The New York Times Shows Its Poor Journalistic Standards

Even when the New York Times gets it right, they get it wrong.

Democracy in the bed under the about-to-be-extinguished light of journalism

On February 3, the Times printed an article about Jewish Voice for Peace, and high time it was. Some will think my past association with JVP is coloring my view here, but I do not say it was high time because of my admitted affection for the group, but rather because the simple fact is that they are a national, impactful and important organization. Other such groups are reported on, and JVP’s remarkable growth has earned it this moment in the spotlight, that’s all. But the Times seems to have had second thoughts.

The article was not an endorsement nor did it wave a banner for the group. It gave plenty of space to JVP’s detractors. It is impossible to see where the article fails to meet the highest standard of journalism. Yet on February 11, a full eight days after the piece appeared, the Times felt compelled to add the following editorial note:

An article last Friday described the group Jewish Voice for Peace, whose support for antigovernment protests in Egypt has led to tensions among some Jews in the Bay Area. After the article was published, editors learned that one of the two writers, Daniel Ming, had been active in pro-Palestinian rallies. Such involvement in a public cause related to The Times’s news coverage is at odds with the paper’s journalistic standards; if editors had known of Mr. Ming’s activities, he would not have been allowed to write the article.

I’d be curious to find out if the Times also so vets anyone who writes about abortion, or same-gender marriage, or guns, or, for that matter, the “free market.” Now a journalist’s political views, rather than the content or the quality of his work are the issue? Continue reading

Views of Egypt show new Jewish discourse in USA

In a piece published at the UK news site JNews, I look at Jewish-American responses to the revolution in Egypt and examine how it reflects a new discourse within the Jewish community.

Addendum to “The Terrorists Have Won”

A number of readers have pointed to the Gallup poll that shows a wide majority of Americans in support of the Egyptian protesters. I was, of course, aware of this poll before I read about the Reuters/Ipsos poll I was citing in my piece. In fact, the Reuters article to which I linked, while not specifically pointing to the earlier Gallup poll, does address this issue.

What the polls taken together show is that Americans are supporting Egyptians rising up against a military dictatorship, as one would expect, but afraid of what form democracy in Egypt will take and, crucially, wanting our government to take steps, including slowing down the march toward democracy, in order to arrive at the outcome we desire, even if it is not what Egyptians desire. This was precisely the point of my piece.

The two polls are not contradictory, but complimentary.

The Terrorists have Won: Americans Abandon Democracy Out of Fear

People on the liberal/left side of the spectrum often don’t even like to use the word “terrorists.” But they exist, and folks, they’ve won.

The term “terrorist” has been badly and cynically abused, with some absurd folks (including Veep Joe Biden as well as more typically irresponsible and ignorant “leaders” like Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin even applying the term to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. But terrorism has a pretty clear definition: “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

Terrorism might have a variety of goals, but it is usually striving to get populations to abandon their values and act recklessly out of fear; it is often desired that their concern for others be diminished by their panic. This is useful because the target of terrorism is almost always a party that is more powerful than whomever’s cause the terrorists are championing. The more powerful party then acts with less concern than outsiders expect and this generates sympathy for the less powerful. It doesn’t always work (the Palestinians, historically, have had decidedly mixed results with this approach, which is why many groups have abandoned the tactic), but sometimes it does.

In the case of my country, the USA, the terrorists have clearly accomplished their goal. Fear that democracy may produce results we don’t like overcomes that most basic of American convictions: that everyone deserves freedom.

We can see this in the Reuters/Ipsos poll released today. 58% of those polled supported a “slow approach” by Washington regarding Egyptian democracy so we can manage it and forestall any “Islamists” taking power. Only 32% said that the US should support Egyptian democracy regardless of the risks.

Typically, Americans do not realize just how badly our hypocritical approach to democracy has hurt our international standing. The George W. Bush administration talked more about “spreading democracy” than perhaps any other president. Yet, when the Palestinians, in what was universally applauded as a free and fair election despite the obstacles of occupation, elected a majority of Hamas delegates to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, we brought the hammer down. Continue reading

Did Israel Provoke Increase in Rockets to Justify Operation Cast Lead?

Prior to Operation Cast Lead, the devastating Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-09, there had been six months of a truce which both sides claimed the other did not maintain in good faith. Still, the truce endured.

When Israel escalated the tensions on November 4, 2008, killing six Hamas men in an operation Israel said was meant to thwart a tunnel Hamas was building to abduct more Israeli soldiers, some people felt that Israel was intentionally raising the stakes because the truce was holding and Hamas was fortifying its position in Gaza.

Destroyed buildings in the the Bau'lusha family's neighborhood. Picture: B'Tselem.

Therefore, the thinking went, Israel struck hard at Hamas with an excuse knowing that Hamas would feel it had no choice but to retaliate.

Well, that line of thinking got quite a boost when Wikileaks released a cable earlier this week containing an American report on a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. Here is the relevant passage: Continue reading