Tuesday, August 24, 2004

In the New York Times editorial of August 23, "Folly in the West Bank",
the paper insists a peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian issue "To be just, workable and sustainable...will have to divide that land into two coherent territories...".

While supposedly a logical idea, one needs recall that that proposal was tried in 1922, when TransJordan was lopped off the original mandate area, in 1937, when the Peel Commission partition was put forward and in 1947 when the UN Resolution predicated itself on partition. While the Zionist movement accepted the principle of surrendering Jewish rights to its historic homeland, the Arabs never sought any peace based on geographical division and never accepted such.

During 1948-1967, Palestinian Arabs, as fedayeen and later, as Fatah,
sought to "liberate" a Palestine that was but in reality the eradication of Israel. Even with Lebanon, yielding up all the territory Israel controlled in 1999 does not satisfy the Hezzbolah while the other territorial occupation by Syria is ignored by international forums.

Perhaps the New York Times can suggest a better plan, that might work?

Friday, August 20, 2004

How to Skew The News

Steven Erlanger, in his report published today, Friday, sought out additional
commentary and quoted from two Israelis, Nahum Barnea and Yaron Ezrahi.
Ezrahi also was quoted in another report this past week by Erlanger.

As a long-time observer of the New York Times' reporting on Israel, and having
had personal contacts with many correspondents, I wrote the following to the
newspaper's Public Editor:-

I have noticed that this aspect of journalism is particularly problematic. In the past, Thomas
Friedman would include quotations from Rabbi David Hartman as well as his Persian
grocery store owner. Other reporters also concentrated on just a few'outsiders'.

The problem is that the NYT reporters here almost exclusively rely on sources
who are Leftist or moderate, 'peace' pro-activists, anti-religious and anti-government.
I amnot referring to persons involved in the story but to those, like in Erlanger's report,
who are brought in from academia or the media to provide 'ambience" to the story.

This reliance on a rather cliquish and an elite band of sources will bias the reports
read by the NYT readers. Rarely is there a Rightist, a staunch Zionist or a conservative
philosopher or cleric. This is unfortunate and imbalanced.

I hope that my drawing attention to the area will prove a benefit to the
professional ethical reporting of the NYT.

And I could and should have added that these sources are always nebulously identified
without reference to their political views and ideological positions.

Mr. Sharon's largest problem is that his Gaza disengagement policy is
not what most Likud members want, said Nahum Barnea, a columnist with
Yediot Aharonot. "He's committed to continuing negotiations with Labor and
his disengagement plan," Mr. Barnea said. "But it's hard. He's weakened,
and he could really split Likud. And when you're weaker, people tend to
raise the price.''
Yaron Ezrahi, a political scientist at Hebrew University, said Mr. Sahron might
not consider it a catastrophe if Likud split. "He could head a huge center bloc
that would back his policies, if he could only get these guys in Likud off his back,''
he said.The temptation is for Mr. Sharon, Labor's Mr. Peres and Shinui's Tommy
Lapid, all over 75, and all of whom largely agree on Gaza and the dismantling
of some settlements, to unite to run on a single party list in the next election,
marginalizing the far right and the religious parties.But Mr. Barnea thinks that is
a very unlikely outcome, given the complexities. And Mr. Sharon seems to
understand that he needs at least some religious party to deal with the honest
agonies of the Israeli settler population.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Morality and Israel

James Bennet's final climatic chords in his profile of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, "Sharon's Wars", that he had published in the New York Times Magazine this past Sunday, August 15, 2004, refer to an Israel that is "morally alert...morally conflicted but...also morally compromised in the eyes of the world". He then selects as a final nail in his coffin carpentry a statement spoken by extreme left-winger, Yaron Ezrahi, a former Peace Now spokesperson, that Israel could become ''the largest ghetto in modern Jewish history."

Bennet's pessimism is but a reflection on the refusal of too many to accept that Israel, and its driving nationalist ideology, Zionism, have a place at all in the scheme of things. Kept away for centuries from its rightful sons, our land became a neglected desert and, starting in the 1930s, when we Jews were kept away from the land by restrictive immigration policies, millions were eventually cremated and buried alive in the Holocaust. Land and people are inextricably bound up.

Prior to 1967, the disputed territories were somehow not "occupied" by Jordan or Egypt and the "Palestine", it became obvious, that terrorists attempted then to "liberate" was but Israel itself. That unpleasant fact was, and still is, ignored.

Israel is in Judea, Samaria and Gaza as a result of Arab aggression but it is there by the right of historical and legal primacy. These areas are the Jewish heartland where our kings, priests and prophets lived and bequeathed to the world the highest degrees of religious and cultural morality.

To ban Jews, like myself, from living in sites such as Shiloh, Beth El and Hebron, whether initiated from within by Israeli politicians or forced on our leaders from without, is the immorality that cannot be tolerated.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

When is a "Militant" not a "Terrorist"?

Here's a short letter I dashed off to the Public Editor
of the New York Times today:-

The following headline appeared over a story that appeared in the New York Times on August 13: "Militants' Blast Kills 2 Palestinians by Israel

As the story notes, a Palestinian bomber detonated explosives near a busy checkpoint, where scores of civilians gather to pass into Jerusalem, killing two Palestinian passers-by and wounding about 20 people, including 6 Israeli border police officers, 3 of them seriously.

In the past, the New York Times has deigned from replacing the term "militants" which it considers 'neutral' with a more value-content word such as 'terrorist'. The reasoning, I understand, is that the NYT does not want to define a national liberation movement either as 'freedom fighters' or 'terrorists' but to let the acts speak for themselves.

The implication, by perforce, is that when Palestinians kill Jews they are but militants, rarely, if at all, terrorists. But in this case, the bomber knew that his bomb was left in the midst of dozens of Palestinian civilians and that they would necessarily be injured and worse in the blast even if the bomber's main target was Israeli security forces.

That the NYT headline writer still selected to use the word 'militant' is beyond me.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Here's the reaction of the New York Times to my intimation regarding the media ethics of the photographers who had perhaps laid in wait for the bomb to be exploded against the Israeli tank:-

Dear Mr. Medad,

Our public editor is on vacation, and his office has passed your correspondence to me as standards editor of The Times.

Normally we are unable to reply individually to letters to the editor that are clearly intended for publication. But since you asked the public editor for a comment, I'll try to give you one.

Your letter poses a hypothesis from which The Times is at least three levels removed.

First, the cameramen in question were employed by news agencies, not by The Times; you might wish to address your comments and questions to The Associated Press and Reuters.

Second, the suggestion that the cameramen had been alerted in advance is based on nothing more than what you describe as questioning by leading media observers. I do not know who they are, or what makes them "leading."

What we have here is rumors and speculation, metamorphosing before our very eyes into an assumption of scandal. The "symbiotic relationship between terror groups and the press" is not something I recognize as characteristic of The Times.

Finally, while it is not unusual for reporters and photographers to accompany military units when accredited, I cannot imagine that a Times journalist would collude in terrorist activity or a plan to shed innocent blood.

Allan M. Siegal
Assistant Managing Editor/Standards
The New York Times

Friday, August 06, 2004

And Ayelet's Father Writes of Goldberg

The "outpost" is called Amonah, a neighborhood of Ofra, There are two dozen families living there. There are no Arab villages nearby, so no one "trekked through Arab villages" to get there. There's a paved road from Ofra, half a kilometer away.

There were no "radical nationalists" (whatever that means) there. Dress was casual. My ex-father-in-law, Yossi Ben-Aharon (Shamir's former Bureau Chief) was the sandek. Carrying weapons is a necessity given the on-going terrorism, so I carried mine. Everyone who does so is licensed and trained. Facts of life.

Perhaps Jeff thinks that I too am one of those apocalyptic zealots, though I wouldn't have guessed from the many hours we spent together in warm and friendly conversations.

The Amalakites didn't attack "the Children of Egypt" (sic) but who knows, maybe in his reading of Torah they did.

My son-in-law Akiva was not at the brit; he was in court for participating in a Kach demonstration without a permit. Anyway, all charges were dropped. My daughter denies speaking to Goldberg at the Brit; she was with her girlfriends.

I don't know to whom he talked or what "radical yeshivot" he is referring to. I introduced Goldberg to Rav Dudkevitch, the Rosh Yeshiva of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar (who spoke to Goldberg on my recommendation), and many others. He said he was impressed by their moderation and sincerity.

Avi Dichter (and HaNegbi) admitted openly that they had no information about radical elements (it was just their intuition) and of course no arrests were made. It did capture the headlines for a while. The media loves that sort of thing, especially when it's against religious Jews.

I found Goldberg's comparison between yeshiva students and Al Quida a bit exaggerated.

Reference to Rabin's "murder on the alter of settlements" was also strange, since Amir was not a settler. According to polls taken at the time he was murdered, he was the most unpopular PM in our history, with more than 2/3 of the people against him.

Rav Nevensal gave an halachic answer to an halachic question; he was quick to add that such a position does not condone violence in any way.

Rabin did not lead the Israeli army in 1967; he was depressed and holed up somewhere according to military historians. The people who openly called Rabin a Nazi and displayed pictures of him were "fake settlers" who were actually Shabak agents, like Avishai Raviv, Amir's handler.

Gosh, Goldberg

The Jeffrey Goldberg saga, continuing (expect more postings soon)

Dear Jeffrey,

I just managed to get over being dumped from your New Yorker piece after spending
a good deal of time with you at my office at the Begin Center and on the phone (and after waiting a long time between your first approach to me and then finally sitting down to talk) and now your NYTimes op-ed.

You had me fooled, I'll admit. I took you for a serious, open-minded individual,
knowledgeable of the circumstances, the instricacies and at times, the covoluted narratives of Israeli officialdom, Arabs, and the Jewish revenants who reside in portions of the historic land of Israel not yet under sovereign Jewish rule. But reading carefully through you two last products, I'm stumped.I presumed that I did not make it into your New Yorker opus because I was not extremist enough or, to be self-conglaturatory, that I was too cogent, rational and logical and had a good enough answer for every question you raised. I was under the impression that you were objective and wanted to tell the story as it is, a simplistic but very fundamental journalistic credo, one they teach or sort of mention in passing in
Journalism 101.

Of all the figures you included there, I was chagrined that I didn't even merit a small two sentence paragraph. After all, I've been in Yesha, in my community of Shiloh, since 1981, managing to participate in the first settling attempt at Sebastia in 1975 and serving as part of the English-language information & PR team of Gush Emunim for three decades.

I was even at the Yesha delegation that shadowed Yitzhak Shamir at the 1991 Madrid
Conference and during 1983-1988, served as editor of Counterpoint, the Gush Emunim
periodical, was founding editor of The Yesha Report in 1990 and sat on the Yesha Council and the Nekuda editorial board. As a second-echelon person, I think my opnions could have counted for some literary value.Then comes your latest in this week's New York Times.

If you go to my blog web site, - www.myrightword.blogspot.com - you'll see that I wrote these comments, pithy and concise(with a few newly added notes):-

a) Why dateline "Ofra"? Nothing in the story relates to Ofra. Why not Jerusalem?(I now know you were at Amona. But if so, why dateline it Ofra?)

b) Okay, we have a Kachnik, one. Does that reflect on 250,000 other Jews?
c) The last political assassin was not a "settler". Why emphasize the "settlers" in this if the issue is the future assassination of Sharon?

d) If Dichter believes 200 potentials are out there, and he believes in administrative detention (=A.D.), how come no one is in A.D.? After all, they put Noam Federman in (and had to release him as, we suppose, they had no real proof), why not Haim, Yankel or even Mrs. Ayelet?

e) He misquotes Rav Neventzahl.(the Rabbi said that while he cannot erase the Halachic principle from our books, it should not be part of "hashkafa" - sort of philosophical outlook).

f) Meir Kahane was assassinated by a Muslim fanatacist - according to Goldberg's logic, should we start then assassinating muslim fanaticists (or are we already doing that and now Goldberg says its okay)?

g) Wilder claims he didn't exactly quote him in proper context.(I spoke with him yesterday)

h) Sharon himself could be doing a lot more to prevent, heavens forbid, his future assassination if he acted at least within democratic parameters, no? Wouldn't a liberal like Goldberg support that position?(could it be that this is a form of "liberal projection"? That the liberals are set on uprooting people from their homes and so need a counter-criminality from the Right?).

In addition, the spokeswoman of Ofra, Ruchie Avital, wrote this:

Although Jeffrey Goldberg datelined his article, "Protect Sharon From the Right," Ofra, West Bank, nowhere in the article is Ofra mentioned and none of the people referred to or quoted live in Ofra. I fail to understand the reason for this - did Mr. Goldberg stop off on his way and write the story on his laptop in the Ofra bus stop or local restaurant? The dateline could just have well have been Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. He seems to imply that Ofra is somehow part of the alleged threats and violence he discusses in the article, while this is not at all the case. Goldberg, I would think, has violated basic journalistic ethics in this case.

and this, too, she penned:

From the description, I had no way of understanding from the article itself where the
"outpost" Mr. Goldberg mentions is. He mentions it being "in the radical settler heartland near Nablus." Ofra is 15 minutes north of Jerusalem and 10 minutes from Ramallah - Nablus, on the otherhand, is a good 50-60 minutes to the North. Amona itself, the "outpost" Goldberg visited, is only about 8 miles north of Jerusalem,
as the crowflies, as I'm sure he could clearly see from the synagogue where the Brit was held. Being a very small country, these distances are verysignificant. Additionally, he mentions "rough trek through Arab villages to get to this hill." To reach Amona, one travels a well-paved highway to Ofra - both from north and south - a large community of about 550 families, and then drives up a paved road.

In addition, Goldberg's screed against settlers and Orthodox Jews is filled with inaccuracies and selective facts; to mention just a few: Rabin was not assassinated by a settler, the vast majority of Jews living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, including among the younger generation, do NOT support Kahane or his extremist followers, and Kahane himself was murdered by a Muslim fanatic in New York.

But the most important fact of all is that besides their strongly felt moral repugnance towards the idea of murder, political or otherwise, the Jews of Judea, Samaria and Gaza are well aware that nothing could bemore disastrous for the entire settlement movement than an attempt or even hint of an attempt to harm Ariel Sharon. Goldberg claims to have heard 14 people express a desire to murder the prime minister. I must admit, I have never heard even one.

And now back to me, Yisrael Medad:

I was contacted by Ayelet's father-in-law who claims that she denies the circumstances and narrative of her meeting with you that you included in your story. Gosh, Jeff, have we a problem with you or have you a problem with yourself?

The conflict between us Israelis and us revenants is bad enough without fabrications
and muddling interference from either clumsy ignoramuses or high-minded "save-Israel-from-itself" crusaders. Jeff, decide, are you an op-ed writer, a journalist and a media person or are you a Peace Now activist in disguise?

Please, you have your right to be either, but don't disguise your purpose in life.

Yisrael Medad

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Journalistic Ethics

Reporting on the deaths of three Arabs in the Gaza Strip in the August 4 edition of his newspaper, caused by a prematurely exploded bomb, New York Times correspondent Greg Myre notes that "videotape taken by Associated Press Television News showed a group of Palestinians placing a detonator in an alley". Other camermen, including Reuters, were present as well.

Media observers should have been quickly off the mark to ask this question: were these camermen informed beforehand of the expected attack that was to be denonated against the Israeli target? Did they know what was about to happen to the Israeli soldiers (but didn't)?

The symbiotic relationship between terror groups and the press raises questions regarding proper professional journalistic ethics in covering such violent activity. The thought of a press that lies in wait to snap a picture of an Israeli soldier being injured or worse, knowing full well that blood will be shed, is a horrific situation to contemplate.

Goldberg Goldbricks

Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker published an op-ed in the New York Times today, August 5, 2004 (see below).

My comments, pithy and concise:-

a) Why dateline "Ofra"? Nothing in the story relates to Ofra. Why not Jerusalem?
b) Okay, we have a Kachnik. Does that reflect on 250,000 other Jews?
c) The last political assassin was not a "settler". Why emphasize the "settlers" in this one if the issue is the future assassination of Sharon?
d) If Dichter believes 200 potentials are out there, and he believes in administrative detention (=A.D.), how come no one is in A.D.? After all, they put Noam Federman in (and had to release him as, we suppose, they had no real proof), why not Haim, Yankel or even Mrs. Ayelet?
e) He misquotes Rav Neventzahl.
f) Meir Kahane was assassinated by a Muslim fanatacist - according to Goldberg's logic, should we start then assassinating muslim fanaticists (or are we already doing that and now Goldberg says its okay)?
g) Wilder claims he didn't exactly quote him in proper context.
h) Sharon himself could be doing a lot more to prevent, heavens forbid, his future assassination if he acted at least within democratic parameters, no? Wouldn't a liberal like Goldberg support that position?


August 5, 2004
Protect Sharon From the Right
OFRA, West Bank

Not long ago, at a West Bank settlement outpost surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by dyspeptic German shepherds, I attended a joyful event: a brit milah, the circumcision of an eight-day-old boy. This outpost was home to just a handful of families, but more than 100 people came to celebrate with the boy's parents.
Many of the visitors made the rough trek through Arab villages to get to this hill. These young settlers are the avant-garde of radical Jewish nationalism, the flannel-wearing, rifle-carrying children of their parents' mainstream settlements, which they denigrate for their bourgeois affectations - red-tile roof chalets, swimming pools, pizzerias - and their misplaced fealty to the dictates of the government in Jerusalem. These new pioneers set out for the Samarian mountains and the hills of Hebron, where they live in log cabins and broken-down trailers, in settings sufficiently biblical and remote to allow for the cultivation of a new variant of apocalyptic zealotry.
The mohel's table stood at the rear of a double-wide trailer that serves as the outpost's synagogue. I stood by the door, near the tables holding plates of hummus and bottles of schnapps. I fell into conversation with an acquaintance of mine, a woman named Ayelet, who is in her late teens, pregnant, the daughter of a former assistant professor of history at City College. She is a resident of an outpost in the radical settler heartland near Nablus. We were interrupted by the newborn's father, a goat farmer, as he began giving a d'var Torah, an interpretation of a Bible passage. He turned, rather quickly, to the threat posed by the Amalekites, the eternal enemy of the Jews, a tribe that, according to the Bible, attacked Moses and the Children of Egypt on the exodus from Egypt.
"Amalek," in the language of the settler hardcore today, often stands for the Arabs, the existential enemy of the Jews. "I am looking at our life today, and what Amalek wants to do is swallow up the people of Israel," the father said. "This is the snake. This is the snake."
I turned to Ayelet. She wore a long skirt, her hair was covered, and she carried an M-16. I asked her if she thought Amalek was alive today. "Of course," she said, and pointed out the door, toward an Arab village in the distance. "The Amalekite spirit is everywhere. It's not just the Arabs."
Who else, then? "Sharon isn't Amalek," she said, "but he works for Amalek."
I had not seen Ayelet before with a rifle. She told me it belonged to her husband, Akiva, who couldn't be here, because he was in court in Jerusalem. He was, she said vaguely, answering charges related to his work for Kach, the racist movement founded by the late Meir Kahane.
I asked her if she would use the M-16 only against Arabs, or against Jews who came to tear down her outpost. "God forbid," she said. "We wouldn't want to hurt a Jewish soldier."
What about a Jewish prime minister?
"Sharon is forfeiting his right to live," she said.
I asked her if she would like to kill him.
"It's not for me to do. If the rabbis say it, then someone will do it. He is working against God."
Over the past year, I've heard at least 14 young Orthodox settlers - in outposts, and in yeshivas in the West Bank and Jerusalem - express with vehemence a desire to murder Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his men, in particular the deputy prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the defense minister, Shaul Mofaz. I've met several more who actively pray - and, I suspect, work - for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. And I have met dozens more who would not sit shiva, certainly not for the Dome, but not for their prime minister, either.
The threat of the radical right has become a matter of terrible urgency in the Israeli government. Avi Dichter, the chief of the Israeli internal security service, has been for months running around - to borrow a phrase from George Tenet - with his hair on fire over the threat. He has warned of the potential for attacks against the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosque, on the Temple Mount; such a strike, he said, would set off global war between Muslim and Jew - a goal the radical yeshivas of the West Bank share with Al Qaeda.
Mr. Dichter told a Knesset committee last month that his agents believe there are 150 to 200 settlers hoping to kill Mr. Sharon. A member of the committee asked, "If we were talking about Palestinians and not Jews, would you place these people in administrative detention?" Mr. Dichter answered, "Absolutely."
Now, there is surely something strange about an Israel in which Ariel Sharon, the invader of Lebanon and the father of settlements, is in mortal danger from the right. And it should be noted that Mr. Sharon's withdrawal plan has flaws and limitations. Yet what is most interesting here is that the settlers grasp something about the plan that Mr. Sharon's critics on the left do not, which is that Mr. Sharon poses a greater threat to theologically motivated settlers than even Yitzhak Rabin.
The difference between Mr. Rabin - who was murdered on the altar of settlement nine years ago - and Mr. Sharon is the difference between bilateralism and unilateralism. Mr. Rabin's plan depended on Yasir Arafat, and he undoubtedly would have come to see Mr. Arafat as no partner for peace. But there is only one indispensable man in Mr. Sharon's plan, and that is Mr. Sharon himself. If Mr. Sharon evacuates a settlement - and if the sky does not respond by falling - the logic of dismantlement may take hold; a majority of Israelis already support the unilateral shutting of many settlements.
Which is why the Orthodox right is in panic. The rabbi of the Old City of Jerusalem, Avigdor Neventzal, announced in June that anyone who gives up a part of the land of Israel - even a single settlement - to a non-Jew could be the target of a religiously sanctioned murder. The official spokesman of the Jewish community in Hebron, David Wilder, wrote in June: "Nobody wants violence. Especially against our own brethren. But it's time to wake up. The reality is, if Sharon insists on trying to implement his 'Jewish transfer' from our homes and land, it's going to happen."
In the summer of 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was more or less alone. The man who led the Israeli Army to victory in the Six-Day War - making possible the settlement movement in the first place - was called a Nazi at public rallies; radical Orthodox rabbis cursed him; and much of world Jewry was silent. Today, once again, the atmosphere is one of tolerance for murder. "God's name is being invoked against Sharon, but where are the rabbis?" asked Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and one of the few American Jewish leaders to take heed of Mr. Dichter's warning.
The extremist yeshivas that give rise to fundamentalist thuggery are financed in part by Orthodox Jews in America. Several Orthodox rabbis in America took the lead in demonizing Mr. Rabin. And Meir Kahane, the inspiration for so much fanaticism, was an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn.
The mainstream Orthodox rabbinate - in America and in Israel - failed nine years ago to defend Yitzhak Rabin against extremism. It could be doing a great deal more today to prevent the murder of Ariel Sharon.
Jeffrey Goldberg is a staff writer for The New Yorker.