Sunday, May 3, 2009

Seeking Balance

One of the best resources I know for keeping up to date on what is happening in the Middle East is a monthly magazine, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Every month, informed journalists and free lancers report on what’s happening on the ground. Rachelle Marshall alone is worth the cost of the subscription. However, this month, I was captivated by a letter to the editor in which the writer complained about the lack of “balance.” “Why do you keep publishing, month after month, the same anti-Israel article? Only the author’s names seem to change. ..Wouldn’t it be refreshing to publish one article presenting Israel’s point of view?” He recommended Dershowitz.

His challenge struck me because I also hear that same complaint. “Tom, you see everything in the Palestinian conflict through the lens of Israeli atrocities.” Or, “You seem to see Israel as all wrong and Palestinians as always right.” Or, “I wouldn’t criticize Tom Friedman. People really like him.” And, “You need to lighten up.”

While trying to formulate my own response to such concerns, The Washington Report said it better than I ever could. After thanking the reader for his letter, the editor writes:

Perhaps we don’t mention often enough the names of the many Israelis we admire – Amira Hass, Gideon Levy, Uri Avnery, Linda Breyer, among others – as well as the fact that debate on the issue that concerns us is much more open and robust there, as exemplified by the fine publication Haaretz. Were the debate as open here, we could count on the main stream media (MSM) to do more than tout the Israeli line. Since they don’t, we try to provide “balance” by covering stories that the MSM refuses to touch (such as the Israel lobby, which we reported in Vol. 1, No. 1 of the Washington Report, published 27 years ago). And most recently, for example, The Washington Post failed to cover several local demonstrations – one in front of its very door—against Israel’s assault on Gaza.
Ultimately, what we and many others find unacceptable is the ideology upon which the state of Israel is based: that only Jews have a right to live there. We don’t see “another side” to racism or to genocide. Nor do we recall similarly “balanced” stories about apartheid South Africa, genocide in Rwanda, or Nazi Germany during World War II. Would you have demanded that Goebbels be asked to provide “balance”?

I would add such voices as that of Noam Chomsky, Marc Ellis, Norman Finkelstein, Joel Kovel, Robert Simon of 60 Minutes and Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, all courageous souls who in spite of ridicule and public pressure are trying to be faithful to the moral fiber of their Jewish tradition.

Concerning the Israel/Palestinian conflict, Americans are ignorant. It is not their fault. Americans are good people and would stand up for doing what is right if they only knew. But when the media, the pulpit and politicians of all parties choose to keep silent about what they undoubtedly know, the average American has little incentive to “go against the stream". That’s why I so appreciate such publications as the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. It only cost $29 a year.

Thomas Are
May 4, 2009

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