- What does it mean to be Jewish? Is it belief in a set
of religious values, identity with a much-splintered ethnic tribe or automatic
membership among God's chosen people as certified by the lineage of one's
- For many, being Jewish carries with it the lessons of
universal tolerance and compassion, while for others it is a "never
again" pride in the military power of a David turned modern-day Goliath.
- This latter allusion to the Holocaust, a horror that
occurred in the center of modern European civilization and had little to
do with the Arabs, nonetheless provides the enduring rationale for Israeli
brutality in the name of self-defense. What irony that many Jews now comfortably
vacation in Germany but insist that Arab anti-Semitism is an immutable
aspect of Muslim culture that can only be met with the crushing power of
tanks. Not that anyone asked me, but those are not my tanks careening around
the West Bank bringing fear and havoc in their wake. Yet they are marked
as Jewish tanks and consequently they and I bear some familial resemblance
on my mother's side. I am thus obligated to consider what cruelty is being
done in the name of defending my people.
- Some of us make a deliberate effort to disassociate from
the mayhem of Ariel Sharon's carnage, while others seem to wallow in it,
as if displaying the awesome firepower of the Israeli army is necessary
to the survival of the Jewish state. I would like to think that the peacemakers
still outnumber the militarists among US Jews, but my own e-mail and street-corner
conversations no longer bear that hope out.
- While Jews are hardly monolithic, even in their views
of Israel, their large presence in the media contrasts sharply with a near
total exclusion of Palestinian Americans.
- Palestinian Americans in particular, and Arabs in general,
are the ghosts haunting US newsrooms by their embarrassing absence. As
journalists, we do not know them as a people, we have little connection
with their slights and sorrows, and we can only, even with the best of
intentions, experience their suffering as an abstraction.
- While the family tales of Jewish oppression during the
pogroms of czars, the Holocaust and Soviet anti-Semitism have been merged
into the dominant American culture, horrific tales of Arab suffering are
systematically ignored. But, as when blacks and Latinos were absent from
newsrooms and nightly death in the ghetto was not thought to be news, it
is difficult to escape the notion that many in the media, Jews and non-Jews
alike, lean to the view that Arab life is cheap.
- Despite all the attention accorded affirmative action
by news organizations on the grounds that diversity is necessary to better
news reporting, the exclusion of Arabs has been ignored. It is not appropriate,
particularly given the past decades in which Arab-Israeli strife has never
left the news and has frequently been a front-page headline--a story covered
far differently by the European media, where Arab voices are much more
- One can recognize this enormous imbalance without endorsing
the anti-Semitic slanders of the late Richard M. Nixon and the Rev. Billy
Graham, who asserted in tapes made 30 years ago, which were recently released,
that Jews control the media. They don't own the media. Nor do Jewish journalists
toe a common Israeli party line. Indeed, they are less inclined to apologize
for Israel than Graham, who has lined up consistently behind Israeli militarism
as somehow godly.
- For Nixon there were good Jews, such as his speech writer
William Safire, who was hawkish back then and whose current columns in
the New York Times provide the most reliable outlet for Sharon's propaganda.
- Sharon himself is a man of barbaric impulse, demonstrated
all too clearly in his terrorizing of civilians two decades ago in Lebanon
and now on the West Bank. He has been a consistent provocateur, undermining
peace efforts no matter their content, and now he is using his tanks to
poison the ground for future generations.
- Yes, Yasser Arafat also has poisoned the ground under
his feet and shares responsibility with Sharon for the breakdown of the
peace process. But until recently, Arafat has been unrelentingly reviled
by the news media while Sharon, no less monstrous in his behavior, hardly
has been criticized.
- Both are killers of the innocent. Both are to be roundly
condemned by all, and the failure of prominent moderate Arabs to do their
part to restrain Arafat is all too obvious. No less a moral offense is
the acquiescence of too many Jews, in Israel and abroad, to the comparable
crimes of Sharon.