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Middle East Issues





Dana Milbank Sets Fire to His Washington Post Column


Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s Alice-in-Wonderland views of Israel have been noted before by CAMERA (“WASHINGTON POST-WATCH: Post Trips When Bibi Meets Obama”, Jul. 8, 2010). Now comes another example, in which Milbank imagines that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Sept. 29, 2014 U.N. General Assembly address was “incendiary.” What sent Milbank grasping for an adjective was Netanyahu’s “calling the Islamic State and Hamas ‘branches of the same poisonous tree’ ” (“Bibi and Obama: Estranged bedfellows”, Oct. 2, 2014).  

 

How is the comparison “incendiary”? Both the Islamic State and Hamas hold jihadist ideology. They follow the impulse of the Muslim Brotherhood, mother ship of all Sunni Muslim fundamentalist movements, and aim to reestablish a caliphate. The Islamic State released a map with a 5-year plan to conquer areas from China to Spain, while in a children’s magazine Hamas tells the story of a Muslim city in Andalusia (Spain), which wants to be “liberated” (“Hamas Targets Spain”, Front Page Magazine, Jan. 22, 2006).

 

Netanyahu made an apposite comparison between the two in his speech:

 

“Listen to ISIS’s self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. This is what he said two months ago: ‘A day will soon come when the Muslim will walk everywhere as a master… The Muslims will cause the world to hear and understand the meaning of terrorism… and destroy the idol of democracy.’ Now listen to Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas. He proclaims a similar vision of the future, ‘we say this to the West… By Allah you will be defeated. Tomorrow our nation will sit on the throne of the world.

”As Hamas’ charter makes clear, Hamas’ immediate goal is to destroy Israel. But Hamas has a broader objective. They also want a caliphate. Hamas shares the global ambitions of its fellow militant Islamists. That’s why its supporters wildly cheered in the streets of Gaza as thousands of Americans were murdered on 9/11. And that's why its leaders condemned the United States for killing Osama Bin Laden, whom they praised as a holy warrior” (“Full text of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s UN speech”, The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 2, 2014). 

 

One plus one does equal two
 
The Islamic State advocates Islamic supremacism. Hamas calls for the destruction of Israel, genocide of the Jews, and defeat of the West. But for The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, it is Netanyahu’s comparison of the two that is incendiary.

 

A Washington Times editorial praised the Israeli leader’s speech and explained why columnists like Milbank might not feel at ease with the prime minister:

 

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a courageous leader and a glutton for punishment. He never hesitates to stand up to those who despise him and his country, and indeed despise the West and the civilization it brought to the world. Some of his critics dream of beheading him if they could. He rebuts their lies, stares them down and corrects the record. He understands that what they seek is not peace, but an opportunity to destroy Israel and the Western civilization it represents” (“Mr. Netanyahu’s tutorial; He tells it like it is, and President Obama should listen this time”, Oct. 1, 2014).

 

The Islamic State began its genocidal campaign by fighting Shiite Muslims, crucifying Christians, butchering Yazidis and beheading Westerners. Hamas pursues complementary aims by sending suicide bombers into Israel, oppressing what little is left of Gaza’s Christian population, and murdering dissidents in the street.

 

Same ideology, similar tactics, different locales. Apparently a scenery change is enough to throw off Milbank.

 

You can’t hit what you don’t see
 
While he derided Netanyahu for stressing an inconvenient truth, the columnist did not bother to mention Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ U.N. General Assembly speech, which actually was incendiary. Abbas accused Israel of doing what the Islamic State does and Hamas would like to be doing: committing genocide. Abbas, less delusional than intentionally inflammatory, alleged:

“The future proposed by the Israeli government for the Palestinian people is at best isolated ghettos for Palestinians on fragmented lands, without borders and without sovereignty over its airspace, water and natural resources, which will be under the subjugation of the racist settlers and army of occupation, and at worst will be a most abhorrent form of Apartheid.

“Israel has confirmed during the negotiations that it rejects making peace with its victims, the Palestinian people.

“This has all been done concurrent with an attempt to give a religious nature to the conflict and with the rising and rampant racism in the Israeli political and media discourse and its entrenchment in the school curriculum and in a series of laws and practices of the occupation and its settlers. This culture of racism, incitement and hatred was glaringly manifested in the despicable, appalling crime committed months ago by fascist settlers, who abducted the young Jerusalemite boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir, burnt him alive and killed him (“Full text of Mahmoud Abbas’s speech to the UN”, The Times of Israel, Sept. 26, 2014).

If either speech is incendiary, it’s this one. It’s also a study in psychological projection tarring your enemy with your own character flaws. For example:

Abbas’ Palestinian Authority TV continues to portray murderers of Jews as “heroes” and “martyrs.” (“Mother of killer of 3 Israeli teens, on a PA TV: ‘[My son] is noble, pure and modest – an angel; the hero among heroes and a leader. If Allah hadn’t loved him, he wouldn’t have honored him with Martyrdom’,” Palestinian Media Watch, Oct. 6, 2014).

The “rampant racism,” “rejection of making peace” and “giving a religious nature to the conflict,” among other attributes, typify not Israeli curriculum, communications media, diplomacy and ideology but that of Palestinian leaders, and not only by Hamas in the Gaza Strip but Abbas’ own Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. It was the latter who rejected offers of a West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem state in exchange for peace with Israel in 2000, 2001 and 2008.
 
The song in praise of murder sung by the Palestinian mother cited by Palestinian Media Watch is newsworthy—and comment worthy—unless the reporter or pundit is blinkered like Milbank. It’s worth noting not for its singular nature but rather its commonality.
 
An editorial by The Post noticed what Milbank missed. As  noted by CAMERA, it condemned Abbas’ General Assembly speech (“Dangerous grandstanding,” Sept. 30, 2014).
 
Pointing out the similarities between the Islamic State and Hamas, as Netanyahu did, is appropriate. It lays out a truth Milbank may not be comfortable with. In any case, the prime minister’s point was not incendiary but obvious.  

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