Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Beyond Controversy – BRIEFLY UPDATED

For some reason, thanks to these wonderful blogs, I often follow American media and newspapers more than English ones these days. Mostly it’s for the good. But I wonder if this would ever make it onto an American Network.

It’s from Channel 4 News which, along with BBC Newsnight, is the most respected current affairs show on TV. I actually only caught it thanks to the blogosphere. But there’s a big problem here…  

Does this seem wildly partial to you? Are these stories and voices you’re even aware of?

I’m going to be brutally honest here. The response I’ve often got from my American friends (many of them with Jewish backgrounds), is that ‘You Europeans are more anti semitic… Europe is the heart of darkness for Jews anyway.’

Bizarrely, my British Jewish friends also get the same response. They’re not Jewish enough. They don’t value their own identity.  

On US democratic blogs, the video that I’ve posted above incites flame wars without end. For more moderate bloggers, it’s a subject best avoided.

I feel remiss. I feel that my perceptions have been distorted by an American debate which is rabidly anti Israel, or rabidly pro. To be honest, on this one issue – unlike all the others – I feel that I’ve missed some real truths bye engaging on the blogosphere, spending fruitless hours hours trying to prove that the Israelis aren’t Nazis, or that Hamas aren’t Hitler.

Tony Judt, someone I’ve mentioned often because he’s a hero of mine and friend, has written on Israel in a way that only someone who in the IDF during the six day war can. Yet he was dropped from the New Republic and The New York Times for daring to suggest a binational state. However he finds a ready platform for his pieces in the great Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

Uri Avnery, who I met in the ruins of the Sarajevo Library two years back, a former Knesset member who fought in the Irgun in the 40s, has for years run the Gush Shalom peace movement, and is tolerated in Israel, yet his ideas would rarely make it into the US Press.

So it’s not just Europe which debates these issue more freely but Israel itself. How come the country which is at the centre of this conflict, is tolerant of more debate than the US?

To provoke debate, let me propose an answer. Perhaps this is just another extension of US identity politics. Non-Jews feel they can’t shouldn’t participate, just as non-blacks or non-women or non-gay people feel reticent about expressing thoughts about racism, sexism or LGBT rights.

The ne plus ultra of identity politics is that, if you’re a black jewish gay woman, nobody is there to defend you.

Follow that logic to the end, and there will be no politics, compassion or imagination left.

Sorry to be so provocative after a celebratory week, but what think my fellow Moose?

BRIEF UPDATE: Well the title seemed a little premature, because there’s obviously much heat in the issue. However, rather than just words on a blog, I would suggest those of you who want to carry things further should sign the online petition of Jewish Voices for Peace.

You don’t have to be Jewish, and the principles of this organisation are pretty much in line with everything I’ve ever heard expressed on the Moose about the I/P conflict:

We seek:

* A U.S. foreign policy based on promoting peace, democracy, human rights, and respect for international law

* An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem

* A resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem consistent with international law and equity

* An end to all violence against civilians

* Peace among the peoples of the Middle East

JVP supports peace activists in Palestine and Israel, and works in broad coalition with other Jewish, Arab-American, faith-based, peace and social justice organizations.

We oppose racism and bigotry, whether in the U.S. or abroad, whether against Arabs or against Jews.

Oh, and since I screwed the link up in a comment, I’d also really recommend support a great organisation, set up by US colleague of mine (and showrunner on Ugly Betty) One Voice which really does a lot of practical work, bringing young Israelis and Palestinians together.  


  1. No mention of why those areas might have been hit. No mention of Hamas at all in the whole thing. The woman who’s house had been destroyed in 2004 and 2008 could very well have been married to a Hamas fighter who was targeted by Israel. The same for the village that was destroyed. No doubt there have been serious abuses by the IDF during this offensive. The same happens in any armed offensive like this one.

    It would be foolish to argue that the US press is not biased towards Israel. The question is whether the European press is biased towards the Palestinians or if they are presenting a more balanced picture. I suspect it is a mixed bag. Right-leaning papers probably lean towards the Israeli side and left-leaning papers towards the Palestinians. That’s the nature of the Right vs Left struggle. One side favors those in power and the other favors those they see as the oppressed. The only way around that is to sample as many news sources as possible.

    While the US press is generally biased towards Israel, there are voices from the other side of the conflict that get published. We tend to dismiss those as non-important when talking about press bias. Only yesterday, I read an op-ed piece by Muammar Qaddafi in the NY Times. It was titled The One-State Solution. I was actually quite impressed with that piece. Have any European papers published an op-ed written by Olmert?

  2. be taught at journalism school.  your question is a valid one, that is is the US getting a balanced picture of things on the ground from its media…  to which i respond yes.  you won’t see stories like this because well its over-the-top advocacy for one side.  but on the other hand – you won’t see the blood and body parts from a suicide bomb either.

    but i have to bring up something that has been bugging me a bit on the blogs.  this whole discussion, like its up for grabs about changing israel’s sovereignty.  its not.  i don’t like what’s gone on and the devastation is truly horrifying.  as well as i have said i wholly support a 2-state solution, but israel’s sovereignty – no matter how dovish or hawkish one is not debatable.  the fact that we keep going over it to be frank is troublesome.  do we debate the american/canadian rights to land – after all this is the same issue isnt it?

    but let me ask the community a question:

    wather than add to the millions of column inches analyzing the israeli-palestinian conflict, why aren’t people as concerned about sri lanka’s civil war?  which has claimed more than 70,000 lives since the 1980s?

    you wouldn’t know it from the lack of concern at the UN, but the fighting in sri lanka has reached its bloodiest, climactic phase in recent weeks. It is causing catastrophic misery among tamil innocents hemmed in on all sides – yet it hardly warrants a blip in our blogosphere and media.

  3. dtox

    And the reason is that it really does agitate me when I do.

    I do talk in some other places, where opinions are more extreme on the other ‘side’. It’s easy to argue against outright anti-semitism. It’s easy to fight back against people who don’t seem to want to understand that Israel is the only home that two generations of Israelis have known and they deserve a safe, peaceful life there. These people I can write off in a sense. I can try to convince them, but if they insist on seeing a group of people as less human or less deserving of life and opportunity, there’s not much I can do.

    However, I find the conversation about this particular issue on american progressive/liberal blogs to be infuriating. The reason is that people who seem otherwise reasonable are often unrecognisable when talking about Israel. It’s as if rationality and even humanity is not allowed into this discussion. Americans who are perfectly happy with criticism of their own government descend into an Israel-can-do-no-wrong mode. I have no idea why. I really, truly don’t understand this. It’s impossible for me to write these people off as bigots as opposed to the others I talked about above, since I have so often seen them advocate fiercely for peace and justice and the equality.  So yes, it leaves me confused, bewildered and also infuriated. For selfish reasons of my own sanity I don’t involve myself a whole lot.

  4. anna shane

    I saw it happening in my imagination and here it is, for all to see, except Americans. How can anyone defend such a bloodbath.  Such wanton destruction, such insane excess.

    Anyone who’s lived in Israel, as have I, know the racism that allows this ‘stuff’ to happen.  It’s very sick.  

  5. creamer

    I’m going to wade in a little.

    I’m suspect that the Israli lobby, Ameican Jewish money in the media and Christian biblical connections to Judaism all lead to some bias on the part of American media. I hope thats not interpeted as anti-semetic, because I’m not and that is not my intent. I’m not that familiar with European or Israeli press, but do have a general impression that European press is more tilted to the Palestinians. That may or may not be an accurate impression but its there, proably not for no reason.

     Also I think we somtimes lose sight of the more extreme reactions of people living under the stress of their current enviroment. Rockets and suicide bombers on one side, poverty,assasinations and blockades on the other. And now of course open war. Hard to see many people acting rationaly in that enviroment.


  6. spacemanspiff

    Americans who are perfectly happy with criticism of their own government descend into an Israel-can-do-no-wrong mode.

  7. DeniseVelez

    During the 70’s here in the States I was the Executive Director of the Black Filmmaker Foundation.  There were quite a few documentaries that we distributed that we could not get aired on television here in the States – that were selected by Channel 4, and broadcast.

    My first trip to London was funded by Channel 4, where I got a chance to meet many members of their news and production staff.  They were group of excellent journalists, and I remember wishing back then that we here in the States could watch Channel 4.  

  8. SpanishFly

    I just have a hard time feeling sorry for the people who thought it was a good idea to lob rockets into civilian areas of a military powerhouse.

    Israel is a thug, but you don’t spit in a thug’s eye and expect a handshake back.

    I doubt many of the accusations in this video and the piece provides no context and presents as factual everything the report was told.  It therefore has little credibility in my eyes, but your mileage may vary.

  9. creamer

      Schools, villages, houses leveled is tragic. I would not argue with Jimmy Carters assesment of Israli policies in regard to the Palestinians. And I would hope the Obama administration is able to bring about some peace.

     I also have a hard time with vilifying a country for defending its civillians. Hamas has a history of launching rockets and storing weapons in civillian areas, yet Israel is accused of unfair tactics when it hits theese sites. They were also vilified for taking out Hamas leadership in individual “assasinations”.

     The whole world is telling Israel to be nice to a group who states openly its goal of destruction of Israel.

  10. I accidentally added the word “subsequently” to that quote from the video. It said they were herded into the building and then it was shelled. Almost as if it happened right after the people went into the building. The whole video is like that, a simple reporting of what had transpired without any details or explanation of the background. That’s why many of us see the video as slanted. It makes the events seem to be without meaning, simple exercises in brutality. That’s the whole sticking point in this discussion.

  11. In a story listed on the front page of the Sunday NY Times about the latest rocket attacks, the writer mentioned Hamas “seizing power” in Gaza. No mention of the fact that they were elected in a popular election. This was clear skewing of the facts. The article was supplied by the AP, which has been accused of a right-leaning bias.

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