Blatant fabrication in Middle East reporting by two outlets that take themselves very seriously – The New Republic Online (TNR) and the National Review Online (NRO) – has the blogosphere buzzing. The story went mainstream when the New York Times ran a piece relating how NRO, after months of sniping at TNR for carrying ‘Baghdad Diarist” reports of US military misbehavior in Iraq that proved to be false, was itself found out. But in this story there are only villains- neither TNR nor NRO can be trusted on the Middle East – and it goes way beyond the particular stories in question.
NRO published reports from Lebanon by W. Thomas Smith Jr. in which the former marine stated at that 4,000 – 5,000 Hezbollah soldiers were deployed to Christian neighborhoods in Beirut and, in a different piece, that upwards of 200 heavily-armed Hezbollah militants had formed a tent-city near the Lebanese Parliament. Both of these statements have since been deemed entirely false (see this article by Thomas Edsall in The Huffington Post and this one by Glenn Greenwald in Salon ) NRO carried a pathetic excuse for an apology. Mother Jones’s Jonathan Schwarz has produced a delicious dissection of the anti-Arab racism in online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez’s ‘apology.’
But knifing NRO should not become an exercise in defending or relativising the misdemeanors at TNR and not only for the obvious journalistic-ethics-related reason. TNR are the good liberals and NRO the nasty conservatives right? Well, when it comes to the Middle East, Arabs, and especially Israeli-Palestinian peace, wrong! They both suck.
That TNR and NRO’s untrustworthiness on the Middle East would somehow be a new discovery is an astonishing notion. There are exceptions, but the thrust of Mid-East coverage in TNR and NRO excels in finding that dangerous meeting point between neo-cons and liberal hawks, the comfort zone of the pro-Likud, anti-peace crowd. TNR and NRO are, in this respect, almost indistinguishable. Both, for instance, have highlighted bellicose responses to the NIE Iran report in the last days, see Michael Ledeen’s “I’m not a Believer,” at NRO and Yossi Klein Halevi’s “An Insult to Intelligence,” at TNR for an example of what I mean.
The track record of Michael Ledeen, contributing editor of NRO, of Iran-Contra, Iraq/Niger yellowcake forgery and ‘Ledeen Doctrine,’ (summarized by Jonah Goldberg as, “every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business,”) fame, hardly needs expanding upon.
The NRO stable also boasts David Frum who I debated here and Noah Pollak (previously at the AEI.) Pollak is Deputy Editor of “Azure,” a publication of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem where, guess who, none other than Yossi Klein Halevi, TNR’s Israel correspondent, is a senior fellow. The Shalem Center has been identified with Benjamin Netanyahu, while Natan Sharansky, (Bush’s favorite author) heads Shalem’s Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies. Yes, that Adelson, Sheldon – the principal funder of Freedom’s Watch. (Shalem also lists Weekly Standard Editor, Bill Kristol among its board members and Giuliani advisor, Martin Kramer on its staff.)
There is no conspiracy here, just the cozy camaraderie of Likud-land. And we haven’t even mentioned TNR’s Marty Peretz yet. Read Eric Alterman in The American Prospect on the effect Marty Peretz’s leadership had on TNR and its foreign policy positions. Here is an extract:
My Marty problem — and ours — is just this: By pretending to speak as a liberal but simultaneously endorsing the central crusades of the right, he has enlisted The New Republic in the service of a ruinous neoconservative doctrine, as the magazine sneered at those liberals who stood firm in the face of its insults. He has done so, moreover, in support of a blinkered and narrow view of Israeli security that, again, celebrates hawks and demonizes doves. Had the United States or even Israel followed the policies advocated by those genuine liberals whom TNR routinely slandered, much of the horror of the past four years would have been happily avoided
When it comes to TNR and NRO on the Middle East, it really is a case of a plague on both your houses.