September 1, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for August 31, 2012


1) Whose problem is it?

The New York Times reports Report on Iran Nuclear Work Puts Israel in a Box:

For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday offered findings validating his longstanding position that while harsh economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation may have hurt Iran, they have failed to slow Tehran’s nuclear program. If anything, the program is speeding up.
But the agency’s report has also put Israel in a corner, documenting that Iran is close to crossing what Israel has long said is its red line: the capability to produce nuclear weapons in a location invulnerable to Israeli attack.
With the report that the country has already installed more than 2,100 centrifuges inside a virtually impenetrable underground laboratory, and that it has ramped up production of nuclear fuel, officials and experts here say the conclusions may force Israel to strike Iran or concede it is not prepared to act on its own.

In other words PM Netanyahu, whom the New York Times has been portraying as  eager to to war regardless of the cost, was right about Iran. Now the New York Times tells us, Netanyahu and Israel have a problem.

In contrast an editorial in the Washington Post, Iran at the brink, concludes:

Tehran’s refusal to negotiate seriously and its continuing buildup of nuclear capacity is nevertheless steadily increasing the danger that the Middle East will be engulfed by a new war — one that could interrupt oil supplies, damage the global economy and exacerbate the sectarian conflict already underway in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. An optimistic view would be that Iran is playing a familiar game of brinkmanship. If so, there may not be much more time to step back.

Both the New York Times news story and the Washington Post editorial present substantially the same information. The difference is in how they portray the actors. In the simplest terms, the Times portrays the problem of nuclear Iran as Israel’s problem whereas the Post portrays it as a threat to the world.

David Horovitz in an article about the considerations being weighed by Israel regarding Iran (and which seems generally unsympathetic towards Netanyahu) writes (via Shmuel Rosner):

Everything you have heard about the personal hostility between Obama and Netanyahu is true, and then some, according to the insiders from both the pro- and anti-strike camps. The prime minister thinks the president is unreliable and misguided on matters Israeli, Middle Eastern and Islamist. Holding to “a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” as Obama put it in his AIPAC speech in March, is not the same as vowing explicitly to use whatever tools are needed, up to and including force, in order to guarantee that Iran does not gain a nuclear weapons capability.

It strikes me that if President Obama now views Netanyahu as reckless regarding Iran, part of the problem is that he unnecessarily antagonized Netanyahu over the past three and a half years. If Israel needs to trust the United States regarding Iran, it seems that President Obama has recklessly frittered away that trust.

In another attempt to confuse the issue, VOA reports, Experts: Tightening Iran Sanctions Hurts Ordinary Iranians (h/t Omri Ceren):

But Jamal Abdi, policy director of the National Iranian American Council, says U.S. policy toward Iran is doing more harm than good.
“We’ve gone from a policy that was supposed to be smart sanctions or targeted sanctions instead to ones that are designed to cripple the entire Iranian economy, and this is a counterproductive approach,” he said. “This hurts ordinary people. It obstructs rather than facilitates diplomacy. And at the end of the day, I think it’s going to put us on a collision course for a military confrontation with Iran.”

What the article doesn’t say is that the NIAC is an apologist for the current regime in Iran. Needless to say, its first priority is not the welfare of “ordinary” Iranians. Yet the VOA presents this not disinterested party as an “expert.”

2) Eye on the prize

Radical professor Judith Butler has been awarded  the Theodor Adorno prize from the city of Frankfurt, Germany. Given her support for Hamas and Hezbollah and her hatred of the state of Israel, giving her any award should be controversial.

Richard Landes, Petra Marquardt-Bigman, Edward Alexander, Dovid Efune and others have critiqued Butler’s work.

Apparently in an effort to defend her, Columbia University Press has excerpted a selection from her recent book.

Let us reflect first on what it means to derive a set of principles from a cultural tradition and then move to the larger political issues at hand. As I noted, to say that principles are “derived” from Jewish resources raises the question of whether these principles remain Jewish once they are developed within a contemporary situation, assuming new historical forms? Or are they principles that can and must be, always have been, derived from various cultural and historical resources, thus “belonging” exclusively to none of them? In fact, does the generalizability of theprinciples in question depend fundamentally on their finally not belonging to any one cultural location or tradition from which they may have emerged? Does this nonbelonging, this exile, help to constitute the generalizability and transposability of the principles of justice and equality?
If such principles are derived from Jewish sources, others might conclude that they are Jewish values originally, fundamentally, even finally. It follows from that argument that one must look to that religious, secular, or historical set of traditions to understand those values, at which point Jewishness becomes a privileged cultural resource, and the Jewish framework remains the only or at least the privileged one by which to think the problem of cohabitation and even binationalism. We thus fail to depart from the exclusive cultural framework of Jewishness. And this has especially contradictory and unacceptable conclusions of we are trying to think about equality and justice in Israel/Palestine.
Even as such a conclusion is unacceptable, there seems to be no easy way around this paradox. One point, however, already seems clear: equality, justice, cohabitation, and the critique of state violence can only remain Jewish values if they are not exclusively Jewish values. This means that the articulation of such values must negate the primacy and exclusivity of the Jewish framework, must undergo its own dispersion. Indeed, as I hope to show, that dispersion is a condition of possibility for thinking justice, a condition we would do well to remember during these times. One might say, “ah, dispersion—a Jewish value! Derived from messianic scattering and other theological figures for diaspora! You attempt to depart from Jewishness, but you cannot!” If, however, the question of the ethical relation to the non-Jew has become definitive of what is Jewish, then we cannot capture or consolidate what is Jewish in this relation. Relationality displaces ontology, and it is a good thing, too. The point is not to stabilize the ontology of the Jew or of Jewishness, but rather to understand the ethical and political implications of a relation to alterity that is irreversible and defining and without which we cannot make sense of such fundamental terms as equality or justice. Such a relation, which is surely not singular, will be the obligatory passage beyond identity and nation as defining frameworks. It establishes the relation to alterity as constitutive of identity, which is to say that the relation to alterity interrupts identity, and this interruption is the condition of ethical relationality. Is this a Jewish notion? Yes and no.

This is so much gibberish. Using terms such “generalizability,” “transposability,” “alterity” and “relationality,” (all four are flagged by my spell checker) sound impressive but do they mean anything? Or are these just concepts that Butler conceived for the sole purpose of making her argument? There is no clarity in her argument, just obfuscation.
If I understand the third paragraph quoted here, she’s saying that since Israel doesn’t adhere to Jewish values (according to her judgment) and since Jews have survived in exile, Israel doesn’t deserve to exist as a Jewish state.
Given her explicit support for Hamas and Hezbollah (which she denies though the audio is quite clear) which are committed to destroying Israel and have acted on those commitments, how does she find Israel’s resorting to “state violence” unacceptable? Terrorists targeting civilians is implicitly acceptable to her, but Israel fighting to protect its citizens is objectionable. It’s not only hypocritical, it’s illogical. She bases her appeal on Jewish culture, but a culture that abjures self-defense won’t last very long.

3) A measured response

Irish pro-Israel activist Tom Carew wrote a letter to the Guardian:

I am a life-long reader and I measured the extent of today’s Guardian *coverage* on the Rachel Corrie case – and it is really astounding.
Well over 20,000 Syrians have been slaughtered by the Assad regime in recent months, and 400 bodies were found yesterday in Darraya, but that horrendous massacre gets- [a] no Cartoon,
[b] no Editorial and
[c] no Comment piece,plus only
[d] 28.44 Sq Ins of a News story,along with a headline of *Claims of 400 dead* And also placed along the lower inside corner column of Page 19, where it could readily be overlooked.


In contrast the Corrie story gets -


[a] a large and vicious Cartoon, on Page 31, covering 61.88 Sq Ins, with an Israeli Bulldozer with the Star of David ploughing into the blindfolded figure of Justice,
[b] an Editorial, covering 39.84 sq Ins, on Page 32,
[c] a Comment piece below that, on Page 32, covering 43.45 Sq Ins, along with
[d] a News story, taking over the whole top half of Page 18, and covering 86.26 Sq Ins

Their overall coverage for Corrie totals 231.43 Sq Ins, which is 8.14 times that given to Syria

Sometimes bias can be measured.

About Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.