I have known Fred Hiatt for years — not closely but in a professional and friendly sense; we have both been deeply dipped in Japan stuff. It’s not a secret that many observers believe that the combined team of Fred Hiatt and Jackson Diehl at the Washington Post have brought an edge to foreign policy editorials that tilts towards the values-spear carriers in these debates while not investing in the realist-tilting wings of the national security establishment.
That’s OK. Not where I am — and I don’t think Hiatt and Diehl agree with the characterization, but they run the show at the Post and stand by their team.
Nonetheless, I have had exchanges with Fred Hiatt on these trends and won’t report them as they are confidential, and to his credit, he has always responded fairly and constructively. I have tried to do the same.
But Hiatt’s latest hire, Jennifer Rubin, has a tendency to engage in short-cut sliming rather than engaging in the same constructive tone and spirit that my exchanges with Hiatt have had. This is unacceptable — and undermines the brand of the Washington Post. (photo credit: Daniel Sieradski)
In an op-ed she wrote today at the Post, Rubin refers to a letter that I organized of policy practitioners, academics, former government officials, and some journalists — both Republicans and Democrats — in the following way:
The usual crowd of Israel bashers has sent the president a letter urging him to go along with a U.N. resolution condemning Israel for its settlements (emphasis added)
At least Ben Smith at Politico had the decency to note that the roster I had assembled included both “usual suspects” and “unusual suspects.”
But without a call from her — without inquiry — the letter I helped organize and draft, which I have sent out making a key point that makes clear in it the following statement:
While a UNSC resolution will not resolve the issue of settlements or prevent further Israeli construction activity in the Occupied Territory, it is an appropriate venue for addressing these issues and for putting all sides on notice that the continued flouting of international legality will not be treated with impunity. Nor would such a resolution be incompatible with or challenge the need for future negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues, and it would in no way deviate from our strong commitment to Israel’s security. (emphasis added)
This letter is fully consistent — in every dimension I can think of — with administration policy. The difference with the administration exists not in content but in the administration’s preference for “venues” in which the current standoff is discussed and debated. Who is in the pot of Israel bashers? Everyone in the Obama administration?
I would like to know from Jennifer Rubin and from her editor — and from the Chairman of the Board of the Washington Post — what I have ever said, what I have ever written, what I have ever organized that deserves the characterization I received from Jennifer Rubin today at the Washington Post. What does she consider makes me an Israel-basher?
I believe that she and I have a serious disagreement about what Israel’s interests are — and I believe that the Netanyahu wing of the Israeli political establishment regularly places short term interests over long to mid-term interests. But I don’t call those who support Netanyahu Israel-bashers even though I believe that as patriotic as they may be as Israelis or as pro-Israel as they may be as Americans they are harming Israel’s interests. That could be a constructive debate — something where both sides could learn something, perhaps.
Calling someone as Israel-basher is akin to calling them an anti-Semite or a bigot, and that can’t go without response. I’m a strong believer in Israel and want a healthy and constructive relationship between Israel and the United States. I have traveled to Israel, have met people from nearly every political party in the Knesset, and love the place and people.
This kind of insidious character attack is irresponsible — and beneath the Washington Post. I think Rubin is smart and informed — but has a way with her writing that slimes recklessly. I hope she tacks in new directions. David Brooks would be someone for her to consider emulating.
I want to debate Rubin — or at least have my time with the editors of the Post to discuss this matter and our letter. I think that the least that the Post can do to balance the attack that Rubin made is to hear the side of those who sent to President Obama the letter she considered Israel-Bashing.
I look forward to hearing from Fred Hiatt and/or Rubin or Don Graham, but this is really unacceptable.
– Steve Clemons