Further observations on the generally poor performance of the American media in covering Israel’s military actions in Palestinian areas:
The only solace to be taken from The New York Times’s coverage of the Israeli operation is that Deborah Sontag is no longer on the ground in Jerusalem filing her daily devotionals to Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian cause. Can a sensitive reader even bear to contemplate the thought of Sontag twisting the truth and shilling for the Palestinian Authority at the Church of the Nativity or in Jenin?
Sontag’s absence aside, the Times has not exactly acquitted itself well in terms of balance and objectivity, though at times one can – if one makes a superhuman effort – almost sense some semblance of fairness straining to emerge in the reporting of James Bennet. The same cannot, however, be even playfully said for Times reporters Serge Schmemann, C.J. Chivers and, worst of all, Joel Greenberg, a junior varsity Deborah Sontag whose personal history and political leanings were exposed earlier this year by the veteran Israeli journalist Uri Dan.
Greenberg’s unreliability – others would call it dishonesty, but the Monitor is a gentle soul – was thrown into particular relief in his April 3 dispatch on the gaggle of Palestinian sympathizers who had barricaded themselves in Arafat’s besieged offices. Not once in his piece did Greenberg mention the hard-left ideological inclination of Arafat’s defenders, preferring instead to refer to them, collectively and individually, by such innocuous appellations as “foreign activists”; foreigners”; “peace advocate”; and “activist.”
Greenberg’s fascination with the “peace advocates” was again on display in an April 18 piece on Adam Shapiro. His short-lived celebrity has mercifully faded, but you remember Shapiro, the pathetic specimen who achieved his 15 minutes – or, in this case, 15 days – of fame as the political equivalent of a circus geek or carnival freak: Ladies and gents, step right up and marvel at the gen-u-i-ne Brooklyn-born Jew who holed up overnight with Yasir Arafat, enjoyed the breakfast of a lifetime with the Palestinian Authority chairman, and announced to the world that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians reminded him of Kristallnacht and other Nazi atrocities. Limited time only, five bucks a view, over in the purple tent.
In Greenberg’s hands, of course, this aberration called Shapiro becomes a thoughtful young humanist, a suffering servant of the oppressed who, along with his Palestinian fiancee, unblinkingly puts his life on the line for his fellow man. “Since leaving Mr. Arafat’s compound,” Greenberg writes admiringly, “Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Arraf have been busy challenging the Israeli curfew, defying Israeli snipers by walking the streets and delivering food and medicine.”
As in Greenberg’s earlier piece on the “activists” in Arafat’s compound, the words “left,” “leftist” or “left-wing” are nowhere to be found – but Greenberg did take care to characterize Shapiro’s critics as “right-wing Jewish groups who labeled him a traitor.”
On now to Andy Rooney, and didja ever wonder how he’s able to convince otherwise sober CBS executives that he’s worth the king’s ransom they pay him for a few minutes’ worth of absolutely inane chatter once a week on “60 Minutes”?
It’s bad enough that Rooney is terminally unfunny, but whenever he veers from his usual contemplation of cereal boxtops or the contents of his desk drawers he reveals his utter lack of depth. Here’s the alleged funnyman’s take on the Israeli prime minister (Rooney had already gently dismissed Yasir Arafat as “a toothless tiger who no longer has the power to stop terrorism if he wanted to”), delivered on April 14:
“Ariel Sharon doesn’t want peace. He loves this war. The Israelis are our friends and the Palestinians are strangers. But Sharon is not our friend and President Bush should stop pussyfooting around and say so….If Sharon and the Palestinian terrorists persist with their arrogance, we have the power to save Israel and Palestine from themselves by cutting off both the money and the weapons with which this war is being fought.”
(Continued Next Week)
Jason Maoz can be reached at email@example.com