Necessary Illusions Copyright © 1989 by Noam Chomsky
Appendix V Segment 13/33
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After being promoted to chief diplomatic correspondent of the Times in recognition of his achievements in having provided "balanced and informed coverage" of the Middle East, Friedman turned to the broader responsibilities of this new position, informing the reader, for example, that in Central America, "after eight years of a failed Reagan Administration approach, Washington has one realistic option -- to seek change through the diplomatic initiative opened by the leaders of Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras" -- and opposed throughout, we are of course to understand, only by the totalitarian Sandinistas.72 It is impressive to see how little effort it takes for the well-trained intellectual to learn the lines. Another Pulitzer Prize doubtless awaits.

A year after Shimon Peres's rejection of "direct negotiations," the Hebrew press in Israel headlined Arafat's statement that "I am ready for direct negotiations with Israel, but only as an equal among equals," and Shimon Peres's report that "the PLO is ready for direct negotiations with Israel without an international conference."73 Israel again rejected the offer. A few days later, Arafat reiterated the PLO call for "an independent Palestinian state in any part of the territory of Palestine evacuated by the Israelis or liberated by us," adding that this state should then form "a confederation with the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Syrians, and why not, the Israelis."74 Again, the North American reader was spared knowledge of these facts.

On January 14, 1988, Arafat stated that the PLO would "recognize Israel's right to exist if it and the United States accept PLO participation in an international Middle East Peace conference" based on all U.N. resolutions, including U.N. 242.75 Once again the New York Times refused to publish Arafat's statement, or even to permit letters referring to it -- though the facts were buried in an article on another topic nine days later. Arafat had expressed a similar positions many times, for example, a few months earlier in an interview in the New York Review of Books, and in a September speech at a U.N. Nongovernmental Organization (N.G.O.) meeting, also unreported in the Newspaper of Record, in which he called for an "International Conference under the auspices of the United Nations and on the basis of international legality as well as of the international resolutions approved by the United Nations relevant to the Palestinian cause and the Middle East Crisis, and the resolutions of the Security Council, including resolutions 242 and 338."76

In March 1988 the New York Times at last permitted readers a glimpse of the facts,77 but in an interesting manner. A front-page headline read: "Shamir and Arafat Both Scornful of U.S. Moves for Mideast Peace." Two stories follow on the villains who scorn the peace process. One deals with Yitzhak Shamir, who says that "The only word in the Shultz plan I accept is his signature"; the other, with Yasser Arafat, who repeats his endorsement of all U.N. resolutions including 242 and 338, once again accepting Israel's existence in return for withdrawal from the occupied territories and calling for Palestinians to be represented in negotiations through their chosen representatives.78 George Shultz soberly and honorably pursues the peace process; the extremists on both sides scorn his efforts.

In a similar vein, the press reported in 1984 that the Israeli Supreme Court would permit "two extremist political parties" to run in the elections, one of them Rabbi Kahane's Kach party, which "advocates the eventual expulsion of all Arab residents of Israel and the West Bank of the Jordan River," and the other, the Progressive List, which "wants Israel to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization and form a Palestinian state on the West Bank" -- the two forms of extremism.79

In April 1988, Arafat again endorsed partition, referring explicitly to the principle of a two-state political settlement, not the borders of the original U.N. Resolution of 1947. The next day, Defense Minister Rabin (Labor) announced that Palestinians must be excluded from any political settlement, and that diplomacy can proceed only "on a state-to-state level." A few days earlier, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (Likud) had informed George Shultz that "U.N. Resolution 242 does not contain territorial provisions with regard to Jordan," meaning that it excludes the West Bank; the government of Israel is thus on record with a flat rejection of U.N. 242, as understood anywhere else in the world. In February, the Platform Committee of Herut, the core of the governing Likud coalition, had reiterated its longstanding position that the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, including all of Jordan, is "permanent" and "not subject to any higher authority," though they do not "propose to go to war on Amman," at least now. Deputy Prime Minister Roni Milo (Likud) had announced earlier that "we have never said that we renounce our right to [Jordan], though in the context of negotiations with Jordan we might agree to certain concessions in Eastern Transjordan," granting Jordan some of its current territory (the reference is presumably to the largely uninhabited desert areas). Later in April 1988, the Labor Party once again adopted a campaign platform rejecting Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, and Rabin clarified that the plan was to allow 60 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to be part of a Jordanian-Palestinian state, with its capital in Amman. Both major Israeli political groupings thus confirmed their extreme rejectionism, though in their characteristically different guises. The respected Israeli diplomat Abba Eban, an advocate of the Labor Party variety of rejectionism, comments on "the awkward fact that the Israeli government does not support [U.N. 242] at all"; specifically, "there is no trace of [resolutions 242 and 338] whatever in the Israeli coalition agreement because the Likud negotiators in 1984 resisted the Labour proposal to include 242 as one of the sources of Israeli governmental policy."80

All of this passed without notice in the mainstream press.81 The press did, however, report that George Shultz, pursuing his "peace mission" in Jordan, announced that the PLO or others "who have committed acts of terrorism" must be excluded from peace talks, which would leave the bargaining table quite empty and surely would exclude the speaker. He also "explained his understanding of the aspirations of Palestinians," Times reporter Elaine Sciolino wrote, by citing the example of the United States, where he, Shultz, is a Californian, and George Bush is a Texan, but they have no problem living in harmony. The Palestinian aspirations into which he shows such profound insight can be handled the same way.82

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72 Friedman, NYT News in Review, Jan. 29, 1989.

73 Hadashot, Jan. 7, 1988; Ha'aretz, Dec. 31, 1987.

74 Interview, Nouvel Observateur, Jan. 7, 1988.

75 AP, Jan. 15; Toronto Globe and Mail, Jan. 15, 1987; also published in several local newspapers in the United States.

76 NYRB, June 25, 1987. U.N. English translation, quoted in The Other Israel, Newsletter of the Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, Nov.-Dec. 1987.

77 To be precise, the PLO support for the nonrejectionist political settlement vetoed by the United States at the United Nations in January 1976 was reported (NYT, Jan. 27, 1988), but then disappeared from history.

78 NYT, March 12, 1988.

79 "Israeli Supreme Court lets two extremist parties run," Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 1984.

80 Ha'aretz, April 12; Jerusalem Post, April 13; Shamir, Ha'aretz, April 7; Herut, Dorit Gefen, Al-Hamishmar, Feb. 29, 1988; Milo, then chairman of the Likud bloc in the Knesset, Maariv, Jan. 3, 1984; Globe and Mail, April 26; Rabin, Tony Banks, Jane's Defence Weekly, May 7; Eban, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 3, 1988.

81 See my articles in Z Magazine, May, July 1988. I found no other mention.

82 Sciolino, NYT, April 6, 8, 1988.