The WaPo’s Jackson Diehl and False Equivalency

If you aren’t familiar with Jackson Diehl, the Washington Post’s deputy editorial page editor, well, you haven’t missed a whole lot save for frequent rants about how the Obama administration treats Israel poorly. Diehl makes no secret of his anti-Palestinian bias and seems to see his role at the WaPo as one of Chief Advocate for Israel.

He is certainly entitled to his opinions and that’s what they are- opinions- but when you consider that WaPo blogger Jennifer Rubin seems to serve the exact same purpose, one has to wonder if they have room for any opposing views. In other words, there is no one to balance out the WaPo’s biased reporting/commentary on Israel-Palestine. It’s important to note that over the past 8-10 years the WaPo’s editorial pages have become increasingly neoconservative/hawkish. The same could be said of the NYT, particularly after 9/11, which is why I always get a kick out people who scream “liberal media bias!” whenever a news story appears that doesn’t quite conform to their view of the facts as they wish them to be.

Back to Diehl. He had an article in yesterday’s WaPo which is noteworthy in that it is classic Diehl- he’s complaining that Israel is so very put upon by the United States and treated so very unfairly by Barack Obama, all the while despotic regimes like Syria get a free pass from the administration. Here’s a taste:

Obama the timid suddenly turns tough when the “peace process” comes up. He has spoken in public on Syria just twice since its massacres began three months ago. But he chose to spell out U.S. terms for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without the agreement of Israel’s prime minister, on the eve of meeting him at the White House and with only a few hours’ notice — arguably the most high-handed presidential act in U.S.-Israeli relations since the Eisenhower administration.

Yes, how dare the President of the United States give a policy speech and not run it by a foreign leader first!

Ok, more Diehl:

What’s extraordinary about Obama’s initiative is not its details, which don’t differ meaningfully from the ideas of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or, for that matter, several of Netanyahu’s predecessors as prime minister. It is, rather, its superpower chutzpah — the brazen disregard for the views and political posture of this Israeli government, and the fecklessness and disarray of the current Palestinian leadership. Never mind, goes the implicit Euro-American line: We will make this happen.

That highlighted statement is ironic, given the neoconservatives generally have no problem with U.S. superpower chutzpah, the-opinion-of-everyone-else-be-damned. In fact, it’s pretty much the basis for their foreign policy.

What Diehl seems to forget, or unremember, is that the President’s first priority and first responsibility is the interests and security of the U.S. And yes, resolving the I-P conflict most certainly is a U.S. security interest. The notion that Obama’s policies in the Middle East should be held hostage to Bibi Netanyahu’s fragile, far right-wing coalition government- a coalition which he chose by the way- is preposterous. Remember, Bibi chose to cast his lot with ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu rather than the more moderate Kadima party. In addition, Netanyahu came up with the exact same excuses the last time he was Prime Minister during the Clinton years. In fact, according to former Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright was faced with the same Israeli intransigence that we see repeated today, causing her to warn Bibi that he better stop worrying about his right wing and start worrying about the United States.

And here we get to the good bit, where Diehl cries “victim!” on behalf of Israel. Again:

There is, in his diplomacy, an implicit conviction that the United States must first of all deal with the sins of its own client. “Here are the facts we must all confront,” Obama declared in his speech to the AIPAC conference last month, before proceeding to deliver a lecture about Palestinian demography, Arab politics and the United Nations. It wasn’t that he was entirely wrong. But it’s revealing of this president that he is determined to speak truth to Binyamin Netanyahu — and not to Bashar al-Assad.

While it is certainly the case that the Obama administration’s reaction to certain events taking place in Syria, Bahrain, etc. has been guarded, slow-coming and a bit perplexing, to try to claim that there is some similarity, or equivalence, between the situation in Syria and the situation in Israel is ridiculous. Diehl knows this, but it’s a great rhetorical device and a common mantra of the Israel First Crowd- it goes something like this: “why is the President so mean to our greatest ally and friend Israel, while giving those Arabs a pass?!?”
By constantly repeating this refrain, they hope to draw attention away from the fact that Barack Obama has done more for Israel than any other President in history and that if there is anyone in this “special” relationship that has refused to act like a true ally of late, it’s Israel. Diehl doesn’t mention how the U.S. worked tirelessly to kill the Goldstone Report, sought to protect Israel from the consequences of it’s actions with the Mari Manarva, vetoed the settlement resolution in the U.N., backed off its insistence that Israeli cease building illegal settlements, provided Israel with more economic “assistance” than any other POTUS and on and on and on. You see, none of that matters to Diehl. Barack Obama could even throw in the release of traitor Jonathan Pollard and a couple billion more dollars and it still wouldn’t matter because so long as this administration tries to get Israel to make even one tiny concession for peace, they will be viewed as being hostile to Israel.

Diehl also knows, or should know, that when it comes to countries like Iran and Syria, the complete absence of a diplomatic relationship gives us very little leverage to promote a change in their behavior. In addition, Diehl also knows that Israel is rather ambivalent about what should be done about Syria because they are as concerned, if not more so, of what or who might fill the power vacuum should Bashar al Assad find himself out of power. And then of course there is Secretary of State Clinton’s very tough and to-the-point op-ed on Syria the other day where she lets Assad know “there is no turning back.” But Diehl didn’t reference that because it undermines his claim that poor Israel is the perpetual victim of Barack Obama’s needless bullying.

UPDATE: Oh, and what do you know, fellow Israel Firster and WaPo blogger Jennifer Rubin is tag-teaming Jackson Diehl today, citing Dieh’s article above and banging the “Obama is so mean to poor, poor Israel and being so very, very nice to Syria, waaaaagh!”

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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3 Comments on “The WaPo’s Jackson Diehl and False Equivalency”

  1. Carolyn-Rodham Says:

    Dieh and Rubin are so disingenuous. Even I know Israel has a vested interest in keeping Assad in place, and I don’t know much. If Hillary waited as long as she did to issue a stronger rebuke of the Assad regime, wasn’t Israel the reason? I haven’t heard Israel standing up for the Syrian people, or did I miss something?

    [OT: stacy, I had your blog bookmarked and kept visiting, looking for new posts, only to find the samr old post on Israel’s “lawfare” vs the planned flotilla — seemed weird that you weren’t writing anything new, but I figured you were busy…and then it dawned on me. Duh. I wasn’t on the Home page. So keep writing, I’m a loyal reader again!]


    • Stacy Says:

      Ah, so you are internet-challenged? Mwah!

      BTW, no matter what page you are on I think the sidebar still shows up with a list of new posts so, you know, if it happens again you won’t go missing for a week ;). You can also subscribe to the blog and be alerted to new posts so that you can drop absolutely everything you are doing, no matter how pressing, and run right over here because, well, it’s all about me.



  1. Friends of Bibi VERY Angry at Jewish Democrats « US FoPo & the Middle East - June 21, 2011

    […] other day I highlighted the WaPo’s Jackson Diehl’s ridiculous article claiming Obama hearts Syria but not […]

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