Reese’s Pieces

According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, editorials, analytical articles and commentary should be held to the same standards of accuracy as news reports. Unfortunately for his readers, syndicated columnist Charley Reese doesn’t subscribe to ASNE standards, nor apparently do his editors. Reese’s opinion pieces on the Arab-Israeli issue are filled with wildly distorted and erroneous claims in addition to shrill denunciations of Israel.

Charley Reese, Orlando Sentinel 6/4/92: "[The Palestinians] were run down by an 18-wheeler of history, a combination of a new secular Zionist movement and the cynical decision of Great Britain to give away another people’s country."

FACT: Reese repeats the propaganda invention that a "country" of indigenous Palestinian Arabs was stripped of its national rights by interloper Jews. While no Palestinian Arab state has ever existed Reese helps advance a gathering campaign to rewrite the past in order to legitimize current Palestinian demands for a state. At the same time he ignores the unbroken, millennia-old presence of Jews in the region and the inconvenient fact that the Jews are also the only people ever to have established – in antiquity and in the modern area – an independent nation on the territory of Mandate Palestine.

Charley Reese, Orlando Sentinel 12/10/92: "The so-called Arab boycott is so ineffective it’s a joke. It’s useful only for Israeli propaganda."

FACT: The Arab League-sponsored boycott of "Jewish products and manufactures," launched before the creation of Israel in December, 1945, came to include by 1952 a secondary level of blacklisting of non-Israeli companies that do business with the Jewish state. A further, third dimension evolved that prohibits trade with companies whose board of directors includes Jewish individuals. The cost to the Israeli economy has been estimated by the Ministry of Industry and Trade to be $20 billion in lost sales and another $20 billion in lost investment. In addition, Israeli companies are estimated to expend as much as 13% of sales turnover in efforts to circumvent the boycott.

Based at the Orlando Sentinel in Orlando, Florida and syndicated through King Features, Reese’s articles are carried in 85 newspapers nationwide. Though once sympathetic to Israel he has become one of the most irrational and extreme critics of the Jewish state. Reese’s change of heart arises, he explains, from his discovery of alleged Israeli iniquity as recounted by ultra-leftist Israeli editor and polemicist Simha Flapan as well as by former Congressman Paul Findley, author of They Dare To Speak Out. (Findley liked to describe himself as "Arafat’s best friend in Congress.") Reese, who also cites the influence of the obsessively anti-Israel George Ball, is a megaphone for the often bizarre views espoused by these individuals.

A scan of some three dozen of Reese’s articles, written over the last dozen years, reveals certain constant themes. Apparently viewing himself as a populist champion of the underdog he has from time to time denounced the machinations of Wall Street interests, the banks and the oil companies. While earlier viewing these forces as arrayed against Israel he has come to believe Israel is aligned with them and the Palestinians have assumed the role of underdog.

Consistent with this view of Israel as a powerful, unprincipled force pitted against peace-loving Palestinians, Reese suggests in an April, 1993, column that the reason for the continuation of the Middle East conflict is that Israel isn’t prepared to "grant justice" to the Palestinians. He equates Israel with Nazi Germany, demanding that Israel compensate the Palestinians for the alleged crimes against them – just as Germany compensated Holocaust survivors. It is a symptom of Reese’s mindless antipathy that he resorts to such comparisons. Needless to say, Israel’s treatment of Palestinians bears no resemblance to that of the Nazis toward the Jews. Nor did European Jews launch a war on Germany, while major segments of the Palestinian community have launched bloody attacks against the Jews since 1920 and have sworn to destroy Israel. Reese has been entirely silent on the question of compensation for the nearly 800,000 Jews forced out of Arab lands.

The columnist’s tirades against Israel are accompanied by angry defense of Islamic Fundamentalism. Reese charges that various conspiratorial agents have misrepresented as terrorists such innocents as Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Islamic cleric implicated in the World Trade Center bombing. Rahman, who is on record as regularly exhorting his followers to violence, is said by Reese to be no more linked to terrorism than would be a "local bishop" to "bank robbery every time a Catholic robs a bank." Reese tells readers that "An Islamic fundamentalist is no different from a Christian fundamentalist or an Orthodox Jew" (July 22, 1993).

At the root of the alleged misrepresentation of Islamic fundamentalists, according to Reese, are such forces as "Israel and the Israeli lobby" which, in his view, are waging a "propaganda campaign." Allied with Israel in this scenario is the "military-industrial complex" which is fabricating a "big bugaboo" to replace communism (August 31, 1993). Rantings such as these have moved Reese ominously closer to the themes of hard-core bigots who imagine Jewish conspiracies linked to other nefarious forces.

Even the dramatic Israel-PLO accords have not shaken Reese’s contempt for Israel. He continues to accuse the Jewish state of every variety of oppression, and, as always, does so without evidence. The day after the handshake on the White House lawn he wrote that "Palestinians have suffered deaths, injuries, imprisonment, deportations and economic strangulation." The Israelis, he offered, had endured only the "loss of prestige" in the years of struggle that preceded the meeting. (September 14, 1993)

Even careful and informed commentators are, of course, occasionally mistaken in some of their observations, but Reese’s record of hysterical distortion where Israel and Jews are concerned transcends ordinary professional fallibility and points to an animosity immune to the persuasion of fact and reason.

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