Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 8/22/2012: Coverage of Israeli Teenager Attack

From DG:
1) An attack

The New York Times reported Israeli teenagers held
The police said that scores of Jewish youths were involved in the attack late Thursday in West Jerusalem’s Zion Square, leaving one 17-year-old unconscious and hospitalized. Hundreds of bystanders watched the mob beating, the police said — and no one intervened. 
Two of the suspects were girls, the youngest 13, adding to the soul-searching and acknowledgment that the poisoned political environment around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected the moral compass of youths growing up within it.
The mob beating came on the same day that a Palestinian taxi on the West Bank was firebombed, apparently by Jewish extremists, though there have been no arrests. The two episodes, along with a new report by the United States State Department labeling attacks by Jews on Palestinians as terrorism, have opened a stark national conversation about racism, violence, and how Israeli society could have come to this point.
This is a terrible story of course and the attackers brought to trial. But does an incident like this really reflect on Israeli society at large?

It's a question that Jeffrey Goldberg asked (based on an earlier version of the article):
3) Jews are sometimes attacked by Arabs in Jerusalem, without much attendant media coverage. I was in Israel earlier this year when an Arab East Jerusalemite attacked a Jewish man with an axe near the Damascus Gate. Jewish violence sometimes draws more coverage than Arab violence against Jews, and it certainly draws more attention than Arab-on-Arab violence. Such is the nature of things. 
4) I'm always perplexed, after an incident like this, to read emotional statements like the one from Kershner, who said that the attack "is leading many Israelis to question how their society could have come to this." First of all, which Israelis? Name some. Name one. I'm not saying they don't exist. I know they exist, I just want to know if this includes only people in Kershner's liberal circles. Second, it's quite a broad statement, one that you almost never see in The New York Times following a heinous act of violence against an ethnic or racial minority in this, or any other, country. It's a bit of a reflex at The Times, which seems to be believe that Israelis are -- or should be -- wringing their hands constantly. 
Then Goldberg observes:
5) It's obviously a healthy sign that the police made arrests in the case, but the acid test comes if these suspects are convicted. Will they be given sentences that match the gravity of the crime, or will they get off easy? It would be appalling, but unsurprising, if this is ultimately not treated as an attempted murder.
Which led Israel Matzav to respond:
Hey Jeff - can we wait for the results of the trial before deciding that those arrested are guilty and that they are going to be let off too easily? You wonder why the Times comes up with the kind of lines that Kershner wrote?.
What is clear is that the actions of this gang reflect a tiny proportion  of Israeli society, and that fraction is rejected and condemned by the vast majority of Israelis. Even if you want to say that Israel should be held to a higher standard, I believe it meets that standard. When it comes the Palestinians or Arabs generally the same people who judge Israel are remarkably silent.

This Ongoing War emphasizes this contrast:
To illustrate: when a posse of Israeli delinquents (it happens to be a very current issue here) beat up an Arab youth in a street fight, the New York Times says the event has led to "a stark national conversation about racism, violence, and how Israeli society could have come to this point" That's an actual quote: check it out. We think the Times' journalist's conclusion is overwrought nonsense, but that's not the point. Israel is not, never has been and should never be, immune to criticism, or even object to it, and mostly doesn't.  
Now think for a moment about how Ahlam Tamimi and her hundreds of published interviews and speeches are treated by global public opinion. Pay attention in particular to how Arabs view her, since they are her principal audience. 
No one - certainly not the woman herself - denies the fact that she planned and carried out a premeditated killing on a large and vicious scale, which was the whole point of doing it. The law convicted her on the basis that she's a murderer; she says (more or less) that she did it for the freedom and honour of her nation. The fact that she planned to kill and succeeded mightily has never been in dispute. She does not miss an opportunity to say that it was children, and specifically Jewish children, and even more specifically orthodox Jewish children like ours, who were the target. She regrets that she did not kill more - it's there in yesterday's video and in numerous other speeches and earlier videos recorded in her Jordanian freedom.
They continue:
This is deeply shocking. Tamimi's message resonates throughout the Arab and Islamic world. Her views don't even rise to the level of controversial. She's simply a hero, wall to wall. She and her vile deeds, opinions and intentions appear to represent some sort of global consensus in the Arab and Islamic world. There is no public debate, no expressions of outrage - not even concerning the passivity of the Kingdom of Jordan where she lives and from where a vibrant Tamimi-focused industry of online and broadcast videos sends its message of hatred and death out to the world.  
Does the absence of criticism throughout the Arab world mean they support the deliberate killing of the innocent people among their enemy? Does their silence mean they support the murder of children as Tamimi certainly does, and they want to see it happen again and again as she certainly does? 
What does this say about the discourse underway in the Arab world? What light does it throw on the global news media?
 And it isn't just the masses as Elder of Ziyon notes about Mahmoud Abbas:
The simple fact is that Abbas is inciting his people against Israel, period. He knows quite well that the 1969 attack was not done by any Jews or by Israeli authorities, but by a deranged Christian from Australia. Israel is hardly responsible for the actions of a crazed Australian.
Abbas, on the other hand, is directly responsible for the terror that occurs because of the lies and incitement that he directly pushes as well as that which comes from his official PA newspapers, schools and announcements.
On the other hand, if you think you've figured out extreme right wing settlers, Daled Amos illustrates another side to them.

2) Rethinking Al Jazeera

 Yesterday I took issue with David Zurawik's flattering portrayal of Al Jazeera. Claire Berlinski provides a slightly more sympathetic approach to the network (h/t Daled Amos):
These events were, paradoxically, contingent (in the sense that they were triggered by a series of coincidental events) and over- determined (in the sense that the pressures on these regimes were so enormous, for so long, that they were at some point bound to collapse.) Al-Jazeera is just one part of the story—demography, the spread of a fuzzy notion of democracy (for which we can take much credit, for good or ill), the age of the dictators in question and the youth of the populations of the countries in question; rising global food prices—these and many other factors are all part of the story. But yes, Al-Jazeera played a key role, and not necessarily a salubrious one. 
Yet Al-Jazeera should not be excoriated: It's a superb, highly professional news gathering organization without which we'd have almost no in-depth television news coverage of the Middle East. The problem is not that they exist, it's that they're the only ones who exist. American broadcasters have simply given up on covering the region in a serious way.
However, earlier on she cautions:
But Al-Jazeera is Qatar's foreign-policy arm, not ours. Qatar is entitled to have one, as is any nation. Still, if no one else is offering an equally compelling, in-depth counter-narrative, Qatar's prejudice's, priorities and view of the world will win by default—and theirs are not necessarily yours.
This is the qualification that was missing from Zurawik's article. 
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Empress Trudy said...

OMG one beating vs. thousands of Jews murdered. Let's flip out.

Daled Amos said...

Well, they have to make do with whatever opportunities that arise.