Deputy Minister of Israel Michael Oren joined me this morning:
HH: But I begin today in Israel with Dr. Michael Oren, deputy minister of Israel. Dr. Oren, always a pleasure, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MO: Always an honor to be with you, Hugh.
HH: Thank you for making time for me today. Would you tell our audience who Marwan Barghouti is?
MO: Marwan Barghouti is a convicted terrorist and mass murderer. Let’s start with that.
HH: What did he go? I mean, who did he kill?
MO: Well, more than ten years ago during what the Palestinians called the Second Intifada, he ran the armed wing of al Fatah, Fatah being the ruling wing of the PLO. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is also the head of al Fatah. It had an armed wing, in other words, the Tanzim. And they carried out dozens and dozens of terrorist attacks that killed many Israelis. He was personally convicted, Marwan Barghouti, for five murders. Interestingly enough, one of the people he murdered was a Christian monk.
HH: Is it a crime in Israel to smuggle out communications from convicted terrorists of any sort, but especially someone who is a big wheel, multiple mass murderer?
MO: Indeed, it is, and it was smuggled out, and he’ll be punished for that. But it’s not just that he got an op-ed out. It’s the kind of op-ed he got out, and where it was published, the length it was published, and the way it was published.
HH: I’m going to get, I wanted to point out to the United States, though, and to my audience here, in the United States, Lynn Stewart was a radical lawyer who went to jail for taking out communications from the Blind Sheikh, another convicted terrorist, and she was sentenced to 28 months in jail for doing just that, taking a terrorist message out of jail, because it’s a very bad idea to allow terrorists to communicate with their followers, isn’t it, Dr. Oren?
MO: It is illegal. It is illegal in the state of Israel as well. There’s a big question whether Marwan Barghouti wrote this at all, whether it was written by somebody in the United States and they stuck his name on it. That’s possible. But what we do know is, again, where it was published, the way it was published, and the way Marwan Barghouti was presented by the paper, the New York Times.
HH: That’s the kicker. It’s in the paper of record for the world, the New York Times, the opinion pages earlier this week, Why We Are On A Hunger Strike In Israel’s Prison. Somewhat stunning that the paper of record would publish a terrorist manifesto.
MO: And not just that they published it, they published it on a Jewish holiday when nobody in the state of Israel, nobody in the government could respond to it. Our hands were tied, blessedly tied, but tied. And they gave it space that they gave to nobody else. Listen, I’m a frequent contributor to many papers in the United States, including the New York Times. The average op-ed is between 600 and 600 words. This was 1,200 words. So you’re talking about a half a page given to multiple, multiple lies about the state of Israel. Now when I write an op-ed, I am fact-checked. I am fact-checked from here to eternity. They fact-checked the ‘the’ and the ‘and’ in my op-ed. Nothing was fact-checked here. Nothing at all. Marwan Barghouti said, for example, that families of prisoners from the West Bank are not allowed to visit their loved ones in jail. It is categorically untrue. Israel works with the Red Cross to ensure that those families get those visits. It was one lie after another, no facts. But the kicker, as you said, was the tagline. And as always, the paper determines how the author of any article is to be presented. So when I write, they’ll say maybe I was a former ambassador of Israel to the United States. If they’re good, they’ll mention my recent book, Ally, which is always welcome. They presented Marwan Barghouti not as a convicted terrorist, not as a mass murderer, but as a Palestinian leader and a parliamentarian.
HH: That is an exact quote. Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian. I’m actually stunned by this. There’s so much going on with Korea and with the special election, I missed it. But when I went to look it up, I saw the editor’s note appended the next day which reads this article explained the writer’s prison sentence, but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial, and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy. That is not to me, Dr. Oren, sufficient context. If the Blind Sheikh was simply presented as someone who was in the Colorado Supermax for terrorist acts and neglected to note he tried to bring down the World Trade Center the first time and killed all the people that he did, that would be sufficient context. I don’t even know if it’s possible to give sufficient context to a terrorist.
MO: I think what’s most missing for me in that correction is regret.
HH: Well, there is none of that. You’re right.
MO: There isn’t a line saying gee, we’re sorry. Gee, we sort of overlooked the fact that this man has the blood of dozens of people on his hands. Oops, it’s an oops moment.
HH: The five people that he killed, did they react? Has the Israeli newspapers been full of their reaction that the New York Times gave this man a platform? I know he’s a significant political figure. I understand that. But there are victims out there, and the families of victims who are, I guess they relive their trauma the moment this comes out.
MO: Sure, they do. Sure, they do, and they were covered extensively in the Israeli press. I don’t know if they ever got to the Greek Orthodox monk that he killed, but keep in mind, these are the five murders that they can actually prove that he committed. His organization carried out dozens of attacks that killed hundreds of people. And he was responsible for that. And even the hunger strike he’s leading is not about Israel at all. It’s about power struggle within that al-Fatah organization. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the organization, has edged Barghouti out. And as Mahmoud Abbas approaches the date where he will no longer be president because he’s 82 years old and he smokes three packs of cigarettes a day, and they’re already fighting in the streets about the succession, Marwan Barghouti wants in. How’s he going to get in? By having a hunger strike. And the New York Times basically played dupe for this power struggle within al-Fatah.
HH: Now let me ask you, Dr. Oren, what is the motivation of the Times here? You must puzzle about this a lot as a Princeton academic, as an award-winning historian. They’re doing something here. They’re being a participant, not an observer of a story. They’re a participant in the story. What message are they sending?
MO: It’s de-legitimization.
MO: The whole article was de-legitimization. Again, you know, by law, I’m not supposed to promote my book, Hugh, the Ally book, now available at famously reduced prices.
MO: But I talk about a, I talk about an incident that occurred in May of 2010 with the New York Times when Mahmoud Abbas published an op-ed in the New York Times in which he alleged that he insinuated that the Arabs accepted the U.N. partition resolution of 1947, and the Jews rejected it. And I called up the editor of the New York Times, and I said wait a minute, this is exactly the opposite. Don’t you check facts? We accepted it. The Arabs rejected it, and went to war against it. That was the war of independence. And the Arabs rejected the first two-state solution. And he says well, that’s your interpretation. Now wait a minute, there are certain in-controversial historical facts, uncontestable facts. I mean, did the Allies land, or did they not land on Normandy Beach in June, 1944? And the editor’s response was well, some people think so.
HH: And so when you contacted…
MO: So it’s all relative. All the truth is relative.
HH: When you contacted the Times, I mean, this is similar to if Ha’aretz had published a manifesto from the Unibomber, part two, without asking Americans what they thought about it. What did they say to you? What did they, what was their response to the critique from Israel that they had empowered and actually were an accomplice to a crime in Israel, which is the smuggling out a terrorist communication?
MO: They, the bureau here said they had no role about it, that they were caught by surprise by it, too. No, you know, failure has no fathers, but they didn’t explain why they published it on a Jewish holiday, for that matter.
HH: Oh, my gosh.
MO: I put out, my statement said that this would be the equivalent of the New York Times running an article by Dylan Roof.
MO: And you would see the reaction of Americans, certainly African-Americans, to that. Imagine how we feel when the New York Times gives this type of legitimacy, this type of space, to a lying manifesto by a mass murderer of Jews.
HH: Now will they be giving you or Prime Minister Netanyahu or anyone else, it doesn’t make it good, but at least it would make it more obvious what they have done if they provide you with a similar amount of space to discuss this? Is that happening?
MO: I don’t know whether it’s happening. Maybe the Prime Minister is responding in his way. He tends to respond by the new media, which sort of does an end run around the New York Times. And I don’t think it’s even, I think it’s beneath our dignity to get down into the trenches of Marwan Barghouti’s lies and try to refute them, because it basically all amounts to a big lie.
HH: I would just love the details on his victims to be widely known. That is always what is left behind is when a terrorist, when a killer’s victims are not named, they are forgotten, and that is a crime itself. Dr. Oren, Minister Oren, thank you so much for joining me from Israle today, glad that you could do so, and I appreciate the time.
End of interview.