Another Remarkably Stupid NYT Op Ed on the Mideast

Okay, I don’t have much time here, it’s recycling night — and the New York Times seems to revel in recycling really tired Israeli PR lines. Today, it’s Ephraim Karsh trotting out a mish-mash of misrepresentations and tar-balls of wishful thinking to make the case that the Arab world has abandoned the Palestinians, and now that they’re on their own, they’re more likely to surrender to Israel’s terms at the peace table.

The evidence for this claim, first and foremost, is an unscientific survey by an Arab news organization that found that ” a staggering 71 percent of the Arabic respondents have no interest in the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks”. Uh, Ephraim, buddy — you may not know this, but the percentage of Palestinians that have no interest in those peace talks is probably higher. Nobody outside the Netanyahu-AIPAC echo chamber believes anything will come of such talks as long as the U.S. declines to force the issue with Israel. That’s hardly the same thing as saying the Arabs have tired of the Palestinians; on the contrary, most surveys of Arab opinion find the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains their primary foreign policy concern. Arabs tiring of the Palestinians is wishful thinking.

Then we’re treated to a familiar and not particularly controversial account of the cynicism of the Arab regimes in dealing with the Palestinians, culminating in the current moment when he says they’ve abandoned the Palestinians to their fate — and that this is a good thing. “For if the Arab regimes’ self-serving interventionism has denied Palestinians the right to determine their own fate, then the best, indeed only, hope of peace between Arabs and Israelis lies in rejecting the spurious link between this particular issue and other regional and global problems.
The sooner the Palestinians recognize that their cause is theirs alone, the sooner they are likely to make peace with the existence of the State of Israel and to understand the need for a negotiated settlement.”

Actually, it was Yasser Arafat’s PLO that established Palestinian independence from the Arab regimes. And Israel has periodically cooperated with those regimes, in Jordan and Egypt, to suppress Palestinian self-determination. When Karsh speaks of the “need for a negotiated settlement” he’s being disingenuous. The Palestinian leadership has been pursuing such a settlement since the late 1980s; but Israel is demanding that the Palestinians accept terms for such a settlement that are neither just nor tolerable. And when he talks of the “spurious link” between resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other regional and global problems, he reveals his ideological underwear — even the U.S. military acknowledges that American support for Israel in the context of its treatment of the Palestinians is perhaps the most important determinant of Muslim attitudes towards the United States.

Israel and the United States are hand in glove with Arab efforts to deny the Palestinians the right to determine their own fate which Karsh so cynically touts, most visibly in their refusal to accept the verdict of the Palestinian electorate in 2006 that chose Hamas as its government (in Gaza and the West Bank), and instead set about suppressing Palestinian democratic institution, turning President Mahmoud Abbas into just another Arab autocrat with no democratic mandate and more dependent on the U.S. than on his own people. Indeed, the morbid truth, now, is that Abbas was forced to go to the Arab League for a mandate to join Obama’s peace process; he couldn’t be sure of getting the go-ahead even from his own Fatah Party, never mind from any Palestinian elected body.

There is, indeed, a regional shift underway, though: The Arab regimes on which the U.S. and Israel have relied to maintain regional stability and legitimize their endless peace process are not just tiring of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; they’re tiring, period. Spent. Their lack of legitimacy in the eyes of their own populations, exacerbated every time they’re shown to be either complicit or powerless as Israel pounds or throttles the Palestinians or its other Arab neighbors, has finally caught up with them. Soon Mubarak, longtime guarantor of the peace process, will expire, and Egypt will be in turmoil. The Saudis face succession dramas of their own. And the Arab populations, in whose hearts the cause of Palestine — rather than that of a bankrupt “peace process” — burns brightly are beginning to assert their own independence, from a regional order that has favored the U.S. and Israel for the past four decades.

Frankly, Karsh, the events of the past year over Gaza alone should have been enough to demonstrate that it’s not the Palestinians who’re on their own in the Middle East.

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61 Responses to Another Remarkably Stupid NYT Op Ed on the Mideast

  1. BrianneLise says:

    below is the comment I posted as a response to Dr. Zogby’s post on the Arab American Institute website:

    Dr. Zogby,

    I applaud your logical and nuanced response to Efraim Karsh’s fatally reductionist op-ed piece in Today’s times. Reading his article, I was still shocked at his false attribution in his conclusion that the Arab community at large is unconcerned by the situation in Palestine such that it is for Palestinians alone to accept whatever “peace” may be offered as a token by Israeli experialists. However, a cursory check of the authors credentials (okay I wanted to check on what university would have awarded a doctorate to someone whose logic is so fatally reductionist because I generally have some faith in the designation of degrees) elucidates his identity of one of the leading Israeli Zionist Revisionists. Surprise! It took me over five minutes of internet searching to find what university would have graduated someone this lacking in common sense. I was beginning to think that he earned his PhD from a Kinder Egg, but, as it turns out, unsurprisingly, he earned it from the prestigious University of Tel Aviv. Now things are starting to make sense. The problem with op-ed pieces in respectable newspapers is that they often lack the framing one needs to interpret the authorial intentions of the writer. Looking at the picture Karsh chose for his faculty page at Kings College, it’s evident that he wants to position himself as a sunglassed playboy from a vantage above (let’s say) a city in the Middle East. Considering the fact that even Wikipedia has an extremely critical and well-documented criticism of this academic’s controversial work and contentions, it is evident to most experts in the field that his is not a highly respected, nuanced, or deeply thought position in the field of Middle East studies. And to write such a controversial op-ed piece based on a sketchy and diffuse internet poll that referenced the “Middle East Peace Process” rather than an actual poll conducted according to standard research procedures is a complete outrage. I had a big problem with reductionist arguments proponed by a certain New York Times op-ed favorite Thomas Friedman in my dissertation, “A New World Other for the New World Order: Transnational Capitalism and the Creation of the Middle Eastern/Islamic/Arab Other” (LSE, Empire Studies, 2004). The inclusion of both of their reductionist arguments in the leading paper of the American elite is a clear tell in the editorial policy of the Times. I am not surprised and indeed inspired that Nick Taleb, one of our country’s great intellectuals, an Arab Christian, has recently harangued their coverage of the financial crisis. It takes courage and conviction to challenge the largesse that the Times enjoys in our country. Thank you for taking a vigilant position against this type of revisionist noise.

  2. Brewer says:

    Mr Karsh does not seem to have an academic’s sensibility with regards to his associates. He is listed as a speaker for Benidor:
    “In May 2006, Canada’s National Post ran a sensational story by Benador associate and Iranian exile Amir Taheri. The piece claimed that Iran’s government had passed a law requiring Jewish residents to wear a yellow insignia — reminiscent of the policies of Germany’s Nazi regime. The story was quickly debunked and the National Post apologized. Eleana Benador admitted that her PR firm had planted the piece. ”

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  6. Warren Metzler says:

    I object. I think the majority, if not all Arab governments hope the Palestinian situation never gets solved. They all know they are dictatorships, frequently suppressing many of their citizens, doing little to nothing to facilitate the development of their citizens. And they all know that if there was ever a free election in their countries, their vote would set new world records in smallness.

    They also know that having the Palestinian situation to cast aspersions on is wonderful way of keeping their citizens from revolting and throwing them out on their butts.

    So they give great lip service to supporting the Palestinian cause, meanwhile working vigorously behind the scene to ensure such a settlement never ever occurs.

    An example. Do you believe that Egypt keeps its crossing to Gaza closed because it actually believes that opening it would allow the Hamas officials of Gaza to teach the Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt how to overthrow the Egyptian government? Or is it because they want to make sure the Palestinian situation is never solved?

  7. Roger Lafontaine says:

    Good article and a welcome answer to the endless utter foolishness and, might I add, callousness of the American media giants.

  8. Polarik says:

    Another remarkably stupid post by someone who takes pride in being stupid.

    After the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel expected to hear that their neighbors were finally ready to talk peace. Having escaped annihilation in 1948 and 1956, Israel’s leaders vowed not to return to the vulnerable armistice lines of 1948 and ’49 or to a divided Jerusalem, and yet, as Foreign Minister Abba Eban put it, “everything is negotiable,” in direct talks.

    However, he leaders of thirteen Arab states gathered at a summit conference in Khartoum, Sudan from August 29 to September 1. There they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel. Influenced by Nasser, “their conditions were quite specific: NO peace with Israel, NO negotiations with Israel, NO recognition of Israel, and ‘maintenance of the rights of the Palestinian people in their nation.’ The Khartoum Declaration was the first serious warning to the Israelis that their expectation of an imminent ‘phone call’ from the Arab world might be a pipe dream.”

    Yasser Arafat’s PLO claimed to establish Palestinian independence from the Arab regimes.


    In 1993 at the Oslo Accords, long after the 1967 War. But, there is no such thing as “independence” from the Arab regimes.

    There had never existed at any time, a state or nation known as “Palestine,” or are “Palestinians,” different from any other Arabs.

    Arafat stole the entire historical narrative of the Jewish people and Israel, and replaced “Israel” with “Palestine” and “Israeli” with “Palestinian.” The only people who do not know that are the clueless liberals who have been fed a steady diet of drek from the revisionist “historians” of the Middle East, aka, the Arabs themselves.

    The “creation of an independent Palestine” was a political ploy as part of the plan to destroy Israel. Arab leaders have stated as much for the last 40 years.

    The PLO Charter called for the destruction of Israel. The Charter of the Palestinian Authority has the same statements. Abbas has repeatedly said that his goal is to replace Israel with a Judenrein Palestinian state.

    So, which part of “Arab and Muslim governments don’t care about peace with Israel” do you NOT understand?

  9. gift sydney says:

    Will the media giants ever give Israel a fair go? If Palestinians kill Israelis they are depicted as freedom fighters. If Israel fighrts back its a ‘war crime’. Israel needs to remain strong. Don’t give in to pressure from the US and Europe. Enough Jewish blood has been split over the centuries.

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    The PLO Charter called for the destruction of Israel. The Charter of the Palestinian Authority has the same statements. Abbas has repeatedly said that his goal is to replace Israel with a Judenrein Palestinian state.

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