“We wouldn’t want to be seen as ‘Bibiwashing’” (& Saudi woman beheaded, another raped, lashed)

December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens, one of the founding subscribers to this dispatch list, who died last night



1. Christopher Hitchens
2. Netanyahu says he won’t allow the New York Times to exploit him
3. “We wouldn’t want to be seen as ‘Bibiwashing’”
4. The Times refused to run bipartisan pieces in support of negotiated peace
5. Israel set to release more Palestinian prisoners
6. Saudis behead woman for allegedly “being a witch”
7. Young Saudi woman lashed as a punishment for being raped
8. Full text of Ron Dermer’s letter to The New York Times

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


I would like to join others in expressing great sadness at the death of the prolific American-based British author, critic and journalist Christopher Hitchens, who has died in a hospital in Houston, Texas, at the age of 62 from complications relating to his throat cancer.

When we met, Christopher usually out-drinking me and certainly out-smoking me, we often disagreed on the subject of Israel, Christopher adopting a more hostile approach. But in recent years Christopher had softened his position and warmed to the Jewish state (though not to Judaism or any other religion), taking a more robust line on the need and right of Israel to defend herself.

I would also like to mention the unremarked kindness of Michael and Nina Zilkha with whom Christopher and his wife stayed in Houston for much of his last months. Michael and Nina made Christopher’s extremely difficult final months much more comfortable than they might have been had he had to stay as an in-patient at the nearby hospital or in rented accommodation.

David Frum writes:

A friend of theirs once took Christopher Hitchens and his wife Carol Blue to dinner at Palm Beach’s Everglades Club, notorious for its exclusion of Jews.

“You will behave, won’t you?” Carol anxiously asked Christopher on the way into the club. No dice. When the headwaiter approached, Christopher demanded: “Do you have a kosher menu?”

Christopher was never a man to back away from a confrontation on behalf of what he considered basic decency.



Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has turned down an offer to write an op-ed piece for The New York Times, signaling the extent to which he is fed up with the increasingly extreme editorial attacks on the state of Israel by the “paper of record”.

In declining the request on behalf of the prime minister, Netanyahu’s senior adviser Ron Dermer – in a letter obtained by The Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon – said Netanyahu had decided to “respectfully decline.”

Dermer wrote that this was partly a result of the fact that 19 of the paper’s 20 op-ed pieces on Israel since September have been extremely unfriendly. (Many Times pieces, especially those by Roger Cohen and Tom Friedman, have been more hostile towards Israel than editorials I have read in the Arab press during the same period -- Tom Gross.)

The one positive piece that the Times published was written by Richard Goldstone – chairman of the UN’s Goldstone Commission Report – defending Israel against charges of apartheid. (For more, see this dispatch.)


“We wouldn’t want to be seen as ‘Bibiwashing’ the op-ed page of The New York Times,” Dermer said in his letter, in reference to a piece in the Times last month titled “Israel and Pinkwashing” in which a New York humanities professor was invited by the Times to attack Israel’s record on gay rights.

Given the fact that gay organizations say that Israel probably has the best record of any country in the world when it comes to the rights of homosexuals (extending rights to gays decades ago that were only afforded in many Western countries more recently), and given the fact that some of Israel’s Middle East neighbors carry out the death penalty against gays, even the most staunch defenders of The New York Times were shocked at the lengths the Times is now going to demonize Israel.

Dermer’s letter came a day after Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote that the resounding ovation Netanyahu received in Congress when he spoke there in May had been “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Friedman, not for the first time, has been accused of employing anti-Semitic motifs in his efforts to denigrate the government of Israel. (Both Dermer and Friedman are subscribers to this email list.)

Even the Times’s one positive piece about Israel since September – Judge Richard Goldstone’s piece rejecting the charge that Israel could be compared to apartheid South Africa – came several months after The New York Times reportedly refused to run Goldstone’s previous submission retracting his misrepresentations about Israel.

In that earlier piece (which was instead picked up by The Washington Post), Goldstone, who had previously been cited all over the world (including on numerous occasions in The New York Times) for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, fundamentally changed his position. Yet apparently for The New York Times op-ed page, Goldstone’s retraction was news “unfit to print.”

Tuvia Grossman (above) was an Israeli victim of Palestinian violence. Yet in one of hundreds of instances where the New York Times has misled readers about Israel, the Times photo caption reversed the truth, stating he was a Palestinian victim of Israel


The New York Times has consistently refused to publish pro-Israel op-eds. For example, the Times reportedly refused to run a bi-partisan piece in September co-written by the majority leader of the House of Congress, Eric Cantor (a Republican) and the minority whip Steny Hoyer (a Democrat), expressing joint support for direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and opposition to the Palestinian Authority’s unilateral statehood bid that contravened the Oslo peace accords.

“In an age of intense partisanship, one would have thought that strong bipartisan support for Israel on such a timely issue would have made your cut,” said Dermer, in his letter to the Times.

Meanwhile, Democratic Party congressmen Steve Rothman called on Tom Friedman to apologize for writing last week that the congressional ovation Netanyahu received in May was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

“Thomas Friedman’s defamation against the vast majority of Americans who support the Jewish state of Israel is scurrilous, destructive and harmful to Israel and her advocates in the U.S.,” the Democratic congressman said. “Friedman is not only wrong, but he’s aiding and abetting a dangerous narrative about the US-Israel relationship and its American supporters.”

As commentator Isi Leibler pointed out, “Despite Jewish ownership, throughout its history, The New York Times has rarely displayed affection or sensitivity towards Jewish issues. As far back as 1929, during the Arab riots in Palestine, the local Times correspondent, Joseph Levy, boasted that he was a committed anti-Zionist.”

And of course The New York Times’s cover-up of the Holocaust, was beyond disgraceful, as I have pointed out several times, for example, here and here:

* Reporting Auschwitz, Then & Now: The lamentable record of The New York Times

* All The News That’s Fit To Print?


I attach the full text of Ron Dermer’s letter to the New York Times at the end of this dispatch.



Israel is set to release some 550 Palestinian prisoners on Sunday. This marks the second stage of the grossly disproportionate prisoner swap in which Israel agreed to release over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including some of those responsible for the worst terror attacks in Israel’s history, in exchange for the young kidnapped Israeli Gilad Shalit. Israel released 477 prisoners in the first stage in October, including the bloodiest killers Hamas wanted freed. Yesterday, the Israeli prison service released the names of the next 550 to be released. Most of these are minor criminals.

Hamas is believed to have kept tensions with Israel relatively low and reduced the number of rocket attacks on Israeli civilians in recent months in order not to give Israel any pretext for reneging on the deal.



Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser, a Saudi woman in her 60s, was beheaded on Monday in the northwest province of Jawf for being a witch, the Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement. The country’s high court upheld the death penalty.

So far this year, the kingdom has executed 73 people.

The Saudi government remains one of America’s closes allies.

When President Obama met Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh on one of his first foreign trips as president, he bowed down to Abdullah only a day after a man was publicly beheaded in the Saudi capital and his body and head left on public display for many hours. Yet Obama instead reserved criticism that week for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Among previous dispatches on Saudi Arabia:

* Saudi gang-rape victim gets 90 lashes for International Women’s Day



In a separate news story this week, the Saudi Gazette reports as follows:

Girl gets a year in jail, 100 lashes for adultery
By Adnan Shabrawi

JEDDAH – A 23-year-old unmarried woman was awarded one-year prison term and 100 lashes for committing adultery and trying to abort the resultant fetus.

The District Court in Jeddah pronounced the verdict on Saturday after the girl confessed that she had a forced sexual intercourse with a man who had offered her a ride. The man, the girl confessed, took her to a rest house, east of Jeddah, where he and four of friends assaulted her all night long.

The girl claimed that she became pregnant soon after and went to King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces in an attempt to carry out an abortion. She was eight weeks’ pregnant then, the hospital confirmed.

According to the ruling, the woman will be sent to a jail outside Jeddah to spend her time and will be lashed after delivery of her baby who will take the mother’s last name.


[All notes above by Tom Gross]


Dear Sasha,

I received your email requesting that Prime Minister Netanyahu submit an op-ed to the New York Times. Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline.

On matters relating to Israel, the op-ed page of the “paper of record” has failed to heed the late Senator Moynihan's admonition that everyone is entitled to their own opinion but that no one is entitled to their own facts.

A case in point was your decision last May to publish the following bit of historical revision by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:

It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.

This paragraph effectively turns on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state. It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking.

The opinions of some of your regular columnists regarding Israel are well known. They consistently distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace. They cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu and virtually every Israeli official somehow reflects government policy or Israeli society as a whole. Worse, one columnist even stooped to suggesting that the strong expressions of support for Prime Minister Netanyahu during his speech this year to Congress was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby” rather than a reflection of the broad support for Israel among the American people.

Yet instead of trying to balance these views with a different opinion, it would seem as if the surest way to get an op-ed published in the New York Times these days, no matter how obscure the writer or the viewpoint, is to attack Israel.

Even so, the recent piece on “Pinkwashing,” in which Israel is vilified for having the temerity to champion its record on gay-rights, set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.

Not to be accused of cherry-picking to prove a point, I discovered that during the last three months (September through November) you published 20 op-eds about Israel in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. After dividing the op-eds into two categories, “positive” and “negative,” with “negative” meaning an attack against the State of Israel or the policies of its democratically elected government, I found that 19 out of 20 columns were “negative.”

The only “positive” piece was penned by Richard Goldstone (of the infamous Goldstone Report), in which he defended Israel against the slanderous charge of Apartheid.

Yet your decision to publish that op-ed came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone's previous submission. In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in the Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, fundamentally changed his position. According to the New York Times op-ed page, that was apparently news unfit to print.

Your refusal to publish “positive” pieces about Israel apparently does not stem from a shortage of supply. It was brought to my attention that the Majority Leader and Minority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives jointly submitted an op-ed to your paper in September opposing the Palestinian action at the United Nations and supporting the call of both Israel and the Obama administration for direct negotiations without preconditions. In an age of intense partisanship, one would have thought that strong bipartisan support for Israel on such a timely issue would have made your cut.

So with all due respect to your prestigious paper, you will forgive us for declining your offer. We wouldn't want to be seen as “Bibiwashing” the op-ed page of the New York Times.


Ron Dermer
Senior advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.