Monday, June 14, 2010

A great example of the media's willful blindness

From Newsweek's Eleanor Clift: (h/t Jennifer Rubin):
Google “good riddance to Helen Thomas,” and you get 41,700 results, more than enough to get the gist of the blogosphere’s general disdain for the 89-year-old doyenne who was a fixture in the White House press room going back to the Kennedy administration. Much of the commentary reflects revulsion at Thomas’s characterization of the Palestinian issue as something that could be solved if Jews left the Palestine territories and went back to where they came from.

She was talking about the settlers, and if she had said they should go back to Brooklyn, where many of them are from, she probably wouldn’t have made news. But suggesting they return to Germany and Poland touched a nerve that led to an abrupt ending of Thomas’s storied career. She apologized, saying “I made a mistake.” But there was no forgiveness
Was Thomas only speaking about "settlers"? Let's look at Thomas' words:
"Any comments on Israel?"

HT "Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people are occupied and it's their land. It's not Germany, not Poland."

"So where should they go?"

HT "Home. Poland. Germany. America. And everywhere else.
Exactly what percentage of "settlers" have immigrated to Israel from Poland and Germany? Oh, approximately zero.

If Clift had even the slightest clue, she would know that Thomas' words were impossible to misinterpret. She regards all of "Palestine" as occupied, exactly as Hamas does, exactly as the PA does when they are not speaking in English. She is old enough to have already been an adult for a while when Israel was created, when no one referred to Arabs of the area as "Palestinians," when Arabs were crystal clear that Jews should all leave Palestine - just as Thomas still believes.

Clift's ignorance does not stop at her willful misinterpretation of Thomas' call for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the Middle East. She fully accepts the idea that most settlers are from Brooklyn - when in fact there are plenty of native-born Israelis in the territories, as well as Russians and people from other places. There are secular Israelis as well as religious ones over the Green Line.

Moreover, Clift accepts Thomas' apology as actually meaning something beyond a last-minute plea to save her career. Yet anyone who has followed that storied career that Clift goes on to praise knows that Thomas meant exactly what she said.

The last implicit mistake that Clift and others make is that the vast majority of Israelis have European ancestors. In fact, one of the great under-reported facts about Israel is that probably more than half of today's Israelis have great-grandparents who were born in an Arab country.

Clift has been a reporter for a couple of decades herself. It is one thing to hear college students talk confidently and ignorantly about Israel, but to see someone like Clift repeat stereotypes about Israel without having a clue of the truth shows either a serious case of laziness or of lying.

I'm not sure which is a worse habit for a journalist to have.