Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Media Disengagement

Arutz 7 published my latest oped (which was also noted in Little Green Footballs):

On July 11, 2005, Seymour D. Reich, President of the Israel Policy Forum, an American organization, provided a unique glimpse into the thinking of those who are leading this country. In a letter to the editor published in the New York Times, Reich, a former chairman of the Presidents' Conference, informed us that Ehud Olmert, Israel's vice prime minister, spoke before an audience in New York in June and announced: "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies."

What is probably most remarkable about Olmert's words is that they went unreported at the time, and not that they represent one of the most abject and defeatist formulations of statecraft in the history of diplomacy. Even Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938 was a bit more optimistic while serving up Czechoslovakia's Sudentenland.

Israel's media manages to get its information from Foreign Ministry cables, interested parties in the American Jewish establishment, politicos and officials from within the State Department and Pentagon, and from leaks directly from those who utter them or their aides. Our media delights in scandal and headlining seemingly embarrassing remarks. That such a statement, if true, and Olmert has not denied saying what Reich claims he said, was missed, or perhaps ignored, is a troubling development for this country's democracy.

It was Amnon Avramovicz, prime time Channel Two commentator and recognized razor-tongued expert of sardonic wit, who coined the now infamous "Etrog box" paradigm of Israel's media. According to Avramovicz's instructions to his fellow milieu members, the ultimate elitist clique and last stronghold of dogmatic left-liberalism, Ariel Sharon is to be cushioned, that is, untouched by criticism in the media. Until September, the month the expulsion of the Jewish population of communities in Gaza and northern Samaria is to be a fait accompli, the media is to avoid any mention of personal criminal and unethical matters that Sharon, his sons, his advisors, his employees and anyone else connected to this evacuation operation.

Avramovicz, along with many other leading dimmed lights in the media, make no secret of their support, encouragement and enthusiastic defense of Sharon's policies that serve their end as well: Israel's exit from the disputed territories. This dovetailing of goals overrides any professional, ethical or legal restriction that would otherwise act as a barrier to what Avramovicz wants done, and, a la the Olmert statement, is being done.

The "etrog box" media behavior, of course, is nothing less than a subversion of Israel's democracy. Thus, what is being done to some 10,000 Jews is described as "disengagement" when, in the first instance, it is nothing less than a depopulation of ethnic cleansing. Disengagement will not happen. Terror will continue, as the opponents of evacuation claimed, and Israel will engage the enemy. Arabs will continue to demand the 'right of return' to Isdud (Ashdod), Iskalon (Ashkelon), Bir Saba (Be'er Sheba) and Jaffa and will be engaged in their propaganda campaign on its behalf. Gazans are to enter Israel as a work force, and Israel will supply water and electricity and other services.

Moreover, the main reason that Sharon has embarked on a complete reversal of political orientation; i.e., the demographic threat to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, is now being well served by a demand of the American administration. That demand is for the "disengagement" funds of over $2 billion to go, in the main, to Arab, Bedouin and Druze projects in Israel. Only a third of the money will fund the redeployment of Israel Defense Forces troops outside the Gaza Strip.

The aid package must go, the United States demands, for the purpose of developing the Galilee and Negev. We now witness a new New Israel Fund blossoming. An American official was quoted as saying, "America is not the Jewish Agency nor the Jewish National Fund, and considers it important that the aid serves all sectors of the Israeli population." This, of course, is a worthy redistribution of Israel's national budget. What is unworthy, however, is the way America is forcing Israel to do its bidding and how the media is not helping Israelis understand what the future holds based on this element and others.

Is America still behind Sharon's "settlement blocs" program or is President George W. Bush, in referring to the 1949 armistice lines, signaling the re-division of Jerusalem? Was Sharon wise in refusing to link the London bombings with Israel after we now are informed that one of the UK bombers may have been part of the Mike's Place attack in Tel Aviv? Is the so-called demographic threat solely an external problem, resolved by evacuating Gaza, or is it internal? And how negative is it exactly?

These are but a few of the questions for which Israel's media must provide a fair and balanced forum for discussion and dialogue. Their involvement and responsibility for Israel's future is no less than that of a prime minister or the leader of the opposition. That is how a true democracy works.

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