Sunday, May 22, 2011

On clues and having them

Let's take a moment and say nice things about the AP for being unusually forthright with those annoying facts (most of them) and their pesky context:

In a Mideast policy speech on Thursday, Obama gave unprecedented prominence to Washington's long-held stand on the future borders of Israel and a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. Although his comments did not substantively differ from previously articulated U.S. positions, he sent shudders through the Israeli leadership by acceding to Palestinian pressure to explicitly enunciate this stance.

An essential part of what Obama proposed was that Israelis and Palestinians would also have to agree to land swaps that would allow Israel to hold on to major Jewish settlements, a point Netanyahu failed to mention when he declared the 1967 lines to be militarily "indefensible."

OK, it's not perfect. Talk about the West Bank and Gaza borders has generally left Jerusalem aside as an issue to be dealt with later, and why this is "acceding to Palestinian pressure" -- or why this statement counts as "acceding to pressure" while telling the Palestinians not to mess around at the UN or make too nice with Hamas doesn't -- remains a mystery. But you have to admit it's a pretty good start.

So good, indeed, that the Fair 'n' Balanced Network was stuck with that admission in its lede story until it could improve things with a staff version:

Claiming his remarks earlier this week on borders for Israel and a future Palestinian state had been misrepresented, President Obama said Sunday that "1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps" means the two sides will "negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967."

Which is the point, I suppose, of the collection of Friday 1A heds at the top of the page.* Newsday's "Line in the sand," with "LI pols react as Obama pushes Israel back to '67 borders," is probably the out-and-out stupidest, but lots of grownup papers (Charlotte, Raleigh and Columbus among them; the PiPress gets points for getting "land swaps" on the front) got the basics simply wrong.

Some of that's down to the general disdain of the American press for those annoying international issues, and that was true even before the Global War On Editing began. So I wouldn't blame the occasional loaner from the sports desk who's stuck writing an oversize Mideast hed because all the grumpy old farts who remember Reagan and Carter and Clinton and Bush took the buyout -- certainly not for the sort of repeat-offense malice I suspect in the Fox coverage. But there's still a symptom of wider problems in there. If you've called around to local pols or "faith leaders" for their reaction to a demand that the '67 borders be followed, you've poisoned the well from the start. You're getting a reaction to a bogus premise.

You're also enabling people like Michele Bachmann:

“This week, we saw the final betrayal of Israel when the president came out and said Israel must return to pre-war 1967 borders and also shrink a little more than that,” she said.

All of which considered, it's sort of nice that the AP set down a marker. When a political actor decides to just make something up, it's actually part of the job description to point that out.

* Collected Friday, but I was having too much fun to post them. So there.

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Anonymous Free Online Tutoring said...

Obama’s plan for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders was welcomed by key global players Friday including the European Union, the United Nations, Russia, the Palestinians and parts of the Arab world.

2:11 AM, May 23, 2011  
Anonymous raYb said...

Perhaps those groups welcomed something, but was it a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders or what Obama said, which was a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders WITH MUTUALLY AGREED LAND SWAPS? The latter is far different from the former, but it is what Obama actually said.

10:20 PM, May 23, 2011  
Anonymous Atlanta Roofing said...

I hope they do, but this time, perhaps they could release thousands and thousands of helium balloons with maps of Palestine on them to float into Israel. To represent people returning.

8:22 AM, May 24, 2011  
Anonymous Barbara Phillips Long said...

All that aside, I loathe "line in the sand." When I think of a line in the sand, I think of the waves washing it away. And no number of historic or literary references overcome that picture.

Headline writers should find a different phrase.

3:11 PM, May 24, 2011  

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