Friday, April 19, 2013

Mideast Media Sampler - 4/19/13 When The Media Gets It Wrong

by David Gerstman, contributing blogger at Legal Insurrection

1) Getting it wrong 

In the early part of the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing the media were regularly getting things wrong and reporting them. Daled Amos commented: 
Pity the media - spoiled by Middle East reporting where not used to having to retract inaccurate stories after report first thing they hear.
— daledamos (@daledamos) April 17, 2013
In Principled Dupedom: On the Moral Imperative to be Stupid, Richard Landes, focusing on two famous cases - the supposed "massacre" in Jenin and the Al Dura case - showed what one has to believe in order to stick to faulty news reports. 
All of this brings us back to the discussion of the process of auto-stupefaction I’ve referred to as rekaB Street. Rather than note the clues and the anomalies and pursue them fearlessly, most prefer not even to view the evidence, to dismiss it as a conspiracy theory, or, in some cases, to take a couple of fearless steps and then demur from reaching any further conclusions. Heaven forbid we call Talal a liar and Enderlin a(n apparently willing) dupe! Better we remain stupid.
In other words, it's preferable to follow the narrative than to follow the facts.  

2) Today in Egypt's history 

In assessing today's planned demonstrations in Egypt, Barry Rubin writes
This is the chaos into which Egypt is descending. In real terms, a revolution hailed by virtually everyone in the West has turned into a disaster. The choices seem to be either a Sharia state or a civil war, each accompanied by suffering and explosive instability. Might the West learn something from this story?
The editors of the Washington Post have learned something. They now acknowledge that the Muslim Brotherhood has not interest in democracy. In U.S. should focus on helping Egyptians protect their freedoms, they write: 
The right way for the administration to regain its footing in Egypt is neither to pivot toward backing the secular opposition nor to seek accommodation with the government. Instead, the United States should have a policy centered on widening and preserving the democratic opening that followed the 2011 revolution. The administration should speak more, including from the White House, when free speech, free assembly or free elections are threatened; it should find ways to continue and increase its support for Egypt’s civil society. It should reach out more to opposition leaders, while making clear to them and to the military that non-peaceful means for challenging Mr. Morsi’s government are unacceptable.
I'm glad that they don't endorse seeking accommodation with the government. Even supporting the democratic opposition cold be problematic as it is more likely to discredit the opposition than it is to help it in Egypt. But isn't supporting "civil society" consistent with supporting the "secular opposition?" Though the impatience with the Muslim Brotherhood is welcome, the argument suffers a bit from inconsistency.  

3) The Warsaw Ghetto uprising and Israel 

In The Jewish Hero that History Forgot, Yale history professor, Marci Shore profiles Marek Edelman, one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. 
Edelman, who had survived by escaping through the sewers, was the last living commander of the uprising. After the war, in Communist Poland, he became a cardiologist: “to outwit God,” as he once said. In the 1970s and ’80s he re-emerged in the public sphere as an activist in the anti-Communist opposition, working with the Committee for the Defense of Workers and the Solidarity movement. He died in 2009, and to this day, he is celebrated as a hero in Poland. He is remembered with more ambivalence in Israel. “Israel has a problem with Jews like Edelman,” the Israeli author Etgar Keret told a Polish newspaper in 2009. “He didn’t want to live here. And he never said that he fought in the ghetto so that the state of Israel would come into being.” Not even Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister and an admirer of Edelman, could persuade an Israeli university to grant the uprising hero an honorary degree. 
Shore's argument is that Edelman was ignored because he was not a Zionist. A profile of Edelman at the American Jewish Committee website, suggests another reason he may have been somewhat overlooked: 
His anti-heroic account of the uprising was not accepted by other combatants, including his closest friends. They mostly found their way to Israel, while Edelman, true to his Bundist past, believed Zionism was a mistake. I remember him telling us that the State of Israel was not really Jewish. "It's an Arab state with the Jewish religion," he said. He was also fervently anti-religious, even as he embodied the highest moral principles that we associate with religion.
Was it the Zionism or the iconoclasm? (Though it could be argued that his rejection of Zionism is part of what made him an outsider.) Jeffrey Grossman questions the assumption that it was Edelman's anti-Zionism that made him "forgotten." The he writes: 
I have no beef with Ms. Shore's worthy opinion piece. But I can assure her that Edelman's decision to remain in Poland after the war is now a non-issue in Israel. Israel is too concerned with existential threats emanating from Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah, which has 60,000 rockets and missiles pointed south, and the crumbling Assad regime in Syria, which still controls one of world's largest arsenals of chemical weapons. Jews may soon be fighting again for survival. On the other hand, what does the Gray Lady mean when it writes "Not everyone who fought in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising saw a Jewish state as the ultimate goal" so soon after Israel's Holocaust Remembrance Day? Is The Times hinting that notwithstanding a rising level of global anti-Semitism, there is today no need for a Jewish state?
If it was true, then I don't have a problem with the writer acknowledging that not all of the Warsaw Ghetto fighters were Zionists. What bothers me (and I think Grossman too) is why was this the defining quality of Edelman in the op-ed?

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