Electronic Intifada (EI) is a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel group trying to cast itself as a credible watchdog in the mold of CAMERA. At the same time, it seeks to discredit CAMERA as a partisan political advocacy group. To that end, EI has attempted to present a “scholarly study” to invalidate CAMERA’s analysis of Op-Eds in major newspapers. But upon scrutiny, EI’s conclusions crumble — revealing much about its own biases and reaffirming CAMERA’s original findings.
In the EI study, “CAMERA’s broken lens: An evaluation of the media watchdog’s problematic conclusion of ‘pro-Arab’ media bias,” author Shervan Sardar purports to “refute” CAMERA’s 19-month study of three major American newspapers’ guest Op-Eds about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
(See CAMERA’s “On Nation’s Op-Ed Pages, Pro-Israel Voice is Stifled“. Also published in Spring, 2008 issue of CAMERA’s Media Report)
But never within his 20-page report does Sarder bother to address CAMERA’s key finding, namely, that none of the newspapers (Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Washington Post) ran a single Op-Ed by an Israeli official for over a year and a half even while they published 16 Op-Eds (four each) by Arab officials — including multiple pieces by Hamas leaders.
Also ignored are CAMERA’s Los Angeles Times findings which go completely unmentioned in the EI study. Instead, Electronic Intifada’s “refutation” focuses on only two of the three publications investigated by CAMERA, and skews the data by recasting almost any article that does not portray Israel in apartheid terms, overtly condemn Israel, or champion radical Arab claims as “pro-Israel.”
Thus New York Times columns urging Israel and the Palestinian Authority to negotiate bilateral agreements or calling on Israeli and Arab leaders to establish joint monitoring groups to restrain violent fare-ups — both of which were categorized by CAMERA as neutral — are now re-classified by Sardar as “pro-Israel.” Conversely, Sardar re-classifies an article advocating appeasement of Hizballah as “neutral.”
That’s right — under the EI’s new guidelines, bilateral negotiations are considered pro-Israel, while indulging Arab terrorists is taking a neutral stance!
Indeed, the EI study frequently demonstrates this perspective. To Sardar and the EI, “pro-Arab” seems to mean pro-radical or pro-terrorist while “pro-Israel” seems to mean anything supporting the existence of a Jewish state. Sardar’s data manipulation thus tells readers more about EI’s viewpoint and double standards than about CAMERA’s review.
In its original analysis, CAMERA used a set of carefully defined criteria that avoided oversimplification and minimized subjectivity, weighing each Op-Ed solely on the basis of its content rather than the perceived allegiance of its author. The analysis counted only full-length columns directly addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Op-Eds that focused primarily on other topics, referring to the conflict only in passing or as only one of many examples, were commented on separately but not tallied in the overall statistics. Neither were brief commentaries solicited by the newspaper for a special feature on the Israel-Lebanon war, even though these additions would only have strengthened CAMERA’s statistics.
Columns criticizing Israeli policies were categorized by CAMERA as “pro-Israel” if the writer represented a dominantly Israeli perspective, and columns criticizing or condemning Israel were categorized by CAMERA as “neutral” if they included criticism of the Arab side as well, even when they leaned more toward criticism of Israel or a softening of policy toward Arabs.
On the other hand, the only articles classified by CAMERA as “pro-Arab/critical of Israel” were those that unquestioningly adopted a pro-Arab position, advocated a more lenient policy toward Arab states or groups, or were primarily critical of Israel. And, in fact, Sardar was unable to eliminate — even with his elastic criteria — the vast majority of those articles classified by CAMERA as “pro Arab/critical of Israel.”
Using these strict criteria that favored the count of “pro-Israel” articles, CAMERA nonetheless found a clear disproportion of “pro-Arab/critical of Israel” articles. By contrast, even with Sardar’s extensive manipulation, he was able to find only what he describes as “a slight advantage” in “pro-Israel” Op-Eds versus “pro-Arab” pieces.
Sardar claims that by “correctly” applying CAMERA’s “own analytic criteria,” he arrived at a completely different conclusion. But “correctly applying” in Sardar’s parlance apparently means “dispensing with.” Far from applying CAMERA’s criteria to the data, he appears to have re-invented his own unstated criteria in order to stack up the “pro-Israel”count and reach his pre-determined conclusion.
Thus, Sardar discards the criterion of relevancy to the Arab-Israeli conflict, counting tangential articles and anything else he could find that refers to Israel or Arabs – even when those columns have little or nothing to do with the conflict.
For example, New York Times columns about radical Islamists who target Muslims, shrinking levels of the Dead Sea, democratic reform that has encouraged Islamic fundamentalism, and Al Jazeera television, are all counted by Sardar as articles representing a “pro-Israel/anti-Arab” perspective of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And all enter into his final statistical tally of 46% pro-Israel vs. 33% pro-Arab columns. (It is telling that even with Sardar’s extensive numerical acrobatics and manipulation of criteria, he only manages to eke out a 3:2 ratio of supposedly “pro-Israel” to “pro-Arab” columns.)
NEW YORK TIMES
(Consult Appendix I for CAMERA’s original criteria)
Below we demonstrate how Sardar manipulated CAMERA’s New York Times data by shifting columns from their original CAMERA categories (as per CAMERA’s defined criteria, Appendix I) and adding several completely irrelevant articles.
* Those columns that were not primarily about the Arab-Israeli conflict or which were part of a special feature that were mentioned separately and did not enter into CAMERA’s overall statistic are shown with an asterisk* below.
I. Transfers to Primary “Pro-Israel/Critical of Arabs” Category
Sardar added 10 additional columns to this category, skewing the pro-Arab: pro-Israel ratio considerably. Most of these were taken from CAMERA’s neutral category and one was taken from CAMERA’s “pro-Arab/critical of Israel” category.
In addition, several were taken either from CAMERA’s tangential categories or from the special Lebanon war feature. (While the tangential category and special feature results conformed with the general pat tern CAMERA noted in its analysis of regular guest Op-Eds, they were commented on separately and did not enter the overall statistics, since they were either not about the Arab-Israeli conflict or did not consitute a regular Op-Ed.)
A total of 10 columns were thus added to the pro-Israel category, changing the number of primary “pro-Israel” columns from CAMERA’s original eight to EI’s 18.
A) Transfer from CAMERA’s “neutral” category
1) July 18, 2006 – “A Conflict That Will Stay Close to Home” – Edward Luttwak: Discusses Israeli-Hezbollah conflict as part of larger conflict financed and directed by Iran and Syria.
CAMERA Category: Neutral,, conforming to 3b in Appendix I.
EXCERPT: “It is obvious by now that Israel’s conflict with Hezbollah and Hamas is part of a larger conflict largely paid for and directed by Iran and Syria… So could the fighting widen across the region? It is possible, of course, but not likely….Much is at stake in the current crisis…There are dangers on every side. But fortunately, the outbreak of a regional war is not one of them.”
To the author, apparently, the mere mention that Hezbollah and Hamas are funded by Iran and Syria — a stark fact not denied by anyone, even in the Arab world — is enough to push this Op-Ed into a “pro-Israel/critical of Arabs” category.
2) Aug. 2, 2006 – “Lebanon’s Force for Good” – Adir Gurion Waldman: Discusses the Israel-Lebanon monitoring group that was established in 1996 to “oversee compliance” to “an agreement calling for Israel and Hezbollah to shield civilians from violence,” and advocates using this as a “precedent for calming tensions.”
CAMERA Category: Neutral, conforming to 3b in Appendix I
EXCERPT: “A long-term diplomatic solution to the current crisis should include the resurrection of the monitoring group and the establishment of a parallel Israeli-Palestinian body. These groups would be modeled on the old monitoring group, but with a new mandate: to oversee the full disarmament of Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations…Routine meetings of both groups would help ensure enduring cease-fires on all fronts. Most important, the monitoring groups would create a constructive new channel of communication among Israel, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Authority…The monitoring groups would also provide a confidential forum where the parties could work to restrain violent flare-ups, rather than engaging in escalating tit-for-tat attacks…”
Although the Op-Ed is clearly apportioning equal warning to both sides, advocating “joint” monitoring to eliminate “tit-for-tat attacks,” Sardar nevertheless considers this article to be “pro-Israel/critical of Arabs. It is the reference to “disarming Hezbollah” that draws the EI’s ire. Never mind the fact that 50% of Lebanese polled right after the war were in favor of disarming Hezbollah or that most Lebanese support UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701 which call for “the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non- Lebanese militias.” Sardar and the EI are thus advocating a minority, radical Arab perspective – that of a terrorist group.
3) Jan. 24, 2007 – “What if Israel and Syria Find Common Ground” – Michael Oren: Discusses the advantages of carrying out back-channel meetings between Israel and Syria as well as the possible disadvantages because of U.S. opposition to discussions with Syria.
CAMERA Category: Neutral, conforming to 3b in Appendix I
EXCERPT: “Israel’s newspapers are rife with reports of a peace agreement secretly forged between Israeli and Syrian negotiators…What is new is the Bush administration’s apparent opposition to a Syrian-Israeli accord and the possibility that Israel, by seeking peace with one of its Arab neighbors, risks precipitating a crisis with the United States…But if trust is established on both sides and the conditions are conducive to peace, a settlement between Syria and Israel may yet be attained – and a clash between Israel and Washington ignited.”
Even though this column is all about negotiating peace, it mentions the fact that the U.S. is critical of Syria. This alone is enough for Sardar to place it in the “pro-Israel/critical of Arabs” category.
4) July 19, 2007 – “Forced to Get Along” – Mark Helprin: Argues that the opportunity should be seized to negotiate peace.
CAMERA Category: Neutral, conforming to 3b in Appendix I
EXCERPT: “…[we are now] on the verge of a rare alignment of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the leading Arab nations and the major powers…The prinicipals, the important Arab states and the leading powers of the West are arrayed against a radical terrorist front that, unlike the one in Iraq, is geographically fractured, relatively contained, terribly poor and very much outnumbered…If Israel and the Palestinian Authority can pursue a strategy of limited aims, concentrating on bilateral agreements rather than a single work of fallible grandeur, they may accomplish something on the scale of Sadat’s extraordinary demarche of 30 years ago.”
Although this article too recommends negotiating peace with the Palestinian Authority, it supports the isolation of Hamas. This transfer again reveals the perspective from which EI and Sardar operate – of advocacy, not for the mainstream Arab population, but for radicals and terrorists.
*5) March 30, 2006 – “You Say You Want a Constitution” – Steven V. Mazie: Does not deal with Arab-Israeli conflict, but discusses recommendations for drafting an Israeli constitution in a Jewish democratic state that would address all constituents.
CAMERA Category: Neutral and Tangential. Even though it contains criticism of Israel, it is delivered as hypothetical warning for the future. Therefore, CAMERA included it as neutral. Because it primarily deals with internal Israeli matters–for example, religious-secular–it was considered only tangential to the general Arab-Israeli conflict. The excerpt below was the only part that addressed the Arab component of the proposed constitution.
EXCERPT: “Nearly six decades after the state of Israel was founded, members of the newly elected Parliament will try to complete the job of drafting a constitution. Their greatest challenge will be to lend coherence to Israel’s dual identity as a state that is both Jewish and democratic….equality for Israeli Arabs will not be achieved through individual rights alone. Israel’s Declaration of Independence promised Arab citizens…equal rights, and recent Supreme Court rulings have given those rights further grounding. But as important as such developments have been for Israeli democracy, Arab citizens continue to suffer from discrimination and have many concerns that remain unaddressed–among them, the desire for better schools, roads, heal th care and job opportunities in their towns and villages. Israeli Arabs should be granted state recognition as a national group, not just as individual citizens or religious minorities. This would lead to better Arab representation in the ministries and on the Supreme Court, and it would entail wider use of Arabic in schools and street signs…a constitution could provide a new foundation upon which generations can debate the terms of Israel’s Jewish-democratic synthesis with less animosity and greater wisdom.”
Although the Op-Ed implicitly recommends that any constitution should include equal rights for its Arab citizens and goes even further to explicitly recommend that Arab citizens be recognized as a distinct national group, Sardar nevertheless disingenuously contends that there is no specific recommendation of “equal rights for all its citizens.” Since it is clearly implicit from the context, what Sardar really seems to be objecting to is that the author discusses a constitution within the contours of a “Jewish” state.
* 6) July 21, 2006 – “Look What Democratic Reform Dragged In” – Ted Koppel: Does not focus on Arab-Israeli conflict, but discusses the effect of democratic reform on Islamic fundamentalism.
CAMERA Category: Neutral and Tangential. It does not directly pertain to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
EXCERPT: The United States is already at war with Iran; but for the time being the battle is being fought through surrogates. That message was conveyed to me recently by a senior Jordanian intelligence official at his office in Amman. He spoke on the condition of anonymity, reflecting gloomily on the failure of the Bush administration’s various policies in the region. He reserved his greatest contempt for the policy of encouraging democratic reform….Gaza and the West Bank…Lebanon…and, of course, Iraq….In each case, the intelligence officer reminded me, the beneficiary of those electoral victories is allied with and, to some degree, dependent upon Iran…In his analysis, the implication that this decade may witness a precipitous American withdrawal from Iraq has begun to produce an inclination in the region toward appeasing Iran. It is in Iraq, he told me, “where the United States and the coalition forces must confront the Iranians.”
For some inexplicable reason, the mere mention of Iranian support for Hamas and Hizballah – a fact contested by no one – is enough for Sardar to push this into a “pro-Israel” category.
B) Transfer from CAMERA’s pro-Arab/critical of Israel category::
7) May 11, 2006 – “Cold, Hard Cash” – Geoff Porter: Urges a softening of policy toward Hamas, i.e. lifting the economic boycott on a Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority, so that Hamas might moderate its stance.
CAMERA Category: Pro-Arab, conforming to 1d (advocating a softening of demands on Arabs) of Appendix I.
EXCERPT: “The Arab League also promised financial support. But no funds were actually transferred to the Palestinian Authority, because the banks handling the contributions are wary of running afoul of American laws against financing terrorist organizations…On Tuesday, the United States endorsed a European proposal to establish a fund to channel aid to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip…But by sidestepping the Hamas government and dealing only with President Mahmoud Abbas, the deal leaves the Palestinian prime minister and his cabinet hunting for money of their own. The window to push Hamas to moderate its position is still open. If Arab governments are able to get their money to the Palestinian Authority, they stand a good chance of being able to compel Hamas to embrace the 2002 Arab peace initiative, abandon its charter and recognize Israel. But if Iran figures out a way to get money to the Palestinian Authority before Arab countries do, Hamas will be in no position to say no, and Iran certainly won’t urge it to recognize Israel.”
Although this clearly suggests a softening of policy toward Hamas, i.e. funding Hamas as an appeasement in order to get it to moderate its radical agenda – a possibility the EI apparently deems anti-Arab..
C) Transfer from CAMERA’s tangential (irrelevant) pro-Israel category (not included in CAMERA’s tally):
*8) July 25, 2006 – “Another Man’s Honor” – John Tierney: This column does not deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict, and only mentions it in passing. Rather, it focuses on the “honor system” in Arab culture, quoting from James Bowman’s book on the topic.
*9) Jan. 9, 2007 – “Don’t Play With Maps” – Dennis Ross: This column does not directly address the Arab-Israeli conflict, but focuses on Carter’s misrepresention of maps in his anti-Israel book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”
D) Transfer from CAMERA’s separate category for special feature on Lebanon war (July 22, 2006) :
(July 22, 2006) :
(CAMERA had classified these under a separate category as they were not part of the regular full-length guest Op-Eds, but short solicited opinions on how to defuse the crisis. They did not enter into CAMERA’s overall statistics.)
Pro-Israel to pro-Israel
*10) Richard Perle, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense, explains that “what appears to some to be a disproportionate response to small incursions and kidnappings is, in fact, an entirely appropriate response to the existential struggle in which Israel is now engaged” and advises Israel to “see current fighting through to a conclusion that is unambiguously a defeat for Hezbollah.”
II. Transfers into Primary Neutral Category:
Sardar added seven columns into the primary “neutral” category – two from CAMERA’s “pro-Arab” category, two from CAMERA’s “tangential” category and three from the special Lebanon war feature. He also removed four columns from the “neutral” category into the “pro-Israel” category, for a net addition of three.
During the 2006 Lebanon war, editors of the New York Times Op-Ed page had solicited opinions for a special feature on how to “defuse the crisis” from seven people they described as “experts.” This special feature echoed the pattern CAMERA found among regular Op-Eds — five of the commentators represented an Arab or pro-Arab perspective. One presented a pro-Israel position, and one was neutral, addressing the conflict without assigning blame or criticizing either side. While CAMERA commented on this finding, these numbers were not included in our general statistics. The EI study, however, lumps them together with the regular Op-Eds, changing categories where it suits them.
A) Transfer from CAMERA’s pro-Arab/critical of Israel:
1) Dec. 17, 2006 – “If You Love Lebanon, Set It Free” – Robert Grenier: Argues against isolating Hezbollah, i.e. advocating a softening of policy toward Hezbollah by integrating it politically, socially and militarily into the Lebanese state. CAMERA Category: Pro-Arab, conforming to 1d (advocating a softening of demands on Arabs) of Appendix I.
EXCERPT: It may seem counterintuitive, but the best hope for American interests in the Middle East is not to isolate and minimize Hezbollah, but to further integrate it politically, socially and militarily into the Lebanese state. …Israel did not intend to attack Lebanon, its spokesmen insisted, but was just trying to help the Lebanese by attacking Iran-controlled Hezbollah. This was a polite way of saying to Mr. Siniora: We’re going to rid ourselves–and you–of Hezbollah, for which you should be grateful, and you’d better make sure they don’t rise again… the only ways of making the Lebanese government accountable is to encourage the progressive, moderating integration of Hezbollah into the political, social and military fabric of the state. How could Washington help this happen? Well, for one thing, we should give up talk of greatly enlarging the multinational force in southern Lebanon, and convince the Europeans to do likewise…
Note:Sardar reveals his double standard by suggesting here that arguing for a softening of policy toward Hezbollah is neutral while at the same time reclassifying an article advocating negotiation with the Palestinian Authority as “pro-Israel/anti-Arab.”
2) June 18, 2007 – “New Lyrics for Israel” – Adam LeBor: Advocates changing Israel’s national anthem to exclude the term “Jewish soul.”. Criticizes Israel for creating “deep disparities between the Jewish and Arab sectors in employment, health, welfare and education” and suggests that Israel’s Jewish identity be erased.
CAMERA Category: Pro-Arab, conforming to 1b (criticizes specific Israeli policy that affects the conflict, here it is both Israel’s Arab policy and its Jewish identity) of Appendix I.
EXCERPT: Despite the Arab success stories, deep disparities between the Jewish and Arab sectors remain in employment, health, welfare and education…Updating “Hatikvah” could be the start of a psychic shift among the country’s Arab and Jewish citizens about what it means to be Israeli. It could lead to the evolution of a modern Hebrew (and Arabic) Israeli identity, predicated not on religion but on ..shared cultural, linguistic and economic ties and simply living together on the most contested sliver of land in the world…Let’s not over-venerate “Hatikvah.” It is as much an expression of 19th-century nationalism as of spiritual yearning for the Holy Land. What Israel needs…is an anthem that can be sung by all its citizens, of whatever faith.
Although this column is clearly critical of Israel and advocates the removal of its Jewish identity, the column apparently does not go far enough for Sardar to accept the classification of “anti-Israel” or “critical of Israel” (i.e. anti-mainstream Israeli opinion). Sardar argues that it does not discuss “Palestinian disposession” and that it calls for Arab gestures of loyalty to a non-denominational state.
B) Transfer from CAMERA’s tangential (irrelevant) neutral category:
* 3) Oct. 28, 2006 – “Stuck in the Canal” – David Fromkin: This column looks back at how the 1956 Suez crisis affected U.S.-European relations. It does not address Arab-Israeli conflict.
* 4) Jan. 4, 2007 – “Getting the Middle East Back on Our Side” – Brent Scowcroft: A former national security adviser to Presidents Ford and Bush Sr. discusses the results of the Iraq Study Group, mentioning “a vigorously renewed effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict” only in passing.
C) Transfer from CAMERA’s special feature on Lebanon war category:
Neutral to Neutral
5) Avishai Margalit, Israeli left-wing philosopher on the boards of Peace Now and B’tselem, calls for “substantial outside intervention based on the Saudi peace plan.”
Pro-Arab/Critical of Israel to Neutral
6) Chibli Mallat, running for Lebanese president, promotes a Lebanese governmental position, which includes Lebanese government asserting authority throughout the country and using the U.N. Security Council to address its concerns including “Lebanese prisoners in Israel and Lebanese citizens who collaborated with the Israeli occupation form 1982 to 2000.”
Note:Even though Mallat expresses the position of the Lebanese government, he does not condemn Israel. This is the only commentary, therefore, that could comfortably fit into either category (“pro-Arab” because it represents a predominantly Arab viewpoint or “neutral” because it does not really blame or criticize either side). Even if one were to accept Sardar’s re-classification of this as neutral, however, it would not change any numbers as it was not included in CAMERA’s overall tally. Moreover, the Lebanese feature would still remain remarkably unbalanced, with one pro-Israel opinion vs. four pro-Arab and two neutral opinions.
7) Paul Salem, formerly of Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, calls on foreign intervention to help the Lebanese Army assert its authority throughout the country. He expresses a clearly pro-Arab perspective using harsh language toward Israel. By contrast, he uses soft language of persuasion toward Hezbollah.
EXCERPT: The international community should urgently insist on a cessation of hostilities…The political settlement that follows should induce Hezbollah to return the two soldiers it seized last Wednesday…and it should insist that Israel release Lebanese captives from its jail.
Displaying a double standard, Salem states that any political settlement should “insist” Israel release Lebanese captives from its jail but only “induce” Hezbollah to return Israeli soldiers.
III. Changes to Primary, Pro-Arab/Critical of Israel Category:
Of the 16 columns classified by CAMERA as “pro-Arab/critical of Israel,” the EI study transferred one to the primary, “pro-Israel” category and two to the “neutral” category (as shown above.) In addition, Sardar transferred three “pro-Arab” commentaries that were part of the special 2006 Lebanon war feature (commented upon separately but not entered into CAMERA’s overall statistic) into the primary “pro-Arab” category. With three opinion columns transferred in and three transferred out, there was no net change to the number in this category.
IV. Additions to Tangential pro-Israel/ Category (added to the EI’s overall statistics):
Here, Sardar tosses into the mix several additional articles that were not included by CAMERA because they were so far off-topic. Unsurprisingly, he classified the majority of them as “pro-Israel/critical of Arabs.” He thus boosts the overall pro-Israel numbers for his statistical tally. Among those he includes:
1) July 26, 2006 – “The Enemy of My Enemy Is Still My Enemy” – Bernard Haykel: This column discusses Hezbollah’s “ascendancy among Sunnis” by having “taken the lead on the most incendiary issues for jihadis of all stripes: the fight ag ainst Israel.” It also mentions that Hezbollah’s “effective defeat”of Israel has put it in competition with Al Qaeda for popularity among Jihadists.
Because it discusses internal Arab politics primarily, CAMERA had classified it as tangential and neutral.
2) August 16, 2006– “Muslim Myopia”–Irshad Manji: This column criticizes radical Islamist jihadists who target Muslims.
It does not address the Arab-Israeli conflict except in passing.
3) December 10, 2006 – “The Last War”– Fouad Ajami:. This paragraph just briefly mentions the need to resolve the Middle East Conflict.
This is not a regular full column Op-Ed, but a short comment on the Iraq Study Group.
4) January 17, 2007 –”Another Perspective on Jihad TV”– Judea Pearl: The column focuses exclusively on Al Jazeera, and the platform it provides to Jihadists.
This column does not address the Arab-Israeli conflict at all.
1) July 13, 2007 – “Who Killed Ashraf Marwan?” – Howard Blum: Discusses the London death of an Egyptian spy.
This column is completely irrelevant to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Sardar uses the same ploys in criticizing CAMERA’s review of outside contributors to The Washington Post’s Op-Ed pages. He alleges that “a closer look at the data shows that CAMERA had not included 27 relevant op-eds (16 primary, 11 tangential) and had improperly classified others.” He claims that “the primary op-eds from an Israeli perspective or critical of Arabs omitted by CAMERA included two by Dennis Ross (‘The Art of the Possible Peace; Rice’s First Task: A Viable Israeli-Palestinian Cease Fire,’ ‘The Specter of “Harmattan”; More Must Be Done to Counter Islamist Gains in Gaza’) and one each from David Makovsky (‘The Next Mideast War’), Richard Holbrooke (‘The Guns of August,’), Newt Gingrich (‘The Only Option Is to Win’), Michael Oren (‘Necessary Steps for Israel; Confronting State Sponsors of Terror Is the Only Option’), David Rifkin and Lee Casey (‘Israel Is Within Its Rights’), Philip Gordon (‘Air Power Won’t Do It’), John McLaughlin (‘We Have to Talk to the Bad Guys’) and Franklin D. Kramer (‘Making Peace Stick in Lebanon’).”
In fact, from the 19-month period under consideration, the only omitted Op-Eds both primary concerning subject matter and pro-Israel in viewpoint were those by Oren and Rifkin and Casey.
The others forced into Sarda’s “omitted primary” category were either not primary, not pro-Israel, or both.
* “We Have to Talk to Bad Guys,” July 23, 2006 by former senior CIA official John McLaughlin, argues that “even superpowers have to talk to bad guys.” McLaughlin’s primary focus is not Israel advocacy or criticism of the Arabs. His main theme is the need for a “real politic” U.S. policy of “hold our nose but speak to even the most unsavory players.” The Israel-Hezbollah war is a news peg for McLaughlin’s policy recommendations.
* Likewise “Air Power Won’t Do It,” July 25, 2006, by Phillip Gordon. Using the war as introduction for a larger argument, Gordon does fault Hezbollah as aggressor. However, his interest is to stress diplomacy over force, especially air power. His column objects to Israel’s early reliance on air power and cautions against a ground invasion of Lebanon, but does so on the way to criticizing U.S. interventions from Vietnam to Iraq. It is neither an Israeli perspective or primarily critical of Arabs.
* “The Guns of August,” Aug. 10, 2006 by former Amb. Richard Holbrooke, warns that “two full-blown crises, in Lebanon and Iraq, are merging into a single emergency. A chain reaction could spread quickly almost anywhere between Cairo and Bombay ….” Critical of America’s “disastrous entanglement” in Iraq, Holbrooke, like McLaughlin, focuses on general Middle East policy, not pro-Israel or anti-Arab arguments.
* “The Only Option Is to Win,” Aug. 11, 2006, by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, rebuts Holbrook’s arguments. Gingrich mentions Israel, Hezbollah and Iran in discussing his theme, the need for a national U.S. dialogue on world-wide security threats.
* “Making Peace Stick in Lebanon,” Aug. 19, 2006, by Franklin D. Kramer, reviews the difficulties of international peace-keeping in Lebanon from the viewpoint of U.S. policy-making. Israel is mentioned once, in the concluding sentence, as a party — like the Lebanese themselves — desirous of eventual peace. This Op-Ed also does not qualify as an Israeli perspective or primarily critical of Arabs.
* “The Art of the Possible Peace; Rice’s First Task: A Viable Israeli-Palestinian Cease-Fire,” Feb. 15, 2007, by former Amb. Dennis Ross, could be considered primary but not pro-Israel. It is an even-handed exploration of the many Israeli, Palestinian and general Arab obstacles to a U.S.-mediated cease-fire. Sardar seems to consider any factual observation of Arab faults or responsibilities as “Israeli perspective/critical of Arabs” and so wrongly counts Op-Eds such as this.
* “The Next Mideast War?” May 3, 2007, by David Makovsky. Sympathetic to Israel, but again, not a primary example of a pro-Israeli or anti-Arab perspective. Makovsky mostly discusses American Middle East policy. He suggests Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “lead an international coalition to define multiple looming crises in Arab-Israeli arenas,” an approach generally not favored in Jerusalem.
* “The Specter of ‘Harmattan,'” June 4, 2007, by Ross. Like Ross’ “The Art of the Possible Peace,” this column, concerned about Palestinian Arab infighting, takes a more clinical than pro-Israel stance. The Jewish state’s concerns with Palestinian power-struggles rank alongside those of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the other Arab oil states of the Persian Gulf. Again, Sarda’s categories seem flawed: If a piece portrays Palestinian problems accurately, he miscounts it as “Israeli perspective/critical of Arabs.”
A similar problem applies to his total of “primary op-eds: Arab perspective/critical of Israel.”
He claims the CAMERA study missed “Postcard from Lebanon, July 17, 2006, by Fawaz A. Gerges, and “The New Middle East Bush Is Resisting,” Aug. 23, 2006, by Saad Eddin Ibrahim.
Gerges’ column does call, in passing, for European Union and American pressure on both sides, but “particularly Israel,” for restraint. However, the article primarily is Gerges’ first-person human interest account of a vacation in Lebanon overtaken by war, not an “Arab perspective/critical of Israel” policy prescription.
Ibrahim’s piece is a conventional Op-Ed. It refers to the Israel-Hezbollah war as more than a news peg; nevertheless, its primary focus is not Arab-Israeli but Arab-U.S. The author critici zes the Bush administration for allegedly rejecting the fruits of its promotion of Arab democracy — representatives of Hezbollah and Hamas voted into office. Hence his conclusion: “These groups, parties and movements are not inimical to democracy. They have accepted electoral systems and practiced electoral politics, probably too well for Washington’s taste. Whether we like it or not, these are the facts. The rest of the Western world must come to grips with the new reality, even if the U.S. president and his secretary of state continue to reject the new offspring of their own policies.”
In addition, “Broken Lens” claims that regarding The Washington Post “there were also several improperly classified op-eds” in CAMERA’s “On Nation’s Op-Ed Pages, Pro-Israel Voice is Stifled.” Sardar’s text cites specifically former State Department official Aaron David Miller’s “Palestinians’ Crisis of Leadership,” Jan. 24, 2006; Robert Eisen’s “Muslims and Jews: Common Ground,” May 9, 2006 and Steven A. Cook’s “Don’t Blame Democracy Promotion,” July 29, 2006. Again, the allegations are false:
* Cook’s claim that more democracy promotion by the United States, not less, might have prevented war between Hezbollah and Israel was counted correctly as neutral.
* Miller’s criticism of Palestinian leadership divisions does not balance the unwarranted credit he gives the Palestine Liberation Organization for evolving “in a more pragmatic direction” away from terrorism. The writer claims that Yasser Arafat could not have accepted Israel’s 2000 offer of a West Bank and Gaza Strip state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital “and survived.” This either contradicts Miller’ s assertion that “most Palestinians” grudgingly accept a state alongside Israel in its “1967 borders [Sic.]” with eastern Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital and “some kind of right of return” for Arab refugees, or the insistence on “some kind of right of return” contradicts “grudging acceptance” of a two-state solution. CAMERA rightly classified this as “Arab Perspective/Critical of Israel.”
* Eisen skims over Jewish oppression by Muslims, stretches generalizations about Jewish and Muslim mirror images of the Arab-Israeli conflict beyond the breaking point, and downplays the irredentist nature of anti-Israel Arab nationalism and pan-Islamic movements. Eisen’s inter-faith dialogue recommendation — at a time of widespread influence by extremist mullahs and predominance of anti-Jewish “theological parties” such as Hamas and Hezbollah he calls for inclusion of Jewish and Muslim clergy in peace-making. This reaffirms the column’s proper listing as “Arab Perspective/Critical of Israel.”
Misinterpreting and mis-classifying Op-Eds allows Sardar to manipulate categories and continue playing a numbers game, wildly inflating his tallies. This explains his further unsupported allegation that “when op-eds tangentially discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict were considered, the data actually showed that 10 additional guest commentaries took an Israeli perspective or criticized Arab polices (eight of which were not included in the original CAMERA report), bringing the total to 27. Three additional tangential op-eds supported an Arab perspective or criticized Israel, a total of 19, and three more neutral op-eds appeared for a total of nine. Rather than pro-Arab, anti-Israeli or both, the guest commentaries in The Washington Post were actually more supportive of Israel or critical of Arab policies, similar to the rest of the editorial page.”
This conclusion is wrong, sweepingly so.
“Broken Lens'” category “tangential op-eds: Israeli perspective/critical of Arabs” claims seven Op-Eds were wrongly omitted. But these were either too tangential to the Arab-Israeli balance of outside contributions to The Post’s Op-Ed page to deserve inclusion, or did not represent a pro-Israel or “critical of Arabs” perspective. For example:
* “Why I’ll Vote for Bolton,” July 20, 2006, by Sen. George Voinovich, was less than tangential. It contained one sentence about Israel and — unless Sardar insists that a U.S. senator supporting an ambassador to the U.N. who upholds administration anti-terrorism policies is anti-Arab — does not belong in the “critical of Arabs” category.
* “Israel’s Broken Process; Decision-Making on National Security Must Be Fixed,” Aug. 25, 2006, by Yoram Peri criticizes Israeli political and governmental decision-making. Peri is an Israeli, but his column does not count as a pro-Israel voice on The Post’s Op-Ed pages.
Filtering incorrectly categorized columns and those so tangential as not to deserve inclusion in CAMERA’s study, Sardar’s numbers reduce to two primary pro-Israel Op-Eds not originally counted, and one primary anti-Israel offering. These are “Necessary Steps for Israel; Confronting State Sponsors of Terror Is the Only Option,” July 14, 2006 by Michael Oren, and “Israel Is Within Its Rights,” July 26, 2006 by David A. Rifkin, Jr. And Lee A. Casey, and “Building Nowhereland,” October 1, 2006, by Gershom Gorenberg, respectively. The Rifkin-Casey piece apparently was inadvertently dropped in the editing process. The Oren and Gorenberg Op-Eds were omitted in error. CAMERA regrets these mistakes.
However, they change the original Washington Post tally by a net of one additional pro-Israel piece. Instead of 23 primary commentaries on Israeli-Palestinian issues by outside contributors to the newspapers Op-Ed pages between Jan. 1, 2006 and July 31, 2007, there were 26. Instead of 17 that advocated, “often vigorously and deceptively — positions held by Palestinian leaders, sometimes those of Hamas, sometimes those of Fatah, and/or were essentially critical of Israeli policy or U.S. policy in support of Israel,” there were 18. Instead of four that primarily “offered an Israeli perspective or were critical of Arabs,” in the words of the study, there were six.
That is, of Post Op-Eds by outside contributors primarily concerned with Arab-Israeli matters, 69.2 percent were anti-Israel or pro-Arab, 23 percent pro-Israel or anti-Arab, and 7.8 per cent (the remaining 2 columns) neutral.
“Broken Lens” does not refute CAMERA’s original contentions. Rather, on examination, it confirms them. They are that a) outside contributors to The Post’s Op-Ed pages writing primarily about Arab-Israeli matters are predominately anti-Israel or pro-Arab; and b) in contrast to acceptance of pieces by leaders or senior representatives of Arab governments and terrorist organizations, the pages are virtually closed to Israeli government officials or other authoritative Israeli representatives.
Not so hidden agenda
Electronic Intifada’s attempt to discredit the Op-Ed study is not surprising. The organization previously tried to obstruct CAMERA’s effort to ensure accuracy in the publicly edited Wikipedia’s Arab-Israeli related entries. That obstructionism apparently continues.
As its name suggests, Electronic Intifada exists to further, evidently by misinformation, the goals of the Palestinians’ intifada. An Arabic word sometimes translated as “uprising” or “shaking off,” intifada in a news media sense refers primarily to the “al-Aqsa intifada.” This was the terrorist war launched in rejection of the two-state solution proposed by Israel and the United States at Camp David in 2000. This violent rejectionism resulted in the deaths of approximately 4,000 Palestinian Arabs and 1,000 Israelis and foreign visitors.
CAMERA’s goal, on the other hand, remains what it always has been, to hold the news media to their own standards. These include accuracy, objectivity, comprehensiveness, context, and balance. CAMERA does not object to Op-Eds critical of Israel or of U.S. Middle East policy that meet those standards. It expects them. CAMERA does object to inaccurate opinion columns — and to highly unbalanced Op-Ed pages. It will continue to do so, regardless of disingenuous attempts to obfuscate and mislead.
Appendix I: Criteria of Original CAMERA Analysis
Primary Op-Eds: Op-Eds directly addressing the Israeli-Arab conflict or addressing third party (United States, United Nations) policy vis-a-vis the conflict
1. Anti-Israel or Pro-Arab Op-Eds meet one or more of the following criteria:
a) Criticizes Israel or Israeli policy primarily
b) Criticizes specific Israeli policy that affects the conflict
c) Defends Arab role in conflict
d) Presents Arab position or advocates a softening of demands on Arabs
e) Criticizes U.S. or U.N. role as too supportive of Israel or not supportive enough of Arabs and/or advocates a harsher policy toward Israel or a softer policy toward Arabs
2. Anti-Arab or Pro-Israel Op-Eds meet one or more of the following criteria:
a) Criticizes Arabs or Arab policy primarily
b) Criticizes specific Arab policy that affects the conflict
c) Defends Israeli policies or role in conflict
d) Presents Israeli position or advocates a softening of demands on Israelis
e) Criticizes U.S. or U.N. role as too supportive of Arabs or not supportive enough of Israel; Advocates a harsher policy toward Arabs or a softer policy toward Israel
3. Neutral Op-Eds meet at least one of the following criteria:
a) Criticizes both Arabs and Israelis
b) Addresses conflict without assigning blame or criticizing either side
c) Does not advocate harsher or softer policy toward either side
Tangential Op-Eds: Op-Eds that only tangentially address the Israeli-Arab conflict were tallied separately in each individual study. We classified an Op-Ed as “tangential” if it
1. Does not deal with the Israeli-Arab conflict itself, but used the conflict as an example to illustrate another point in more than a passing mention (at least one paragraph or more). Examples of these topics include the Muslim world’s hypocritical intolerance for losing territory, the international need to hold regimes responsible for terror groups based on their soil, and the notion that military victories are only lasting and genuine if they solve the root political problem.
2. Discusses issues related to a film, play, or book that concerns the Israeli-Arab conflict (for example the Rachel Corrie play, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s Israel Lobby paper, and the “Munich” film) but did not directly address the conflict.
3) Directly discusses Iranian-Israeli relations, or Iranian-Hamas/Hezbollah relations. Though Iran is not part of the Arab world, and therefore not technically part of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iran and its actions certainly affect the conflict to a great degree. For instance, Iran’s involvement with Hezbollah and Hamas is clearly Iranian meddling in the Arab-Israeli conflict. On the other hand, Op-Eds generally concerning Iran’s nuclear program are not counted.