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Middle East Issues





Netanyahu Derangement Syndrome Debilitates Washington Postís Milbank


The often-informative Colbert I. King is not the only Washington Post columnist suffering chronic Netanyahu derangement syndrome. The rarely informative, often just snarky Dana Milbank does too, most recently in “Bibi keeps driving the wedge,” Nov. 10, 2015 print edition).

King, in several recent columns, has filtered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reportedly testy relationship with President Barack Obama through the inappropriate lens of black-white relations in America. The result, inescapably, has been distortion (see “ ‘Palestinian Lives Matter' Ploy Hoodwinks Washington Post Writers,” CAMERA, Nov. 9, 2015). 

Like King's, Milbank's reflexive anti-Bibitis is not new (see, for example, “Dana Milbank Sets Fire to His Washington Post Column,” CAMERA, Oct. 2, 2014). Neither are the latest symptoms, especially the columnist's recurrent tendency to pass off tainted, marginal spokesman as credible. Got a bull-horn? Standing outside the White House spouting anti-Israel allegations? Milbank'll quote you.

He uses this same technique that CAMERA exposed previously, presenting a fringe figure—in the earlier case an anti-Israel, 9/11 conspiracy theorist—as a column-worthy source (Washington Post-Watch: Post Trips When Bibi Meets Obama,” July 8, 2010). Milbank's grasping to substantiate his prejudices is journalistically embarrassing.

In “Bibi keeps driving the wedge,” Milbank trots out a spokesman for the International ANSWER Coalition and a rabbi from the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta to bolster his claim Netanyahu damaged Israel-U.S. ties by turning them into a partisan issue. The Israeli leader did this, according to The Post columnist, by fighting hard against Obama's nuclear deal with Iran and losing. Worse, Milbank asserts, Netanyahu continues to do and say things “driving a deep wedge through America, and the American Jewish community.”

The columnist gives his commentary's three concluding paragraphs to Brian Becker, ANSWER's national coordinator and Rabbi Dovid Weiss. Becker and Weiss were two of “more than 50” anti-Israel leftists who demonstrated outside the White House when Netanyahu was to meet Obama on November 10.

“ ‘There has been a sea change in U.S. attitudes toward the Israeli government and its policies and toward U.S. aid toward Israel,'” Becker said through a megaphone, according to Milbank. “Israel's ‘terrorism' in recent years, he [Becker] said, has meant that ‘many people, including a large sector of the Jewish American community, are now critical of Israel instead of giving a blank check to Israel,'” Milbank transcribed.

Hiding the ball

What is the International ANSWER Coalition Becker represents? Milbank says only that it is “antiwar” and joined other groups “such as Code Pink and Veterans for Peace” in holding signs “proclaiming ‘Netanyahu War Criminal,' “Stop all aid to Israel' and ‘Boycott Israel.'”

CAMERA noted eight years ago—criticizing a Post news article for omission of necessary background—that “ANSWER (International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), a spin-off of the anti-Zionist World Workers Party, was formed three days after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. ANSWER has opposed, in addition to Israel, America's fight against Islamic terrorism. Its steering committee includes the Free Palestine Alliance and Muslim Student Association of the U.S. and Canada. See “Washington Post-Watch: A Cover-Up in Plain Sight, Oct. 18, 2007:

“It sent delegates to the first anti-Zionist International Cairo Conference in 2000, which issued a declaration ‘Against U.S. Hegemony and War and In Solidarity with Palestine.' ANSWER delegates attended the second International Cairo Conference in 2003, which supported ‘acts of resistance in Iraq and Palestine.'” That is, insurgent and terrorist attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces in Iraq and terrorist assaults against Israelis in Israel, the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip. At the Cairo conference ANSWER delegates met with Osama Hamdan, a Hamas leader.

Also in 2003, leftist Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine, was “blackballed over the peace rally” in San Francisco (“The Antiwar Anti-Semites; Peace protest organizers tolerate no dissent,” Wall Street Journal Op-Ed by Lerner, Feb. 12, 2005). A critic of President George W. Bush's decision to invade Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Lerner discovered he nevertheless was banned from speaking at an anti-war event:

“My sin was publicly criticizing the way that ANSWER, one of the four groups sponsoring the San Francisco demonstration, has used the antiwar demonstrations to put forward anti-Israel propaganda…. It is outrageous that those of us who wish to protest against what we see as a fundamentally unjust war must be subjected to a barrage of slogans and speeches that are one-sidedly hostile to Israel.”

But that's ANSWER, and Becker, who's been the group's national coordinator since its early days. Not that readers would know it from Milbank. Some editors and journalism professors call such coverage, lacking relevant disclosure, “hiding the ball.”

Ahmadinejad's rabbi

As for Rabbi Weiss, before popping up inadequately identified in Milbank's column, he surfaced at a 2007 Holocaust denial conference in Iran with then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and in 2004 in France taking flowers to the dying Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat (“New York Rabbi Finds Friends in Iran and enemies at Home,” New York Times, Jan. 15, 2007).

According to The Times, Weiss' Neturei Karta has several thousand followers worldwide. Even fervently Orthodox Jews who might agree with its theology—a renewed Jewish state cannot arise before messianic days and certainly not at the hand of man—distance themselves from the group. But not Milbank, who attempts to bolster his anti-Netanyahu line by giving Weiss the concluding paragraph.

Milbank, in his anti-Netanyahu bill of particulars, also misrepresents the controversy the prime minister sparked by overstating Palestinian Arab leader Haj Amin al-Husseini's very real role in the Holocaust and importing Nazi ideology to the Arab world. And the columnist overstates Netanyahu's responsibility for aggravating divisions over Israel among American Jews. These began opening at least with Israel's war against the PLO in Lebanon in 1982 and suppression of the first Palestinian intifada between 1987 and 1992—before Netanyahu won his first term as prime minister.

Netanyahu derangement syndrome: Not a pretty sight, and in the case of The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, recurrent and debilitating.


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