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Media Analyses





The LA Times' Ongoing Assault on Israel


The editorial pages of the Los Angeles Times continues its ongoing assault on the legitimacy of the state of Israel with an Op-Ed yesterday by radical academic Neve Gordon arguing for the replacement of the Jewish state of Israel with a bi-national state ("Rethinking the two-state solution"). The Times has long held that Israel's right to exist is a topic for debate. Earlier pieces arguing for the one-state solution and the dismantlement of the Jewish state include those by Jonathan Kuttab, Saree Makdisi (here and here), Tony Judt, and Ben Ehrenreich
 
Additional Los Angeles Times Op-Eds assaulting the legitimacy of the Jewish state include Ian Lustick's depiction of Israel as a pariah state, George Bisharat's insistence that no Israeli response to Palestinian attacks is legitimate, Adam Shatz's twisted rendering of international law to assert that Israel shows no concern for humanitarian or civilian life, and a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon meant to depict Israel's supposed stranglehold over the United States.
 
An associate professor at Israel's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Gordon's previous contribution to the paper termed Israel an apartheid state and called for a boycott against the nation ("Boycott Israel," Aug. 20, 2009).
 
After the paper came under heavy criticism for the publication of Gordon's first piece, Jim Newton, the editorial-page editor, defended his decision to print the incenidary boycott call, asserting that "had Hitler submitted an excerpt from Mein Kampf in the late 1930's," he would have published it "because the world would have benefitted from exposure to evil ideas." Newton cited former Senator Alan Cranston's attempt to publish Hitler's work for that very purpose.
 
But as CAMERA's Ricki Hollander wrote at the time:
This editorial mindset betrays a startling and even dangerous obtuseness. While Newton portrays his willingness to publish a submission from Hitler as a heroic deed like Cranston's exposing evil to the world, his reasoning is flawed. Cranston, a journalist and former U.S. senator sought to publish an unexpurgated and annotated version of Mein Kampf in contrast to the abridged and sanitized translation that was then on the market. By placing it in context and publishing the full version – not just the selections approved by the Nazi propaganda machine – Cranston hoped to reveal the Nazi agenda.
 
There is a clear difference between Cranston's clear exposure of evil, and the act of lending propagandists the prestigious platform of a newspaper's Op-Ed page where they are able to promote their views without any outside comment and in any way they see fit– even through lies and distortions.  
Newton, who now serves as editor-at-large and LA Times columnist, has moved on, but his mentality is apparently shared by successor Nicholas Goldberg, under whose watch many of the aforementioned Op-Eds appeared. In his Oct. 23, 2006 column ("Op-Ed, explained") Goldberg, then the Op-Ed page editor, wrote:
We want a page that is politically balanced over time – not leaning too heavily to the left or the right – but we don’t monitor it day to day, or count Democrats versus Republicans. Similarly, we seek diversity of thought and diversity of contributors – we want provocative ideas from people of all races, genders, religions, etc. – but again, we don’t try to balance the number of women to men on every single page.
But Goldberg's bromides about balance over time have no relevance to the actual Los Angeles Times opinion pages where Israel is concerned. Readers find instead an ongoing campaign obsessively delegitimizing Israel, a campaign to which the paper subjects no other country in the world. Commenting on repeated calls in the media for the elimination of the Jewish state, and the question of balance, UCLA Professor Judea Pearl wrote:
Today we are witnessing a well-coordinated effort by enemies of coexistence to get people to envision, just envision, a world without Israel—the rest, they hope, will become history.

The American press seems to fall for it.

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. After all, we do not rush to “balance” each celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day with articles by white supremacists, and we do not “balance” a hate speech with a lecture on peaceful breathing technique; a hate speech is balanced with a lecture on the evils of hate.

A true, albeit grotesque, moral balance would be demonstrated only if for every “down with Israel” writer the newspaper were to invite a “down with Palestinian statehood” writer. But editors may have strange takes on morality; for some, questioning the legitimacy of Israel’s existence is a mark of neutrality, while questioning the legitimacy of Palestinian aspirations is a social taboo.

Moreover, underscoring the pervasiveness of skewed commentary on Israel, an extensive19-month study of the Op-Ed pages of the LA Times by CAMERA found that from January 2006 - July 27, the paper carried 29 Op-Eds that espoused a pro-Arab message and/or were critical of Israel, versus 18 Op-Eds representing an Israeli position and/or were critical of Arabs.
 
Gordon's Innovation
 
Gordon's deep hostility towards Israel is apparent in both his 2009 and his 2013 Op-Eds. On one point, though, he has evolved. Whereas in his first Op-Ed, he favored the two-state solution over the one-state solution, in his latest he comes out strongly in favor of the latter, stating "the two-state solution is no longer viable." Instead, like a long line of writers at the LA Times before him (Makdisi, Kuttab, Judt, Ehrenreich) he argues for "a single state in which Jews and Palestinians live together as equals." He writes:
Northern Ireland offers a real-life model of a just and equitable one-state solution because it accommodates ethno-national distinctions between citizens. In political science it's called "consociationalism."
 
Premised on collective and individual entitlements, a consociational government guarantees group representation, ensures power sharing in the executive branch and offers group vetoes. It could assure both the Israeli and the Palestinian communities that no important decision would be made without the broad consent of representatives of both groups. No less important is the notion of "parity of esteem," one of the core concepts of the Northern Ireland peace process. It requires each side to respect the other side's identity and ethos, including linguistic diversity, culture and religion.
As CAMERA wrote in response to Kuttab's 2009 piece which called for a binational state with a Jewish  minority — a position which is virtually identical to Gordon's:
[Israeli Jews] have taken note, for example, of what happened when Hamas violently overthrew the Fatah government in the Gaza Strip, brutally murdering Palestinian Muslims — their own people, including women, children and the elderly — and tossing them from multi-story buildings. If "safeguards" could not ensure the safety of Palestinian Muslims affiliated with rival parties, what hope is there for the "sons of monkeys and pigs," as Hamas is so fond of calling Jews? 
So what "diversity of thought" does Gordon bring to the pages of the Los Angeles Times? What does he add that hasn't already been printed there at least half a dozen times? The associate professor does, indeed, in fact bring an innovation. Not content with the tired, old "binational" terminology to promote his wholly unoriginal idea, he introduces a new term which has never before appeared in the Los Angeles Times: "consociationalism."
 
In addition to northern Ireland, consociationalism has also been applied to Lebanon, a country which is much closer than northern Ireland to Israel, both geographically and demographically. But it's no wonder that Gordon and his like-minded writers at the LA Times prefer not to mention Lebanon. While UCLA professor Saree Makdisi has been arguing relentlessly in the Times for a binational (aka consociational) state in Israel, his own father, Samir Makdisi, a professor at the American University of Beirut, has taken a much more sanguine idea on consociationalism in Lebanon. He wrote:
Motivated by the fact that Lebanon’s consociational democracy has failed to prevent the outbreak of a long lasting civil conflict and periodic political crises, we re-examine the role that its political formula had played in this regard. We argue that consociationalism has exactly cemented what it was supposed to overcome, namely vertical and horizontal inequality.
Gordon's academic jargon — disregarding even the real-world refutation of a fellow academic — is nothing more than window dressing for personal venom.
 
Professor Alan Dershowitz who has tangled with Gordon in the past, notes the Israeli professor's affinity for the notorious Israel-hater and Holocaust-distorter Norman Finkelstein. He had strong words for Gordon in a Jerusalem Post column, writing:
It is my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli.
 That The Los Angeles Times continues to give a platform to such a man is testimony to the moral and professional condition of the publication.

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