Wednesday, September 29, 2010

29-Sep-10: Goldstone, Gaza, TIME Magazine

An article by Frimet Roth, one of this blog's two authors, appears today on the Israel National News website.

Hear, See, Speak No Anti-Semitism


Karl Vick wrote a Times Magazine article on Israel that aroused pro-Zionist furor. He toured Samaria with the Yesha Council and then wrote another, more objective article. Frimet Roth is not convinced.

By Frimet Roth

Some Jews can't acknowledge anti-Semitism even when it stares them in the face. It just isn't trendy these days. So, when confronted with a tirade as vile as the recent Time magazine cover story by Karl Vick "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace", they groped frantically for excuses.

There were those who argued that the attack was simply "the most basic, obvious truth about contemporary Israeli life" and that "there are no anti-Semitic truths" as Larry Derfner did in his Jerusalem Post column. Others resorted to absurd rationalizations such as the convoluted one Anschel Pfeffer offered in his Haaretz column. Journalists stationed here try to  "alleviate their own guilty conscience", Pfeffer maintained, for "leading an extremely comfortable life in Jewish Israel while receiving kudos from colleagues and readers for delivering what look like hard-core stories from the front lines."

But the overwhelming response to Vick's piece was outrage. Because, as is obvious to anyone without rose-colored glasses, this was not an innocent slip-up. Vick is not a drunk celebrity, like Mel Gibson, who cursed Jews while copping a D.U.I. Nor is he an ancient relic of dubious sanity, like columnist Helen Thomas, who leaked, off-the-cuff, her hidden prejudices.

Vick's anti-Semitic piece was edited, vetted and sanctioned by him along with a team of sharp editors at Time magazine. They then selected it as the cover story and assigned it a headline that was, in Vick's own words, "meant to be provocative and intrigue".  Which contradicts his subsequent claim that "he did not write the headline... and that editing made the article seem more critical than he meant it to be.

Vick made that lame excuse for his article's headline to the executive director of the Council of Judea and Samaria (Yesha Council) Naftali Bennett during a personally guided tour of the Shomron last week.  The tour introduced Vick to the head of the Yesha Council, Danny Dayan, to residents of the settlements Beruchin and Eli, to the sight of Jews and Arabs working side by side in production lines and to Bennett's contention that "it is obvious that there is enough room for all of us and for Jewish expansion."

Following the tour, an optimistic Bennett mind-read that "Vick never imagined that the Shomron is home to so many secular kippa-less Israelis"… as if that was at the root of the journalist's animosity towards Israeli Jews.  Bennett added that "[Vick] is considering a sequel."

Let's hope nobody is holding his breath waiting for a mea culpa from Vick. Since the tour, he has reported, dateline Eli, West Bank, that the "something more" that settlers love about life in Eli "threatens to derail the nascent peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority."

In that post-tour report, Despite Peace Talks Israeli Settlers Are Dug In, Vick still portrays the settlers as "religious nationalist Jews" who say the territories "were promised them in the Scriptures that double as history here. In settling here, some believe themselves to be fulfilling a condition for the emergence of the Messiah Jews still await."

He concedes that "forcing them out of their homes is not something Israelis take lightly" but emphasizes that "settlers account for a small fraction of Israel's population of 7 million."

Karl Vick's tour guides should not be disappointed. Their expectations were Polyannish.  Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace was the product of egregiously shoddy journalism with a clear agenda. Selective reporting and glaring omissions demonstrated that Vick's sentiments would not be dissipated by a tour - nor, probably, ever.

Vick's  prejudice was evident throughout that first cover article. First, it was saturated with quotes from ten interviewees, clearly members of Israel's upper-middle-class and nearly all residing in the Tel Aviv “bubble" and its environs.

Most of those hand-picked - and often repugnant - individuals unabashedly described their hedonistic, materialistic lives. They insisted that they represent  Vick's "ordinary Israeli", oblivious to their Israeli neighbors, the economically struggling working-class majority.

Tellingly, none of them mentioned the bloody violence of the last decade. It is an oft-repeated axiom that in this tiny nation everyone has either lost a loved one in a terror attack or has a friend or neighbor who has. Yet Vick studiously avoided contact with any such Israelis.

Because, in his estimation, terrorism against Israel is history.  Israelis, he wrote, are "now observing two and a half years without a single suicide bombing on their territory". And "the Gaza Strip... has been largely quiescent since the thunderous military operation...in January 2009."

Vick ignored the fact that in the last two and a half years, terrorists murdered 14 Israelis in rocket attacks, shootings, and a suicide bombing. Or that over 1,000 rockets, mortars and Grads have bombarded Israeli soil since January 2009.

Vick credited the fictitious "quiescence" to Israel's "concrete wall", omitting mention that the security barrier is actually 90% fence with its remainder an 8 meter tall concrete wall.. Moreover, he asserted that thanks to this barrier, most Israelis "can easily pass an entire lifetime without meeting one [a Palestinian]."

Vick must have enjoyed excellent health during his four months here. Because a visit to any Israeli hospital, something I have been doing frequently this year with my ill daughter, reveals that nearly 50% of the patients are Arab, 10% of them from the PA . A significant number of doctors and nurses are also Arab. Shopping malls, medical clinics and many other venues bring the two peoples together.

Elsewhere, Vick brandished the results of a March opinion poll which had only 8% of Israeli Jews citing the conflict with Palestinians as Israel's "most urgent problem. That was fifth behind education, crime, national security and poverty."

Determined to prove his thesis, Vick glossed over the finding that poverty was a major Israeli concern. "Israelis feel prosperous " he asserts and Israel's quality of life is "high and getting higher". Israelis are "making money".

Vick ignored annoying contradictory statistics, such as the fact that a third of Israeli children live below the poverty line according to data published by the National Insurance Institute in 2010. Or the fact that only a minuscule minority of Israeli Jews are wealthy. There are so few rich Jews here that in 2006, Business Data Israel (BDI) reported that Israel’s 19 wealthiest families controlled an aggregate NIS 248 billion in revenue, equal to 88% of the government budget.

But the most insidious element is Vick's comparison of the Jewish mentality with others.  He believes that the wealthy, superficial, money-grubbing Israeli nation he fabricated is "a trifle weary of having to handle big elemental thoughts".  Not so the enlightened others, Vick is certain:  "Deep down (you can almost hear the outside world ask)", he wonders, "don't Israelis know that finding peace with the Palestinians is the only way to guarantee their happiness and prosperity?"

Jews need to accept Vick for what he is: a non-objective journalist who will churn out articles reflecting his bias for as long as he is stationed in Jerusalem. With his Why Israel Doesn't  Care About Peace article, he succeeded in crossing a red line in the mainstream media with  the sort of anti-Semitic rant that has until now been relegated to the media fringe. But he was only reflecting a general swing in attitude toward Israel since the Goldstone report and the Gaza flotilla.

It would be wise to acknowledge this new status quo instead of closing our eyes and ears to it,  however un-trendy that may be.

Published originally on the Israel National News website, earlier today.

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