Yesterday, on CNN’s The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer made the claim that Palestinians were more upset by Mitt Romney’s alleged claim about the relative success of Israeli culture than about his commitment to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Not only did Blitzer repeat a false meme propagated by Palestinian officials, but he also demonstrated what has kept Palestinians from making progress over the years: an obsession, often encouraged by the mainstream media, with petty symbolic battles over real issues.
Here is Blitzer’s exchange with CNN correspondent Sara Sidner–who agrees with his absurd conclusion:
BLITZER: There’s another comment that the Republican presidential candidate made today at a fundraiser, uh, a political fundraiser in Jerusalem that I suspect is even more upsetting [than his comment about Jerusalem as Israel’s capital] but may be at least is upsetting. Tell our viewers what he said.
SIDNER: Yeah, I think you’re right to say that this is perhaps more upsetting, especially to the Palestinian leadership, uh, hesitation then the comment about Jerusalem, because as you know there have been plenty of U.S. presidential candidates who have come to Jerusalem and made that comment, but then backed away from it once they were in the presidency.
So it is worse to be told that Israel has created a culture of “economic vitality” than to be told that the city of Jerusalem–a central political demand of the Palestinian leadership for decades–is off the negotiating table?
Note also how Sidner–like the rest of the mainstream media–implicitly excuses President Barack Obama’s blatant flip-flop on Jerusalem’s status as what “plenty of U.S. presidential candidates” do. Romney is to be condemned for stirring up Palestinian outrage, but Obama is to be praised for doing so and then retracting?
This is not the first time that Blitzer has been taken in by false Palestinian propaganda. In 2002, during the controversy over the Jenin “massacre”–a lie spread by Saeb Erekat, the same official quoted by the AP, NPR, and CNN in reports about Palestinian outrage at Romney’s remarks–Blitzer gave credence to Palestinian claims, and seemed genuinely surprised when Israel’s defense minister pushed back with casualty numbers that were subsequently proven accurate:
BLITZER: Let’s go to Jenin first. That’s the home of a huge Palestinian refugee camp that clearly saw the fiercest fighting between Israeli and Palestinian forces in Jenin. Earlier today, the special U.N. envoy to the Middle East, Terje Larsen, was there. He described the situation as shocking and horrifying and he said no military operation could justify the suffering we are seeing in Jenin.
Now, I spoke with the Israeli defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. He insisted the situation was bad, but he blamed the Palestinians and he said the casualties among the Palestinians were much lower than they’re insisting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How many Palestinians were killed?
BENJAMIN BEN-ELIEZER, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: No more than 45.
BEN-ELIEZER: No more than 45. So that’s what we have counted. And, you know, the amazing thing that we have found, we have found among them — most of them, by the way, were uniformed and two of them, just recently we found them with the, as the suicide bombers.
You would think that Blitzer, at least, would have learned his lesson from that exchange. But he and the mainstream media continue to play up Palestinian propaganda–especially when it helps Barack Obama.