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June 19, 2006

Baltimore Sun Editorials: In a Rut and Still Digging

Baltimore Sun Israeli-Palestinian editorials are consistently superficial, illogical and self-contradictory. The latest installment, “Divided, they fall” (June 16), echoing “A reprieve for Palestinians,” (May 11) extends the pattern. Among other things, The Sun claims that:


* “Palestinians voted [Hamas] into office to reform government, not dismantle it.”

Cleaning up the corrupt, inept Fatah-led Palestinian Authority was not Hamas’ only campaign pledge. Another was to continue “resistance” (terrorism) against Israel. Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) and Fatah (Movement for the Liberation of Palestine) campaigners argued over which group deserved more credit for the violence that they claimed drove Israel from the Gaza Strip last year. Voters knew that Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

* Violence between Hamas and Fatah partisans in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian rocket attacks on adjacent Israeli territory “is threatening to ... ensnare Israel in a cycle of attacks and retribution that enflamed [Sic.] the region in the past.”

What inflamed the region was Palestinian rejection of a West Bank and Gaza Strip country. What “ensnared” Israel was not a no-fault “cycle of attacks and retribution” but the Arabs’ escalation of terrorism. Failure of the PA to end such terrorism, as required by previous agreements, has compelled Israel to launch counter-terrorism operations. The Sun refuses to acknowledge cause-and-effect.

* PA President Mahmoud “Abbas’ call for a national referendum on statehood, as proposed by a coalition of Palestinian militants imprisoned in Israel, remains the best vehicle yet to forge a consensus among the groups. A vote for statehood also would give Palestinians a platform to press for renewed talks with Israel.”

The Sun’s “coalition of imprisoned militants” — terrorist leaders responsible for many murders — had started breaking up by the time the editorial was published. Former U.S. Arab-Israeli negotiator Aaron David Miller pointed out, two days before The Sun’s editorial (“Abbas comeback plan is a dead end,” The Los Angeles Times), that “the prisoners’ document endorses armed resistance [terrorism] in the West Bank and Gaza, urges Palestinians to free prisoners by any means and gives preeminence to the Palestinian right of return.” Miller says the document “reopens vital questions about Israel’s right to exist and about Palestinian endorsement of terrorism and violence that should have been laid to rest by now.”

* “... The year-long, Hamas-initiated cease-fire has reduced attacks inside Israel.”

The number of attempted attacks, in particular by Islamic Jihad and Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, remained high. What reduced the carnage primarily was Israeli counter-terrorism. This included targeted killings of terrorist operatives and leaders, and construction of the West Bank security barrier. Hamas in office has not tried to restrain the other groups and may have helped fund them.

* “Most Palestinians favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which implicitly [emphasis added] means recognition of the Jewish state.” In that case, how to explain the failure of the 1993 Oslo process and rejection of the Israeli-U.S. 2000 and 2001 offers of a state in exchange for peace? What appears to be required is explicit endorsement of Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state (not recognition of Israel’s existence) and honesty about the “right of return” for “Palestinian refugees” to Israel (www.camera.org, Middle East Issues, Palestinian Refugees, “No Right of Return,” April 26, 2004).

Throughout, the tone of “Divided, they fall” is one of The Sun declaiming from on high, informing Abbas and the PA’s prime minister, Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh what they “must” do. It presumes to tell Israel what its interests are and Palestinian Arabs what they believe. It sanitizes Hamas terrorists as “the group’s armed wing.” Like so many of its predecessors on Israeli-Arab matters, this Sun editorial is not only futile, it’s also foolish.

Posted by ER at June 19, 2006 05:09 PM

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