The Washington Post’s World View Infantilizes Palestinians, Again

The Washington Post’s World Views columnist, Ishaan Tharoor, is known for two things: an obsessive fixation with the Jewish state, and depriving Palestinians of independent agency. An April 11, 2023 article, “Good Friday Agreement is a rare success story of 1990s U.S. diplomacy,” showcases both talents, along with Tharoor’s penchant for misleading language and chronic omissions.

Tharoor highlights a trip by President Joe Biden to Belfast to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which ended most of the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. That agreement, Tharoor observes, “represents a sadly unique success story from an era in which other grand U.S.-brokered initiatives have faltered.” But it is the World Views columnist who falters when he later compares the Good Friday Agreement to the 1990s Oslo Peace Process.

“Oslo,” Tharoor writes, “set in motion the theoretical creation of a independent Palestinian state, to exist side by side with Israel.” He then adds:

“Analysts have for years pronounced the Oslo framework dead: The peace process is in deep freeze, with successive Israeli governments spending the past two decades steadily expanding settlements in land designated for a Palestinian state. The prevailing conditions have moved both Israeli and international human rights groups to determine that a form of apartheid exists in the country.

The ‘two-state solution’ promised by the Oslo accords is no longer supported by a considerable portion of the Israeli body politic, nor even much of a concern for Palestinians who chafe under military occupation, shorn of equal rights with Israelis, let alone a pathway to a viable state of their own. In 1995, an Israeli ultranationalist assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the deal and famously appeared at the White House alongside Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat; the extremists who cheered his murder now find themselves represented in Israel’s halls of power. The Palestinian Authority, a political institution that emerged after Oslo and was only meant to be a transitional entity, is deeply unpopular, increasingly autocratic and lurching toward obsolescence.

Moreover, the experience of the past generation, capped by the Trump administration’s embrace of Israel’s right-wing settler movement, has convinced Palestinians of the complicity of the United States in the conditions that oppress them and undermine their political aspirations. In their view, Washington is not an honest broker, but a guarantor of Israeli impunity.”

In Tharoor’s retelling it is the Israeli government, enabled by a biased U.S., which is responsible for the lack of a Palestinian state. There’s only one problem with Tharoor’s narrative: it is entirely false.

In fact, both the U.S. and Israel have made offers for the creation of something that hasn’t ever existed: an independent Palestinian Arab state. And it is the Palestinian Arab leadership, not Israel or the United States that rejected these proposals. What is more, they did so on a number of occasions.

As CAMERA has highlighted in numerous articles, op-eds and letters—some of them published in the Post itself—both Israel and the United States offered the Palestinians a state in exchange for peace with Israel in 2000 at Camp David, 2001 at Taba, and 2008 after the Annapolis Conference. Indeed, the 2008 proposal included more than 93 percent of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), with a capital in eastern Jerusalem and land swaps for the remaining percentage. Yet, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected that offer. In 2014 and 2016, among other instances, the U.S. sought to use the 2008 framework as the basis for additional proposals for peace in exchange for statehood. But Abbas also rejected these offers, including the 2016 proposal, which was delivered by none other than then-Vice President Joe Biden.

These facts are well known. Indeed, there’s even footage of Palestinian “peace negotiator” Saeb Erekat bragging about this history of rejectionism on Al Jazeera TV on March 27, 2009. In a publicly available English-language translation provided by Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Erekat said:

“Let me recount two historical events, even if I am revealing a secret. On July 23, 2000, at his meeting with President Arafat in Camp David, President Clinton said: ‘You will be the first president of a Palestinian state, within the 1967 borders – give or take, considering the land swap – and East Jerusalem will be the capital of the Palestinian state, but we want you, as a religious man, to acknowledge that the Temple of Solomon is located underneath the Haram Al-Sharif.’

“Yasser Arafat said to Clinton defiantly: ‘I will not be a traitor. Someone will come to liberate it after 10, 50, or 100 years. Jerusalem will be nothing but the capital of the Palestinian state, and there is nothing underneath or above the Haram Al-Sharif except for Allah.’ That is why Yasser Arafat was besieged, and that is why he was killed unjustly.

“In November 2008… Let me finish… [Israeli prime minister Ehud] Olmert, who talked today about his proposal to Abu Mazen, offered the 1967 borders, but said: ‘We will take 6.5% of the West Bank, and give in return 5.8% from the 1948 lands, and the 0.7% will constitute the safe passage, and East Jerusalem will be the capital, but there is a problem with the Haram and with what they called the Holy Basin.’ Abu Mazen too answered with defiance, saying: ‘I am not in a marketplace or a bazaar. I came to demarcate the borders of Palestine – the June 4, 1967 borders – without detracting a single inch, and without detracting a single stone from Jerusalem, or from the holy Christian and Muslim places.’ This is why the Palestinian negotiators did not sign…”

Indeed, there is a significant body of evidence, including testimony from former President Clinton and several of the U.S. peace negotiators, including Aaron David Miller, Dennis Ross and Elliot Abrams, detailing how Palestinian Arab leaders were offered statehood but rejected U.S. and Israel proposals, and in several instances failed to make counteroffers. In his 2005 autobiography, Clinton called Arafat’s rejection of the 2000 and 2001 offers a “colossal mistake” and “an error of historic proportions.”

These facts are detailed in countless memoirs from other participants. And Abbas himself has even admitted it. Yet, the Washington Post’s Tharoor is loath to recount this relevant history. Indeed, as CAMERA has documented, in half a dozen years and dozens of relevant articles about the peace process, Tharoor has consistently omitted Palestinians rejecting statehood in exchange for peace. He insists on depriving them of independent agency.

And actions speak louder than words. Since its very inception, the Palestinian Authority has supported terrorism—this, even though the very terms of Oslo required the PA to renounce all support for terror and to resolve outstanding issues in bilateral negotiations.

As the historian and psychiatrist Kenneth Levin, author of The Oslo Syndrome, pointed out in a Sept. 10, 2018 FrontPage magazine op-ed: “On the evening of the White House ceremony” that followed the signing of the Oslo Accords, “Arafat broadcast a speech on Jordanian television assuring Palestinians, and the Arab world more broadly, that they should understand Oslo in terms of the Palestine National Council’s 1974 decision.” This, Levin noted, was a reference to the so-called “plan of phases,” according to which the PLO “would acquire whatever territory it could by negotiations, then use that land as a base for pursuing Israel’s annihilation.”

In a May 10, 1994 speech in South Africa—and in another one on Aug. 21, 1995 at Al-Azhar University in Cairo—Arafat compared his decision to participate in the Oslo process to deceptions that the Prophet Muhammad engaged in against rival tribes. Its purpose was for Arafat and the PLO—severely weakened by the fall of chief sponsor the Soviet Union—to rebuild, consolidate and then resume work towards Israel’s destruction. As he stated in a 1996 speech in Stockholm: “We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. … We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem.”

In July 1994—a little more than a year after the signing ceremony for Oslo on the White House lawn—Arafat would return to Gaza and would smuggle Mamduh Nawfal, mastermind of the 1974 Ma’a lot terrorist attack, in which twenty-seven Israeli children were murdered, in the trunk of his car. In fact, as CAMERA’s Steve Stotsky has documented, terrorist attacks increased after Oslo was signed. These factors made then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin increasingly dubious about the PA as a “peace partner”—and increasingly skeptical of the creation of a Palestinian state, which, contrary to what Tharoor implies, he never supported.

As Rabin’s daughter told Yediot Aharonot on Oct. 1, 2010: “many people who were close to father told me that on the eve of the murder he considered stopping the Oslo process because of the terror that was running rampant in the streets, and because he felt that Yasser Arafat was not delivering on his promises.” Rabin’s growing skepticism was encapsulated in his final speech before the Knesset on Oct. 5, 1995, in which he called for a “Palestinian entity” that would be “less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinian people under its authority.”

Indeed, contrary to Tharoor’s narrative, it would be the right-leaning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who would be the first to officially support the creation of an independent Palestinian Arab state, in 2009. Palestinian Arab leaders, however, would reject subsequent offers and would continue to publicly support and finance terrorist attacks.

CAMERA has documented Tharoor’s fixation with the Jewish state—and his one-sided omissions. It is a thoroughly distorted “world view.”

In the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tharoor wrote almost as much about Israel, a nation of 9 million, as he did about China. In a Sept. 17, 2019 column, the Washington Post columnist warned of a “shadow of apartheid” in Israel’s upcoming elections. Instead, that election witnessed record turnout from Israeli Arabs—disproving Tharoor’s entire thesis less than 48 hours after it was published. Despite his professed concern for “apartheid” in the Middle East, Tharoor hasn’t ever noted that areas ruled by both the PA and Hamas are Judenrein and prohibit, under penalty of death, so much as selling land to a Jew.

Tharoor has also written puff pieces on documented antisemites, and given softball interviews to notorious Jew haters like Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who once said “Jews rule the world by proxy.” Tharoor called Mohamad a “venerable statesman.”

So far, in the first four months of 2023, Tharoor has written more columns about Israel than he has on vastly larger countries like Brazil or Germany—or entire continents like Africa. Nor can this obsession be chalked up to what has been a particularly eventful several months for the Jewish state; Tharoor has authored more pieces on Israel than he has on Syria, Turkey or Afghanistan—combined. And not coincidentally, they all paint Israel in a negative light.

Old habits, it seems, die-hard. But at the Washington Post, what passes for thoughtful analysis of global affairs has long since receded.

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