|National Post impaled on its own hubris
November 1, 1998
On Tuesday, Canada became a little blacker, yet from this blackness emerged a light; nay, not so much a light, as a journalistic recrudescence. A new national newspaper was born. After many false labours, Conrad Black’s new conservative organ finally issued forth, albeit in spurts. Suffice to say, it was a difficult delivery.
According to Black, his National Post is actually Canada’s first national newspaper, a title to which he says the Globe and Mail merely pretends. Rather than a Toronto-based paper with a nationwide distribution, he says the Post will be a Toronto-based paper that covers the whole country, through Black’s chain of Southam dailies.
However, there’s more than national service at stake here. Black has ideas he wants to advance, and the Post is his messenger. He promises that his paper will maintain a strict separation between reporting and commentary, but first impressions suggest that such a boast might just be grandiloquent posturing. The gospel of neo-conservatism clearly animates this paper: from conspicuous burnishing of Brian Mulroney’s reputation to three pieces (two stories and a column) on the “unite the right” movement, even though there was barely enough useful information to justify two.
The test of a newspaper, though, is its editorials because it’s here that the newspaper declares itself to its readership. The inaugural lead editorial told me a lot about the kind of paper the Post is likely to be.
Editorials are by their nature argumentative, but their writers should have at least a nodding acquaintance with facts and logical argument. After all, editorials are designed to influence—the more solid the foundation, the more credible the argument, and the greater the likelihood of persuasion.
After reading “Two cheers for peace” about the recent peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, I concluded that National Post editorials are more propagandistic than persuasive. Judge for yourself from these excerpts:
…the Israelis have surrendered territory legitimately won in the Six Day War…
In my dictionary I don’t find naked aggression under any definition of “legitimate,” so how Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Arab territory can be called “legitimately won” is unfathomable. In fact, the Arabs were so overmatched that even to call this event a war is dishonest—“turkey shoot” is more accurate.
In 1972, Israeli General Matityahu Peled said: “To pretend that the Egyptian forces massed on our frontiers were in a position to threaten the existence of Israel constitutes an insult not only to the intelligence of anyone capable of analyzing this sort of situation, but above all an insult to the Zahal [Israeli army].”
…of the two protagonists, it is [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu who, contrary to his hard line reputation, has taken the greater risks for peace.
Netanyahu may have dissension in his government, but the Labour opposition is more than willing to support him. Besides, Israeli public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of peace. Where’s the risk?
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, on the other hand, is in a no-win position. The more he accommodates Israel, the more he looks like a traitor to his own people. If Arafat sides with the more militant Hamas, occupied Palestinians will never know peace. The tragedy for Arafat is that Hamas’s position is morally and legally correct.
…a victory for Netanyahu would entrench [the accord] in Israeli policy-making—unlike the original Oslo accords which were divisive.
This is inane. Since Israel signed the Oslo Accords, they did become part of Israeli policy-making. They weren’t divisive until Netanyahu started dragging his feet.
… [Arafat] has made significant gains in the deal.
Since Israel promised to return all the occupied territories to the Palestinians 31 years ago, I hardly see how Arafat “made significant gains” by accepting only 13 per cent.
On Nov. 22, 1967, the United Nations Security Council passed the binding Resolution 242, under which Israel is compelled to withdraw. Moreover, the resolution was signed by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and subsequently affirmed by Prime Minister Golda Meir. In fact, the whole “peace process” is a sham engineered by Israeli intransigence and American unwillingness to compel Israel to honour its treaties.
Syria will accept no peace deal that does not include the return of the Golan Heights.
Why should it, since Israel has already promised to do so according to Resolution 242? The argument that occupation of the heights is necessary for Israel’s security is a crock. In the mid-’70s UN Secretary-General U Thant wrote that any tactical advantage for Syria vanished with improvements in air warfare, in which Israel has always had clear superiority. Continued occupation would therefore serve Israel’s offensive designs.
On the general subject of Arab–Israeli peace, I give you Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Jewish Congress. When he stepped down in 1977, he said: “In 30 years, Israel has never presented the Arabs with a single peace plan. She has rejected every settlement plan devised by her friends and by her enemies. She has seemingly no other object than to preserve the status quo while adding territory piece by piece.”
The National Post’s first editorial is so rife with errors and specious argument, that readers should feel insulted. If Black thinks Canada needs a right-wing alternative to the Globe and Mail, he could at least make an effort to match the quality of the Globe’s content.