Goldblog defends Smith:
Even if Ben Smith quoted only Likudniks for his piece about the way in which Israelis, and their government, view President Obama, this doesn't strike me as an enormous problem. If Ben were writing about the Hamas understanding of President Obama, I assume he would quote mainly Hamas officials. His story was meant to explain the way Israel's rulers see Obama and the peace process. He did a good job (though I do think that the prime minister has grown to have a more nuanced view of Obama than he had previously -- and vice versa). Ben didn't endorse the views, or condemn them. All he did was report them. Reporting them, or not reporting them, doesn't change the underlying reality... Ben Smith was simply covering one aspect of this reality.
The headline of the piece was: "View from Middle East: President Obama is a problem." It was not: "View From Israel's Right: We Hate Obama." That would have been reality. His nut-graf was:
A visit here finds both Israelis and Palestinians blame him for the current stalemate just as they blame one another.
My italics. A piece that says it is about the Middle East and both sides, and yet devotes almost its entire content to Likudnik and neocon apparatchiks regurgitating the same distortions they have relied on for years is not "just reporting". If the piece had been billed as about Israeli intransigence, hostility to giving up any part of the West Bank and contempt for the US president, it would have been reporting. But it sought to extrapolate from this a wider argument about the inherent failure of the peace process. But when you get to the sliver of reporting on the Palestinians, we get this:
Palestinian leaders say they, too for different reasons are losing faith in the political talks. “[Netanyahu] has a chance, and he’s wasting it,” said the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erakat. “Given the chance between settlements and peace, he’s always chosen settlements.” The advocacy director of the American Task Force on Palestine, Ghaith al-Omari, said the frustration in Ramallah isn’t only with Netanyahu. Abbas and other Palestinian leaders are “personally fed up with the whole thing,” he said, and “losing faith in the process, both with the Israeli willingness to deliver and the Americans’ ability to deliver the Israelis.”
So the only real frustration on the Palestinian side is that the Israelis are utterly unserious and that the Israel lobby is preventing Obama getting any leverage over Netanyahu, not that the peace process isn't worth pursuing. And this world-weariness is what the pro-Israel lobby wants. It wants permanent annexation of the West Bank, and war against Iran. And they use poorly presented journalism like the Smith piece to advance those dangerous dreams.
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