Charitable Impulses Toward Hamas - August 13, 2003

Times Watch for August 13, 2003

Charitable Impulses Toward Hamas

Wednesdays Letter from the Middle East by James Bennet, How Ben-Gurion Did It: Is Everyone Listening? compares former Israeli militant-turned-prime minister Menachem Begin to the anti-Israel terrorist group Hamas.

Bennet provides an account from 1948, the earliest days of the nation of Israel: It is something of an Israeli clich that no Palestinian leader has ever had his Altalena. The reference is to a fateful decision made by [David Ben-Gurion, first prime minister of Israel] in June 1948, after Mr. Begin challenged his vision of a single military force by trying to import weapons and fighters from France aboard a ship, the Altalena. Ben-Gurion called the effort an attempt to destroy the army, an attempt to murder the state. He ordered the Altalena shelled in sight of Tel Aviv, with Begin aboard.

Bennet then lets Palestinian officials have their say: They note that, at the time, Ben-Gurion already had at stake what no Palestinian leader has ever had: a state to defend against internal insurgency as well as external attack. (Those blandly stated external attack, by the way, were from Palestinians and other Arab forces out to destroy the fledging state of Israel.) Bennet then compares Israels founding militants unfavorably to the present-day anti-Israel terrorist group Hamas, showing a softer side of the killers: Further, unlike the groups of [former Israeli Prime Minister] Shamir and Mr. Begin, Hamas does not operate only underground but maintains schools, health clinics and a steady, even celebrity presence on satellite television. As a result, it is broadly popular-far more popular than Mr. Abbas, though not Yasir Arafat. Bennet makes Hamas sound like a widows and orphans society-though Hamas business is to increase their number among Israeli Jews.

Bennet thus becomes the third Times reporter (after Ian Fisher and Greg Myre) to favorably cite Hamas charitable impulses. Bennet also writes: Hamas, which took responsibility for a suicide bombing in the West Bank today, officially rejects any two-state solution with Israel. Hamas does more than that; it denies Israels right to exist.

For the rest of James Bennets Letter From the Middle East, click here.

David Ben-Gurion | James Bennet | Hamas | Israel | Terrorism

Slammin Alabama

Justice Roy Moores Lawless Battle excoriates Alabamas chief justice for demagoguing about the Ten Commandments. The Wednesday editorial snarls that As an obscure state court judge, [Judge Roy Moore] posted the commandments on a wall behind his bench, and used the controversy over the display to get himself elected to Alabama's highest judicial post. Once in office he installed a two-and-a-half-ton Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the main judicial building in Montgomery. When two federal courts ordered him to remove it, he resisted, claiming that he is an independent constitutional officer. Now that he is facing a court deadline of Aug. 20, he is milking the drama for all it's worth. He says he will announce tomorrow whether he will comply.

Its no surprise to find such views on the Times editorial page, but the next paragraph is both lazy and offensive: There is a very serious principle at risk in Justice Moore's grandstanding. The federal Constitution applies to the states, and the federal courts are its ultimate interpreter. Justice Moore's desire to ignore the Constitution's mandates on the separation of church and state has an uncomfortable resemblance to the arguments Gov. George Wallace made when he mounted his stand in the schoolhouse door to block blacks from enrolling at the University of Alabama.

The states rights-Alabama link is a convenient way to slur the judge. But as Times Watch has noted before, the Times editorial page hasnt always been so hostile to states rights (federalism). If the Times thinks a states rights argument can protect a liberal policy, then it will urge respect for core principles of federalism, as it did April 25 concerning Congress attempt at tort reform.

Besides offensively lumping together a Ten Commandments display with segregation, the Times also makes a lazy factual error: There is no mandate on the separation of church and state in the Constitution. Those words dont appear in the document. The statement about a wall of separation between church and state was made in an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut. Thou shalt read the Constitution before referencing it might not be a bad commandment to post at Times headquarters.

For the rest of the Times editorial on the Ten Commandments, click here.

Constitution | Editorial | Gaffes | Judge Roy Moore | Religion | Ten Commandments

Gen. Clark Chides Krugmans Faulty Quote

In a Wednesday letter to the editor, Gen. Wesley Clark, a possible Democratic candidate for president, chides columnist Paul Krugman for inaccurately quoting him regarding a call Clark received, urging him to link the 9-11 attacks to Saddam Hussein.

Clark writes: I would like to correct any possible misunderstanding of my remarks on Meet the Press, quoted in Paul Krugman's July 15 column, about people around the White House seeking to link Sept. 11 to Saddam Hussein. I received a call from a Middle East think tank outside the country, asking me to link 9-11 to Saddam Hussein. No one from the White House asked me to link Saddam Hussein to Sept. 11.

Clark did go on NBCs Meet the Press June 15, but he didnt say what Krugman quotes him as saying. In his July 15 column, Krugman writes: Literally before the dust had settled, Bush administration officials began trying to use 9/11 to justify an attack on Iraq. Gen. Wesley Clark says that he received calls on Sept. 11 from people around the White House urging him to link that assault to Saddam Hussein.

Did Clark really say people around the White House called him on September 11 and urged him to link 9-11 to Saddam? No. Heres what Clark actually said, from a Meet the Press transcript:

GEN. CLARK: Whether it was the need just to strike out or whether he was a linchpin in this, there was a concerted effort during the fall of 2001 starting immediately after 9/11 to pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.RUSSERT: By who? Who did that? CLARK: Well, it came from the White House, it came from people around the White House. It came from all over. I got a call on 9-11. I was on CNN, and I got a call at my home saying, You got to say this is connected. This is state-sponsored terrorism. This has to be connected to Saddam Hussein. I said, But-I'm willing to say it but what's your evidence? And I never got any evidence. And these were people who had-Middle East think tanks and people like this and it was a lot of pressure to connect this and there were a lot of assumptions made. But I never personally saw the evidence and didn't talk to anybody who had the evidence to make that connection.

Either Krugman blinked when Clark said It came from all over, or he figured hed do a of Dowd-style elision and hope no one would notice. To read Gen. Clarks letter to the Times, click here.

Gen. Wesley Clark | Columnists | Maureen Dowd | Gaffes | Iraq War | Paul Krugman | Meet the Press | Terrorism