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Comic Relief From The ADL


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It was shaping up to be a rather uneventful day until the arrival of a press release from one of the Monitor’s favorite Jewish organizations. Laughter may not the best medicine, but it certainly is the best palliative to boredom, and in that sense, at least, the Anti-Defamation League will never be accused of being boring.Here, get a load of this unintentionally hilarious opening paragraph, delivered in the august tones favored by people and institutions that take themselves far too seriously:

“Contrary to widespread negative assumptions about U.S. media coverage in the Middle East, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today released findings of an editorial survey of the nation’s largest daily newspapers, which showed overwhelming support for Israel and significant criticism of the Palestinian Authority and its leader, Yasir Arafat.”

To which one’s first, more charitable, inclination is to say, Yes, and so what? Has anyone suggested that the problem with media coverage of Israel lies in the editorial pages.

And then a slightly less charitable reaction sets in. Notice how the statement equates ‘U.S. media coverage’ with the level of editorial support or criticism for Israel or Arafat. Can it be that the ADL is confusing straight news coverage with editorial-page commentary? Or is there a bit of deliberate obfuscation going on here?

The press release continued: ‘Our survey shows that the editorial boards of the major newspapers across the country are viewing the situation in the Middle East in a realistic and objective manner,’ said Glen A. Tobias, ADL national chairman and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director.’

(Hmmm. Did they say it at the same time? Or did Tobias say it first, followed immediately by Foxman? Or was Foxman first out of the gate? Of course, there’s always the possibility that neither actually said it, but that one or both simply signed off on the work of some anonymous wordsmith in the ADL’s busy public-relations mill.)To further muddle the issue, the statement notes that ‘In the weeks prior to the cease-fire negotiations, editorial opinions were focused on portraying Israel in a positive light with much emphasis placed on the policy of restraint against continued Palestinian violence. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both editorialized on this issue by praising Prime Minister Sharon and his steadfastness against escalation.’

Leave aside the fact that to even mention the editorials of the Times and the Journal in the same breath does a severe injustice to the Journal, whose unwavering support of Israel and Sharon puts the Times to shame.

What really jumps off the page, of course, is the ADL’s readiness to uncork the Champagne because Israel is being universally lauded for its policy of non-escalation. But what happens when Sharon, patience finally spent, unleashes a strong retaliatory response? The instant that happens, the praise will turn to poison on many of the editorial pages now lauded by the ADL – and at that point the organization won’t have an argument to fall back on.

On a related note, in a recent Jewish Week article on a Manhattan rabbi’s call for a boycott of The New York Times, the ADL’s Foxman pronounced himself unalterably opposed to the idea. The paper’s editorials, he said, were better than they’d been, and boycotts won?t work, and one must deal with the Times individually and blah blah blah….

Excuse us, but the Monitor must have dozed off. Where were we? Oh yes, Foxman – who did, somewhat surprisingly, acknowledge to the Jewish Week that the Times has been known to display ‘outrageous exaggeration or insensitivity’ in its news coverage of Israel.

But don’t expect Foxman to lead the charge against the Times. He and his fellow high-muckamucks of Jewish organizational life know only too well that were it not for the occasional mention and photo in the Times and other media outlets, most Jews would remain blissfully unaware of the existence of their presumed leaders.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

About the Author: Jason Maoz is the Senior Editor of The Jewish Press.


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