The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins Lacks Objectivity on Israeli-Palestinian Peace

The New Yorker recently published an article/book review, entitled “Shot in the Heart,” by veteran journalist Dexter Filkins, featuring two books – Dan Ephron’s “Killing of a King” about Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s murder, and Dennis Ross’ “Doomed to Succeed” about U.S.-Israeli relations since 1948.

In his book, Ephron contends that the November 1995 murder of Rabin resulted in the death of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Filkins turns this into the central thesis of his piece, presenting a facile version of events in which Palestinians play no role except as hapless victims of a rapacious Israel and where Prime Minister Netanyahu and “right-wing” Israeli settlers are the villains.

This opinion is presented as a self-evident truth, the only truth, and the lens through which everything else must be viewed. Thus, Filkins rejects as biased and “jarring” Dennis Ross’ differing opinion that Palestinian leaders have played a major role in the demise of the peace process. He excoriates Ross for not declaring Israeli settlements the primary, if not sole, cause of the peace process’ failure.

The journalist’s hubris is astounding. After all, while he may be an acclaimed war reporter, it is Dennis Ross who was President Bill Clinton’s special Middle East coordinator with first-hand knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It is Dennis Ross, not Filkins, who was privy to the conversations that took place, the pitfalls and maneuverings regarding the peace process, and whose opinions, therefore, carry significantly more weight than those of the reviewer. Filkins nonetheless considers himself qualified to pan Ross’ book for including “almost nothing about the political realities that have shaped the situation.” What he is really saying is that Ross did not sufficiently discuss Filkin’s own subjective opinion of which factors shaped, or rather which party was responsible for, the situation. And by completely omitting the role of the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian leaders, it is clear that the reviewer himself, rather than Ross, is the one who discards “the political realities that have shaped the situation” — at least the ones that do not support his own bias.

Filkins makes no mention of Yasser Arafat and the PA’s adherence to the Palestinian National Council’s 1974 “phased plan” for “liberating” what it referred to as “all Palestinian territory.” According to that resolution, Palestinians would “employ all means, and first and foremost armed struggle, to liberate Palestinian territory” and use it as a springboard for “completing the liberation of all Palestinian territory.” Arafat’s doublespeak about the peace accords with Rabin is well documented. To Western audiences he spoke of the “peace of the brave” while at the same time assuring the Palestinian people that the agreement represented only the first stage of the “phased plan” to achieve their ultimate goal of replacing a Jewish state with a Palestinian one. Arafat invoked the phased plan immediately in the wake of signing the Declaration of Principles, long before Rabin’s murder. Throughout his life and that of the Oslo accords, Arafat regularly urged jihad and reminded Palestinians of the treaty signed by the prophet Mohammed with the Quraish tribe. then nullified as soon as more favorable opportunities arose.

The reviewer does not note that this “phased” interpretation of the Oslo accords was widely accepted by the Palestinian leadership and people. Even in the early years of the Oslo accord, Palestinian leaders explicitly talked about seizing any opportunity “to realize the just boundaries of Palestine,” which they defined as “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.” And as recently as December 2013, Fatah official Abbas Zaki made it clear that the Palestinians have not abandoned the phased plan to eliminate the Jewish state.

PA officials successfully indoctrinated their constituents with this notion: A June 2015 poll conducted by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion confirms that even were the Palestinian leadership to successfully negotiate a two-state solution with Israel, a signficant majority of Palestinians in all districts– West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem – would not consider this the end of conflict and would favor continuing “resistance” until “all of historic Palestine is liberated.”

Filkins fails to mention that Arafat refused to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and disarm Hamas when he was in control of Gaza – which was a direct violation of the Oslo Accords. Nor does he note that U.S. President Clinton blamed Arafat for rejecting the US-mediated peace proposals at Camp David in July 2000, as did Nabil Amr, a PA cabinet minister under Arafat.

Nor does the reviewer mention that after abandoning the Camp David talks, Arafat launched a terror campaign against Israel in the guise of a second intifada. Also absent from Filkins’ review is any reference to Arafat’s misappropriation of international aid and Palestinian Authority tax revenue to purchase weapons, nor is there mention of his transfer of these weapons to terrorist groups including Hamas – a fact acknowledged by Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar. All of this was in flagrant contravention of the agreements Arafat had signed with Rabin.

Omitted from Filkins review is the fact that Arafat’s successor, PA President Mahmoud Abbas similarly rejected a peace proposal by then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 which would have divided Jerusalem and turned over 97% of the West Bank to the Palestinians, annexing the major Israeli settlements to Israel but ceding equivalent Israeli territory in exchange. Nor is there anything about the fact that Abbas’ subsequent Unilateral Declaration of Statehood was also a serious violation of the signed Oslo accords, which explicitly barred such unilateral actions and appeals to outside parties.

The reviewer never even hints at what is arguably the most important factor that led to the demise of the peace process, namely, the systematic indoctrination of the new generation of Palestinians against Israelis, Jews, Judaism and the Jewish state by Palestinian leaders through the educational system, state-run media and camps. (Dan Polisar’s recent comprehensive overview of Palestinian attitudes since Oslo in Mosaic magazine is a powerful insight into the unwavering denial of Jewish legitimacy and permanence in the region.)

In summary, Filkins’ simplistic and facile rendition of the peace process — that it’s all about Netanyahu and Israeli settlements, and that the deleterious role of the Palestinians is irrelevant — betrays an impressive past record of solid reporting.

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