novice and the hasty, would interpret the publication of Saree Makdisi's call for dismantling Israel (“Forget the Two-State Solution,” L.A. Times, Opinion, May 12) as evidence that his arguments and conclusions are deemed worthy of consideration in the eyes of the editors of the L.A. Times, whose judgment the public has entrusted to protect us from Flat Earth-type deformities. This concern became especially acute after reporters Richard Boudreaux and Ashraf Khalil (“For Some Palestinians, One State With Israel Is Better Than None,” L.A. Times, World News, May 8 ) had already touted the “one-state” slogans in the same newspaper, with unmistaken sympathy, under the cover of “World News . . .”

In fairness to the editors of the L.A. Times (unlike The Nation and The Christian Science Monitor), articles calling for the elimination of Israel are often balanced by articles calling for peaceful coexistence. But, ironically, this “balance” is precisely where the imbalance occurs, for it gives equal moral weight to an immoral provocation that every Jew in Israel considers a genocidal death threat, and most Jews in the world view as an assault on their personal dignity, national identity and historical destiny.

If calling for the dismantlement of the Jewish state is not an attack on Israel's legitimacy, then what is? Likewise, smearing Israel as colonial, apartheid, anachronistic, and a war criminal that practices ethnic cleansing – all slurs which have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, and which depict an entity which has no right to exist – are also attacks on the nation's legitimacy.

Op-Ed contributors calling for Israel's end over the last decade range from Palestinian-American academics, to Hamas leaders, to anti-Zionist Jewish professors and freelance writers.

The following are several examples – all from the LA Times – of what Rosenberg assures us “no one is trying to do.”

The late professor Tony Judt was vociferous in his delegitimization of the Jewish state. In an Oct 10, 2003 Op-Ed entitled, "The ‘Jewish State' has become an Anachronism, he wrote:

It has imported a characteristically late-19th-century separatist project into a world that has moved on, a world of individual rights, open frontiers and international law. The very idea of a “Jewish state” – a state in which Jews and the Jewish religion have exclusive privileges from which non-Jewish citizens are forever excluded – is rooted in another time and place. Israel, in short, is an anachronism.

The two-state solution – the core of the Oslo process and the road map – is probably already doomed. . . And the true alternative facing the region is between an ethnically cleansed Greater Israel and a single, integrated, binational state of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel is truly an anachronism. And not just an anachronism, but a dysfunctional one.

Writing years later, on March 15, 2009, freelance writer Ben Ehrenreich, whose sister Rosa Brooks had been a columnist for the LA Times, said much the same in his Op-Ed (“Zionism is the problem”):

Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental:  Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.

It has been argued that Zionism is an anachronism, a leftover ideology from the era of 19th century romantic nationalisms wedged uncomfortably into 21st century geopolitics. But Zionism is not merely outdated. Even before 1948, one of its basic oversights was readily apparent: the presence of Palestinians in Palestine. . . .The establishment of a Jewish state, Buber feared, would mean "premeditated national suicide."

The fate Buber foresaw is upon us: a nation that has lived in a state of war for decades, a quarter-million Arab citizens with second-class status and more than 5 million Palestinians deprived of the most basic political and human rights. If two decades ago comparisons to the South African apartheid system felt like hyperbole, they now feel charitable . . All of this has led to a revival of the Brit Shalom idea of a single, secular binational state in which Jews and Arabs have equal political rights. The obstacles are, of course, enormous. They include not just a powerful Israeli attachment to the idea of an exclusively Jewish state, but its Palestinian analogue: Hamas' ideal of Islamic rule.

On Dec. 20 2009 Palestinian activist Jonathan Kuttab in “Steps to create an Israel-Palestine” likewise advocates for a “one-state solution”:

And although Jewish Israelis may control it now, birth rates suggest that, sooner or later, Jews will again be a minority in the territory.

What happens at that point is unclear, but unless continued military occupation and all-out apartheid is the desired path, now may be the time for Israelis to start putting in place the kinds of legal and constitutional safeguards that will protect all minorities, now and in the future, in a single democratic state of Israel-Palestine. This is both the right thing and the smart thing to do.

Kuttab believes (incorrectly) that Arabs will ultimately outnumber Jews within the borders of Mandatory Palestine (minus Transjordan) and the only way for Israel to survive as a Jewish state is to maintain an illegal military occupation and apartheid system.

Israeli radical academic Neve Gordon wrote in the LA Times on Aug. 20, 2009, “The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state” and called for a boycott of the Jewish state. The column was titled "Boycott Israel."

UCLA professor Saree Makdisi, a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times Op-Ed page, has repeatedly called for Israel's replacement with a binational state. For instance, on Nov. 21, 2004 (“Will the One-State Solution Survive”), he wrote:

What is needed now is not more separation but a step toward the cooperative integration of Israelis and Palestinians in one common state . . .

Israel and the occupied territories already constitute a single geopolitical entity, even if it's not labeled that way. Palestinians such as Azmi Bishara and Edward Said (when he was alive) have joined with Israelis including Ilan Pappé? and Meron Benvenisti to call for a peace founded on that reality, rather than false compromises and ethnic separation. That state would join two peoples whom history has thrust together into one democratic, secular and self-governing community of truly equal citizens.

On May 11, 2008 Makdisi's op-ed titled, “Forget the Two State Solution” asserts that when Israel was founded, “Palestine was destroyed.” He falsely claims that Israel carried out a premeditated ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and is a violator of international law. Makdisi says Palestinians have accepted the concept of a binational state and that Jews will have “give up”on the idea of a Jewish state.

Rosenberg too casts Israel as an international outlaw, while attempting to dismiss Israel's delegitimization concerns as a tactic by pro-Israel groups “to divert attention from the ever-expanding settlements, which are not only illegitimate but illegal under international law.”

His comments about Israel flouting international law glosses over a more complicated reality. While several non-binding UN resolutions and states consider Israeli settlements and “occupation” of the territories illegal, the only binding UN Security Council resolution, Resolution 242, maintains the legality of Israeli control of the West Bank (and formerly Gaza strip, which it no longer controls). Framers of the resolution affirmed that Israelis have as much right to live there as they do within the pre-1967 borders. More recently on Feb. 18, 2011, the Obama administration vetoed a UN Resolution because its wording would have deemed Israeli settlements illegal.

The Gaza blockade, too is illegitimate, according to Rosenberg. But news sources claiming to have had access to a soon-to-be-released UN report on the controversy surrounding the 2010 Gaza flotilla, say the report found Israel's blockade to be legal.

Rosenberg claims that it is “not the Palestinians who are delegitimizing Israel” but rather Israel's own actions are to blame for international opprobrium. But in fact, it is the official policy of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (never mind Hamas) to not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Furthermore, the Palestinians to this day insist on the “right of return” of the descendants of Arabs who left or fled Israel in 1947-1948 in the wake of the Arab assault on the emerging Jewish state. It is widely understood that acceptance of this demand would render the Jewish state untenable. The Palestinian government assisted by sympathetic groups and members of the media in theWest, vigorously campaign to undermine Israel's legitimacy through boycotts and defamatory accusations against Israel, contending it is an apartheid state that practices genocide.

The bottom line is that if M.J. Rosenberg can suggest that no one questions Israel's legitimacy, he must not be a regular reader of the Los Angeles Times. But what excuse do the Times' editors have for publishing his mendacious Op-Ed


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