Memo To: Washington Press Secretaries
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Eric Alterman subdivides
Eric Alterman, a pundit for the Nation, has as many friends in the national press corps as I do (very few). I suppose this is why he had little to lose in drawing up a scorecard of the Washington pundit class on how they divide on matters relating to Israel. There is a long list of knee-jerk supporters, who would not blanch if Ariel Sharon used daisy cutters on Yasir Arafat's compound in Ramallah, and other lists of various biases. Alterman counts himself among the few "critical" supporters of Israel and lists only five gentlemen of the press who are "reflexively" anti-Israel. His stated reason for writing the list for MSNBC.com is to ask for help among his fellow pundits in asking Israel to STOP its escalation -- which was more or less my advice to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday. There are a few names on the list where I disagree with Eric, but I do agree with him that it is time for his best friends in the American press corps to tell Sharon that he has bad breath.
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Intractable foes, warring narratives
While much of the world sees Mideast conflict through Palestinian eyes, in America, Israel’s view prevails
By Eric Alterman
STEPPING BACK FROM the horrific headlines of the day, it is clear that the conflict over Israel/Palestine is all about competing narratives. Both sides inflict inhuman cruelties on one another. Both sides blame the other for forcing them to do so. The Israelis kill far more Palestinians than vice-versa, with far more deadly and effective weapons; but the Palestinians, unlike the Israelis, deliberately target innocents for murder. The Israelis say the conflict will end when the Palestinians renounce their commitment to terrorism and accept Israel’s “right to existence.” The Palestinians claim it will end when Israel ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and compensates the millions of refugees it created, either by returning them to their homes or giving them the funds necessary to build new ones.
TALE OF TWO STORIES
In most of the world, it is the Palestinian narrative of a dispossessed people that dominates. In the United States, however, the narrative that dominates is Israel’s: a democracy under constant siege. Europeans and other Palestinian partisans point to the fact that the Israel lobby in America is one of the strongest anywhere, and Jewish individuals and organizations give millions of dollars to political candidates in order to reward pro-Israel policies and punish those who support the Palestinians. Another reason, however, is the near-complete domination by pro-Israel partisans of the punditocracy discourse.
Some Jewish groups in America like to harass news organizations like The Washington Post or National Public Radio for what they believe to be coverage insufficiently sympathetic to Israel’s plight. But even Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu would not be able to complain about the level of support their actions typically receive from the members of the punditocracy.
For reasons of religion, politics, history and genuine conviction, the punditocracy debate of the Middle East in America is dominated by people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel. The value of this legion to the Jewish state is, for better or worse, literally incalculable, particularly when push -- as it inevitably does in the Middle East -- comes to shove. Here’s a list I made in trying to measure the immeasurable.
COLUMNISTS AND COMMENTATORS WHO CAN BE COUNTED UPON TO SUPPORT ISRAEL REFLEXIVELY AND WITHOUT QUALIFICATION:
- George Will, The Washington Post, Newsweek and ABC News
- William Safire, The New York Times
- A.M. Rosenthal, The New York Daily News, formerly Executive Editor of and later columnist for, The New York Times.
- Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post, PBS, Time, and The Weekly Standard, formerly of the New Republic.
- Michael Kelly, The Washington Post, The Atlantic Monthly, National Journal, and MSNBC.com, formerly of The New Republic and The New Yorker.
- Lally Weymouth, The Washington Post and Newsweek
- Martin Peretz, The New Republic
- Daniel Pipes, The New York Post
- Andrea Peyser, The New York Post
- Dick Morris, The New York Post
- Lawrence Kaplan, The New Republic
- William Bennett, CNN
- William Kristol, The Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, Fox News, formerly of ABC News
- Robert Kagan, The Washington Post and The Weekly Standard
- Mortimer Zuckerman, US News and World Report (Zuckerman is also Chairman of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations ).
- David Gelertner, The Weekly Standard
- John Podhoretz, The New York Post and The Weekly Standard
- Mona Charen, The Washington Times
- Morton Kondracke, Roll Call, Fox News, formerly of The McLaughlin Group, The New Republic and PBS
- Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard, Fox News, formerly of The New Republic, The McLaughlin Group, and The Baltimore Sun
- Sid Zion, The New York Post, formerly of The New York Daily News
- Yossi Klein Halevi The New Republic
- Norman Podhoretz, Commentary,
- Jonah Goldberg, National Review and CNN
- Laura Ingraham, CNN, formerly of MSNBC and CBS News
- Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe
- Rich Lowry, National Review
- Andrew Sullivan, The New Republic
- Seth Lipsky, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Sun, formerly of the Jewish Forward
- Irving Kristol, The Public Interest and The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page
- Chris Matthews, MSNBC
- Allan Keyes, MSNBC, WorldNetDaily.com
- Brit Hume, Fox News
- John Leo, US News and World Report
- Robert Bartley, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page
- John Fund, The Wall Street Journal OpinionJournal, formerly of The WSJournal Editorial Page
- Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page
- Ben Wattenberg, The Washington Times, PBS
- Tony Snow, Washington Times and Fox News
- Lawrence Kudlow, National Review and CNBC
- Alan Dershowitz, Boston Herald, Washington Times
- David Horowitz, Frontpage.com
- Jacob Heilbrun, The Los Angeles Times
- Thomas Sowell, Washington Times
- Frank Gaffney Jr, Washington Times
- Emmett Tyrell, American Spectator and New York Sun
- Cal Thomas, Washington Times
- Oliver North, Washington Times and Fox News, formerly of MSNBC
- Michael Ledeen, Jewish World Review
- William F. Buckley, National Review
- Bill O’Reilly, Fox News
- Paul Greenberg, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,
- L. Brent Bozell, Washington Times
- Todd Lindberg, Washington Times
- Michael Barone, US News and World Report and The McLaughlin Group
- Ann Coulter, Human Events,
- Linda Chavez, Creators Syndicate
- Cathy Young, Reason Magazine
- Uri Dan, New York Post
- Dr. Laura Schlessinger, morality maven
- Rush Limbaugh, radio host
PUBLICATIONS THAT, FOR REASONS OF OWNER OR EDITORSHIP CAN BE COUNTED UPON TO SUPPORT ISRAEL REFLEXIVELY AND WITHOUT QUALIFICATION:
- The New Republic (Martin Peretz, Michael Steinhardt, Roger Hertog, Owners)
- Commentary (American Jewish Committee, Owner)
- US News and World Report (Mortimer Zuckerman, Owner)
- The New York Daily News (Mortimer Zuckerman, Owner)
- The New York Post (Rupert Murdoch, Owner)
- The Weekly Standard (Rupert Murdoch, Owner)
- The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page (Peter Kann, Editor)
- The Atlantic Monthly (Michael Kelly, Editor)
COLUMNISTS LIKELY TO CRITICIZE BOTH ISRAEL AND THE PALESTINIANS, BUT VIEW THEMSELVES TO BE CRITICALLY SUPPORTERS OF ISRAEL, AND ULTIMATELY, WOULD SUPPORT ISRAELI SECURITY OVER PALESTINIAN RIGHTS:
- Thomas Friedman, The New York Times,
- Richard Cohen, The Washington Post and New York Daily News
- Avishai Margolit, The New York Review of Books
- David Remnick, The New Yorker
- Eric Alterman, The Nation and MSNBC.com
- The New York Times Editorial Board
- The Washington Post Editorial Board
COLUMNISTS LIKELY TO BE REFLEXIVELY ANTI-ISRAEL AND/OR PRO-PALESTINIAN REGARDLESS OF CIRCUMSTANCE:
- Robert Novak, The Washington Post
- Pat Buchanan, WorldNetDaily.com, formerly of The Washington Times and CNN.
- Alexander Cockburn, The Nation and New York Press
- Christopher Hitchens, The Nation and Vanity Fair
- Edward Said, The Nation
HOW FRIENDS CAN BEST HELP
As can be seen from this list of lists, the entire anti-Israel contingent of the punditocracy does not add up to a single George Will or William Safire, much less a Wall Street Journal or US News. It remains to be seen whether unqualified support for all of Israel’s actions is really in that tortured nation’s best interest in the long run. Sometimes the bravest and most valuable advice a trusted friend can give is: “STOP.” Someone is going to have to stop first if this unending catastrophe is ever to end.
Eric Alterman is a columnist for The Nation and a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.
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P.S. A few quibbles. Peter Kann is not the editor of the WSJ but the publisher of Dow Jones, and he reflexively keeps his hands off the editorial page. Paul Gigot is the editor of the editpage and has inherited his knee-jerk from Bob Bartley. Tony Snow of FoxNews is thoughtful and balanced, especially compared to Brit Hume, a true "daisy cutter." Pat Buchanan is a critic, to be sure, but still considers himself a "lifelong Zionist." Missing from the knee-jerk list is Jeffrey Goldberg of the New Yorker, who has dual citizenship with Israel and has served in the Israeli army. His recent tract against Iraq was pure propaganda. Editor David Remnick does belong on the "good list" of critical supporters of Israel, but he let the Goldberg piece slip past him. For the most part though, it is a very accurate list of people who, as Alterman says, could never even imagine themselves criticizing Israel. In that sense, Bob Novak is the best friend the people of Israel have in our press corps.