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Media Analyses





Rivera, the Self-Described Zionist, Fools No One


Geraldo Rivera has repeatedly invoked his dubious Zionist credentials in order to launch verbal assaults on the Jewish state. The latest occasion was his March 26, 2010 appearance on "Fox and Friends," in which he accused an allegedly anti-peace, obstructionist Israel of focusing on the Iranian threat in order to divert attention from its own supposed intransigence. His tirade also included the baseless allegation that Israel is responsible for American difficulties vis-a-vis the entire Middle East and the Muslim world.

Responding to a question about American-Israeli tension surrounding the Israeli announcement of plans for building 1600 additional residential units in the crowded north Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, Rivera claimed the whole incident is indicative of an Israeli offense more worrisome than the Iranian nuclear crisis:

I don't think Bibi Netanyahu has any intention of making a two state solution peace with the Palestinians. I think he has no intention of ever yielding east Jerusalem. I know it's very difficult for my fellow Zionists and lovers of Israel to get our arms around what is a clear cut agenda. I think what has been revealed by this snub of Joe Biden when he went over there is far more profound than people credit. I think that what has been revealed is the policy of the Netanyahu government never to make peace with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution, never to give up Jerusalem, never, ever ever and, you know, for them to go through the machinations or continue to point to the Iranian threat as their priority is just to divert attention from the fact that there will never be under a Netanyahu or a Likud government any kind of a two state ---

In actuality, the building of homes in Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem over the Green Line, such as Ramat Shlomo, is not in violation of any peace accord, nor does it preclude any future peace settlements, including the division of Jerusalem according to Jewish and Arab neighborhoods (as was envisioned, for example, in the Clinton plan.)

In an effort to bolster his baseless argument that Israel works non-stop to block a two-state solution, Rivera erases more than a decade of withdrawals, difficult concessions and goodwill gestures on the part of the Israelis. He states:

Ever since Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, ever since the Oslo peace process went into hibernation, what moves has Israel done other than continuing to talk about getting together, to talk about it. . .

Steps for Peace: Withdrawals

Here, Rivera implies that the Oslo process died with Rabin in 1995, and that since then Israel has made no moves towards peace, merely engaging in fruitless talks. The TV host evidently has little interest in the facts. In reality, following Rabin's death, Netanyahu, in his first term (May 1996 to July 1999) implemented a series of West Bank withdrawals. In 1997 it was Netanyahu who implemented the Hebron withdrawal (New York Times, Jan. 15, 1997), and it was Netanyahu who carried out Phase 1 of the further withdrawal he negotiated during the Wye Accords (New York Times, Nov. 20, 1998), boosting full Palestinian control over territory in the West Bank (known as Area A in the Oslo process) from three percent to 10.1 percent. In other words, Netanyahu tripled the amount of West Bank land under full Palestinian control. After the Netanyahu withdrawals the Palestinian side also had civil control (Area B) over a further 18.6 percent of the West Bank. The Gaza airport was also opened during Netanyahu's term. Only in the face of massive Palestinian violations of the agreements did Netanyahu finally suspend further re‑deployments. Rivera's apparent amnesia concerning this series of withdrawals on Netanyahu's watch (post Rabin assassination) is inexcusable especially in light of the journalist's boast of "knowing him as well as I do." What's clear is he doesn't know the Prime Minister, his record or essential facts related to the US-Israel contretemps.
 
Steps for Peace: Prisoner Releases

Besides signing the Wye River Accord in 1998 and withdrawing from West Bank land, other steps that Netanyahu, whom Rivera paints as the archenemy of peace, took towards reconciliation during his first term includes the release of at least 281 Palestinian prisoners, some as goodwill gestures, some in compliance with the Wye River Accord. On Feb. 11, 1997, he released 30 Palestinian women (New York Times, "West Bank Town Hails Freed Prisoners,"> Feb. 13, 1997). On Oct. 1, 1997, Netanyahu released Hamas leader Sheik Amhed Yasin to Jordan (New York Times, "Israel Frees Ailing Hamas Founder to Jordan at Hussein's Request," Oct. 1, 1997). Finally, in November, 1998, as part of the Wye River Accords, Netanyahu released 250 Palestinian prisoners, including 150 common criminals and other offenders (New York Times, "Release of Criminals Elicits Dismay in Palestinians," Nov. 30, 1998)

Other prisoner releases that Israel undertook after Netanyahu left office in July 1999 include:

• Oct. 15, 1999: 109 Palestinian prisoners (and 42 inmates from other Arab countries) released as part of an interim peace deal

• Sept. 9, 1999: 199 prisoners released as part of an interim land‑for‑security deal

• Dec. 27, 2004: 159 prisoners released as a goodwill gesture to the new Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas

• Feb. 21, 2005: 500 prisoners released, the first part of Ariel Sharon's goodwill pledge to release 900 Palestinian prisoners

• June 2, 2005: 398 prisoners released as the second half of Ariel Sharon's February 2005 goodwill gesture

Step for Peace: Camp David Offer

Five years after Rabin's assassination, Prime Minister Ehud Barak made an unprecedented offer to Yasser Arafat at the Camp David negotiations, one that Arafat turned down without a counterproposal and answered with the second Palestinian terror war.

Step for Peace: Gaza Withdrawal

In perhaps the most painful step that Israel took to ease the conflict was the 2005 withdrawal of all of its soldiers and more than 8,500 civilians from the Gaza Strip as well as hundreds of residents from four settlements in the northern West Bank, uprooting a population from their homes and jobs which had sustained them for decades. This step was repaid with the escalation of rocket attacks on southern Israel, an ongoing assault on tens of thousands of Israeli civilians which continued until Operation Cast Lead last year.

Steps for Peace: West Bank Economy

In his current term, Benjamin Netanyahu adopted the policy of easing restrictions on movement in the West Bank and bolstering the Palestinian economy.

So while Rivera accuses Israel of talk and no action over the last 15 years, it is Rivera who engages in empty talk, about his commitment to Zionism and boasts about his supposed intimacy with Netanyahu. Meanwhile, Rivera assigns no responsibility or accountability to the Palestinian side, ignoring their repeated violations of bilateral agreements, their attacks from territory from which Israel has withdrawn, their genocidal incitement, the hardening of the conditions they will accept before they even begin negotiations, and the failure to soften their stance in the slightest concerning major issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, land and the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.

Having finished giving a completely erroneous picture of Israeli actions, Rivera than goes on to make the fallacious arguments that Israel endangers America, stating:

And the United States of America is in an extremely difficult position vis-a-vis the entire Middle East and the Muslim world because of Israeli intransigence over the West Bank and Gaza becoming an independent country. . .

Professor Alan Dershowitz succinctly decimated this false linkage, writing:

There is absolutely no correlation between Israeli actions and the safety of American troops ‑ none.

No one has ever shown any relationship between what Israel does and the rate of American casualties, because there is no such relationship -- none.

Consider two significant time periods. The first is the end of 2000 and the beginning of 2001, when Israel offered the Palestinians virtually everything they could have wanted: a state on 100 percent of the Gaza Strip and 97% of the West Bank, a capital in a divided Jerusalem and a $35 billion reparation package for refugees. Virtually the entire Arab world urged Arafat to accept this generous offer, but he declined it. During the very months that Israel was doing everything possible to promote peace with the Palestinians, al‑Qaida was planning its devastating attack on the World Trade Center. No correlation between Israeli actions and American casualties.

Then consider the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 when Israel was engaged in Operation Cast Lead, which caused significant Palestinian casualties. During that difficult period, there was no increase in American casualties. Again, no correlation.

Those offering up this phony empirical argument have an obligation to present evidence in support of this fallacious correlation, or else to stop making this bigoted argument.

The reason there is no correlation is because extremist Muslims who kill American troops are not outraged at what Israel does, but rather at what Israel is ‑ a secular Jewish, democratic state. As long as Israel exists, there will be Islamic extremists who regard that fact as a provocation. The same is true of the United States: as long we continue to exist as a secular democracy with equal rights for women, Christians and Jews, the Osama Bin Ladens of the world will seek our destruction. Certainly as long as American troops remain in any part of the Arab world ‑ whether it be Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Afghanistan ‑ Muslim fanatics will try to kill our soldiers. Blame for the murder of American troops should be placed on those who kill them, rather than on those who stand for the same values of democracy and equality as America does.

Mischaracterizing the American Jewish Community

Having posited his theory that Netanyahu is fundamentally opposed to a two state solution, and it will never acquiesce to it under any conditions, Rivera then goes on to assert:

the Jewish community in the United States is far more right wing than even the Netanyahu government.

Rivera's misconceptions about the American Jewish community and its political leanings are striking, indeed. As a  2010 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion, just released by the American Jewish Committee, notes nearly half (48 percent, versus 45 percent opposed, and seven percent not sure) of American Jewish support the establishment of a Palestinian state despite the fact that 75 percent agree with the statement that "The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel." Moreover, beyond the distorted characterization of the views of American Jews is the tenor of his claims which is contemptuous and dismissive.

Justifying Violence

Recalling having travelled once with Palestinians in Israel (this must have been a long time ago, because since the two Palestinian terror wars most Palestinians cannot hop a bus from the West Bank to Ben Gurion airport), Rivera then goes on to justify Palestinian violence and indoctrination against Israel. "I remember traveling with Palestinians to Tel Aviv airport. Now, I go my way. They have travel restrictions. They have to wait for buses." Rivera then goes on to question "Fox and Friends" host Brian Kilmeade, asking him if he lived under 42 years of occupation (including travel restrictions and waiting for buses), "Would you be a moderate? Would you be a liberal or would you be someone who is going to protest and demonstrate and throw stones and teach your children to hate Israel?"

For someone who once likened a harmless Israeli procedure of numbering Palestinian prisoners to "what Hitler and those Nazi pigs inflicted on the Jewish race during the Second World War, he takes an awfully mild view of deadly Palestinian violence and hate indoctrination. So while Rivera may continue to talk about his so-called Zionism and the "beloved ally," he is fooling no one.

>Fox may want to consider limiting Rivera's reporting to topics and regions that don't trigger such irrational outbursts.

A full transcript follows:

Steve Doocy: Netanyahu met with Obama but he has been snubbed significantly. Obama would not pose for a picture with him.

Geraldo Rivera: Twice.

Doocy: Obama wants to get some concessions on settlements. You have known Bibi Netanyahu for many, many years.

Geraldo Rivera: Since 1972, I know him far better than I know the President. I've only met our President one time. Bibi and I have smoked cigars in this building together. We've hung out together in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv. I knew his family, his hero brother died in Entebbe.

Doocy: How embarrassed and humiliated is he by this?

Rivera: He's very humiliated. Although I haven't spoken to him, but I can project that knowing him as well as I do. But here's the dirty little secret folks and I think this is what has been revealed. I don't think Bibi Netanyahu has any intention of making a two state solution peace with the Palestinians. I think he has no intention of ever yielding east Jerusalem. I know it's very difficult for my fellow Zionists and lovers of Israel to get our arms around what is a clear cut agenda. I think what has been revealed by this snub of Joe Biden when he went over there is far more profound than people credit. I think that what has been revealed is the policy of the Netanyahu government never to make peace with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution, never to give up Jerusalem, never, ever ever and, you know, for them to go through the machinations or continue to point to the Iranian threat as their priority is just to divert attention from the fact that there will never be under a Netanyahu or a Likud government any kind of a two state ---

Gretchen Carlson: Some people see it exactly the opposite, Geraldo. They say that this administration has spent more time snubbing Israel and lessening sanctions for Iran.

Rivera: Well, you know, here's the deal, Gretchen. Ever since Yitzkah Rabin was assassinated, ever since the Oslo peace process went into hibernation, what moves has Israel done other than continuing to talk about getting together, to talk about it, and we have to recognize, the United States, and particularly the American Jewish community that our prime constituency is the United States of America. And the United States of America is in an extremely difficult position, vis-a-vis the entire Middle East and the Muslim world because of Israeli intransigence over the West Bank and Gaza becoming an independent country and the Jewish community in the United States is far more right wing even than the Netanyahu government. My father-in-law was a member of federation. The main lobbying group, the Anti-Defamation League, and they were so angry with me whenever I bring up, this is what I call truth, this is speaking truth to power. Israel doesn't want to make peace. The president has now exposed that desire to go as slow as they possibly can, deflect attention to the Iranian crisis and maintain this cauldron boiling where United States interests are negatively effected.

Brian Kilmeade: You walked the streets, you know the roads, you know the people.

Rivera: I know every street.

Kilmeade: But in the big picture, I hear and it's been reported that life in the West Bank for the Palestinians has never been better. They are beginning to thrive, peace is beginning to happen, coexistence.

Rivera: They have a functional government.

Kilmeade: On the other hand, Hamas runs Gaza like a prison.Rivera: That's true. Kilmeade: So therefore they marginalize those who want to kill them and they embrace those that want to live amongst them. What guilt could they possibly -- what could they be doing wrong? Rivera: For you to say that -- the life of a West Bank Palestinian, however superior it is to a Gaza Strip Palestinian is still the kind of life that -- I remember traveling with Palestinians to Tel Aviv airport. Now, I go my way. They have travel restrictions. They have to wait for buses. Their every movement through Israel -- and for good reason, because [unintelligible].

Kilmeade: Homicide bombers

Rivera:-- their life is horrible

Kilmeade: Their life is horrible.

Rivera: And it's very difficult to -- imagine if you were a Palestinian. Just imagine if you, at your age, Brian, your entire life, what year were you born?

Kilmeade: 64

Rivera: When you're three years old, your country gets occupied by a foreign power. It's 42 years ago, more or less. So 42 years you've been living under an occupational force. Would you be a moderate? Would you be a liberal or would you be someone who is going to protest and demonstrate and throw stones and raise your children to hate the Israelis? I think it's time for the United States to use pressure on our most beloved ally and get them to move on this two state solution. It's not enough. Ever since George Bush said it, George W. Bush, he said he wanted a two-state solution, let's really move toward it.

Kilmeade: Out of all our problems, I think Israel is the least of our problems.


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