September 7, 2010
Danny Gordis Takes on Time Magazine
I hate to be the bee in the honey, but I fear Israel’s supporters are winding themselves up into an umbrage so high, they might actually fall down and hurt themselves.
The cause: Time magazine.
Yes, only in the Jewish world do people still get worked up over the cover a weekly magazine. Most of the rest of America forgot they exist. Yet another reason to love Jews.
The cover in question is of a Jewish star composed of daisies, and the words: Why Israelis Don’t Care About Peace.
The article, as Danny Gordis points out accurately, is full of sloppy perceptions, generalizations and cheap shots. For one, it describes Jerusalem on Shabbat as a “mausoleum.” Gordis, a former LA rabbi, takes exception at the death imagery to describe such a holy day. I just think it’s lazy journalism by someone who doesn’t see how vibrant the Friday night life is in so many parts of the city.
But what has Gordis so upset, and a phalanx of Jews ready to march behind him, is the impression the cover gives that Israel doesn’t care about peace.
How dare the writer say such a thing?
Well, maybe he spoke to Israelis. Yossi Klein Halevi has been saying and writing the same thing for a while now. Most Israelis I speak with are at least jaded, at most completely turned off to, the peace process. They want peace, they just don’t care about the peace process—because caring doesn’t pay off, caring gets their hopes up, caring leaves them, like Charlie Brown and the football, flat on their backs. The Guardian newspaper reported the same story the week before.
By the way, many Palestinians feel just as jaded and defeated.
Here’s Yossi in The Los Angeles Times a few weeks back:
That essay was called, “Israelis Don’ have High Hopes for the Peace Process.” Okay, a more felicitous choice of words. But Time is (desperately) trying to sell magazines. And with only a slight, if sloppy, semantic adjustment, “aren’t concerned” can translate into “don’t care.” The more accurate diagnosis—maybe the most—came from our own David Suissa, who just returned from a month in Israel.
But Danny Gordis goes a bit postal, which only helps Time go viral.
But does anybody know what the effect will be? Is Time really helping to delegitimize Israel? Can anyone prove it?
Here’s what I find so interesting. Peter Beinert wrote a now famous essay saying young Jewish Americans were losing their affection for Israel, but a recent poll proved him wrong. As Gal Beckerman wrote in the Forward:
To my mind, the same poll proves Gordis wrong. The war of images and words in the American press, whether aimed at Israel’s heart or aimed to sell dead trees, doesn’t seem to have moved the needle in a way that confirms Israel’s critics hopes or proves Israel’s supporters fears. We worry without proof. I think that has to be a definition of neuroses.
So take a breath, people. The Time cover image itself—a Jewish star made of daisies— presents an image of Israel that is so unthreatening, non-belligerent and peaceful, at the very least you have to admit the cover sends a mixed message. In fact, the same cover with a just the word “Israel” could grace a tourist brochure.
So let’s react but not over-react. Time is not the enemy. Israelis aren’t painted as some monsters—quite the opposite. Anybody whose opinion of Israel is shaped by passing a magazine cover in an airport is likely someone whose mind was already made up.