The Times on Israel at 60

Sunday’s New York Times marks Israel’s 60th birthday with four Op-Eds about the Jewish state.

Thomas Friedman writes that the whispering campaign to stoke Jewish fears about Barack Obama is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the U.S. president in supporting Israel and promoting a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Jeffrey Goldberg, who recently interviewed Obama for The Atlantic, draws on his conversations with Ehud Olmert for a story in that same magazine to argue that American Jews are the monkey wrench in the peace process. He throws the U.S. Jewish organizational world some bones – “The people of AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents are well meaning,” he writes – but, echoing the arguments of the new left-wing, pro-Israel lobbying group J Street, Goldberg writes that being pro-Israel sometimes means saying no to Jewish settlement in the West Bank and yes to a Palestinian state.

In her essay, Ruth Gruber recall the stateless Holocaust refugees for whom Israel’s establishment was a godsend.

And in the obligatory “Nakba” piece, Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury ponders the “catastrophe” of Israel’s existence for the Palestinian Arabs. While an eloquent expression of Arab sentiment about Israel, Khoury ignores the nakba of the last 60 years: the Arab world’s insistence on keeping the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war homeless and disenfranchised, outsiders even after it became obvious they would never return to their homes in the Jewish state.

The Times’ coverage Sunday also included an insightful, amusing and depressing Reporter’s Notebook by Sheryl Gay Stolberg about President Bush’s Middle East tour. Turns out he doesn’t quite understand why Arabs and Jews don’t dance together.

On Monday, the Times added another a feature about how Israeli artists are undergoing a rare flowering, gaining international recognition for works that make universal statements about very Israeli phenomena.

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