Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Canadian Writer's View Of Israel

Israel & Mainstream Media



Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself.
The masses have to be won by propaganda.
 
Hannah Arendt

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.

—Winston Churchilll


Western Wall in Jerusalem after the city was captured by Israel  soldiers during the Six Day War (June 5-June 10, 1967), where IDF paratroopers Zion Karasanti, Yitzhak Yifat and Haim Oshri, look for a hopeful and peaceful future. The Western Wall, dating to the Second Temple period of the first century, has great historical significance for the Jewish People.
Photo Credit: David Rubinger, 1967

As a Canadian Jew, journalist and writer, I have a view of Israel that differs from many in the mainstream media. I have visited Israel on three occasions, the last being in July1999. One of the interesting facts is that only a minority (about 40%) of American Jews have ever visited Israel. In Canada, the numbers are significantly higher (66%) than the American rate. There might be a correlation between both the level of religious observance and Jewish affiliation and a desire to visit Israel. Intermarriage lessens that commitment. Being married to a non-Jewish spouse lessens the desire and sympathies dramatically, and understandably so. [An important existential question is whether American Jewry will survive.]

This fact becomes important and explains much. Visiting a place increases one's understanding and knowledge; it becomes less abstract and more personal. The American Jewish disengagement from Israel is not surprising if you consider that other mainstream interests have filled the vacuum. For many Jews, the mainstream media's views on Israel become more acceptable, given an ignorance of Israel's history, purpose and mission.

Apart from a minority of publications, chiefly conservative, a cursory reading will make it apparent that the sympathies of the mainstream media lie elsewhere, disproportionately with its opponents and in many cases with nations who want to remove its very existence. As someone who was trained as a journalist at a professional journalism school, I have an understanding how the media thinks. It generally believes that victims ought to receive more sympathy and aggressors and abusers given a hard time. You know,  "Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable. . . ."

So, in this simple moral equation, and journalists generally like to avoid complexity, since they are as a group not highly educated or highly thoughtful persons—despite what they think or project—Israel is bad and, say, the Palestinians are good. As are the Iranians, the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Lebanese, and any other nation that is at war in some fashion with the Jewish state.

And, yes, it is a Jewish state, representative and carrying the hopes and dreams of the Jewish People, the Nation of Israel, if you will. Why not?—it is the only one in the world. How many Islamic states are there? We can easily find out, since the Organization of Islamic Cooperation lists 56 member states. Yet, the existence of one Jewish State in the Middle East annoys and angers the Arab and Islamic states. They would like to "wipe it off the map," which they have said on numerous occasions.

For some, it is only rhetoric. Even if that were true, why the rhetoric? Why the animosity? the hatred? Do the Arab brethren really care about the Palestinians? Or is there suffering a convenient political tool to bludgeon Israel? Do the Palestinians care about the Palestinians? Will the Palestinians ever go beyond their culture of hatred and death? Do the journalists, including the Jewish journalists of the mainstream media, ever consider such questions? If they do, they rarely get to see the light of day.

No, it has been decided that Israel deserves condemnation in inverse proportion to its size; and all other nations opposing it, receive a free pass in any moral judgement. Then the journalists can return to their fine hotels, enjoy their fine dinners, port and cigars and pat themselves on the back for revealing "the truth" about the world's chief aggressor, Israel. They are not anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish, they say. No, just anti-Zionism, a code word if there ever was one. Are these same journalists, the purveyors of truth "anti-anything else"?

Have these "purveyors of truth" ever considered or used the pejoratively loaded term a Soviet-occupied South Kuril Islands? A Chinese-occupied Tibet? A British-occupied Falkland Islands? An Indian-occupied Arunachal Pradesh? What about Kashmir claimed by Pakistan, India and China?  Are they aware that there are hundreds of territories that sovereign nations dispute that hardly ever receive any media attention. [see here for a partial list of disputed territories.]

No, doing so does not fit their hateful and destructive one-sided views. Better to ignore these disputes altogether and focus on the only dispute that counts. Of course, there are Jews within and without Israel who are highly critical of its policies, which is good for democracy; one sure sign of a well-operating democracy is a media that is varied and diverse in its opinions, which is the case in Israel, Canada and the U.S. Truly, some criticisms are merited and fair, but these criticism go beyond fair criticism that one sees directed at other democratic states.

These criticisms are directed at the very heart of the Jewish People, and the existential right of a nation—Israel—to exist. This self-destructive tendency that safely resides within Leftist Jews has always been around, although it has gone by different names. It is a weak survival method that views assimilation, accommodation and acquiescence as a necessary prerequisite to peace with nations that don't really desire peace.

In the end, it's a road that leads to self-denial, self-hatred and self-destruction. The world, for the most part, would applaud such measures, chiefly because they believe the propaganda of the enemies of Israel. And they continue to press forward in their plan to destroy Israel by any means, both militarily and morally. They are serious in their desires, and they have been partly successful in winning the war of words, painting Israel as an evil nation. [Tell me: can and does Israel do anything right or good?]

This cliché has been working well since the UN granted Israel statehood in 1948, and more so since Israel's unexpected victory in the Six Day War of 1967. No nation is more demonized than Israel. There are temporal exceptions, such as the situation in Syria, which  has become too serious for the Arab League and UN to ignore. With both the UN's and Arab League's blessing, the mainstream media has safely  jumped on-board with moral certitude. But despite Syria's murdering upwards of 10,000 of its own citizens, it can never be as "evil a cancer" as Israel, at least in their simple calculations of good and evil. Speaking of morality, few in the mainstream media really have a moral understanding. [Reading both the Christian and Jewish Bibles would be a good place to start.] And because they don't, they ridicule the few who do.

It's much easier than grappling with hard moral truths. It's much easier to ride the simple tide of condemning one side (Israel) and seem as if you are on the right side. You are certainly on the majority side, and the majority side wins in the war of truth and facts. Right?

Wrong. Here is a hard truth. I am convinced that the Arab and Islamic states, including a good number of European nations, would hate Israel even if it were in Uganda, or in South America, or in the Antarctica. As an example consider what is taught to Grade 12 students in Saudi Arabia [source: MEMRI}, namely, the enmity between Muslims and Jews is religious in nature, and not national or political, and is everlasting.

The question of the Palestinians is only important as an instrument to sow discord in the West, and little else. What is paramount in the minds of such religious adherents, a sacred and religious duty of each Muslim, no doubt, is to transform the world and rid it of Western ideas and ideals. For such minds, it's a religious war and nothing more; and Israel's destruction fits within their political-religious aims and ideals. It's no mere rhetoric if it's taught as part of the core curriculum to high school students. I would love someone to prove me wrong.

While it is easy to understand why Muslim students in Islamic nations believe what they are taught, as an article of faith, without questioning, it is harder to understand why American, Canadian , British and Israeli  students believe the same thing. In the West, there is access to all kinds of credible sources, those that marshal fact upon fact to make an argument. It might be that facts are unimportant for many persons, and emotions more so, even if they lead to the wrong conclusion. No doubt, it's an old-fashioned struggle between truth and falsehood, to use the language of Milton.

For those who love the West and its ways and traditions—I do—there is another more immediate reason to consider the survival and well-being of Israel an important one: your own survival. In Jews and Power (2007), Ruth R. Wisse, professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, writes:
Democracies do not enjoy the same immunity when sacrificing their Jews. Democratic leaders may still try to appease a restive underclass the way the French government tends to let Arab gangs target Jews as limited, presumably harmless outlet for frustration, or the way British elites try to appease Muslims by joining in anti-Israel agitation. But far from choking on the Jewish bone, aggressors against a democratic system are more often invigorated by their anti-Semitism to move against society as a whole. Jews in democratic societies are not merely the proverbial canaries sent into the mine shafts to test the quality of the air: they function rather as the kindling used to set the system aflame. Why stop at the Jews? Those who get away with harassing Jewish citizens go on to torch the rest of the citizenry. (183)
Well said. Prof Wisse's analysis is penetrating and accurate; accordingly, I highly recommend this book. Some, many, will dismiss this out of hand, saying it is untrue. Even so, Israel is not moving, despite living in a tough neighborhood, with unfriendly neighbours. It has a strong military, an absolute necessary when residing with "unfriendly neighbours." It would be better, though, if it had some more nations that would support it more openly besides the few that do.

Even so, I have some more news: Israel will always exist, it will always thrive, and it will be blessed, as long as it sees itself in the proper light and role, willing to preserve its unique Jewish way and identity. Adding to this insight, I turn to an old source, reliable as it is eternal, the Torah. In an article in The Jewish Press, "The Mystical Secret of Israel's Eternal Survival," Rabbi Efraim Sprecher writes:
Regarding the very survival of the Jewish people, there is no free will —and if they do not understand this by themselves, it is forced upon them from G-d. The Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin) thus explains the verse, "It is a nation that dwells alone. Amongst the nations they are not counted" (Numbers 23:9) as follows: If Israel themselves preserve their uniqueness, then they will live in peace. If, however, they assimilate amongst the nations, they will not be counted". The nations will not take into account or show them any consideration, because G-d will arouse hatred and alienation amongst the nations towards Israel, and this will force us to continue to be Jews.
It's a thought that many will find uncomfortable, no doubt, steeped in ancient stories, biblical narratives and mysticism. Yet, it's stands always before the Jewish People, for some an obstacle to individual liberty and, yet, for others a way to freedom.

4 comments:

  1. Very nice article Perry. In addition to the pervasive anti-Jewish hatred found in the canonical sources of Islam, Islam doctrines posit that once a land has been ruled by Muslims, it can never revert back to the Kuffar. Hence, even though the land of Israel was Jewish land for thousands of years prior to the founding of Islam, this is irrelevant (from an Islamic perspective).

    By the way, since you live in Montreal, you should "give back the land that you stole" to the Iroquois and the Algonquins. After all, Quebec was taken over by European settlers.

    The Israel-Arab conflict has nothing to do with land and everything to do with religiously-rooted anti-semitism.

    GS

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  2. Excellent article. I would like to add another point of view regarding anti-Semitism and assimilation. In Russia, for example, many Jews wanted to assimilate and often achieved this by intermarriage; they felt this would lessen their own Jewish distinctiveness, and make it easier for their children to integrate into the mainstream Russian society. While their children benefited, the Jewish spouse could not be himself in his or her own home.

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  3. Iranians have never liked Arabs. Here is a story that appeared today in the New York Times.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/world/middleeast/dispute-over-island-of-abu-musa-unites-iran.html?_r=1&hpw
    In a world where everybody hates everybody else, anti-Semitism nevertheless stands out as the most widespread and powerful hatred. The child of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, is the most powerful political force on earth.

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  4. Thank you everyone for your comments.

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