Way down deep in the comments section here, a debate on the meaning of anti-Semitism has erupted, and has, so far, remained totally civil. (Amazing. I plan to keep it that way.) The only reason I bring it to the fore is because of this column by my friend Danny Schechter the Media Dissector. His stuff always provokes. This time, he contends that the reason Americans are out of step with the rest of the world on the Middle East is because the media misleads them into it.
(S)urveys have shown over the years that ordinary members of the Jewish community are far more politically progressive about the need for peace than those who claim to be their “leaders,” self-righteous elite who sit on top of vast fundraising machines. They have well-paid jobs specializing in spreading fear and alarm about anti-Semitism as a tool for frequent solicitations and psychological conditioning. The memory of the Holocaust is still manipulated for political purposes.
There is a well-financed Israeli lobby that funds politicians and dominates the op-ed pages. What else explains the dramatic difference in public opinion in this country and overseas? Why do polls show Americans and Israelis backing the war while the world calls for a cease fire?
Somehow many in our media have turned the words Israel and Jews into synonyms, as if all Jews are hard-line Zionists who automatically back the policies and practices of the Israeli government, every Israeli government. Ironically, there is more debate among Jews in Israel on these issues than is reported, or somehow allowed in the United States where Jewish critics of Israel policies are often ignored or labeled “self-hating” Jews.
Many organizations, especially in Democratic Party circles (and even the blogosphere) would prefer to ignore the issue for fear of being divisive or attacked. Notice how many in the Congress rallied to Israel’s side before the facts were even in. Notice how few, even in the anti-war contingent, had the courage to speak out.
It's not surprising that many Jews are unaware of what’s happening largely because of the information diet they are exposed to, every day and in all media--just like the rest of us. They are expected to recite the “official” mantra—not think for themselves.
I have been reading opinion pieces from both Ha'aretz and the Jerusalem Post, which is further to the right, almost daily, and I have to say that their tone and content are inconsistent with the media here. For example, there we see calls for the heads of the Olmert government, with frank admissions that Israel botched the war. Here, the MSM tiptoe through the issues (with the exception of the National Post, of course) while the ''ethnic'' press (obviously I can only read the English-language versions) is screechingly partisan.
It's an emotional, existential issue. I know. But we have reached the point in the West where it MUST be discussed, openly and rationally, free of cant, rancour and hatred.
Is that even possible?
UPDATE (AUG. 18/06 @ 17:38): Apparently not. Another thread is biting the dust, the comments closed. If you think this means that I will not be continuing to cover the coverage of the Middle East, think again.