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WorldNetDaily's Digital Cudgel

WND's reason for being these days is to relentlessly attack Israel's Ehud Olmert and agitate for his overthrow, but WND won't call for a similar removal of President Bush despite a similar list of offenses. Meanwhile, Aaron Klein's Olmert-bashing continues.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/24/2006

Even in his harshest criticism of President Bush, WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah has never advocated that Bush be removed from office.

Yet, that is exactly the remedy Farah demands for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

As ConWebWatch has repeatedly documented, WND -- led by Jerusalem reporter Aaron Klein -- has been highly critical of Olmert, especially of his policy of withdrawing Israeli settlers from Gaza and the West Bank (a cause to which Klein has been sympathetic to the point of whitewashing the far-right politics of the policy's opponents). Beginning at Israel's incursion into Gaza and even at the height of the recent conflict with Hezbollah, WND regularly ran anti-Olmert articles.

Following the Aug. 14 cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, Farah used his Aug. 18 column to explode into an anti-Olmert rant. Farah declared that Olmert's government was "morally bankrupt" and that its acceptance of a cease-fire was a "surrender":

For the life of me, I don't understand why Israeli civilians are not massing in the streets of Jerusalem demanding the immediate resignation of Olmert and his Cabinet. The Israeli army is returning from Lebanon with its tail between its legs.

Farah concluded: "Israel has just one shot at surviving its terminal illness – cutting out the cancer that is the Olmert government."

Farah had similarly harsh words for the Bush administration in an Oct. 12, 2005 column in which he expressed his regret at endorsing Bush's re-election in 2004. Declaring that "Bush has been a massive failure as president," Farah listed the evidence, including:

  • He pursued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without a congressional act of war. If he had followed the Constitution, his war policies today would have far more support – and justification. Instead, today, Democrats who voted in favor of invading Iraq and Afghanistan can suggest they were merely authorizing the president to act, not endorsing the conflicts.
  • While pursuing foreign wars, he forgot the first responsibility of anyone in combat – secure the perimeter. Our border remains wide open today, just as it was Sept. 11, 2001. If penniless migrant workers can enter our country at will, what is to stop determined, armed and well-funded terrorists? Bush's irresponsible inaction on the border ought to be considered an impeachable offense.
  • Bush has encouraged the Republican Congress to spend like drunken sailors. Actually, that is an insult to drunken sailors, who only spend their own money – not their grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's money. How bad is the record? All you really have to know is that Bush has failed to veto even one piece of legislation in five years in office.

But despite such harsh words, Farah didn't call for "massing in the streets" of Washington demanding the "immediate resignation" of Bush and his Cabinet. Instead, he directed people to his book "Taking America Back," which apparently doesn't approve of such measures. Instead, his plan of action was vague:

It's time to play hardball.

It's time to hold politicians to higher standards.

It's time to stop looking to Washington to solve the problems that have been created in Washington.

It's time, in short, to stop thinking and acting like "conservatives."

It's time to get radical. It's time to fight on offense. It's time to begin emulating men like Washington, Jefferson and Madison, not Bush, Cheney and Rove.

No demand for immediate removal, a la Olmert.

An Aug. 22 column by Farah started, " I'm beginning to think George W. Bush is one of the very worst presidents this country has ever endured," then accused him of having "the arrogance of not caring what the people think." But again, no demand for Bush to be removed from office.

Why the disparate remedies for similar offenses? It's certainly not respect for the U.S. presidency; in the first week of WND's existence in May 1997, Farah declared that "The Republican leadership in both the House and Senate lack the courage, conviction and the moral certitude to make the case for impeachment."

While WND has been content to pull its punches on Bush, it is more than happy to serve as a digital cudgel against Olmert.

Farah himself has engaged in anti-Olmert rhetoric before; in a May 15 column, he called Olmert and incapacitated former prime minister Ariel Sharon "'leaders' in the image, likeness and tradition of Neville Chamberlain." But mostly, Klein does Farah's Olmert-bashing dirty work.

As ConWebWatch has noted, Klein has trying to undermine Olmert and his Kadima party since even before his election as prime minister. As Israel's battles with Hezbollah raged in Lebanon, Klein and other writers for WND's Jerusalem bureau were all too eager to hack away at Olmert with articles with no apparent purpose other than to undermine political support for him:

  • A July 29 article by Aaron Sichel, headlined "Israeli voices say Olmert too weak," featured Michael Widlanski, described by Sichel as "a professor and frequent adviser to Israeli security and foreign policy agencies." A profile of Widlanski at the right-wing describes him as a teacher of political communication at the Rothberg School of Hebrew University; his claimed area of expertise is in Arab politics and communication, and WND has previously quoted him in that context. But here, Widlanski attacks Olmert's military strategy as "slow, it's disordered and it's not very effective." Sichel also quotes him as saying, "Olmert isn't yet able to admit that disengagement didn't work." Sichel similarly collects other anti-Olmert and anti-Kadima statements.
  • An Aug. 2 article by Alex Traiman promoted the views of an Israeli politician who claimed -- 12 days before a cease-fire, mind you -- that Hezbollah was "winning" the conflict with Israel. While Traiman asserted that "some politicians" are making this claim, he named and quoted only one, Moshe Feiglin of the Likud party and a group called Jewish Leadership (better known as Manhigut Yehudit). Missing from Traiman's article is any indication of the ideology of Likud or Feiglin. Likud, of course, is a conservative party, which means Feiglin is a conservative as well -- WND, of course, has a history of not identifying conservative politicians and parties as such. Also missing was the fact that Klein had reported a month and a half earlier that "the leadership of Manhigut Yehudit" had demanded that "Olmert and other Israeli officials should be tried as accessories to murder."
  • An Aug. 3 article by Klein quoted a terrorist as claiming that Olmert's plan to continue "unilateral withdrawal from Judea and Samaria in spite of violence in Lebanon and Gaza" amounts to a "victory" for "Palestinian resistance."
  • An Aug. 14 "news analysis" by Klein used assertions that are either unsupported or supported only by anonymous sources, to claim that "Israel lost the war in Lebanon on all fronts ... largely because Olmert refused to allow the Israeli Defense Forces to do its job."
  • An Aug. 15 article by Klein reported (claiming anonymous sources, of course) that "Military intelligence officers here have been asked not to talk to the media without prior authorization from their superiors while some are being petitioned to highlight Israel's gains in Lebanon."
  • An Aug. 16 article by Klein again featured a terrorist -- the "chief rocket coordinator for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank" -- as claiming that Israel's military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon was a "failure," Olmert's statements of victory are "delusional," and as a topper, that Israel's army is "full of gay soldiers." (Klein sure seems to be on unusually good terms with the enemy, doesn't he?)
  • An Aug. 18 article by anti-Olmert reporter Aaron Klein quotes Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt as predicting that questions over how Israel fought its conflict with Hezbollah -- questions Klein has been eager to promote through unsourced anonymous accusations -- will "likely bring down Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government."
  • An Aug. 23 article by Klein cited an alleged "assessment sent this week to Cairo from the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv" to claim that "Olmert is attempting to distract from mounting domestic dissatisfaction regarding his government's management of the war in Lebanon by resorting to "radical" moves, such as calling for peace talks with Syria."

WND was attacking Olmert and his Kadima party's interests in the United States as well. A July 15 article credited to Aaron Sichel, claimed that "the No. 2 representative in America" for Kadima, Marc Mishaan, "is a convicted criminal facing a possible lengthy prison sentence after pleading guilty to felony grand larceny." While stating that Mishaan's "arrests and convictions are a matter of public record," Sichel's sources on Mishaan's background are all curiously anonymous. They include:

  • "prominent New York rabbi who asked that his name be withheld"
  • "A former self-described best friend of Mishaan, who agreed to talk to WND on background"
  • Several sources close to Mishaan"
  • "scores of people in the New York Jewish community"

Compare this treatment of Mishaan to WND's treatment of another convicted criminal facing a possible lengthy prison sentence for another kind of grand larceny, Peter Paul. As we've noted, WND has regularly downplayed Paul's extensive criminal record -- including the case of stock fraud to which he has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing -- in order to play up his accusations against Hillary Clinton.

Such crude tools of blunt-force rhetoric appears to be WND's sole weapon these days. Since balanced, fair reporting on Israel is clearly out of the question, this is all WND has left.

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