Archive for the ‘Criticism of Israel’ Category

Jews Hope their Prayers Won’t Be Answered

September 6, 2011

Or, What’s the Matter with the Jews?

Last year, in Is Rabbi Ovadia the Only Jew Who Reads the Prayer Book?, I noted the absurdity of the situation where so-called Jewish leaders inveighed against Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s comments that were entirely consistent with traditional Jewish prayers.

Unfortunately, though, the problem is broader than simply Rabbi Ovadia’s comments and his critics.  In fact, when it comes to Israel, the dominant attitudes of the American Jewish community are stark variance with the Jewish liturgy.

The Siddur Sim Shalom includes the language in the Birkat HaMazon, “Rebuild Jerusalem, the holy city, soon, in our day.” It does not say “Rebuild West Jerusalem.”

A side note – is it not interesting how the media routinely refers to all sorts of cities in Iraq and elsewhere in the Moslem world as “holy cities”, but somehow you have never heard them refer to Jerusalem as a holy city?)

In the Musaf Amidah we pray, “May it be your will… to lead us in joy to our land and to settle us within our borders.” I have also seen the language “Restore us to our homeland.”  None of the liturgy says “settle us within the 1949 armistice lines” or the non-existent “1967 borders.”

I do not know which is more rote, the recital of these traditional prayers that the mendicants actually hope will not be fulfilled, or their votes come election day for the Democrat lever.  (Granted, of course, that many of these “liberal” paragons of Jewish values never set foot in a shul.)

Several years ago, the book What’s the matter with Kansas? received wide note for asking why Kansans seemed to vote against their interests by voting Republican.  The answer was that the Kansans really were voting in line with their interests.  (If that was not obvious when the book was published, it certainly should be now!)

The  analogous yet more trenchant question is  “what’s the matter with the Jews?”  Large majority of American Jews continue to vote Democrat in the face of the continuing overwhelming evidence that the Democrats are in step with the Islamo-leftist axis, constantly working against the interests of American Jews and Israel.   (That it is also working against the interests of America as a whole and the western world is also true, but that is a somewhat different point to defend.)

Two additional recent datums illustrating the point are that every Democrat in the Congress opposed the recent UN Transparency, Accountability and Reform Act bill to restrict UN funding of anti-American, anti-Israel or anti-semitic activities.  The Obama/Hillary Clinton administration also opposed another recent bill that would stop it from giving money to the Palestinian Authority that could be used for terrorism, as Hillary said that would keep her from being able to do her job.

In sum, when leftist Jews berate Jewish conservatives or the Israeli government as betraying Jewish values, be assured they are simply displaying their own confusion between Jewish values, which their nemeses are likely upholding, but which they do not share, and their own, very different, leftist ideology.

In fact, it is an arrogant and erroneous display of chutzpah to assume that Jewish values are represented by American liberals or the Democrat party.  The primary area in which these people display any kind of liberalism is in their acceptance of the hatred displayed by their fellow “liberals”/leftists towards Israel, Jews, and Republicans and conservatives.

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You Heard it Here First!

September 1, 2011

Some of the statements I made in my articles posted on these pages in recent years undoubtedly struck some readers, and especially non-readers, as outlandish.  But, sad to say, the intervening time has confirmed the truth of more of them than any of us would have liked.  Some examples follow:

With Some of the Friends We Have, We Barely Need Enemies, posted  November 30, 2009, which itself referred to previous articles I posted, discussed how Jewish and ostensibly pro-Israel organizations were actually working against those interests.  Subsequently, facts about the true nature of groups such as J-Street were revealed, prompting some, such as New York Congressman Gary Ackerman, to disavow their ties to it.

What is a “Supporter of Israel”?, originally published in 2006, was one of those articles referenced in the 2009 column.  It called to task America’s largest synagogue movement, the Union for Reform Judaism for its anti-Israel activities.  There, things have gone from bad to worse, as Eric Yoffie, its at best lukewarm to Israel leader, has been replaced by J-Streeter Jacobs.

Earlier this year, Caroline Glick wrote documenting Jewish groups aiding the enemy, and noted the formation of the Committee Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, established specifically to end Jewish Federation funding for anti-Israel activities.  The Washington DC Jewish Community Center’s Federation-funded Theater J was a prime offender.

On October 4, 2009 I raised the provocative question, Who Is More Pro-Israel, Your Rabbi Or Rush Limbaugh?, using Limbaugh as shorthand for the genre of conservative talk radio hosts.  Since then, on the one hand we have seen the brave and staunch support for Israel shown by talker Glenn Beck, and on the other, the revelation of the sad yet successful leftist/anti-Israel indoctrination of rabbinical students in some seminaries.

Further, I discovered an old file of material from a “Zionism” course I took in the mid-1970’s at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary.  So what did I find that our “leaders” indoctrinated us with, even back then?  Yes, the Israel-hatred of Chomsky!

The New American Jewish Bible, August 23, 2009, stated that the New York Times and other analogous left-wing  media outlets had supplanted the Torah in large parts of the Jewish community.  So I was not totally shocked when in June of this year, the newly named editor of that newspaper, born-Jewish Jill Abramson proclaimed “In my house growing up, The Times substituted for religion.”  But somehow, I have a feeling that I should be able to collect from her for plagiarism.

[Apparently, saying the Times substitutes for religion is still not PC enough for them to publicly admit, so the “Newspaper of Record” removed it from the on-line record.  Or is it their fear of being called on her plagiarism?]

Were Jewish Obama Voters Fooled?, dated August 23, 2009, asked a question that has become much more common since.  I concluded many were not fooled, but some now say they were.

Is Obama Stupid?, September 22, 2009, came to the affirmative conclusion.  His sheen of intellectual brilliance has by now worn off among some of his erstwhile worshippers.  [Perhaps his refusal to release his academic records now seems wiser every day.]  As documented in instances far too numerous to note here, what his admirers derided as the “cowboy diplomacy” of his predecessor has been replaced by Obama’s Cretin Diplomacy.

J’Accuse! of August 28, 2009 stated that much of the anti-Israel invective found around the world was actually anti-semitic in nature.  In the last two years, many more thinkers and authors have realized that and said so.

Posted last year, Goodbye, America asked whether America was at a turning point, beyond which recovery from the critical mass of leftist momentum which has infested it would be close to impossible.  Since then, millions of Americans, led by Tea Party adherents, have realized this danger.  One obvious manifestation is the now widely apparent looming menace of the ever-increasing national debt.

Perhaps the most prescient of my earlier writings was Israel (and America) Will Rue the Day that George W. Bush Leaves Office, published in mid-2008 on the now defunct israelenews.com.  The column made clear that none of the leading US presidential candidates was either truly good for America or Israel.  And by any measure, Obama was without question the worst of the lot.  So it did not take long before, as his mentor Pastor Jeremiah Wright had said, “the chickens were coming home to roost.”

My assertions here that these astonishing developments are now more widely acknowledged and documented may warrant even more incredulity than when I raised them originally as simply my conclusions.  But they are now easily verified to anyone’s satisfaction simply with some Google searching.

As a final note, I am aware that displaying a jaundiced eye is not particularly conducive to popularity; neither is being right.

Is Rabbi Ovadia the Only Jew Who Reads the Prayer Book?

September 7, 2010

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef’s ill wishes towards Israel’s Palestinian Arab enemies, including the Palestinian Authority and its Holocaust–denier President, elicited disdain and disavowals from much of the leadership of Israel and the Jewish world.

Rabbi Ovadia’s “words do not reflect the approach of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, nor the position of the government of Israel,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

The Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Jewish Theological Seminary and related groups said, “As leaders of the Conservative/Masorti movement, we deplore these recent comments of Former Chief Sephardic Rabbi Ovadia Yosef”.

ADL leader Abe Foxman said, “We are outraged by the offensive and incendiary comments made by Rav Ovadia Yosef.”  And the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations added, “We are disturbed by the reported comments of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.”

Why these entities have reacted this way is an interesting question.

This is even putting aside the paternalistic attitude of superiority so commonly used to justify ignoring the constant barrage of hate and incitement to genocide that emanates from many of Israel and Judaism’s enemies, both from Palestinian Arabs and others (most notoriously, Iran).   And that vitriol is not voiced just by an individual — but is promulgated by their governments and their leaders, including Israel’s purported “partners for peace.”

But I was gratified to learn that I was not the only one who found the situation peculiar.  In a letter published on the Jerusalem Post’s website, Chana Pinto accurately and articulately pointed out that in our prayers, Jews beseech G_d to defeat our enemies.  For example, the Amida includes “Frustrate the hopes of those who malign us,” and “Let all your enemies be speedily destroyed.”

So is Rabbi Ovadia the only prominent Jew who reads the prayer book?  Are the other Jewish leaders ignorant of our prayers in the prayer books they themselves publish? Are they akin to America’s legislators who now routinely pass multi-thousand page bills without reading them or knowing what is in them, much less understanding and reflecting on their implications?

Or is it that these other Jewish leaders are aware of their prayers, but Rabbi Ovadia is the only one who means it when he says them?

Perhaps if the Conservative leaders and their Reform counterparts (who,  of course, also attacked Rabbi Ovadia) are so offended by their own prayers, they should change them.  If Obama and his Democrats can ram their unwanted legislation down the throats of Americans, perhaps these Jewish leaders can change our prayers to be more consonant with their political and worldly sensibilities.

This controversy over the Rabbi’s remarks reminded me of a similar hypocrisy that occurred during George W. Bush’s presidency.  Bush was well known to have been inspired by his faith and G_d during his time in office.  And he was routinely and vitriolically mocked and criticized for doing so.  Many Jews  were among those so criticizing him.

But reference the “Prayer for Our Country,” a commonly recited Shabbat and Festival prayer in Conservative (and other) American congregations.  The prayer includes the plea to G_d, “teach them (our ‘leader and advisors and all who exercise just and rightful authority’) insights of Your Torah so they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security…may forever abide in our midst”.

So these Jews who criticized Bush for being inspired by the Bible were criticizing him for doing precisely what they were praying for him to do!  Just as today Rabbi Ovadia is pilloried for asking for just what we ask for in prayer.  In both cases, of course, the prayers may have been so rote as to be less than sincere.

But the key answer to the question as to why so many people claimed offense at the Rabbi’s remarks is two-fold.  One is that throughout the world, most people don’t want Israel to prevail in its struggle, and Israeli and Jewish leaders are sensitive to that sentiment.

Second, and more important, is the widespread and tragic refusal by Israelis, Jews, and westerners in general, to acknowledge that Israel is at war.   Israel is at war with Palestinian Arabs, not just the Gazans. (Hey, if it’s not a state of war, why do we need peace talks?  Does this enemy to whose defense the Israeli government and Jews throughout the world are rushing even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state?  Last time I checked, no.  And the enemy even says that it never will.)

Related to the refusal to acknowledge the state of war is, on the part of many, a lack of understanding of what war actually entails.  That results in horror when the enemy is killed, injured, or even inconvenienced (e.g. think “checkpoints” and “blockade”).

As has been learned over the course of  human history, Israel will never achieve the security of peace until it defeats its enemies.  And as has also been true throughout human history, Israel will never be able to defeat its enemies by being nice to them, or even by loving them.  Love bombs don’t work.  Real ordnance is needed.

And if G_d provides help, all the better.

Last War Wiesenthal

April 19, 2010

This column was going to be about a few of the most flagrant, unreported myths of our time – like “CNN, the most trusted name in news.”   Well, at least that’s good for a laugh!

Another of the myths I was going to tackle was some variation of “Jews are smart”, “Jewish leaders are smart,” and “Jewish organizations are looking out for you.”

But then I received the latest fundraising letter from the Simon Weisenthal Center.  Just analyzing this letter provides an excellent opportunity to address the latter group of myths.

Today’s Weisenthal Center still uses the name of its storied, intrepid Nazi-hunter namesake, but I surmise that Simon Weisenthal would be rolling over in his grave if he knew how craven the organization that bears his name is today.

The fundraising letter lists a number of the recent attacks and threats to Jews and Israel.  It tells us that there are lots of people out there who hate Jews and Israel and seek to kill us.  But no where does it tell us why. Nor does it tell us where the hatred is emanating from.  No where does the Weisenthal Center let on to having any knowledge of Islam being a factor in the hatred and attacks.  No where does the letter mention the words Islam, Muslim, or jihad. 

Could the Weisenthal Center be ignorant that religion is a factor?  In fact, of course, it is the major factor.  Or is the problem that Obama told them that the hatred is due to Jews living in Jerusalem? And that it is not Muslims who have the problem with that and have brought most of the world on board with them in their hatred?  Did Obama tell his friends at the Weisenthal Center not to mention that it is Muslims who are behind the hatred and anti-semitism?  Or was it just some big left-wing donor who doesn’t want it mentioned?  (Even I would be surprised if it turns out to be because the Weisenthal Center is taking Arab money, but J Street does it, so why is that inconceivable?)

The letter rightly mentions the Presbyterian Church, and it rightly mentions Iran.  But you could just as soon conclude from the Weisenthal Center’s letter that Iran is a Christian country.

So the Weisenthal Center won’t, or can’t, even identify the root source of the hatred we face.  And, of course, being unwilling or unable to name the enemy hardly bodes well for defeating it.  Maybe they don’t want to.  But at least they are politically correct for the left-wing circles they travel in.

Unfortunately, the Weisenthal Center is not alone in this syndrome among U.S. Jewish organizations.  For one other example, I recall a very similar fundraising letter from the American Jewish Congress.

I previously discussed the problem of Jewish organizations more generally in Time to Retire (Most of) the Old-Line American Jewish Organizations.

One final thought – if American Jews are really so smart, would they have voted for Obama to the tune of almost 80%?  And they even voted for him in large numbers in the primaries, when they had other Democrats (the most important criterion) to choose from.  (Answer:  No, they are no so smart at all!)



We Warned You — So Now What?

March 18, 2010

In mid-2008, I published Israel (and America) Will Rue the Day that George W. Bush Leaves Office on the now defunct israelenews.com.  The column made clear that while none of the leading US presidential candidates were either truly good for American or friends of Israel, and by any measure, Obama was without question the worst of the lot.  So now, as his mentor Pastor Jeremiah Wright has said, “the chickens are coming home to roost.”

But do American Jews, who overwhelmingly supported Wright’s parishioner, care?  Outside of an uncharacteristic objection from the ADL’s Abe Foxman, who usually saves his protestations for conservatives, and a handful of Congressional Democrats, I haven’t heard many objections  from Obama’s court Jews.  And why not?  That was answered in Were Jewish Obama Voters Fooled?, published last year.

Nobody should be surprised by the actions of Obama and his team of the Islamo-leftist coalition.  Saddened and worried, yes, of course, but surprised, no.  As Obama lapped up the anti-Israel venom of his Pastor Wright for 20 years and other like-minded friends, of course he would come to have a one-sided view, and it wouldn’t be kind to Israel.

You may remember his apologists and other “experts” telling us:

  • Obama wants to be a domestic president, and will be too busy to worry about the poor Palestinians.
  • Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Russia, China, et. al. would be more important mid east and world problems, and the Palestinians would take a back burner.
  • the Washington establishment would force him to take a largely traditional, consensus position.
  • Obama learned his lesson after his full ‘settlement freeze’ demand fiasco, and would now moderate his position.

So here we go again — more demands for unreciprocated concessions by Israel.  We know that, unfortunately, hatred of Jews and Israel is often ingrained and reflexive, no matter how irrational.

Because it is an error to ascribe rationality to others, especially an enemy, it is an error to assume that once they learn the facts or the folly of their ways, they will change course.  Perhaps a mild case of the suicide bomber?

So what can Israel do?  Be guided by the maxim that the sooner Arabs and the world accept Israel’s legitimacy, its strength, and its permanence, the sooner peace will be possible.  (Thus little wonder Arabs began rioting coincident with the Obama administration’s harsh words for Israel.  And also not so coincidentally, just as the Gazans intensified their rocket attacks on the very day Obama won election in November 2008, which immediately precipitated the Gaza War.)

So no more concessions for nothing!  And because it was not news to anybody who cared to pay attention to the facts that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and within its sovereignty, Israel should NOT have apologized even for the timing of the announcement of the Jerusalem apartment construction approval.   To the many clowns who call it a “settlement,” the Western Wall must be also be a “settlement.”  Israel must tell the world the area is part of Jewish Israel, to butt out of its internal affairs, to get over it, and if they don’t like it, they can lump it.  And if they want concessions from Israel, they can come back and ask once the Arabs actually make some.  And that doesn’t mean some two-bit gulf state allowing a one-bit “interest section”.

For starters, it might mean a formal recognition by Israel’s enemies of its rights as a Jewish state, a genuine ending of Palestinian groups’ charters calling for the destruction of Israel, and a real end to PA and state-sponsored incitement.

Israel’s enemies think pre-conditions for talks are a good idea. How about these for pre-conditions?

Jews Should be the Last People to Join the “Global Warming” Bandwagon

December 20, 2009

Jews know all too well how the vast majority of the world can have a grossly distorted view of reality.  Fed a diet of propaganda and lies by their religious leaders, politicians, academicians and media, much of the world is led to believe absurdities such as that Israel is the biggest danger to the world and that Jews are the sons of monkeys and pigs.

Just as much of the world has a very clear, but wrong, picture of Jews and Israel, it also has a very clear picture of “climate change.”  But as the climate summiteers gather in Copenhagen, we should not assume that climate picture is any more accurate than the picture that the world holds of us.  After all, it is largely the same cabal of European media, academics and political elites leading both the climate change and anti-Israel causes.

That is only the beginning of the similarities.

Recent disclosures by NGO Monitor revealed that European governments have been funding anti-Israel non-profits  — and that financing skews the debate about Middle East issues.  For a longer time it has been known that anti-semitic Saudi money goes to American universities, such as Georgetown and Harvard, so as to spread its antithetical views.

Likewise, the climate change alarmists are also the beneficiaries of government and other financial largess, but even on a much larger scale.One estimate is that the U.S. government alone has spent more than $79 billion since 1989 on global warming research and related policies.  You can get quite a few people to agree with you with that kind of money.

And just as the anti-semites and Israel-haters seek to squelch debate about Israel by silencing pro-Israel voices and demonizing Israel and her defenders, the man-made climate change alarmists have for many years sought to squelch debate about their alarmist claims by demonizing their critics and declaring “the debate is over”.

We know that Israel’s enemies lie about Israel, whether, for example, it is that Israel deliberately targets civilians, steals organs, or lacks an historical connection to the land.  Now the recently disclosed  East Anglia Climate Research Unit emails reveal that prominent, supposedly reputable, climate change alarmists have also been engaging in shenanigans.  To cement their case, they have distorted data to falsify the picture presented to the public, and attempted to marginalize their critics.

On the facts, Jews rightly know that Israelis have built a largely just and decent society – one that compares favorably with the rest of the world.  Likewise, those not on board the on the climate change bandwagon have a strong case behind them.  Here are a few notes to that effect, but they are ones you may have not seen before, as they do not serve the establishment media’s agenda:

    • For at least the past ten years, the globe has not warmed.  The climate models did not predict and cannot explain this deviation from the predicted warming.  Those models are the only basis for the alarmist theory, which is only that – a theory, albeit a popularly accepted one.
    • In fact, the lack of warming may explain the otherwise inexplicable change in the name of the crisis from “global warming” to “climate change.”  (Perhaps like how “Arabs” became “Palestinians”?)
    • Carbon dioxide, the major so-called “greenhouse gas” is harmless.  We exhale it, and plant life requires it.  In the distant past, it was almost as much as ten times more concentrated in the atmosphere as it is now, and was much more so than even any doomsday scenario contemplates for the future.
    • The biggest alleged threat from warming seems to be rising sea levels.  Yet there have been previous periods of warming, and during these periods, what are now our port cities and coasts were not inundated and under water.

So just as we Jews and Israel and our defenders have a solid case but are a minority in the world, so too for those who don’t buy the man-made global warming alarmism.  We should understand that before we join in with that crowd.  For better or worse, this could be another instance of Jews’ calling of being a people apart.

It is important to state that debunking of man-made global warming does not contradict the fact that ecological stewardship, energy and resource conservation, and reducing dependence on foreign oil are all good and worthy goals.  But it does not follow that cleanly burning fossil fuels and producing carbon dioxide is in any way harmful.  And we should certainly not cause our societies damage by acting on the false premise that it is.

With Some of the Friends We Have, We Barely Need Enemies

November 30, 2009

I have previously written columns entitled What is a “Supporter of Israel”? and Time to Retire (Most of) the Old-Line American Jewish Organizations.  Sadly, they seem ever more relevant.  Two recent events highlight the confluence of my points — American Jewish organizations just not supporting Israel.  Of course, rank and file American Jews are hardly innocent of the charge of not supporting Israel — after all, to use an in-vogue word, they disproportionately voted for Obama, who has strong-armed Israel into making unprecedented concessions and compromising its sovereignty in return for nothing.

From San Francisco comes word that

The board of this city’s local Jewish federation overwhelmingly rejected a resolution to prohibit support of events and groups that defame Israel or partner with those who call for boycotts, divestment or sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

So we have a Jewish Federation all too happy to work with our worst enemies – and to use Jewish charitable contributions to do it.  The San Francisco Federation is not the only one so disposed; they are just the ones who have been called on it – but they have no shame and continue on their merry ways (and it wasn’t even a close decision for them).  See SF federation board rejects controversial proposal for all the gory details.

And from one of our greatest bastions of “higher learning,” Princeton University, we have what claims to be a pro-Israel group (not even a “J Street” type outfit), disinviting a pro-Israel speaker after they found out that she truly is pro-Israel.  From Egyptian activist’s invitation withdrawn – The Daily Princetonian,

A planned talk by Nonie Darwish was cancelled when both of the event’s sponsors, Tigers for Israel and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, withdrew their sponsorship.

As I previously wrote in What is a “Supporter of Israel”? ,

Many organizations that promote themselves as “supporters of Israel” or “Israel advocates” in fact operate more as largely neutral forums for Israel-related programs. They apparently feel compelled to provide a balance of speakers with some providing an obligatory bashing of Israel, to offset pro-Israel aspects of their programs. Apparently, for these groups, it is too politically incorrect to include only pro-Israel voices. (Or, in this case, even some truly pro-Israel voices?)

Anybody have any answers for this sad state of affairs?

Establishment Media Wastes No Time Validating My Case

November 23, 2009

 

Last week I posted Bloggers Are a Better Source of News Than “Journalists” – And Better Writers.  I never thought I would be compelled to follow up so soon.

Perhaps my most extreme statement was “Even the most “esteemed” among them [the establishment media] are bad, or worse.”  Within days, the print media’s most “esteemed” New York Times and Washington Post both provided examples of how terrible they are, for anyone seeking a grasp on reason and reality.

First, on November 20, a NY Times blog commented on Global Warminggate, the case of purloined documentation revealing that key global warming alarmists sought, among other things, to prevent the publication of data inconsistent with their global warming-mongering, and to attack those who disrupted their “consensus” on “global warming”.

So what did the Times reporter have to say?

“The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.”

Wow!  So the Times has a new standard – or just a very odd one – for what they publish.  Heretofore, any national security secret they could get their claws on, or any rumor about a Republican candidate’s love life (e.g. John McCain) — that gets published, no problem.  That this information was “never intended for the public eye”?  Their presumed response:  “Hey, what do you think, we have integrity or anything?”

My column last week noted the “establishment media’s rank hypocrisy and partisanship”.  This is another example of them bringing it out further into the open for all who are willing to see it.

Then came the Washington Post with its malevolence and lunacy.  Quite possibly, this most esteemed newspaper’s  most eminent foreign policy columnist is Jim Hoagland.  In fact, he has occasionally been quite reasonable in recent years.  But on November 22 he topped off a column loaded with idiocy and the Abbas-loving and Netanyahu- and Israel-hating bias so typical of the establishment media and the Washington Post in particular.  He said,

“Only an Israeli decision to end that occupation in fast order can lead to the security Israelis need and deserve”…

It never ceases to amaze me that anyone can actually be that obtuse and continue to collect a paycheck for writing.  Disregarding all the stupidity in and behind that statement, the one fact that that formula was tried in Gaza with disastrous results that continue to this day should be enough to embarrass anyone from even broaching it in public.  But for the Jim Hoagland, the “finest” foreign policy columnist (aside from two excellent outlier conservative columnists) at the country’s runner-up top newspaper, it’s just par for the course.

Mainstream Media’s War on the Truth

September 6, 2009

Note to Readers:   This article is a slightly updated version of one originally posted in late 2006. Unfortunately, its message remains as valid today as ever.

You might think that with all the words written about the shortcomings of the mainstream media in recent years, that the subject has been adequately covered.  But, no, unfortunately, the criticism has been no match for the problem.  The media’s biases cause it to both reflexively and consciously alter its product to substantial degrees from what would be acceptable and what the public deserves.

Don’t doubt that the media’s war on the truth encompasses omission, distortion, and outright lying. The tactics of omission, distortion, and lying distort the picture provided to the public.

The media’s use of each of these sometimes overlapping techniques is explored below.

Part of the problem is that the mainstream media proclaims it is unbiased and gives us an accurate picture of our world.  Or, it may admit that it has biases, but it still gives us an accurate picture because it doesn’t let its biases affect its product.  Well, at least that is amusing, as by now most Americans and Israelis know better.

In contrast, much of the non-mainstream media is above-board about it biases, and is happy to tell you where it stands.  That knowledge of the perspective of the source makes it much easier to judge the value of the information offered.

As well, the alternative media seems less affected than its mainstream counterpart by the herd mentality and the peer pressure the rest of us felt as children.  The mainstream media exhibits a remarkable degree of uniformity among its various components in using remarkably similar language and opinions to describe the remarkably similar events they each deem newsworthy.  Their similarities are often in the guise of presumed “standards” that lead to many of the inanities listed below.  Even outlets thought to be on the edge or outside of the mainstream, such as Fox News or the Washington Times, increasingly conform to these mainstream practices in their news reporting.

Since it is difficult for those of us interested in world events to avoid exposure to the mainstream media, we are exposed to their biases and versions of events.  Supplementing that with other voices from talk radio, the internet, and niche publications often adds much valuable information and perspective.

Omission and Distortion

Omission is the mainstream media’s favorite tactic for handling information they don’t want you to know.  Often the less stringent tactic of simply burying the story and providing it less emphasis than the preferred story lines is adequately effective.

These tactics are nothing new; the media has a long and sordid record of burying crucial information. These tactics go back at least to the New York Times’ virtual burial of information on the incredibly mounting death toll of Jews in the Holocaust.

Following is a small sample of the many pieces of information that mainstream media outlets don’t want us to know and therefore don’t mention much in their reports (media omission tactic) or do note but in a distorted way (distortion tactic):

  • Hizbullah and Hamas are terrorist organizations. Distortion tactic:  Sanitize them by describing them as “militant” organizations, or with any other term but “terrorist”.
  • Hizbullah has committed numerous terrorist acts killing Americans, including 241 Marines at their barracks in Lebanon.
  • Most casualties in the 2006 and 2008 wars with Lebanon and Gaza were terrorists and those who aid and abet them.
  • United Nations peacekeepers were stationed along the Israel Lebanon border for years, but were ineffectual at best.  More realistically, they served as cover for Hizbullah and its terror attacks.  Distortion tactic:  Imply that (another) UN peacekeeping force would be an unadulterated good thing. Of course, Israel was in fact subsequently saddled with the “new, improved” UN peacekeeping force.
  • The “good guy” Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is an unrepentant Holocaust denier.  (That was his PhD thesis.)  Distortion tactic:  Without any evidence, label Abbas as a “moderate”.  On the other hand, label Ariel Sharon, Binyamin Netanyahu, and other Israelis as “hard-line”, and Israeli actions as “excessive” or “disproportionate”.
  • Distortion tactic:  Delegitimize Israel by referring to its capital and government as “Tel Aviv” even though they and you well know its government is in its capital of Jerusalem.  Would the media sound any more stupid or be any more dishonest to imply the U.S. Congress meets in Los Angeles?

These media tactics are not employed only against Israel, but against the broader war on terrorism, and other U.S. interests as well.  To wit, further omissions/distortions:

  • American soldiers and Marines in Iraq perform heroically.  Distortion tactic:  Find an allegation against the American (or Israeli) military and trumpet it in the extreme (e.g. the absurd on its face charge of flushing a Koran down a toilet; Muhammad al-Dura hoax).
  • Al Qaeda was linked to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.  For example, Abu Musab al Zarqawi and two dozen al Qaeda associates were in Iraq — in Baghdad — nearly a year before the war.  Distortion tactic:  Claim no links between Iraq and al Qaeda, or debunk the straw man allegation of an Iraq-9/11  link.

A side note is that Saddam Hussein also did have a link to first World Trade Center bombing of 1993. He harbored terrorist 1993 World Trade Center bomb plotter Abdul Rahman Yasin in Iraq and paid him a monthly stipend.

  • Some WMD were found in Iraq – including 500 sarin/mustard gas-filled shells. Distortion tactic:  Claim no WMD in Iraq.

Outright Lying

While a less charitable media analyst might also include the media’s denial of Iraq-al Qaeda links and WMD having been found in Iraq in this category, here are two other examples:

  • To delegitimize Israel’s claim to the disputed West Bank territories, refer to the 1967 armistice lines as an international border.  Could National Public Radio’s long time Israel correspondent be so ignorant as to make this mistake innocently?
  • For reasons perhaps a reader can explain, an Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, falsely claimed a road is “Jewish only”. Its defense is that the claim  is true “for all practical purposes” (shades of Dan Rather, or perhaps the old “good enough for government work”?).

Bottom Line

My bottom line measure for the integrity of a news outlet rests on its willingness to call terrorists “terrorists”.  If it can’t even honestly describe our enemy, how can we trust anything else it tells us?

Regarding media bias specific to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Stephanie Gutmann has penned an outstanding first-hand account that is highly informative, even for those of us who think we are on to the media’s tricks.  Entitled The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy, I heartily recommend it for further reading.

August 28, 2009

J’Accuse!

Unfortunately, today’s ever less justified vitriolic criticism of Israel necessitates bringing back this late-19th century term of indictment.  It is time to retire the largely politically correct yet fallacious mantra that most criticism of Israel is not anti-semitic.  Because it is!  Whether through ignorance or malevolence, most average everyday critics of Israel are anti-semitic by virtue of that criticism.

The Jewish community in particular has been careful not to levy unjustified charges of anti-semitism.  But now it is clear that anti-semitism is flourishing, masquerading in the form of anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel.  It is time to call it what it is.

As with anti-semitism over the eons, masses are led to it through ignorance.  Perversely, anti-semitism may have become more widespread in recent years as misinformation rooted in an anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bias has been spread more widely and rapidly, courtesy of the information revolution, including, most notably, the internet.

Many eminent and articulate authors have written many eloquent and trenchant words exposing and documenting beyond doubt the double standards, hypocrisy, and mendacity – good indicators of anti-semitism – that are so common when it comes to many, but not all, discussions of Israel.  These authors have also demonstrably shown that Natan Sharansky’s test of Israel-related anti-semitism – double standards, demonization, and delegitimization – has readily been met.  Sadly, these are staples of criticism of Israel today.

One of the anti-semites’ buzzwords of criticism is that Israel’s military actions in Gaza were “disproportionate.”  Yet Hamas was not stopped by Israel’s actions and continued to fire rockets at Israel. Nor did it release its captive Israeli Gilad Shalit. Further, it even claimed “victory.”  So if Israel’s actions were in any way inappropriately “disproportionate”, it was that they were inadequate and insufficient to do the job – the opposite of what her detractors were saying in their anti-semitic accusations.

But all these defenses and explications documenting the anti-semitism in the world’s attacks on Israel should not even be necessary – open manifestations of anti-semitism are staring in the face anybody willing to see them. For one obvious example, why else in the eyes of both Palestinian Arabs and those of most of the world must be all lands over which the Palestinian Arabs have sovereignty be Judenrein?

Further examples include Saudi, Jordanian, Egyptian, and Syrian textbooks that include overt anti-Jewish indoctrination.  And of course, the terrorist (“militant” or “activist” to the news media) group Hamas that rules Gaza has an openly anti-semitic charter.  For example, Article 7:

“The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and the trees will cry out: ‘O Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’ “

Also, both of Gaza’s neighboring states, Israel and Egypt, restrict crossing activity at their borders with it, a grievance of Hamas.  While Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israel (the Jews), how many has it fired at Egypt (the Muslims) to “resist” its blockade?  None, of course.  Why not?  Answer:  Because Egypt is not a Jewish state.

While Hamas and its terrorist brethren take issue with Arab governments as well as Israel, the reason that Israel ranks highest among their targets is simply that it is a Jewish, not a Muslim, state.  That’s anti-semitism.

Israel’s numerous Jewish hyper-critics must also be mentioned, but only to point out the context of the long history of this plague of self-loathing Jews.  While obviously the ease of fitting in throughout most parts of the world is greatly facilitated by standing against Israel, I leave it to psychologists to further analyze the etiology of these individuals.

A major factor contributing to the prevalence of today’s anti-semitism is that the very Palestinian Arabs who elected their terrorist leaders have managed to ingratiate themselves with much of the world.  How they have done so is another story, but for here, chalk it up to fortuitous timing and tactics (for them), and a world with latent anti-semitic tendencies eager to adopt their anti-semitic narrative. How else to explain that simply being the enemies of the Jews would endear them to the world, above the cause of other desperate and more deserving peoples in Africa and Asia?  (The Palestinian Arabs have won more per capita international aid, by far, than any other group.  And, further, they have done so while incurring virtually no obligation to do anything in return.)

It is especially remarkable how they have been embraced in the West with such affection and with so little genuine rationale – despite the stated aspirations of Hamas, its fellow terrorist organizations, and its Iranian sponsors to subjugate to their Islamist rule not just Israel and the Jews, but the western world.

And then the West would hardly be in a position to worry about “disproportionate” Israeli actions.  That is a remarkable irony.  Love may not conquer all, but perhaps anti-semitism does?