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August 30, 2016 6:46 am

‘Cranky’ New York Times Editorialists Fester Over Palestinian Grievances Amid Warming Israeli-Arab Regional Ties

avatar by Ira Stoll

A Palestinian demonstration at Susya. Photo: Wikipedia.

A Palestinian demonstration against Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

With a presidential election underway, along with a genocide in Syria involving the use of chemical weapons, the New York Times chooses to devote the choice real estate of its lead Sunday editorial to, of all things, the warming ties between Israel and Sunni Arab countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Fine. Maybe the Times wants to cheer the good news of warming relations between Jerusalem, Cairo and Riyadh? Alas, not exactly. Instead, the newspaper is sounding the alarm. The last sentence of the first paragraph of the editorial warns that the improved relations “could also leave the Palestinians in the dust, a worrisome prospect.”

The newspaper returns to that theme in the editorial’s conclusion: “The danger is that these countries will find more value in mending ties with each other and stop there, thus allowing Palestinian grievances, a source of regional tension for decades, to continue to fester.”

For the Times, it seems, it always comes down to what’s best for the Palestinian Arabs.

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As the president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, the eminent Middle East scholar Martin Kramer, wrote on his Facebook page about the Times editorial: “I’m betting that in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Cairo, Jerusalem, and even Ramallah, nobody cares what the cranky Gray Lady of Manhattan mumbles. And really, why should they?”

It’s a good question.

Does the Times blame Egypt for the squalor in Gaza because Egypt borders Gaza and ruled it between 1959 and 1967? Or does it blame Saudi Arabia, because of the kingdom’s longstanding and lavish funding of Hamas, the Islamist terrorist organization that rules Gaza? The editorial doesn’t say, leaving open the possibility that the Times editorialists believe the Arab states should care about the Palestinians solely on the basis of some sort of racial or religious solidarity, a view that somewhat undercuts the paper’s usually prevailing view that the Palestinians are a separate and independent people all of their own.

Meanwhile, the notion that “Palestinian grievances” are the explanation for regional tension may have been popular for decades among State Department Arabists and their acolytes at the Times, but as even the Times itself has observed in rare sober moments lately, it’s hard to square that theory with the events of the past decade, featuring bloody Sunni-Shiite warfare in Iraq, the throat-slitting violence of the Islamic State, a civil war in Syria, and attacks at Paris, Brussels, and Benghazi. Are “Palestinian grievances” really the root cause of the casualties in Syria, Libya, and Iraq? Come on.

The Times’ concern for the plight of the Palestinians is touching, but the editorial fails to explain why that issue should cast a pall over Israel’s diplomatic relations with its neighbors, especially when Israel and its neighbors don’t think it should. It’s as if the Times met an outbreak of bipartisanship between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill with an editorial fretting about how the newly warming ties “could also leave Palestinians in the dust.” What does one thing have to do with the other?

For the Times, responsibility for saving the Palestinians seems always to rest with Washington or Jerusalem, or even with Egypt or Saudi Arabia, but rarely with the Palestinian Arabs themselves. How the Palestinians might improve their own lot rather than nursing grievances or relying on assistance from neighboring states would be a fine topic for some future Times editorial, maybe even in the lead spot on a Sunday. That might involve treating the Palestinians as if they had free will rather than as if they were simply passive victims at the mercy of the rest of the world. The danger is that the newspaper’s editorial writers will themselves avoid tackling the issue and will instead simply “leave the Palestinians in the dust, a worrisome prospect.”

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.  

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