Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Big Boo-Boo In the Times

Big, fat boo-boo in the New York Times today, and it will be interesting to see what if anything is done to correct it.

The lead editorial, predictably urging Israel to make concessions and not saying a thing about Palestinian obligations, repeats the old canard that Ariel Sharon "detonated the Palestinian intifada when, surrounded by hundreds of policemen and soldiers, he visited the plateau in Jerusalem that the Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary and the Jews call the Temple Mount."

Uh-oh. Major screwup, folks.

The historical record is clear: the intifada was "detonated" by Yasir Arafat, as part of the latter's pattern of seeking to obtain in violence what could not be yielded at the bargaining table. As quoted today in an excellent item in Soccer Dad, The Atlantic pretty well laid that old lie to rest in an article a couple of months ago. The magazine's source was authoritative: Mamduh Nofal, former military commander of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

After recounting how Arafat had previously used violence to get his way, The Atlantic reported:

The second intifada also began with the intention of provoking the Israelis and subjecting them to diplomatic pressure. Only this time Arafat went for broke. As a member of the High Security Council of Fatah, the key decision-making and organizational body that dealt with military questions at the beginning of the intifada, Nofal has first-hand knowledge of Arafat's intentions and decisions during the months before and after Camp David. "He told us, 'Now we are going to the fight, so we must be ready,'" Nofal remembers. Nofal says that when Barak did not prevent Ariel Sharon from making his controversial visit to the plaza in front of al-Aqsa, the mosque that was built oil the site of the ancient Jewish temples, Arafat said, "Okay, it's time to work."

Now, Times editorial writers are not especially bright or well-informed. But they could hardly have missed a widely publicized story that appeared on the cover of The Atlantic just two months ago. At the time it appeared, I said that the Atlantic piece was a must-read. But even if the Times's subscription to The Atlantic had lapsed, it has long been clear that Arafat orchestrated the intifada and that Sharon's visit was a shabby pretext. (Again, Soccer Dad proves, in this October 2004 item, that a blog has a better grasp of history than the mighty Times editorialists.)

I'd say a correction is in order, and that the traditional Times method of fixing major boo-boos, a letter to the editor, will not suffice.

As has been my practice with the last few Times items, I'm sending a copy of this item to the Empty Suit, New York Times spokesman (a/k/a "public editor") Barney Calame. Something else for you to ignore, Barney, while you shill for management and focus on trivia.

UPDATE: Good sense in India vs. stupidity at the Times.

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