Monday, January 17, 2011

NY Times Swallows Hezb'allah Propaganda on Israel and Lebanon

by Leo Rennert

The Jan. 16 Sunday "Week in Review" section of the New York Times features an article by Mideast correspondent Anthony Shadid about how a dictator's fall in Tunisia points up a larger regional picture -- the instability of sclerotic, authoritarian regimes throughout the Arab world. ("In Peril: The Arab Status Quo -- A dcitator's [sic] fall in Tunisia resounds in a region full of governments that don't work."

Shadid's report provides a worrisome picture of a region on the potential brink of widespread revolutions -- with unknown and perhaps dire consequences.

So far so good.

Shadid, however, stumbles when he deals -- or fails to deal -- with how Israel fits into this new Mideast paradigm.

For starters, he still can't wean himself away from uncritically embracing Hezb'allah propaganda about the future of Lebanese-Israeli relations.

In describing Lebanon's unresolved future, he writes that, among long-time questions still bedeviling the country is the following: "whether Lebanon hews to a culture of resistance to Israel or accommodation with it."

The second option -- whether Lebanon will strive to normalize ties with Israel -- speaks for itself. But the first option is right out of Hezb'allah's playbook -- in contrast to an accommodation with its southern neighbor, according to Shadid, it remains to be seen whether Lebanon will continue to "hew to a culture of resistance to Israel...."

Shadid should know better. Hezb'allah's constant drumbeat about a continuing need for "resistance" to Israel is as phony as a three-dollar bill. Ever since Israel withdrew completely from Lebanon 10 years ago, it has time and again made clear that it has no territorial claims on Lebanon -- not a single one. Events since 2000, including the Second Lebanon War in 2006, have underscored this basic reality -- if Hezb'allah halts all of its cross-border aggressions, Lebanon faces absolutely no threats from Israel. And the need for "resistance to Israel" vanishes completely. Israel's war with Hezb'allah in 2006 was due to Israel's "resistance" against a barrage of cross-border attacks on communities in northern Israel, capped by the killing of three IDF soldiers on Israel's side of the border, and the wounding and kidnapping of two others.

So where does Shadid come off writing about Lebanese "resistance to Israel" as one of two possible future scenarios. This is pure Hezb'allah propaganda -- with no basis in fact -- served up uncritically by Shadid.

That said, Shadid's piece does have a silver lining. By highlighting the real threat facing Arab societies from the instability of their own rotting, authoritarian regimes, his piece makes it crystal-clear that the potential spread of Tunisian turmoil and riots to other Arab countries demolishes the old saw peddled by the Obama administration and the Arab League that, if only Israel signed a peace agreement with the Palestinians, all these regional woes would go away and the Middle East would flourish and prosper.

Except that Shadid doesn't have the grace to report that the blame-Israel game for what goes wrong in the Middle East was a sham -- as Q.E.D. by the upheavals in Tunisia and the potential for similar uprisings in Lebanon, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world.

Instead, in delving into the roots of regional instability, Shadid faults the West for dividing the spoils of the Ottoman Empire by drawing artificial borders and imposing illegitimate leaders on the Middle East's post-World I map. Plus, "the creation of Israel followed, helping give rise to Arab national-security states that claimed legitimacy through their conflict with it.

And just to expand his circle of blame-worthy actors for the current regional turmoil, Shadid adds for good measure that "The United States is also blamed for helping distort the more modern version of these polities, by failing to end the Arab-Israeli conflict."

So here's an article that documents the internal political rot of Arab regimes as the gravest threat to the region, yet Shadid remains unable to shed his long-time adherence to shifting the blame to the victors of World War I, Israel and Uncle Sam.

An interesting -- and revealing -- insight into the biased viewpoint that still colors Shadid's journalism.

Old habits die hard at the New York Times.

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Leo Rennert

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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