The Philadelphia Jewish Voice
Those of you who watch The Daily Show with John Stewart may have seen the recent episode in which Senator Santorum is John’s guest. John decides to start off by finding ‘common ground,’ as it is likely there wouldn’t otherwise be much of it. What he proposes is that ‘ice cream is delicious, but that eating too much of it ruins the appetite.’ The Senator agrees, and John celebrates his success at finding common ground.
In this month’s Watchpost column, we will also start with some common ground shared with the Exponent’s editors. But it is not as basic as agreeing on ice cream’s properties, rather it is Israel, specifically the ‘disengagement’ and its aftermath. Much of this month’s headlines and editorials have been focused on that most painful event, painful whether one is ‘blue’ or ‘orange.’ The general position of the Exponent is ‘Support Israel’s government, regardless of the policy in question.’ This position is certainly questionable, but they managed to maintain it even in the face of a policy with which they may not have privately agreed. The Federation Board published a full page ad supporting Prime Minister Sharon; Jonathan Tobin took some heat from the Zionist Organization of America for criticizing the ZOA’s protesting of Sharon’s policy; editorials called for people to empathize with the pain of the settlers being removed from their homes of many years, and to recognize the pain of a lost dream, and condemned the murder of four Israeli Arabs. And although Mr. Tobin included his usual swipes at the ‘liberal media’ in his July 28th A Matter of Opinion column, his concluding point was that friends of Israel should "keep their powder dry" and not "squander political capital on a lost cause" (the disengagement). Although not everything suggested by the Exponent would constitute ‘common ground,’ the call to support the displaced settlers and to prepare for the next stages of aiding Israel’s surviving and thriving is an important one to echo.
Now for some ‘uncommon ground’: The Matter of Opinion column of August 4th entitled, "The Nightmares Out There Are Real", is a remarkable piece of writing, not so much for what it says, as for what it doesn’t say. In it, Mr. Tobin first dismisses the tabloid stories of murder in Aruba and Michael Jackson’s legal battles as trivial. He then manages to put on the same list of unimportant distractions the "partisan jousting over the alleged threat of religious Christians to our religious liberty." OK, Michael Jackson’s likely transgressions affect a very small group of people, and so shouldn’t be national news. But the religious Right’s attempts to marginalize a whole segment of our society through attacks on gay rights; their opening the way for school (read ‘Christian’) prayer; and their forcing religious belief about the origin of all life, especially homo sapiens, into science classes strikes me as something that is on a very different order from a celebrity’s alleged crime.
Jonathan then continues with a list of international nightmares: "Europe and Fundamentalist Islam", "Our Saudi Arabian ‘Ally’", "Genocide in the Sudan", "Iran Goes Nuclear", "North Korean Threat", "Hamasistan in Gaza", and "Iraq’s Fog of War." Alright, everyone, take a deep breath! No one can deny that there are some very worrisome issues here, even without including Global Warming and other environmental threats, the AIDS catastrophe in Africa and Asia, or persistent starvation in various parts of the world, none of which he mentions.
What is remarkable in Mr. Tobin’s description of these problems is where he does and doesn’t affix responsibility. His primary complaint in the issues of Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Iraq is with the press, specifically their lack of coverage. He never considers that from Day One George Bush has run cover for the Saudis, that his lack of focus on Sudan is a big reason the horror there is pretty much off the mainstream radar (can you imagine if he brought it up in every press conference or Saturday address?), and that American government control of the press in Iraq removes what little chance there would be for the light of truth to emerge in that environment of kidnapping and assassination.
Regarding Iran, Mr. Tobin makes no mention of the fact that the U.S.A. spent all of its political capital ‘earned’ from 9/11 on a war in Iraq that could only be rationalized by lies. Along with losing good will from the international community, we have lost credibility and a sense of true partnership, as the Europeans were run over roughshod in the race to get control of the world’s second largest oil reserve. Even if military intervention were justified in the case of Iran, our military has been over-stressed in fighting an unpopular, illegitimate war that wasn’t supposed to have lasted more than a couple of months. Similarly, North Korea had its 15 minutes of fame when Mr. Bush branded them as one node on the axis of evil, but no apparent sustained attempt to create meaningful dialogue regarding the danger of nuclear proliferation has occurred, as we have gone in neck-deep in Iraq. We have lost what chance we had at taking leadership in finding solutions – peaceful or military – in these critical regions.
Finally, the administration that is ‘Israel’s best friend’ (see a discussion of this section elsewhere in the PJV) has failed to gain international support for preventing Gaza from becoming a source of anti-Israel violence post-withdrawal. The U.S.A.’s isolation in the international community once again haunts its chance of winning meaningful support for Israel. Is anti-Jewish sentiment in Europe part of the problem? Absolutely. Is there continual anti-Israel propaganda being broadcast throughout the Arab world? Of course. But an affirmative answer must also be given to the question, ‘Wouldn’t a friend of Israel be more effective if it hadn’t alienated the world that ultimately needs to be in support of her survival?’
Which brings us back to the Jewish Exponent, the reason this column came into existence. It can be argued that lately its news stories have been more inclusive of ‘liberal’ social concerns. But the overall tenor of the paper is set by the very conservative editorial policy which continues to be a voice of apology for the Republican administration. Our challenge to the Exponent is to find a way to regularly include in its editorial makeup a voice that promotes the traditional Jewish values of peace and support for the less powerful, not the machinations of the powerful elite.