In his recent op-ed, syndicated columnist Charley Reese proclaims terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden a truth-teller, labels President Bush a liar, and disseminates outright errors and propaganda concerning the Jewish state and Ariel Sharon. (“Bush Blows It, Again” was sent out by Reese’s syndicate on April 19, 2004 but it may have appeared at a later date in your newspaper, possibly with a different headline.)
Reese Promotes Bin Laden’s Extremist Views
Reese bases his criticism of President Bush and Ariel Sharon on the words of Osama Bin Laden, who at one point claims:
He [Bush] also would not have lied to people and said that we hate freedom and kill for the sake of killing. Reality proves our truthfulness and his lie…the killing of Americans on the day of New York was after their support of the Jews in Palestine and their invasion of the Arabian Peninsula.
Though it seems amazing to have to refute the words of Osama Bin Laden, one is forced to do so as Reese uses the wanted terrorist to make his main points.
Bin Laden and many Muslims hate Israel because they consider illegitimate any non-Muslim rule in lands formerly under Islam (in Israel’s case, that would be the Ottoman Empire, 1517-1917). Bin Laden’s opposition to Israel (and the U.S.) stems from his intolerance of all value systems other than his own, including non-Wahabi forms of Islam. And it is this intolerance of freedom — religious freedom — that informs his terrorist agenda.
Contrary to Bin Laden and Reese’s claim, it is the U.S. and Israel’s shared values and interests — and not a common urge to oppress Muslims — that have made the countries natural allies for over five decades. Israel is the only democracy in the otherwise repressive Middle East, and a country currently waging its own war on terror.
Reese also quotes Bin Laden as saying:
Had he [Bush] been truthful about his claim for peace, he would not describe the person who ripped open pregnant women in Sabra and Shatila (a reference to Sharon) and the destroyer of the capitulation process (a reference to the peace process) as a man of peace.
Not only is it inaccurate for Bin Laden to describe Sharon – who issued military pull-backs and prisoner releases in the face of escalating Palestinian terror – as “the destroyer” of the peace process, but it is false to claim that Ariel Sharon was directly involved in the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
Palestinians were slaughtered in southern Lebanon in 1982, but the perpetrators were Lebanese Christian Phalangists — not Israelis. What Sharon has been faulted with was not anticipating the killings. Any newspaper that carried this column should publish a correction of the blatant falsehood regarding Sharon and "pregnant women."
Reese Twists History
1) Reese states:
He [Bush] has from the beginning acted as if he were a ventriloquist’s dummy and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were the ventriloquist. He proved it again by buying into Sharon’s scheme to steal great globs of Palestinian land in the West Bank, and by arrogantly denying the right of Palestinian refugees to return home or be compensated. Israel has no legal right to the land occupied by settlements; the whole world recognizes this and has for decades.
* It is not “Palestinian land,” but disputed land. Palestinian Arabs never had sovereignty over a country called Palestine.
* U.N. Resolution 242, on which all Mideast peace initiatives have been based, indicates Israel does have "legal rights" and legitimate claims to the disputed land by stating negotiations must lead to an Israeli withdrawal from some — but certainly not all — the territory gained in the ’67 War. (For a clear exposition of Israel’s obligations under this resolution, see CAMERA’s full-page ad, “Stop Distorting Resolution 242”. Also CAMERA backgrounder, “Land, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel”:
* Bush’s statement that Palestinian refugees should move to the future state of Palestine — and not Israel — does not imply they will not receive financial compensation.
2) Reese claims:
… the United States used to recognize it [that Israel had no legal right to areas gained in the ’67 War] until Bush decided to kiss the most ample part of Sharon’s anatomy.
To imply that Bush’s recent statement represents a sea change in U.S. policy turns political reality on its head. Only under President Carter did the U.S. view Israel’s settlements as illegal. Reagan reversed Carter’s stance and no other U.S. administration has held the view that settlements are illegal. (See CAMERA backgrounder, “Jewish settlements and the media”.)
3) Reese says George Bush tells Palestinian refugees “they have no rights.”
Far from saying the Palestinians have “no rights,” President Bush reiterated his call for an independent Palestinian state in his April 14, 2004 statement: “The United States supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that is viable, contiguous, sovereign, and independent.”
4) Reese repeats the Arab propaganda claim that “Palestinian refugees [were] ethnically cleansed in 1947-8 and again in 1967.”
* Israeli forces have never had a policy of "ethnically cleansing" Palestinians. In 1947-8, the majority of Palestinian Arabs who fled Israel did so at the behest of Arab leaders who told them to leave to make way for the wholesale slaughter of the land’s Jewish residents. In 3 communities, Jewish soldiers did force the Arab residents to leave, but this was very rare. In 1967, Israel waged a defensive war in which it gained the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem. (See CAMERA backgrounder, “The Palestinian Claim to a ‘Right of Return”.) It was Arab aggression — not an Israeli “ethnic cleansing” plot — that caused Jordan to lose the West Bank, Egypt to lose Gaza, and Syria to lose the Golan Heights.
* Additionally, how can Reese be correct that Israel “ethnically cleansed” Arabs from its land, when 20% of Israeli citizens are Arabs?
Reese Rationalizes Terror
According to Reese, the United States and Israel deserve all the terrorism they get. Such apologetics for terror are morally repugnant. There is no moral or legal justification for the violent targeting of civilians.
“One hates to say it, but Osama bin Laden makes more sense than Bush.”
And one hates to see a syndicated columnist abuse his role by spewing such extreme and distorted views.