Sunday, January 6, 2008

Lies, deceits and the service entrance

Ok, I'm late catching up to this story and I have no excuse other than distraction. But now I need to get it off my chest.

I've been a big fan of Caroline Glick for years. I don't always agree with everything she writes and I know she often tends to go a bit over the top, but a lot of what she says is important and she says it well. So for a long time I've persisted in defending her in discussions with friends and other bloggers.

No more.

On November 30, 2007, Glick published a shot heard round the J-Blogoshere -- a JPost column entitled "Apartheid Not Peace" in which she made this shocking accusation:

This week the Bush Administration legitimized Arab anti-Semitism. In an effort to please the Saudis and their Arab brothers, the Bush administration agreed to physically separate the Jews from the Arabs at the Annapolis conference in a manner that aligns with the apartheid policies of the Arab world which prohibit Israelis from setting foot on Arab soil.

Evident everywhere, the discrimination against Israel received its starkest expression at the main assembly of the Annapolis conference on Tuesday. There, in accordance with Saudi demands, the Americans prohibited Israeli representatives from entering the hall through the same door as the Arabs.

Bizarre. Surreal. WTF? But she didn't stop there. A few paragraphs later, she added this extra, um, color to her account:

As [Condoleeza Rice] put it, "I know what it is like to hear that you cannot go on a road or through a checkpoint because you are a Palestinian. I understand the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness."

Rice's remarks make clear that for the Secretary of State there is no difference between Israelis trying to defend themselves from a jihadist Palestinian society which supports the destruction of the Jewish state and bigoted white Southerners who oppressed African Americans because of the color of their skin. It is true that Israel has security concerns, but as far as Rice is concerned, the Palestinians are the innocent victims. They are the ones who are discriminated against and humiliated, not Livni, who was forced - by Rice - to enter the conference through the service entrance.

Now I'm sorry, but no way. That just rang false. In spite of everything I knew was amiss at the Annapolis Conference, in spite of everything I knew about the abysmal appeasements by Bush and Rice in their latest attempt to jump start the bogus "peace process," there was no way I was buying that story. A few days later, I found my sentiments politely reflected in a comment (#121) posted in the "Talkback" section by an American named Frederic Leder:

The accusation that the Israeli diplomats were forced to use the servants entrance is so bizarre that people here are having trouble believing it. Could Ms. Glick provide some corroboration or source material?

Could she indeed? Well, I searched high and low for one single corroborating account, one other article or essay independently reporting (rather than just repeating) the service entrance story independently and I found nothing. I asked other bloggers, friends and relatives, and no one, absolutely no one had heard or read or seen confirmation of that detail. Oh, there were plenty of essays and blog posts quoting Glick and adding their own indignation (and embellishments) to the mix. And there still are. There still are.

So I waited, and I watched, and I asked, and then things got crazy and I lost track of it.

Now, thanks to Soccer Dad (who else?), I see that two weeks ago, Ms. Glick finally issued, not a corroboration, but a retraction. Of sorts. Down in paragraphs 10, 11 and 12 of her December 24 column about media lies and the Mohammed Al Dura hoax, she buried this convoluted rationalization:

Even when independent media outlets use their best efforts to report the facts in a credible way, they sometimes get it wrong. For instance, on November 27, the Jerusalem Post reported a quote made by an Arab diplomat to AFP news agency in Riyadh claiming that the Bush Administration had bowed to the Arab demand to force the Israeli delegation at the Annapolis conference to enter the conference hall through a separate entrance from the Arabs. In the diplomat's words, "The Saudis told Washington that they do not want to meet anyone from the Israeli delegation, either by chance or by prior arrangement. Hence it was decided that ... delegations would enter into the meeting room from different doors."

His assertion was made credible by statements from US officials regarding the Saudi demand for segregation between the Arabs and the Israelis at the conference. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "As the Saudi foreign minister put it, nobody's interested in these uncomfortable situations where there are theatrics for the sake of photographs. We'll of course be respectful and mindful of that as we'll put together the various events."

It was these twin reports that informed my own decision to begin my Nov. 30 column "Apartheid not peace" with the story of the separation of Israeli representatives from Arab representatives at Annapolis. Happily, after my column was published, both the State Department and Israeli officials denied that the US had enforced the Arab demand for segregated entrances.

Happily, yes. Unhappily, however, enough time had passed and enough righteous indignation had proliferated over Glick's original account that it's necessary to pour through several search engine pages of outrage before you'll find the first reference to this "retraction." Well, it's not as if she's tried to draw attention to it. (Yes, paragraph 12.) And of those who noticed, many are still sticking to her original story. In fact, some of them are insisting that the story was real and it's the retraction that's "got to be" false.

And ... wait. Was there an apology somewhere in that retraction? Because I certainly didn't see one. Worse, it appears that Glick made up the "service entrance" element out of whole cloth. No reference to a "service entrance" appears in her own account of the reports that "informed her decision" to include it. That separate entrances were requested, I could believe, given the Saudis' notorious phobia about touching Jews. That they were provided was dubious, and the quote from McCormack is far too vague to be considered as evidence that they were. But it was that last clever creative detail -- the "service entrance," the one that nailed Glick's "apartheid" analogy -- that pushed a lot of people over the edge and that, for me, flagged the story as total BS.

And now we know that it was.

Why am I so worked up over this apparently minor incident? Because it represents a breach of trust and one that will henceforth undermine my confidence in anything that this particular journalist has to say. And because advocates who feel the need to make things up in order to prove their point are incapable of persuading. They undermine their own cause (which, in this case, is my cause, too). I have neither the time nor the interest to start verifying every detail of Glick's columns. As a result, you probably won't see her name or her work on this blog again, unless she's the subject of the story.

I get enough lies and deceits from the other side. I won't tolerate it from my own. Full stop.