By Barry Rubin
If there is a secret manual entitled, “How to be a NY Times correspondent,” lesson 2—right after the one setting forth the political ideology must be: Create a crisis to justify a story. Provide only the information needed to prove your point and avoid any countervailing data.
Thus David Bronner writes in the NY Times an article entitled, “After Gaza, Israel Grapples With Crisis of Isolation.” Now a case can be made for such an argument but ironically Bronner chooses to undercut it by his own lead:
“Israel, whose founding idea was branded as racism by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 and which faced an Arab boycott for decades, is no stranger to isolation. But in the weeks since its Gaza war, and as it prepares to inaugurate a hawkish right-wing government, it is facing its worst diplomatic crisis in two decades.”
Well, if the whole basic idea of Israel was condemned by the UN 34 years ago and Israel is still here, it isn’t that scary. Even more telling, there is no mention of the fact that the UN rescinded that declaration. Might that not tell us that positive things happen also?
Note also that Bronner follows rule 3 in the manual: tell the reader what to think. Not just a “hawkish” government, not just a “right-wing” government but a “hawkish right-wing government.”
Do Iran and Syria or the Gaza Strip have “hawkish right-wing governments” according to the NY Times?
And by the way, isn’t the Times supposed to be a newspaper, that is reporting accurately the news? The fact is that we don’t know yet what government will take power in Israel. At least he could have said “might.” A national coalition with Kadima and Labor is still possible. That detail alone would have earned a reporter an editor’s criticism back in the days when newspapers were…newspapers.
But then Bronner tries to come up with very scary examples of this terrible isolation. Here’s what he comes up with:
“Examples abound. Its sports teams have met hostility and violent protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Mauritania has closed Israel’s embassy.”
So let’s get this straight, starting at the end. Mauritania had a coup. It is a member of the Arab League. Relations with Israel have always been under pressure and presumably some countries would pay a lot of money for their cancellation. So that’s no big deal.
As for protests, this is not exactly new. The Swedish demonstration was almost entirely Muslim immigrants and far leftists, never big fans of Israel or Israeli tennis. He could have come up with better examples, say from Britain, but doesn’t.
“Relations with Turkey, an important Muslim ally, have suffered severely. A group of top international judges and human rights investigators recently called for an inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Israel Apartheid Week” drew participants in 54 cities around the world this month, twice the number of last year, according to its organizers. And even in the American Jewish community, albeit in its liberal wing, there is a chill.”
Forgive me for not shivering. Reports suggest that while the Apartheid Week may have taken place in more cities, attendance was not impressive in most places, events were minimal, and again the attendance was mostly Muslim and leftist. Israel-Turkey relations have been improving then and even the crisis was due largely to the fact that the Turkish government is increasingly Islamist in its behavior. In Spain there is a far left-wing government known for being anti-Israel.
I’m not saying there aren’t reasons for concern but they are not so new or dramatic as given what Israel has faced in the past. Jews don’t usually win popularity contests. And it has been a long time since Golda Meir explained: “Better a bad press than a good epitaph.”
Oh, rule number 4 in the manual is that history isn’t important as a comparison to what is going on today. Israel faced very bad, arguably worse, such situations in 1982-1984 (Lebanon war), 1987-1990 (first intifadah), 2000-2004 (second intifadah) and 2006 (second Lebanon war) but these proved transient, altered by later events.
Again, I am not arguing there is nothing to deal with or nothing to worry about. Yet a firm distinction should always be made between government policies and anti-Israel protests. The Turkish and Spanish governments are more anti-Israel. The American, Australian, British, Canadian, French, German, Italian, all the Central European, and many other governments are friendlier than they have often been. Compare the level of Israeli relations with China, India, and Russia in the past.
But why were there all those big and sometimes violent demonstrations in Europe? Could they have something to do with the fact that there are all those large Muslim and often Arab emigrant communities who have brought their hatred of Israel with them? No, that’s a story the Times fears to tell.
As for American Jews, if the Times stopped promoting tiny anti-Israel groups posing as liberal pro-Israel groups that have no serious base of their own, perhaps it wouldn’t be under such illusions.
If Israel faces threats, they are real ones stemming from Iran and its nuclear weapons’ drive, Hamas, and Hizballah. They may arise from Western policies—which the Times favors—of ending any attempt to isolate Iran and Syria.
Yet isn’t there something also psychologically revealing about this kind of argument. For increasingly, European governments and the new U.S. administration suggests that there are no real security issues but merely misunderstandings, no strategic threats just angry words.
Isn’t the new U.S. foreign policy, at least from the White House, seemingly based on the idea that being liked is the most important thing in the world?
One reason Israel is hated is because it is a living disproof of many elements in the current dominant ideology of Western pseudo-intellectual circles: religion is unimportant, nationalism should be dead, homogeneous communities are out, Western civilization is bad, the Third World (or at least the Islamic parts of it) are always victimized and always right.
So here’s one more: what counts is not a demonstration in Sweden but military power, the will to survive and willingness to sacrifice for one’s country, economic effectiveness, and democratic structures.
Perhaps former Vice-President Al Gore will make a film challenging the notion of global cooling toward Israel.