Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My Article in PajamasMedia: "Media, Academia Destroying Themselves Over Israel"

You might be interested in my article in PajamasMedia today on how the slander and slant against Israel is destroying the Western institutions that engage in this practice.

For your convenience, here's the full text:

By Barry Rubin

The irrational slander and hatred of Israel is not destroying Israel. It is destroying the institutions—media and academic, especially--being driven to madness by this obsessive irrationality and decline from their own proper standards. Like an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, the number of lies, logical fallacies, concealments, and strategic misconceptions necessary to make Israel look bad has grown so large that they threaten the health of the media and intelligentsia.

For in their assaults on Israel, these particular news media—of course, not in all they do nor in the work of all who report for them—have left behind professional ethics, rationality, and their own credibility. Political Correctness has eclipsed Factual Correctness, and the purpose of some newspapers has been redefined from reporting the news to merely reporting the news that furthers the political agenda of editors and journalists.

The above is, of course, is strenuously denied by those who embody such behavior, though it is of no surprise to those who are reading these words. And in this growing gap, the former lose credibility and the latter lose respect for what should be one of the main pillars of Western democracy and defense against the ideologies of dictatorship.

There is no institution that is more clearly typical of this malady than the once-respected and now justly often-ridiculed New York Times. After all, only the Times could donate a huge space to Tony Judt, a man without qualification to discuss the Middle East, claiming that the idea Israel is being delegitimized was a propaganda myth created by the Netanyahu government while daily delegitimizing Israel.

Here are two examples. The Times apparently views any statement made by Israel or its supporters to be false until proven true beyond its ability to think up some excuse for not accepting it. Thus, after Israel released several videos showing Israeli soldiers arriving on the deck of the Mavi Marmara and being beaten by a large mob, it dismissed the footage as “lacking context. Were they [the images] shot before or after the boarding party started using force?"

Yet one can clearly see on the video that the militants on the ship’s deck are calmly standing there, obviously not being fired upon, and the soldiers are holding onto the rope, with their guns slung over their shoulders.

Forced to retreat a bit—but never acknowledging its error—the Times’ editorialized: "The Israelis claim that Insani Yardim Vakfi is a dangerous organization with terrorist links. They have yet to offer any evidence to support that charge." This is despite the fact that a vast amount of evidence had been released including: documents showing the organization had been declared to have such links by, among other things, a Danish government report, France’s leading counterterrorism magistrate, a previous Turkish government, and U.S. government and legal documents, all easily available on Internet.

There is, of course, one obvious point that proves the group has terrorist links: Its open support for Hamas, a terrorist organization, in terms of financing, supplying, strategy (trying to break the blockade against it), and political aims. On virtually any other topic, this would have been sufficient to prove the point.

While governments of Israel, like all governments, have told lies, what is amazing is how good that government's record is, especially compared to other Western democracies. If for no other reason, Israel and its supporters know that their every word will be scrutinized and must be backed up by facts and documentation. Yet the Times and other mass media often treat Israel as less credible than dictatorships and terrorists whose record for veracity is minimal.

Meanwhile, the International Herald Tribune runs an op-ed by Alistair Crooke, who has also been warmly received by the Times and other media, who is openly the lobbyist for Hamas and Hizballah. The Los Angeles Times, whose record is just as bad, ran an op-ed by a UCLA professor and anti-Israel activist named Saree Makdisi, entitled, “Don't single out Helen Thomas.” Makdisi uses long-discredited false quotes from Alan Dershowitz and Israeli leaders to claim they are racist purveyors of hate speech.

Yet while the Los Angeles Times permits the publication of false quotations—as the New York Times did a few months ago with a Rashid Khalidi misquote—such media almost never quote the documented daily incitement and hate preached throughout the Middle East in mosques, government speeches, and mass media.

Media reactions to the latest revelations about Reuter’s use of doctored photographs (to remove a knife from a flotilla Jihadi’s hand so it can be argued the Islamists were merely victims) have been a yawn. When Rosie O’Donnell defended Helen Thomas and argued that the Jews should go back to Germany and Poland because there were no more death camps in those countries, it brought no criticism.

Yet what of all the things we aren’t hearing about. I know from an impeccable source that when a book of mine was discussed at an editorial board meeting of the Harvard University Press it was rejected after someone said, “We can’t have an Israeli writing about Arab politics.” And Princeton University Press, considered the absolute best for academic publishing on the Middle East, put out a book by a leading British anti-Israel activist—without notable academic argumentation in it—claiming that Zionist is a mental illness.

The reasons why such things happen are complex. They include the identification of Israel as evil and aggressive which then permits it to be treated as inevitably dishonest and in the wrong. But this is only possible because it is accompanied by the ideological corruption of academia, media, publishing, and intellectual life generally.

Many journalists believe that the highest priority for media is to further their own causes and to tell the public what is “good” for it to hear. If, for example, negative things are reported about Muslims, Third World countries, or enemies of the United States—the reasoning goes—Americans might go into the streets and massacre Muslims or advocate wars.

Thus, censoring out large aspects of the news and distorting others has become virtuous. And there are many other manifestations. Christian groups come to the defense of those who expel Christians and won’t let churches be built; gay groups support those who murder gays; feminist groups endorse those who repress women.

It is no accident that there are so many sayings warning against the dangers when perceived wisdom becomes nonsense. And they all agree that this mistake leads to the destruction of those who refuse to see reality accurately.

Sophicles, the ancient Greek playwright, noted, “Evil sometimes seems goodto a man whose mind…a god leads to destruction. And the Jewish Bible warned, “For the waywardness of the thoughtless shall slay them, and the confidence of fools shall destroy them.”

And what form does that madness take? The German Socialist leader, August Bebel, explained it: “Antisemitism is the socialism of fools.” But, claim those who purvey its most modern form, they are against antisemitism. Such arguments are merely propaganda for Israel.

What is happening at most, however, is that all the traditional antisemitic themes are being introduced with merely the change of one word: “Jew” becomes “Israeli,” and the implications often leak into “Jew” any way.

Rather than teaching democracy to the Arab or Muslim-majority world, the “teaching” has been in the opposite direction, as elements in the media

Here is one small example of what we’ve come to. The leading Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reports that in the city of Ann Frank, those who appear to be Jews are spat on and harassed in the streets and in one neighborhood a secret synagogue exists since if the mostly Muslim population found out it would come under violent attack.

Here is another. When a single Palestinian, who was not even known to reporters, claimed that there had been an Israeli massacre in Jenin, the world media trumpeted that fact despite the lack of any evidence whatsoever.

It is not merely that Israel is presumed guilty until proven innocent. The problem is that many institutions are making it impossible for Israel to be proven innocent and will ignore that verdict if at all possible. How else can one explain how a planned violent assault on soldiers by a radical Jihadist group that included their kidnapping (bragged about by the participants) for the purpose of making the world hate Israel in fact led to world-wide condemnation of Israel even when the truth was documented on video?

Can the whole world be wrong?" asked Koffi Annan, UN secretary-general in April 2002, talking about Israel. Annan has no idea that a century earlier the Jewish essayist and Zionist Ahad ha-Am asked that question in precisely the same words. Yes, answered Ahad ha-Am, the whole world can be wrong, because we know that we don’t use the blood of little Christian children to make matzos.

Only when the “best and brightest,” including many Jews among them, recognize that they are perpetrating the modern version of such historical arguments and reclaim their own professional ethics and Enlightenment methods of reasoning will there be hope for them to do better.

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