What if I were to say that there was no significant biased reporting or editorializing in the Exponent over the past month? Wouldn’t that be good news? We could all breathe a sigh of relief and get on with the business of pursuing justice together as a united Jewish community....
But alas, this is not to be, for now. So instead we once more invite the editorial staff of the Exponent to reconsider their approach, adopt the proposals put forth last winter by the founders of this newsletter (which were concrete actions to insure a more balanced policy), and reflect the perspective of the whole Philadelphia Jewish Community, not just a narrow segment.
What was written in the past month in the Jewish Exponent that could have easily been corrected or omitted? We’ll focus on two selections: One that is rather short but telling in the specifically Republican slant, is in the September 29 issue entitled "Both Parties Follow One Script in Courting Votes." It focuses on how the two major political parties are courting Jewish voters. What is striking is the imbalance in the amount of coverage given: George Bush’s address to the Republican Jewish Coalition’s anniversary lunch is described in seven paragraphs, whereas three paragraphs are dedicated to Howard Dean’s trip to Israel with the National Jewish Democratic Council. (For more on Dean's trip, see article elsewhere in this issue of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.)
The other selection is not specifically partisan in terms of political party, but is extremely unfortunate in its disdain for honest analysis and representation of the truth. I don’t say that lightly; the writing was very disturbing, and truly warranted some guidance by those responsible for the Exponent. In "A Matter of Opinion" of October 6, Jonathan Tobin accuses the people protesting the invasion of Iraq of being against freedom, against resisting Islamic fundamentalist terror, and of wanting to abandon Israel. Mr. Tobin seems unable to acknowledge the fact that U.S. soldiers were sent to fight based on the rationalizations of blatant lies that were told to the American public. When people express their outrage at being lied to, he interprets it as opposition to democracy. He accepts President Bush’s assertion that the war is a fight for democracy in spite of the evidence to the contrary: the war has brought about the multiplication of terrorist activity, and is likely leading to a theocratic government aligned with Iran which itself has just reiterated its call for "wiping Israel off the map." If nothing else, a little humility would be in order on the part of anyone supporting the administration’s efforts.
Then, in what was a truly unfortunate, unnecessary smear, Tobin goes on to declare that Tikkun magazine editor "Michael Lerner and his crowd would like to oppose the Iraq war since they feel so at home with the anti-American rhetoric it [sic] spews." (By "it," Mr. Tobin is presumably referring to the anti-war movement.) If he were writing on his own behalf and not as the representative of the official publication of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, his writings could be dismissed unworthy, but in the editorial pages of the Jewish Exponent it becomes divisive slander that needs to have restraints applied. Even a little reading of Michael Lerner would lead one to recognize a voice that critiques current American policy out of a sincere desire to apply the radical message of Torah to our times.
That Mr. Lerner and a number of other Jewish leaders decided to forgo the main September 25 anti-war rally because of the anti-Israel sentiments of one of the participating groups (ANSWER) is dismissed by Tobin as insignificant. In effect, Mr. Tobin believes one can not be supportive of Israel and at the same time be against the fiasco in Iraq. It is true that if one supports Israel it makes sense to be in favor of democracy succeeding in Arab countries. What Mr. Tobin fails to realize is that destroying a country to save it is indeed why our policies in Viet Nam failed, and why they are doomed to failure in Iraq. The level of anti-American sentiment in Iraq has increased, and the "democracy" Bush is trying to establish will be no more supportive of Israel than the dictatorship he has overthrown.
Past Features of the Media Watchpost