Derfner’s reply and a follow-up

Click here for the earlier correspondence

Larry Derfner’s reply to
Maurice Ostroff’s open letter re God’s Warriors

Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2007 07:15:22 +0200

From: Larry Derfner

Subject: Re: NU


Dear Maurice: Again, sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. Now about your letter: I think it illustrates my point – that the right-wing pro-Israel/anti-Arab camp determinedly disregards any bit of information that gets in the way of their black-and-white view of the Israeli-Arab conflict, and they see anti-Israeli/pro-Arab bias where it doesn’t exist.

My column meant to show that God’s Warriors wasn’t as biased as the right-wing critics say, and I presented some examples to back up my point – but you didn’t even address them. I pointed out that the Israel program opened with a long section about a Hebron settler whose father was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist; I mentioned that the program paid much, much more attention to Israeli victims than to Palestinian victims; I mentioned that the Muslim program was filled with images and narration from 9/11, London and other horrific scenes of worldwide Islamic terror; I mentioned that CNN gave the most glowing praise and attention to the film “Obsession” that equates militant Islam with Nazism; I mentioned that Amanpour did a documentary titled “In the Footsteps of Bin Laden”; and I pointed out that CNN, like other mainstream media, have hardly neglected the subject of Islamic terror and fanaticism in the last six years, and that their coverage of this subject has, of course, dwarfed their coverage of Jewish terror/fanaticism.

Yet you didn’t address any of these points. You didn’t come to grips with any bit of information that could upset your theory that CNN is anti-Israel and pro-Arab.

Now let me address some of the points you made.

About the treatment of the Israel lobby, I think Amanpour spent a little too much time on it, it was a little disproportionate in a program on religious fanaticism and violence. But the question she raises is, if the settlements are a bad thing (a point of view she supports with factual material), and every U.S. government has spoken against them to some degree, why doesn’t the U.S. back up its sentiments with action – by pressuring Israel monetarily and politically to stop building settlements? And her answer is: because of the Israel lobby. And I think she is to a great extent right – (even though CAMERA was correct in pointing out that George H.W. Bush gave Israel the loan guarantees not under pressure from the Israel lobby, but because Rabin came in and froze the settlements.) As for balance on this subject, she had Morris Amitay and that politician from New York; somebody like Dershowitz wasn’t also required to give the other side.

Secondly, and this is a key misinterpretation made by the pro-Israel/anti-Arab camp, AMANPOUR DOES NOT EQUATE MUSLIM TERRORISM WITH JEWISH TERRORISM AND CHRISTIAN TERRORISM. Just because she gives each issue equal time in this particular series, doesn’t mean that she sees them as the same sort and same size of a problem. As I wrote, I think she should have put in a sentence or two to make that absolutely, unmistakably clear, but the whole content of the three programs makes the difference starkly clear, as I wrote – in the Israel program she shows the violence of some settlers, in the Christian program she mentions a few murders of abortionists in the past but otherwise concentrates on Christian political lobbying, while in the Muslim program, she focuses on Al Qaeda and Iran, especially their anti-American terror, hostage-taking, etc. The absence of moral equivalency or any other kind of equivalency in God’s Warriors is self-evident.

Thirdly, Amanpour’s responses to talkbackers indicate that she sees fanaticism as a problem in all three religious groups, but there’s nothing in what she says to indicate she thinks they are an equal problem.

A couple of final points – you ask how I feel about being quoted on a website that calls for divestment in Israel. I’d say I feel very, very slightly annoyed. The reason I say that is because I also get quoted on all sorts of pro-Israel websites, and I know that this is the price of free speech – that if you criticize your own society, it may be used by your society’s enemies. Societies willing to pay that price are called democracies, societies that aren’t are called dictatorships.

Finally, you object to my describing you as a right-winger. Maurice, it’s good to hear that you’re a progressive on socioeconomic issues, and I have the greatest admiration for your anti-apartheid activities in South Africa. But on the subject of the Israeli-Arab conflict, you are, according to my definition, a hardline right-winger. I say that because your view, or at least your stated view, of the conflict is that in 100% of the disputes between Israel and the Arabs, Israel is 100% and the Arabs are 100% wrong. If you disagree with this, please name one dispute between Israel and any Arab entity in which you think the Arabs were at least partially right and Israel was at least partially wrong. I don’t mean “exceptions that prove the rule” such as individual cases of Israeli brutality, or Israeli policies that, in retrospect, were innocently mistaken – I mean one dispute over land, over the use of force, over laws, in which the Arab beef against Israeli policy had, in your view, at least some justice. Go back as far as you like, look at wartime or peacetime, look at the Palestinians, the Israeli Arabs or any Arab country. If you can show one example where Israel was less than 100% right and the Arabs less than 100% wrong, I’ll grant that you’re not a hardline right-winger. If you can show three examples, I’ll take back that I called you a right-winger at all. But if you can’t show any such example, then I think you have to admit that on this subject, you are a thorough-going, black-and-white nationalist, a pure right-winger.

In addition, however, you are a gentleman, and an erudite one, and I enjoy these exchanges.

All the best, Larry

Reply by Maurice Ostroff to Larry Defner’s response of September 18, 2007

September 19, 2007

Dear Larry,

CNN’s documentary “God’s Warriors”

Thank you for your detailed reply. Because of your penchant for name-calling and your insistence on labeling me a right-winger, I have difficulty separating the substance of your arguments from the labels which add nothing to the debate,

If it is absolutely necessary to classify my outlook I would possibly regard myself as a mugwump i.e. “a person who is independent politically or who remains undecided or neutral”. (Merriam-Webster dictionary). In lighter vein, I sit on the fence with my mug on one side and my wump on the other.

Rather than judge by who said it, I agree or disagree with an argument on its merit, irrespective of its source. And, believe it or not, I have even been known to agree with points raised by a journalist named Larry Derfner.

On the other hand, you seem to place every commentator into either a right or left wing box and reject outright, any statement from the right, no matter that it may contain an element of truth. But all communications from the left, wise and inaccurate alike, are treated with respect. Don’t you think this attitude blinkers your vision and deprives you of opportunities to widen your horizons?

Let’s start with your final paragraph in which you ask me to prove my credentials by naming one dispute between Israel and any Arab entity in which I think the Arabs were at least partially right and Israel was at least partially wrong. OK – there have been many but I quote three issues about which I wrote letters to the press, the IDF spokesperson and/or to the relevant minister: I disagreed vigorously with Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes, the unilateral aspect of our disengagement from Gaza and the manner in which we treated the SLA.

Your claim that “the program paid much, much more attention to Israeli victims than to Palestinian victims” does not stand up to a close examination of transcripts. You say I did not address your statement that the Israel program opened with a long section about a Hebron settler whose father was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist. I don’t think it calls for a comment, as the episode does not in any way alter the program’s message that extremist Islamic advocates of terror and all other devoutly religious people, including the moderate Moslem majority are equally dangerous.

You criticize me for not addressing your points that CNN praised the film “Obsession”, that Amanpour did a documentary “In the Footsteps of Bin Laden”; and that CNN has not neglected the Islamic terror in the last six years. Need I explain that the reason I did not address them is that these points are completely irrelevant to an impartial assessment of this documentary?

I did not claim, “CNN is anti-Israel and pro-Arab”. You put these words in my mouth. I did say that factually, in this program, Amanpour ignored contrary views of eminent international jurists as well as the persons who drafted resolution 242, when she categorically stated her opinion that all settlements are illegal.

You defend the introduction of the “Israel Lobby” although it has no relevance to a documentary about religious zealotry. And you failed to address my objection to the fact that it was not placed in the context of the general lobbying scene in Washington and the POWERFUL countervailing Arab lobby.

You stress in Caps, “AMANPOUR DOES NOT EQUATE MUSLIM TERRORISM WITH JEWISH TERRORISM AND CHRISTIAN TERRORISM”. Here we disagree completely. She does equate them by giving them equal time without making any distinction between the different “warriors” and by stating on CNN’s web site that as long as people believe that only their holy book [Koran, Torah or Bible] or only their holy word matters and is relevant, then there will be no solution.

It is interesting that you feel only very slightly annoyed at being quoted on a website that calls for divestment from Israel. In reply I can only say the obvious. If you are quoted in speaking the truth OK. But, and this is a big but, when our enemies use damaging statements made by you which are inaccurate or based on faulty reasoning, you ought to be contrite. Take for example your misleading statement, which has been quoted extensively; “Nobody and nothing in the world has an army of advocates, defenders, PR people, marketers, spin-meisters and image-polishers like Israel has”. Just a little research proves that Israel’s PR lags way behind that of our enemies. It is bad enough accidentally kicking the ball into your own goal posts, but doing so deliberately is unforgivable.

I would very much like to know whether you agree that by equating fundamentalist violence with non-violent religious movements this widely promoted documentary diverts attention from the real threat of Jihad and whether you noticed that the entire series ignores the basic motivator of Islamic violence; the incitement to hatred emanating from state media and mosques, not only in Arab countries but even under the noses of European and British governments?

Will you not concede that the 6-hour documentary must be criticized for not finding time to mention the indoctrination of infants to become suicidal Warriors?

You also failed to address my question whether you really intend to discredit, without any effort to substantiate your serious allegations, the extensive research that Honest Reporting and CAMERA invest in their analyses of anti-Israel propaganda? And much more importantly, do you not believe it is essential to counter the continuing onslaught of Israel bashing?