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Who Checks the Fact-Checkers?

Every election season, a variety of newspapers and other entities set themselves up as arbiters of the accuracy of politicians’ statements. These “fact-checkers” nearly always turn out to be liberal apologists who don a false mantle of objectivity in order to advance the cause of the Democratic Party. Maybe there are exceptions, but I can’t think of one offhand.

A case in point is Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post, a liberal reporter who now claims to be The Fact-Checker, who exposes “The Truth Behind the Rhetoric.” Today his target is Rick Perry; in particular, what Kessler calls Perry’s “newbie mistake on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Perry, you see, isn’t an experienced man of the world like Glenn Kessler. This is the exchange that Kessler criticizes:

Question: Do you believe there should be a Palestinian state?

I certainly have some concerns. The first step in any peaceful negotiation for a two-state solution for the Palestinians is to recognize the right of Israel’s existence. They have to denounce terrorism in both word and deed. And they have to sit down and negotiate with Israel directly. Anything short of that is a non-starter in my opinion.

You may wonder what was wrong with Perry’s answer. It probably represents the view of 70% of Americans. But Kessler thought it exposed Perry as ignorant:

Perry’s comments to Time magazine struck us as interesting and potentially revealing. How deep is his understanding of this long-running conflict?

Perry’s statement had three parts: Palestinians must recognize Israel’s existence; they have to denounce terrorism; they have to negotiate with Israel directly. “Anything short of that is a non-starter in my opinion,” he declared.

Perry is stuck in a time warp. He’s describing a situation that existed in the 1980s, not really today. (Some people might argue about some of that, but we will explain below.)

As part of the 1993 Oslo accords, in an exchange of letters between then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the Palestine Liberation Organization met all of these conditions nearly 20 years ago. The letters are posted on the Web site of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

So, who is stuck in a time warp? Does Kessler not know what has happened during the last 20 years? Does he not understand that the Oslo Accords collapsed under the violent weight of the Second Intifada? Does he really believe that a letter written by the deceased head of a defunct organization in 1993, answers for all time the question whether Palestinians and their leaders actually accept the existence of Israel as an independent nation, let alone a Jewish state?

If Kessler really does believe that, he needs to learn a little history. The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has backed away from any acknowledgement of Israel’s right to exist. In this video, he explains that neither the organization he heads, Fatah, nor Hamas has recognized Israel. He says that the PA has “recognized” Israel only to the extent that PA officials who have the duty of cashing Israeli checks will have to deal with, and thereby “recognize,” their counterparts:

Abbas’s close associate Azzam al-Ahmed, a member of Fatah’s Central Committee, explained just three months ago that Fatah, supposedly the moderate party which now controls the Palestinian Authority, has never recognized Israel’s right to exist:

Ahmed’s remarks were made in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al- Youm.

Asked whether Fatah had spoken with Hamas about recognizing Israel, the senior Fatah official said, “Fatah has not recognized Israel. I challenge anyone who says that the case is otherwise, whether it’s Hamas or others. Neither Fatah nor Hamas is required to recognize Israel. Only governments and states extend recognition. It was the Palestinian government that recognized Israel, just as the Israeli government recognized us.”

Are these evasions important? Of course. Fatah, just like Hamas, wants to slaughter the Jews who live in Israel and establish an Arab “Palestine” that includes all of what now constitutes Israel. This is why Palestinian school children are taught by the PA that the Jews have no right to be in Palestine, and why not only schools but Palestinian organizations of all sorts display maps of Palestine which include all of present-day Israel. Go here to see dozens of examples of this phenomenon. This is just one, from a 2nd grade mathematics textbook that is currently in use and sanctioned by the PA; it purports to be a map of “Palestine:”

The Palestinian Authority and its media outlets consistently teach its people that the Jews have no right to exist; not in “Palestine,” anyway. Again, this is one example out of thousands, from an official PA outlet:

The Zionists must acknowledge publicly, in front of the world, that the Jews have no connection to the Palestinian Arab land, upon whose ruins arose the colonialist settler Zionist plan that settles and expels, represented by the Israeli apartheid state. That which occurred two thousand years ago (i.e., the Jewish/Israeli presence in the land), assuming that it is true, represents in the book of history nothing more than invention and falsification and a coarse and crude form of colonialism.” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 27, 2011]

And Hamas, which rules Gaza–slated to be part of the new “Palestine”–explicitly rejects any recognition of Israel’s right to exist. About that, Kessler has nothing to say.

So, who is the “newbie,” Rick Perry or Glenn Kessler? It is Kessler, not Perry, who demonstrates an appalling lack of knowledge about the conflict between Israel and its neighbors. He continues:

Ironically, on the same day Perry’s remarks to Time were published, an opinion article appeared under Perry’s name in the Jerusalem Post. The article — surely written by a more knowledgeable campaign aide — made reference to the Oslo Accords and noted that “the Palestinian leadership has dealt directly with Israel since 1993, but has refused to do so since March 2010.”

But wait! Is the Jerusalem Post op-ed, written, Kessler thinks, by “a more knowledgeable campaign aide,” at all inconsistent with what Perry told Time? Of course not. For example, in the Post, Perry wrote:

In refusing to deal with the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, and taking this destabilizing action in the UN, the Palestinians are signaling that they have no interest in a two-state solution. The Palestinian leadership’s insistence on the so-called “right of return” of descendants of Palestinian refugees to Israel’s sovereign territory, thereby making Jews an ethnic minority in their own state, is a disturbing sign that the ultimate Palestinian “solution” remains the destruction of the Jewish state.

And Kessler admits that Perry is right when he says that the PA currently refuses to engage in direct negotiations with Israel, which was the third point Perry made in his answer to Time.

Which leaves the inconvenient subject of terrorism. Once again, Kessler has to admit that Perry has a point:

One can certainly make an argument that the Palestinians have not always lived up to ending terrorism “by deed” (though the Palestinian security forces have been much improved in recent years.) One can also argue that Palestinians need to return to direct talks.

Well, yeah–that is exactly the argument that Perry did make: “They have to denounce terrorism in both word and deed.” Kessler tosses off the subject of terrorism in a sentence, but Israelis have to live with thousands of rockets launched from Gaza, constant terrorist attacks from the West Bank (like this one and this one), and the threat of genocide that has only intensified in recent years.

Kessler wraps it all up with an appeal to authority:

Just to be sure, we sent Perry’s remarks to three experts on Middle East diplomacy — an Israeli, a Palestinian and an American. All three said he appeared to be remarkably uninformed.

I’d really like to see those email exchanges, and know the identity of the “experts” Kessler consulted! One liberal asks three other liberals what they think, and they all agree–Israel needs to take more risks for “peace,” and anyone who doesn’t agree (anyone, that is, who understands the facts and cares about Israel’s security) is a dope.

One last thing: Kessler thinks that Israel has nothing to fear because of a twenty-year-old letter from a dead terrorist. What is the PA’s real intention, as of today? Look no farther than this: as Scott reported earlier today, “Palestine” is represented in the United Nations by the heroine Latifa Abu Hmeid. What is her claim to fame? She is the mother of no fewer than four terrorist murderers, who together are serving a total of 18 life sentences. Is Rick Perry’s concern about whether the Palestinians and their leaders are really reconciled to the existence of Israel unfounded? Let’s be blunt: Glenn Kessler either is woefully ignorant of Middle Eastern history, or he is deliberately misleading his readers.

I give Kessler’s “fact checking” four Pinocchios:

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