Posts Tagged ‘The Atlantic’

Return to Reuterville

March 24, 2011

On March 23, Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic commented on the absurdity of Reuters’ putting “terrorist attack” in quotes in a report on the bombing that day at a bus stop in Jerusalem that killed one woman and wounded 50 people. He quoted Reuters as publishing, “Police said it was a ‘terrorist attack’ — Israel’s term for a Palestinian strike.”

There’s no need for me to quote Goldberg’s justified rant here, since you have probably already read it on Facebook, Twitter or the like (it was recommended on Facebook alone 5000 times so far). But on the off chance that you haven’t, click here to read it.

I’m glad Goldberg spoke out, but the shock factor seems a bit overblown given that this is merely yet another “Journey to Reuterville,” as James Taranto, editor of (the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal) has put it. He wrote a number of years ago,

Far more dangerous than the hard anti-Americanism of the far left (and some elements of the far right) is the moral relativism that prevails among Western liberal elites, especially in journalism. Exhibit A is Reuters. As we noted on Sept. 24, 2001:

Stephen Jukes, global news editor for Reuters, the British wire service, has ordered his scribes not to use the word terror to refer to the Sept. 11 atrocity. . . . “We all know that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter and that Reuters upholds the principle that we do not use the word terrorist,” Jukes writes in an internal memo. “To be frank, it adds little to call the attack on the World Trade Center a terrorist attack.”

Reuters is the most self-righteous about it, but many other news organizations also use terms like militants, commandos, guerrillas and even dissidents to refer to terrorists–even though in some cases these terms are not only overly solicitous to the enemy but factually inaccurate (a guerrilla attack, for instance, has a military target, while a terrorist attack targets civilians).

Then less than a month later Canadian Broadcasting Company did an extensive write-up on the usage of the terms “terrorist” and “terrorism” by news agencies and the U.N. In this summary, it reported that following 9/11,

…Reuters, which lost six of its own employees in the attacks, issued an internal memo reminding staff of a long-standing policy: “We do not use terms like ‘terrorist’ and ‘freedom fighter’ unless they are in a direct quote or are otherwise attributable to a third party. We do not characterize the subjects of news stories but instead report their actions, identity and background so that readers can make their own decisions based on the facts.”

In 2002 the CBC made like Reuters and instructed its journalists not to use the terms “terrorism” or “terrorist” other than in this way, ie. only in quotation marks in attribution to a source.

Yeah, yeah, I understand the push for impartiality on the part of reporters and journalists. But sometimes you just need to use some common sense and have some integrity. The CBC piece refers analogously to the fact that “in 1964 U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart admitted it might be impossible to ‘intelligibly’ define obscenity, but quickly added ‘I know it when I see it.'” I think this obtains in the case of terrorism, as well. You definitely know it when you see it.

When I first read quickly through this section of the article on the CBC website, I mistakenly thought this statement was attributed to Jon Stewart. I went back and realized that I had the wrong Stewart in mind. Or did I? It was actually a logical slip. I think many would agree that the The Daily Show often has a better grasp of the events of the day than does any other (news) source, especially Reuters.

Special thanks to my source who did the research for this post.

© 2011 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.


Emancipating Some Seichel

June 1, 2010

Night vision view of scene on Turkish ship Mavi Marmara as pro-Palestinian activists attacked ill-prepared IDF forces (photo from CNN)

As I was sitting here this morning at my computer reading article after article, column after column on what has quickly become known as the Flotilla Fiasco of this past weekend, I received an email with an attachment. A relative had sent my a copy of Anne Roiphe‘s piece in a recent issue of The Jerusalem Report, titled “Emancipation’s Soaring Success,” in which she suggests that Jews observe another annual holiday  (as though we don’t have enough already) – Emancipation Day. Her argument that Jewish Emancipation was a good thing for both the Jews and the world is no big revelation, but the idea of Jews’ celebrating our place in the broader world – as opposed to our relationship to the Jewish past and/or to the Land of Israel – is an intriguing one. The only such extant holiday I can think of is Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, on which we celebrate Israel’s sovereignty and place among the nations of the world.

It is interesting then, that the Jewish intellectualism, creativity and ingenuity that Roiphe highlights in her article by mentioning the contributions of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Elie Wiesel, Amos Oz, A. B.Yehoshua, Rosa Luxemurg, Emma Goldman, Theodore Herzl and the rest of the gang (or should I say mishpoche?), seems to be sorely missing among the leadership of the Jewish State today. Wither the yiddishe kop when it is most needed to solve complicated situations and challenges?

To this point, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote yesterday in The Atlantic:

“There is a word in Yiddish, seichel, which means wisdom, but it also means more than that: It connotes ingenuity, creativity, subtlety, nuance. Jews have always needed seichel to survive in this world; a person in possession of a Yiddishe kop, a “Jewish head,” is someone who has seichel, someone who looks for a clever way out of problems, someone who understands that the most direct way — blunt force, for instance — often represents the least elegant solution, a person who can foresee consequences of his actions…The Jewish people have survived this long in part because of the vision of their leaders, men and women who were able to intuit what was possible and what was impossible. Where is this vision today?”

While Roiphe extolls the benefits of Jewish Emancipation, she admits that not all has been rosy for the Jews since Napoleon made a history-changing gesture and the Jews subsequently removed their yarmulkes. There are many who hate us (and you can define “us” as “Jews,” “Israelis,” “Zionists,” or any combination thereof), and by the looks of the pages and pages of venomous and vitriolic comments that follow the flood of news stories and op-eds about the events in the waters off Gaza, it is clear that their numbers are growing, and that people feel that it is perfectly acceptable to be stridently anti-Semitic in public.

I, as much as I am happy that readers are reaching my blog by searching for words and terms on Google and other search engines, have had to admit to myself that those typing in “Jew dog” and “kike” are most likely not looking for heartwarming stories about Bear the Mitzvah Dog or reviews of movies made by Jamie Kastner.

As Israel is condemned, villainized and further isolated by the international community, now is not the time for Israeli and Jewish leaders to lose their heads. They need to employ more common sense, to use some seichel. Whether they wear a kippah or not, it’s time for them all to put on their thinking caps.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

Begging To Differ

May 20, 2010

Well, it looks like the article by Peter Beinart that I referred to in my last post has generated some pointed responses and heated debate. A lot of the criticism leveled against his argument boils down to accusations that Beinart is:

  1. Alarmist (vis à vis what he views as growing “fascist” – or at least anti-democratic – tendencies through the increased strength of the settler movement and among the parties currently in power in Israel);
  2. Too blind to the fault of the Palestinians in the failure to reach a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
  3. Incorrect in his estimation of the level of alienation of young American Jews from Israel;
  4. Defending a type of Zionism and Judaism (the liberal kind) whose death knell has supposedly already been sounded.

A caricature of Peter Beinart

In my opinion, it is definitely worth reading some of these responses to Beinart, as well as a rebuttal by Beinart himself to one of them. The discussion is complex, and the arguments really make you think. They also make me wonder whether there can really be a significant place for moderation and centrism on this issue going forward.

However, from my perspective as a professional who has been around the Jewish education block more than a few times, I do think that Beinart’s characterization of the split between Orthodox young people and more religiously liberal ones is correct. Zionism and love of Israel continues to be a given in Orthodox schools’ curriculum, but liberal Jewish schools and synagogues struggle to teach a Zionism that is not the default national-religious type that comes so naturally in the Orthodox institutions. It is not a coincidence that as of late we have seen large amounts of money and time go in figuring out how “to do Israel education” in the 21st century. I can also vouch for the fact that young Jews today are extremely keyed into the universalistic and ethical aspects of Judaism – to social justice, human rights and tikkun olam. Indeed, that is now a major focus of many Israel travel programs designed for Jewish teens and 20-somethings.

Click here to read Jonathan Chait’s critique of Beinart’s article, published in The New Republic.

Click here to read Beinart’s rebuttal to Chait’s piece, published in The Daily Beast.

Click here to read Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview of/conversation with Beinart in The Atlantic. (It’s in two parts, with more to come.)

Click here to read David P. Goldman’s dismissal of Beinart’s article as an unintended eulogy for liberal Judaism and an ineffective rehash of points already known, published in First Things. I have to say that I was disturbed by Goldman’s lumping together of secular Judaism with all liberal Judaism, as though there is no place for a religious attachment to Israel on the part of practicing and involved non-Orthodox Jews.

And finally, you can click here to read Bradely Burston’s column in Ha’aretz, which is an example of the warnings- from within Israel – against the Israeli “fascism” to which Beinart has referred.

I know – this is a lot of reading. However, I found it wasn’t a slog at all, because it was interesting and important. You may (amazingly), as I did, get through it all without even getting a headache.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.