Jewish World Review March 4, 2002/ 20 Adar, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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There's still no bell on that darn cat -- TALKING about belling the cat is the favorite topic of conversation in certain salons of the West.

The New York Times, which imagines that it has finally set up shop in Foggy Bottom, is earnestly flacking the latest scheme for what it euphemistically calls "peace" between Israel and the murderous Palestinian red-hots. After a lot of Jews are dead, someone can work out the details.

Nearly everybody has heard the cautionary tale of the mice at the New York Times, who got together to figure out a way to deal with the cat. One mustachioed mouse, who looked a lot like Tom Friedman of the New York Times, suggested that a bell be attached to the cat's collar "and that way, we can hear him coming, and run and hide." The other mice, some of whom looked a lot like the editors, cheered and slapped each other on the back, so pleased were they with themselves for being so clever.

Then one distinguished gray mouse, who looked a lot like Bill Safire, shook his head, frowning, and asked: "Great idea. But who will actually bell the cat?"

"Pshaw," cried the mouse who looked a lot like Miss Gail Collins, the prim, stern schoolmarm of the editorial page. "We shan't let details like that ruin a perfectly good party. Have another nip of pinot grigio and a wedge more brie."

The mice cheered and cheered, until the cat arrived and gobbled up those nice Jewish mice across the hall, and burped. The mice didn't cheer themselves again for two whole days.

Once upon a time, newspapers were content to report and merely comment on the news, and left the work of belling cats to the cat-belling authorities. Which was only right, because when newspapers give in to the temptation to manipulate the news, they become as deceitful as government officials who trim and tuck the facts to make them fit just right.

What we've seen all week is an attempt to manufacture momentum for the so-called Saudi peace plan, which even the editors of the New York Times recognize as a warmed-over stew of rotting sheep's eyes. It was poison when it was cooked up for Ehud Barak at Camp David, and it's poison now. Our friends the Saudis want Israel to give back everything the heroic fightin' Arabs lost in six days in 1967, and in return, some day, the Arabs will let the Jews live in peace. Maybe. Could be. Some day. Whatever.

Even the shills at the New York Times recognize how absurd this is. "While the Saudi proposal would allow Israel to retain Jewish religious sites and residential areas in Jerusalem and even apparently to hold on to a compact group of settlements just beyond the 1967 lines in exchange for equivalent territory elsewhere," the Times squeaked last week, "a substantial evacuation of West Bank settlements would be required." The italics are mine, to demonstrate all the ifs and buts that even squishy editors feel they must set out, however reluctantly.

But even reluctantly, the New York Times could not quite bring itself to publish a story about the speech at the United Nations on Wednesday by the Saudi ambassador, which everyone expected would be about the details of the wonderful Saudi peace plan. Instead, he bitterly berated Israel and defended Palestinian terrorism. "The objective of Israel was and remains the expulsion of the Arab people from Palestine," cried Fawzi Shubukshi. He did not bother to deny Palestinian suicide terror, but celebrated it: "Palestinian violence is only a result of Israeli terrorism. It is an expression of bitterness and frustration after many years of waiting." Lawzy, Fawzi, how you do go on.

But none of this was fit enough to appear in the New York Times yesterday, lest it reveal the hidden agenda of the Saudis, who, smarting from the fallout from the fact that there would have been no September 11 but for the Saudi contribution, are desperately trying to divert attention from the work of their late distinguished countrymen.

The Bush administration is making the noises required when someone says the magic word "peace," as if saying it makes it so. But there's ample evidence that the president and his men, including Colin Powell, understand that as long as Arab governments think they can keep their coterie of sycophants and apologists working for them there will be no incentive for the Arabs to seriously engage the Israelis or anyone else.

Mr. Powell understands what the sycophants and apologists have in mind. "What that usually means is, 'Go and force the Israelis to do something,'" he told the New York Times in an interview on Wednesday. "That's what many people think when they say, 'get more engaged. You haven't made Israel blink in the fact of this violence.'" Newsroom mice should grasp that much.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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