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September 29, 2014 7:12 am

Abbas Finds a Friend in The New York Times

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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Office of The New York Times, in New York City. Photo: WikiCommons.

Office of The New York Times. Photo: Wiki Commons.

In his Rosh Hashanah tirade at the UN General Assembly Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, now in the ninth year of his four-year term,  calumnied Israel. Referring to the recent Gaza war launched by Hamas, he preposterously blamed the Jewish State for “a new war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people.” Its “settlement activities and the occupation’s brutality,” Abbas alleged, undermined every attempt to negotiate the peace he has persistently fled. Israel, he claimed, had committed “absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world.” Indeed, it was “preparing for a new Nakba against the Palestinian people.”

The “colonial occupying Power,” Abbas’s rant continued (conveniently ignoring that all Israeli soldiers and civilians were removed from Gaza in 2005), “has chosen to defy the entire world by launching its war on Gaza.” Palestinians have the “legitimate right to resist this colonial, racist Israeli occupation,” which is “unmatched in modern times.” In a remarkable display of inversion – indeed, obtuse blindness – Abbas denounced “the rising and rampant racism in the Israeli political and media discourse” and its “culture of racism, incitement and hatred.” He could not more precisely have described Palestinian culture. Leader of a people who pioneered in devising the horrors of modern terrorism, he concluded by blaming Israel for “an abhorrent form of state terrorism.”

Reporting Abbas’s speech in The New York Times (September 26), Somini Sengupta paid scant attention to the vitriolic language and malicious slanders that infused it. (She noted, however, that he was “visibly enraged.”) Her article merely rehashed the Palestinian Authority’s quest for membership in the international court (the better to challenge the legitimacy of Israel) – while acknowledging “the conspicuous absence” of any direct mention of it in Abbas’s address. She also included a sketchy summary of the Gaza war. Not until her concluding sentence did she quote the centerpiece of Abbas’s speech: “settlement occupation” as “an abhorrent form of state terrorism.”

No matter. The Times Opinion page that day provided the opportunity for a deservedly unknown Israeli-American writer to explore “How Israel Silences Dissent.” Mairav Zonszein was perfectly qualified. Her  career as an aspiring journalist has been devoted to an array of left-wing, peace-now organizations in Israel. These include the Association for Civil Rights; the Union of Progressive Zionists; Ir Amim (a left-wing group that focuses on Jewish construction, home demolitions and evictions, and the security barrier in Jerusalem); and Ta’ayush, self-described as “a grassroots organization” of Palestinians and Jews whose goal is “to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.” Ms. Zonszein is also a former editor and contributor to +972, which describes itself as an “independent” blog magazine established in 2010 to present “a new and mostly young voice” – the better to launch tirades against Israel.

Living in perhaps the world’s most loquacious nation, where animated conversation, vigorous challenges and contradictory opinions blanket the media, Ms. Zonszein seems unable to discover dissent. She cites “extremist Israeli Jews” who attacked anti-war protesters in Tel Aviv and Haifa at the beginning of the Gaza war. She concludes that “the vilification of the few Israelis [really?] who don’t subscribe to right-wing doctrine” has escalated into “acts of incitement.” Indeed, “the aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians . . . has been simmering for decades.”

That seems rather odd coming from a left-wing political activist whose shrill voice seems to enjoy a multitude of opportunities for expression – including self-preening about her article on Facebook and Twitter. She rants against “an exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism that privileges Jewish citizens and is represented politically by the religious settler movement and the increasingly conservative secular right.” Clearly, their “aggressive silencing” has not squelched Ms. Zonszein – nor any of her fellow true believers.

She laments that Israelis “increasingly seem unwilling to listen to criticism, even when it comes from within their own family.” Indeed, “they are trying to silence it before it can be voiced.” But aligned with “the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights,” Ms. Zonszein managed to find a reassuring embrace by The New York Times. It has long provided Israeli dissenters on the left with opportunities to endorse its persistent flagellation of the Jewish state. In Zonszein, the Times has found the appropriate spokeswoman for every anti-Israel cliché that the Israeli left has stored in its fetid arsenal.

Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner.

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