CAMERA ALERT: Geyer Gets It Wrong, Again

Syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer fell into disrepute in May of 2002 after citing in her  column:

1) a bogus defamatory quotation (“I control America”) supposedly made by Ariel Sharon, and

2) a false claim that she had seen ads for Israel that portrayed Arabs as dogs.

Unfortunately, even after her shoddy journalism was exposed, her columns continue to be syndicated around the country.

On Oct. 14, 2004, the Boston Globe and other newspapers published a Geyer column which, without substantiation, slandered Sharon as “the man who abhors Palestinians.” She argued that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza is a “trick” somehow aimed at “forcing all the Palestinians to Jordan.” In her fanciful scenario, the U.S. House of Representatives is a slave to the “Israeli lobby,” President Bush is “clay in the hands of master strategic sculptor Sharon,” and Americans are simply “gullible.” (Geyer’s full column below)

Many of Geyer’s accusations are built around highly selective quotations from – or utter distortions of – an interview with Sharon’s adviser, Dov Weissglas.

Geyer’s False Claim (Part I)

Geyer stated:

In one of those moments when someone speaks out of truthfulness, from a need to boast about one’s cleverness, or simply because he forgot where he was that day, the senior aide to Prime Minister Sharon told the premier Israeli daily, Haaretz, that the goal of Sharon’s much-touted ‘Gaza plan’ of supposed withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers was actually devised to halt for good the ‘road map’ toward Palestinian statehood. It was a trick to make the gullible Americans believe that their precious road map was being implemented.

She provided the following sentence from Weissglas’ interview to prop up her claim:

The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,  Weissglas said.

But Weissglas never told Haaretz that the withdrawal was “devised to halt for good the ‘road map,'” nor did he suggest such a thing. Weissglas’s quote was taken out of context.

What Weissglas really said

During the interview, Weissglas explained that Israel, along with the U.S., “reached the sad conclusion that there is no one to talk to, no one to negotiate with” on the Palestinian side because their leadership had consistently broken their “most solemn promises” to the U.S. and Israel. “Hence the disengagement plan,” he said.

Weissglas elaborated:

[Sharon] understood that in the Palestinian case the majority has no control over the minority. . .. He understood that Palestinian terrorism is in part not national at all, but religious. Therefore, granting national satisfaction will not solve the problem of this terrorism. This is the basis of his approach that first of all the terrorism must be eradicated and only then can we advance in the national direction. Not to give a political slice in return for a slice of stopping terrorism, but to insist that the swamp of terrorism be drained before a political process begins.

For this reason, the U.S. and Israel decided the Palestinians must end terrorism before negotiations begin. “What’s important is the formula that asserts that the eradication of terrorism precedes the start of the political process,” Weissglas noted. This principle, he said, was the main achievement of the “road map” peace plan.

According to Weissglas, Israel was pushed to the disengagement idea because the Palestinians were not fulfilling their obligations under the road map. With the road map stalled, he explained, Sharon realized Israel would be pressured to negotiate even while the terrorism continued and that the principle calling for an immediate stop to Palestinian violence would be “annulled.”

Weissglas continued:

And with the annulment of that principle, Israel would find itself negotiating with terrorism. And because once such negotiations start it’s very difficult to stop them, the result would be a Palestinian state with terrorism . . .

The disengagement plan is the preservative of the sequence principle. It is the bottle of formaldehyde within which you place the president’s formula so that it will be preserved for a very lengthy period. The disengagement is actually formaldehyde.

Clearly, the point made in the interview was that Israel is withdrawing from Gaza in order to avoid negotiating with the Palestinians while they espouse terrorism, and thus to avoid formation of a Palestinian state that engages in terrorism. It is the Palestinians who have abandoned the road map, Weissglas said, and the Gaza withdrawal, by putting the ball firmly in Palestinians’ court to end terror, will preserve the road map’s principles.

But Geyer didn’t cite any of these comments, all which contradict her false thesis.

(For more on media distortion of the Weissglas interview, see previous CAMERA article. )

Geyer’s false claim (part 2)

Pursuing her “Israel controls America” theme, Geyer suggested that Weissglas bragged “with barely disguised satisfaction” about his power to “get Washington to rubber-stamp everything Israel wanted to do.”

To support this, she cited a comment Weissglas’ made to Haaretz that the Israeli plan has “a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.”

This proves, Geyer argued, that the House of Representatives is “always in thrall to the Israeli lobby.”

But again, Geyer didn’t provide the full picture.

What Weissglas really said

In fact, the interviewer specifically asked Weissglas if he was “the one who prompted the Americans to adopt a political policy” similar to that of Israel.

Weissglas refuted this. He replied:

The Americans were here for four months in 2003. Through [assistant secretary of state] John Wolf they were involved in the process in the most intimate way. Wolf reported directly to Rice. Those four months had tremendous pedagogical value. The Americans saw for themselves what the Palestinians’ most solemn promises really meant. They saw the Palestinians’ detailed working plans and their splendid diagrams and they saw how nothing came of it. Nothing. Zero. When you add to that the trauma of S eptember 11 and their understanding that Islamic terrorism is indivisible, you understand that they reached their conclusions by themselves. They didn’t need us to understand what it’s all about.

Geyer, however, is more interested in making her point than in providing the facts.

Full text of October 14, 2004 Geyer column: .

WASHINGTON — For the last three years, one crucial question about the Middle East has lurked just under the surface of events: Has Ariel Sharon changed his spots?

Is it possible, people of good (and not so good) will asked repeatedly, that the man who abhors Palestinians, who continually repeats, “There IS a Palestinian state – it is Jordan,” could now be willing to tolerate some kind of Palestinian state? That is what he has been telling the world and, more important, the all-believing Bush administration.

When I asked him three years ago on a Council on Foreign Relations video hookup between Washington and Jerusalem whether he still believed that Jordan was “the Palestinian state,” he hemmed and hawed, did not deny it, and said only that “the world has changed.” (Which, I suppose, no one could really argue with.)

And then this week, it became utterly clear. In one of those moments when someone speaks out of truthfulness, from a need to boast about one’s cleverness, or simply because he forgot where he was that day, the senior aide to Prime Minister Sharon told the premier Israeli daily, Haaretz, that the goal of Sharon’s much-touted “Gaza Plan” of supposed withdrawal of Israeli troops and settlers was actually devised to halt for good the “road map” toward Palestinian statehood. It was a trick that made the gullible Americans believe their precious road map was being implemented.

“The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,” Dov Weisglass, who had been the prime minister’s point man in negotiations with the Bush administration and remains Sharon’s lawyer and close friend, told Haaretz. “Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda.”

Then the prime minister’s friend spoke with barely disguised satisfaction about how he had been able to get Washington to rubber-stamp everything Israel wanted to do. “And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress,” he continued. “What I effectively agreed to with the Americans was that part of the settlements would not be dealt with at all, and the rest will not be dealt with until the Palestinians turn into Finns.”

The Sharon plan to withdraw from Gaza has frozen the entire Israeli-Palestinian peace process and guarantees that Israel will never have to remove at least 80 percent of its settlers from the occupied West Bank. Most Americans might know that President Bush, who seems to be clay in the hands of master strategic sculptor Sharon, gave the Israeli leader his go-ahead on the plan because he has never remotely understood the inner machinations of the Middle East; but most Americans would not know that the U.S. House of Representatives, always in thrall to the Israeli lobby, passed a resolution 400-to-9 applauding Sharon’s “Gaza withdrawal plan.”

Meanwhile, in the real world … The brutal daily Israeli strikes into Gaza, a miserable stretch of land only 30 by 10 miles and housing more than a million impoverished Palestinians, are causing untold misery – and are done in America’s name. As Americans for Peace Now reports, the settlements are being expanded, and not, as Sharon says, frozen. The United Nations reports that more than 85 percent of the barrier wall that Sharon is building is being constructed inside the West Bank, thus systematically taking over Palestinian lands. In Gaza and on the West Bank, as the corrupt and hapless Palestinian Authority falls apart of its own stupidity and voraciousness, it’s no surprise that young Palestinians are flocking to the radical Islamic Hamas. And the bombings of the hotels in Taba on the Sinai last week took place in a section controlled securely by the Egyptian security forces – are they now being infiltrated as well?

The moderate Israeli left is enraged. Labor leader Shimon Peres had supported the supposed Gaza pull-out, believing it was real. Respected leftist critic Yossi Beilin called the Weisglass comments “frightening” and said they showed a rare moment of truth and revealed Mr. Sharon’s dangerous intentions. The White House said not much at all.

To Jordan’s King Abdullah, it is no secret that Ariel Sharon dreams of forcing all the Palestinians to Jordan, and Abdullah is putting up barriers against it. News reports indicate that, as the thermometer of the Middle East heats up, some of the 11 Syrian intelligence services may be aiding in turning the Hashemite-ruled Jordan into a Palestinian state. Foreign correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave just reported that the young king has “put the Syrian regime on notice. Cease and desist or a military confrontation comes next.”

De Borchgrave summed up in his column for United Press International: “The Palestinian-Israeli peace process is stillborn, erected as it was on the erroneous assumption that Sharon had changed his mind and was now in favor of a Palestinian state. The cascade of illusory assumptions about the Iraqi war has also been swept away.”

The only possible way to turn the whole thing about at this minutes-to-midnight moment would involve serious pressure on Sharon from an American administration — and that is not going to come from either of our impotent political parties. Instead, more nihilistic violence will be acted out before our eyes – the end of the Palestinian dream, but only the beginning of the Palestinian nightmare.

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