Let’s play the “Blame Israel” game

NYT Mideast BiasIt was only going to be a matter of time until Israel got the blame for Egypt’s upheaval, or for anything else going wrong in the Middle East at the moment, so here’s a short list of the latest players in the Blame Israel game.

Foremost amongst these is the New York Times who earlier this week accused Israel of undercutting Washington on the issue of American aid to Egypt:

All of the efforts of the United States government, all the cajoling, the veiled threats, the high-level envoys from Washington and the 17 personal phone calls by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, failed to forestall the worst political bloodletting in modern Egyptian history. The generals in Cairo felt free to ignore the Americans first on the prisoner release and then on the statement, in a cold-eyed calculation that they would not pay a significant cost — a conclusion bolstered when President Obama responded by canceling a joint military exercise but not $1.5 billion in annual aid.

The violent crackdown has left Mr. Obama in a no-win position: risk a partnership that has been the bedrock of Middle East peace for 35 years, or stand by while longtime allies try to hold on to power by mowing down opponents. From one side, the Israelis, Saudis and other Arab allies have lobbied him to go easy on the generals in the interest of thwarting what they see as the larger and more insidious Islamist threat. From the other, an unusual mix of conservatives and liberals has urged him to stand more forcefully against the sort of autocracy that has been a staple of Egyptian life for decades.


The Israelis, whose military had close ties to General Sisi from his former post as head of military intelligence, were supporting the takeover as well. Western diplomats say that General Sisi and his circle appeared to be in heavy communication with Israeli colleagues, and the diplomats believed the Israelis were also undercutting the Western message by reassuring the Egyptians not to worry about American threats to cut off aid.

Israeli officials deny having reassured Egypt about the aid, but acknowledge having lobbied Washington to protect it.

If you look at the highlighted words above, all you can see are innuendo and assumption. There is no proof, there is no evidence. All you have is “western belief”. But when it comes to believing the worst of Israel, that is all you need, at least for the New York Times.

There appears to be no sympathy, no acknowledgement of the situation in which Israel finds itself, where a military takeover (whether it was a coup, a takeover, or simply a popular revolution) is preferable to a democratically elected but genocidal, antisemitic regime with strong connections to Jihadi terrorists.

The NYT has strong form in its anti-Israel stance of course, and the blogger David Gerstman publishes a regular column monitoring their bias. This week he detailed several other instances in his column at Legal Insurrection entitled NYT to Israel: Butt out of Egypt:

It wasn’t just one article over the weekend. No fewer than four articles in the New York Times over the past few days have made the case that Israel values its security more than it does freedom for Egyptians. While any country would reasonably put the safety of its own citizens ahead of other concerns, the New York Times makes it appear unseemly. At a time when the United States is uncertain what approach to take, the reports present a selfish Israel attempting to impose its preferences on those who are struggling to do the right thing.


The most explicit of these articles was Jodi Rudoren’s, Israel Escalating Efforts to Shape Allies’ Strategy:

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of an edict from the prime minister not to discuss the Egyptian crisis, said Israeli ambassadors in Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Brussels and other capitals would lobby foreign ministers. At the same time, leaders here will press the case with diplomats from abroad that the military is the only hope to prevent further chaos in Cairo.

With the European Union planning an urgent review of its relations with Egypt in a meeting Monday, the message, in part, is that concerns about democracy and human rights should take a back seat to stability and security because of Egypt’s size and strategic importance.


Interestingly, two former Israeli ambassadors to Egypt interviewed by Rudoren contradicted the fundamental premise of the article. Both said that Israel was handling Egypt with an appropriate amount of discretion. Israel Matzav cleverly deduces that the likely source for Rudoren’s story isn’t an Israeli as she claims, but someone from Washington.


To some degree these articles are all written from the perspective that the President really wants to do the right thing (and cut aid) but powerful forces, such as the Israeli government are pushing back against his better instincts.

Gerstman compares the NYT to the much more balanced Washington Post and then goes on to bring more examples from the NYT:

At the end of July an analysis, U.S. Balancing Act With Egypt Grows Trickier presented the administration’s options as being limited by Israel, though a bit more subtly.

For the Obama administration, the problem is not simply its relationship with the Egyptian military but also with Israel, whose security interests are weighing particularly heavily on administration officials as they try to nurture a new round of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel depends on Egyptian troops to root out Islamic extremists in the Sinai Peninsula, and Israeli officials have publicly and privately urged the United States not to cut off the aid, which underpins the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.


Again, it is Israel that prevents Obama’s ability to strike a proper “balance between security and democracy,” as if it were such a simple and clear issue.

Gerstman concludes his column with our old (un)favourite columnist, Thomas Friedman:

Presenting Israel as an impediment to liberalization in the Arab world and in Egypt, specifically, goes back further still. At the beginning of the Arab Spring, Thomas Friedman wrote Postcard from Cairo Part 2:

Rather than even listening to what the democracy youth in Tahrir Square were saying and then trying to digest what it meant, this Israeli government took two approaches during the last three weeks: Frantically calling the White House and telling the president he must not abandon Pharaoh – to the point where the White House was thoroughly disgusted with its Israeli interlocutors – and using the opportunity to score propaganda points: “Look at us! Look at us! We told you so! We are the only stable country in the region, because we are the only democracy.’’

The past two and a half years – with the violence and instability sweeping Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq – have borne out the attitude that Friedman (and his source in the administration, if there was one) so easily dismissed. Israel wisely stayed out of the fray then (if Israel had said that it supported the protesters the Mubarak regime would have used that to discredit the protests) and is quietly pursuing diplomacy now.

There’s nothing wrong with that, except in the eyes of the New York Times.

Read the whole column. There are plenty more examples of anti-Israel bias there.

Another blame-Israel-firster is our old friend Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan who says that Israel is behind the Egyptian coup:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday accused Israel of being behind the July 3 military coup in Egypt, saying he had evidence of the Jewish state’s involvement in the overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist former President Mohammed Morsi.

The Turkish prime minister, an often vociferous critic of Jerusalem policies, said his evidence of the Israeli plot was a meeting between a “Jewish intellectual” and the justice minister in France, where the intellectual said the Muslim Brotherhood would lose power even if it were democratically elected.


Erdogan’s claim that Jews were subversively plotting against Islamist regimes such as his own echoed one of his deputies, Beşir Atala, who made similar claims earlier this summer. Atala accused diaspora Jews “jealous of Turkey’s growth” of working through the media to skew Turkish authorities unfavorably as they cracked down on protesters who had started demonstrating against a government plan to develop a mosque and commercial area in one of Istanbul’s parks.

Erdogan was a staunch supporter of the democratically-elected Morsi, and has decried the Egyptian military since the Egyptian president’s ouster.

Erdogan has become little more than a laughing stock as he promotes his conspiracy theories while repressing his own population. Meanwhile we should be thankful that the US castigated Erdogan for his accusation. The JPost adds:

Erdogan’s comments come just a few weeks after he blamed unrest in his own country on an “interest rate lobby,” widely believed to be a metaphor for western Jewish businessmen.  He also likened Zionism in the past to fascism, and has routinely accused Israel of waging a campaign of “genocide” against Palestinians.

Even Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News seems to be tiring somewhat of Erdogan’s anti-Israel rants and conspiracy theories. The lead to an article on Erdogan’s comments Tuesday that appeared on the paper’s website began with the words, “Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan went back on the warpath August 20, accusing one of Ankara’s most prominent bogeymen, Israel, of complicity in overthrowing Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.”

Erdogan’s comment Tuesday came some five months after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – at the behest of US President Barack Obama – phoned the Turkish prime minister and apologized for operational errors that may have led to loss of life on the Mavi Marmara ship that tired to break the naval blockade of Gaza in 2010.

While that apology was supposed to have paved the way for an Israeli-Turkish reconciliation, talks for compensation payments quickly bogged down as the Turks added that they now wanted an Israeli admission that the compensation payments was the result of a wrongful act.  Expectations that the apology would lead relatively quickly to the exchange of ambassadors failed to materialize.

What the apology did do, one Israeli official said Tuesday, was remove US pressure on Israel to reconcile with Turkey, since in the eyes of the US, Netanyahu did what he needed to do.

To conclude, I bring two small items which are not necessarily about blaming Israel but demonstrate the built-in anti-Israel, even anti-Western bias inherent in the UN.

In the first, the UN’s human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, is challenging the use of drones in targeting terrorists:

The UN human rights chief is urging the United States and Israel to clarify the legal basis for the use of armed drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza.

Navi Pillay told a UN Security Council meeting Monday on protection of civilians that “the current lack of transparency surrounding their use creates an accountability vacuum and affects the ability of victims to seek redress.”

Speaking by video conference, Pillay said she is “seriously concerned about human rights implications for the protection of civilians of armed drone strikes carried out in the context of counter-terrorism and military operations including in Pakistan, Yemen and Gaza.”

“I urge relevant states to clarify the legal basis for such strikes as well as the safeguards in place to ensure compliance with applicable international law,” Pillay said.

She has got to be joking. “The ability of victims to seek redress”? These are not innocent victims. These are murderous genocidal terroirsts. The use of drones enables their targeting without the collateral damage that is entailed with aerial bombing.  As one commenter on the article noted:

Remind me what the legal basis is for firing Qassam rockets from Gaza into civilian areas in Israel.

The second item is from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon whom we praised just this week for admitting the built-in anti-Israel bias in the UN. Yesterday he backtracked his admission:

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pulled an about face on Monday regarding an earlier admission that the organization that he heads is biased against Israel.


When pressed about his statements regarding U.N. discrimination against Israel, Ban answered: “No, I don’t think there is discrimination against Israel at the United Nations. The Israeli government in fact, you know, raised this issue that [there is] some bias against Israel. But Israel is one of the 193 Member States, thus Israel should have equal rights and opportunities without having any bias, any discrimination. That’s a fundamental principle of the United Nations Charter and thus Israel should be fully given such rights,” Ban said.

When you can’t rely on the media and you can’t rely on international institutions, how is anyone supposed to learn the truth?

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9 Responses to Let’s play the “Blame Israel” game

  1. Wendy Revel says:

    Brilliant post. Thank you and so glad to have discovered your blog.

  2. Excellent review of anti-Israeli bias by predictable media elements. We must await the offerings of BBS, NPR and PBS. Nevertheless, what is remarkable is the commentary of MSNBC that now refers to the incompetent Obama as “The Invisible President” absent from foreign areas including Syria, Afghanistan and Egypt and so considered by the rest of the International Community. I take their findings as a latent accusation of the administration’s incompetence. An experienced administration (which is also lacking in the international community) would look at long range values and the presence of a Brotherhood influence is anathema. Therefore, a competent US leadership would recognize the “coup,” and stop aid, publicly admitting the legal obstacles requiring the termination. Nevertheless, it would publicly and actively support the anti-Brotherhood Egyptian military, alligning itself with the rest of the most influential elements of the Middle East, including the Saudis and Israel that are unified in opposing Brotherhood radicalism, while the administration actively seeks a congressional “exemption” to the aid cut-off. This is a supremely missed opportunity to solidify common ground between Israel and its once mortal enemies and find a new thread of cooperation well beyond this immediate crises. With this, another of the multitude of examples of the incompetence of this administration, we can only predict what is likely from stupidity – i.e., isolated irrelevance.

    • anneinpt says:

      That’s very interesting what you write about MSNBC being so denigrating about Obama. Things must be really bad if the MSM (mainstream media) are beign so outspoken.

      As to the US’s options for Egypt, Ron Ben Yishai in Ynet today suggested that the US could have initiated a Marshall plan to encourage investment and economic growth, which would be at least as likely to drag Egypt out of its mess and wouldn’t require all the legal acrobatics in granting aid. Altogether he writes a very good analysis.

  3. Rob Harris says:

    Thanks for the good review Anne. I must cite it in an article I’m trying to finish on the West’s failed policy in Egypt because it forms part of a point about there being pressure on Obama to isolate Egypt.

    BTW its notable how Ban Ki-moon backtracked whilst contradicting himself. by saying latterly that Israel “should” have equal rights after firstly denying that it doesn’t. I doubt even he believes his own denial.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thanks Rob. I think the West’s failed policy in Egypt reflects a larger failure of the West in the entire Middle East, in parallel to the US’s failure.

      As for Ban Ki-Moon, I don’t know how he isn’t dizzy from all his claims and counter-claims.

  4. Brian Goldfarb says:

    “The Israelis…were supporting the takeover as well.” (The bit I missed out was about IDF contacts with Gen. Sisi). Okay, we all remember that great line from “Casablanca” (well, one of the great lines, anyway, not forgetting “Play it, Sam!”) about “Round up the usual suspects” – which spawned at least one other film title (good film too) – this is exactly what the NYT is doing.

    This is actually rubbish. Morsi had already made it clear that he wasn’t about to renege on the treaty between Israel and Egypt, and anyway, it’s the Egyptian military who were most interested in toppling Morsi, especially after he sacked the top level of the military.

    Just shows that, increasingly, papers (but not necessarily journalists – they have to eat, too), even allowing for political biases, are increasingly less interested in reporting the facts, however “curved” the interpretation of those facts, than in pandering to editorial/ownership bias.

    No longer are facts sacred (as the regrettably now old-fashioned Manchester Guardian (UK) credo had it), what’s more important is that “comment is free”.

    Which, these days, means you don’t have to pay for it. Until your readership give up in disgust and stop buying, whether in hard copy or online.

  5. Pingback: The Failure of Western Diplomacy in Egypt | Middle East, Israel, Arab World, Southwest Asia, Maghreb

  6. Pingback: It’s “let’s blame Israel” time again | Anne's Opinions

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