F. David Radler is publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Jerusalem Post. These remarks are excerpted from an Oct. 6 speech he gave when accepting a tribute from the Weizmann Institute of Science.
From the Chicago SunTimes
It is not easy to be an Israeli today. They are faced with threats of terror, taunted by unyielding and unjust condemnation from the international community, yet the country continues to grow. So do its institutions.
The Weizmann Institute has grown into a great center of research, learning and advancement for all mankind. It was founded in 1934 on the unshakable belief by Haim Weizmann that a free and democratic state would need a research center as good as and as path-breaking as any in the world.
My partners and I have been in the newspaper business for 35 years. What began with a small newspaper in Sherbrooke, Quebec, has led to the ownership of such titles as the Daily Telegraph in London, the Ottawa Citizen and the Vancouver Sun and Province. We are also the owners of the Jerusalem Post and the bi-weekly magazine, the Jerusalem Report. While the Post is not our largest newspaper, I suspect I would not be standing before you today had it not been for the purchase of that newspaper in 1988.
At the time of the purchase, I made the statement that this was a purely economic decision and that we would be no more emotionally attached to the Jerusalem Post than we would be had we purchased the South China Morning Post newspaper in Hong Kong. Of course, this proved not to be true.
We support President Bush's war on terror. We, therefore, support Israel's war on terror.
Conditions in the Middle East have deteriorated since 1988, and we, along with other publishers, have been forced to make choices.
We support President Bush's war on terror. We, therefore, support Israel's war on terror.
In Europe, the Middle East conflict is framed as a colonial affair, which depicts Israel as a heartless bully and the Palestinians as innocent victims. This view is widely embraced by the European left, which has romanticized Yasser Arafat as a Third World freedom fighter. In the United States, this depiction is not nearly as prejudiced.
Among American media, the Mideast is often portrayed as a contest between two sides whose passions are excessively inflamed but ultimately whose behavior is morally equivalent. Columnist George Jonas wrote in the Ottawa Citizen, "To be impartial between tyranny and democracy the better to protect human rights is like being impartial between wood and copper the better to conduct electricity. In plain words, it's nonsense."
This position can be clearly depicted in the news and opinion pages of another Chicago daily newspaper. In an effort to create a balance in covering the Middle East, the public editor of this other Chicago newspaper has, among other things, described Ariel Sharon as responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacres. He also stated that President Bush was overly concerned about the multimillion-dollar, 50-ton arms shipment from Iran that the Israelis intercepted at sea.
Our Chicago newspaper, the Sun-Times, has been clear and unambiguous. We recognize that Israel has made numerous offers of territorial and economic concessions to achieve peace. Not only have those offers been rejected, but the concessions have likely succeeded in enhancing terror.
Israel and the United States are on the front lines of the war on terror for the same reasons. Both are free and both are democratic. Professor Bernard Lewis wrote in his most recent book, Islam: What Went Wrong:
"It is precisely the lack of freedom -- freedom of the mind from constraint and indoctrination, to question and inquire and speak; freedom of the economy from corrupt and pervasive mismanagement; freedom of women from male oppression; freedom of citizens from tyranny. . . ."
While the military leadership of these countries robbed the people, they generated among the population a sense of humiliation. They also required an enemy. You need an enemy to justify a large military presence as well as to deflect the criticism of your own hijacking of the economy.
The best example of the requirement for military expenditures is the continuation, in Syria, of the Assad regimes, both father and son. They could settle with Israel tomorrow but recognize that there would be a downside to settlement as a result of the inevitable reduction of the military requirements. These rulers are propped up by their military. The Palestinian Authority is a brutal dictatorship and perhaps one of the most financially corrupt regimes in the world. It has not lived up to any of its obligations under the Oslo agreement, including removing the anti-Israel clauses in the Palestine National Charter. They have persuaded young people that a glorious eternity awaits them if they manage to murder Israelis while blowing themselves up.
Marwan Barghouti, head of Fatah-Tanzim, about to go to trial in Israel and who, according to Israelis, led, ran and set in operation terrorist actions against the State of Israel along with his field commanders, was questioned in the New Yorker magazine on July 9, 2001, and was asked: "And if you get 100 percent? Will that end the conflict?"
Barghouti smiled, and then said something impolitic for a Fatah man:
"Then we could talk about bigger things."
"I've always thought that a good idea would be one state for all the peoples."
A secular democratic Palestine?
"We can call it something else."
The late Faisal Husseini, as reported June 24, 2001, by Al-Arabi in Egypt, said: "Had the U.S. and Israel realized, before Oslo, that all that was left of the Palestinian National movement and the Pan-Arab movement was a wooden horse called Arafat or the PLO, they would never have opened their fortified gates and let it inside their walls." He also stated: "The Oslo agreement, or any other agreement, is just a temporary procedure, or just a step towards something bigger. ... We distinguish the strategic, long-term goals from the political phased goals, which we are compelled to temporarily accept due to international pressure. ... [Palestine] according to the higher strategy [is]: 'from the river to the sea.' "
The leaders of the so-called friendly nations, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, refer to the difficulties of controlling "the Arab street." Are we to believe that the dictators in these countries, who have successfully repressed even the most mild opposition to their continued existence, have suddenly become so fearful of the "street"?
Are we to believe that spontaneous demonstrations by the "street" are possible in repressed Arab countries? For these countries, the "street" is nothing but a useful tool -- a tool to influence the West but mainly a tool to distract their own citizens from their own failure in statecraft.
One of the so-called moderate states is Egypt. The country receives $2 billion per year in American aid. When Secretary of State Colin Powell visited the Middle East in April, Hosni Mubarak snubbed the secretary, refusing to meet with him when Powell could not bring an early end to Operation Defensive Shield.
Mubarak has also expressed dissatisfaction against the United States' plan to move against Sadam Hussein. While claiming to be a country that accepts Israel, the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv has been leaderless since November 2000. Mubarak has made the cold peace even colder.
In April of this year, Egypt said it was downgrading cultural and commercial contacts with Israel, and Mubarak continues to allow the state-run Egyptian media to incite against Israel.
Egyptian doctors have refused to treat Israeli embassy personnel, thus necessitating the government of Israel to fly doctors to Cairo. This is not a moderate position. Notwithstanding his anti-Israel posturing, Islamic fundamentalists have not warmed up to Mubarak.
In a press release on the Islamic Web site, Al-Muhajiroun, dated June 4, 2002, the U.K. branch called for "the immediate removal of Hosni Mubarak and his execution for his crimes against Muslims in particular and the civilian population in Egypt generally." Moderation may have its price in that part of the world.
Syria has never made claims to moderation. In July, among the visitors to Damascus was Kim Yong-nam, president of North Korea's Supreme Peoples Assembly Presidium. Just before Kim arrived in Damascus, Assad was hosting Ayatollah Mahmoud, Hashemi Shahroudi, head of the judiciary in Iran, and a prominent anti-Khatami hard-liner. These visits coincide with other exchange visits with Cuba, Iraq and Sudan. One suspects that the common chord between these countries is simply where there is a problem, blame America.
On Aug. 1, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan released a report on Israel's military operation in Jenin and other West Bank cities and found no evidence to support Palestinian allegations of a massacre. At a General Assembly Emergency Special Session on Aug. 5, delegates debated Annan's report and Israel's alleged war crimes against the Palestinians. The report itself, which wasn't favorable to the big lie, was described by various diplomats as follows:
*Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Nasser al-Kidwa: "The notion that the report confirmed that no massacre had been committed was simply not correct."
*Kuwaiti Ambassador Mohammed Abulhasan described Jenin as "the atrocious events in Jenin against an unarmed, innocent people using their legitimate right to resist occupation." And called Israel's actions "the massacre which has caused the whole world to tremble."
The Sun-Times finds no moral equivalence between soldiers who protect the innocent and suicide bombers who murder them.
Needless to say, a resolution that questions the validity of favorable treatment to Israel in Annan's report managed to pass 114-4, including all members of the European Union. The anti-Israeli tally of 114 might have been higher if at least 25 countries had paid their dues.
The Chicago Sun-Times clearly and proudly affirms its unambiguous faith in freedom and democracy. The Sun-Times finds no moral equivalence between soldiers who protect the innocent and suicide bombers who murder them.
We are also clear that Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah-Tanzim are terrorists, not militants. Militants don't bomb campuses -- terrorists bomb campuses. Militants don't explode buses -- terrorists explode buses. Militants don't open fire at weddings, bar mitzvahs and Seder celebrations -- terrorists do. When terrorists kill civilians in Israel, we have no problem labeling them the same as we label the al-Qaida terrorists of Sept. 11.
Through different owners and different leaders, the Chicago Sun-Times has stood tall with the State of Israel and the Weizmann Institute. This is a legacy that will never, never change.