Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time Magazine’s Deception

If I was a completely secular Israeli and someone asked me what the most important issue of the day was, I would probably say something like the economy… or crime … or poverty … or education. The peace process would be way down on my list.

Why should I be concerned about it? If I am comfortable with my life it has no real bearing on it. There have been no suicide bombings in over two years. My country has done a good job in preventing that. A peace treaty would have no real bearing on my well being. Who really cares about it as long as my family and I are safe and living ‘the good life’?

My ‘Israel’ would be reflected by the city of Tel Aviv - not Jerusalem. Tel Aviv is virtually a completely secular city with beaches walking distance from almost any part of it. The attitude there is all about ‘the good life’. Living well and enjoying all the material things that money can buy. The good life is what I would seek for my family. Jerusalem may as well be Timbuktu for all I care. I would hardly have any reason to go there.

This is pretty much the portrait painted by an article (abridged version) in Time Magazine. I have no serious issues with the how secular Israelis feel – which is what the article is basically about. It describes the attitudes of a great many Israelis. In fact it probably describes how a great many people in this country feel about peace in the Middle East. It's barely on their radar screen.

So what is all the ruckus about?

There have been loud condemnations by many people who have called this article anti-Semitic.

In a press release - the ADL’s Abe Foxman said "The insidious subtext of Israeli Jews being obsessed with money echoes the age-old anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews care about money above any other interest”

Actor John Voight who is not Jewish but is known for his strong support of Israel slammed Time Magazine on Fox News channel’s ‘Huckabee’: "This is anti-Semitism. Who are these anti-Semites who are running Time magazine?"

I did not see the article as particularly anti Semitic. Although it does make Israelis look pretty shallow. And it implies that the only real Israelis are secular Israelis.

But I did see the cover as anti Semitic in the extreme!

It reads ‘Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace’. It doesn’t say Israelis. It says Israel. That implies the leadership now participating in peace talks doesn’t really care about peace. That is deceptive and a bold faced lie!

Time Magazine is on newsstands all over the world. It is prominently displayed. Not everyone buys it. But very few people can miss seeing it on the stands. Time, one might say, is the national news magazine of record. Many people will glance at the cover and never read a word of the article. The take away will be that Israel is lying about its intent to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict.

The impression one gets from the words on the cover is that the State of Israel doesn’t care about peace and is just going through the motions to please its benefactor – the United States. The attitude implied about Israeli leaders about Palestinians is the following. Palestinians aren’t hurting us. We’ve conquered the terrorists. Who cares if they suffer?

The media has for decades been portraying Palestinians as a suffering people. And exaggerated their circumstances as much as they can get away with.

Israel has for decades been portrayed as an oppressive occupier. And now - with this cover - Time has implied an expose. …That Israel’s leaders are deceptive and lying manipulators of the media – pretending to care about peace when in reality they could not care less.

The article itself is not about the government. It is about the average secular citizen. And though unflattering to Israelis - it has nothing to do with how sincere the leadership is about peace.

I suppose it does portray Israelis as a bunch of self centered hedonists who couldn’t care less about how other human beings suffer. Abe Foxman may be right. The subtext does imply that Jews only care about money. As long as they can live the good life - Palestinians can go to hell. Peace? That’s ‘their’ problem. Israelis are doing quite well without it.

But as bad as it makes Israelis sound – that is minor compared to the implications of the cover.

Time loves controversy. Controversy sells magazines. The thinking probably went like this: Why not stir some up with a misleading cover? After all deniability is built right into the article itself.

As I said at the outset If I were secular I too would have said that crime, education, and poverty were the biggest issues facing Israel now had I been the one interviewed. Peace? We pretty much have it in the status quo.

There is no excuse for what Time did. They knew very well what they were doing. It is unscrupulous. It is dishonest. And it lacks any semblance of common decency. With that cover - they smeared an entire country just so they could sell a few more magazines. It hardly matters what was on the inside – not that it was flattering in any way.

Most people will only read the cover and that will perpetuate the big lie about Israel’s leaders ‘secret intent’ as they ‘pretend’ to negotiate peace with Palestinians: They don’t care about peace! They don’t care about the Palestinian people - fellow human beings that the world sees as an oppressed and humiliated people under occupation.

Whether or not the typical Palestinian actually suffers as much as the mainstream media paints it is beside the point. The media portrays them all as long suffering - and that it is all Israel’s fault.

If there is anyone who is devoid of decency it is the editors at Time. A simple apology will not do. The only acceptable action on their part would be a complete repudiation of this cover on their next cover – with an apology printed right on it! We’ll see if anything like that will be forthcoming anytime soon. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.