September 13, 2010
Why TIME Magazine Doesn’t Care About Objectivity
Could there be a more provocative cover story for a major U.S. magazine?
The cover story, by Karl Vick on page 36, is titled The Good Life and Its Dangers and proceeds to report on the seeming indifference of Israelis to the prospect of peace. By interviewing a handful of Israeli real estate developers, entrepreneurs and academics, Vick comes to the conclusion that Israelis have become so obsessed with material progress and economic success that they have little time left over to focus on the prospects of peace.
“In the week that three Presidents, a King and their own Prime Minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still define their country by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on.”
The four page article/argument is such a hatchet job in gathering evidence to buttress a foregone conclusion ( otherwise known in logic as petitio principii or begging the question) that any high school student could see through it.
First, is the cover story tagline, which actually has little do with the content of the article. Why don’t Israelis care about peace? According to Vick’s piece itself, Israelis certainly do care about peace, but don’t have much faith in the peace process. That is a very important distinction. Peace as a goal, is surely never beyond anyone’s mind in Israel. How could it be, when every family knows a friend or a relative who was maimed or killed in one of the country’s eight wars. Which mother – religious, secular, Jewish, Druze or Bedouin wishes to see their son placed in harm’s way in an unending conflict? But after 17 years of failed promises and an adversary who refuses to take even minimal steps toward peace in recognizing their country’s right to exist, why would any citizen of Israel not be cynical about Palestinian intentions?
To present any idea that Israelis don’t care about peace, is simply fatuous.
Second, the author himself fails to give his story much historical context, neglecting to measure the true shock and anger Israelis experienced time and time again over the past 17 years as territorial concessions were met with Palestinian violence. He quickly glosses over Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David in July, 2000 to Yasser Arafat of 97% of the West Bank and Gaza – and even the division of Jerusalem – an offer met two months later by a fusillade of bullets in the second Intifada. One thousand Israelis dead and 4,000 maimed ( many disabled for life) later, it provided convincing grounds for most Israelis to believe that the Palestinian leadership was preternaturally disposed to a violent resolution of the conflict and not a viable peace. The IDF retreat from the Israeli security zone in Lebanon in May, 2000 and an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August, 2005 – huge concessions by Israeli standards, left vacuums which were soon filled by violent Islamic thugs who proceeded to rain down rockets on Israeli southern and northern towns.
Who would blame any Israeli for believing that peace negotiations and concessions are just the precursors to a new round of violence?
Third, Vick just get some things just plain wrong. He quotes leftist political scientist Tamar Hermann who claims that Israelis are watching less and less news :
” They read the political sections of newspapers less. They say, it spoils my day, so I don’t want to see it.”
Really? Anyone who has been to Israel and traveled on public transportation or even in any taxi, knows that Israelis are news obsessed. It is built into the culture and fundamental to the security of a nation ever on the alert for a terrorist strike ( or “pigua” as it is more colloquially known). The realities of life are simply glossed over in a fanciful acceptance of one academic’s point of view.
The greatest problem with the entire piece however, is the way it supports an antisemitic stereotype without daring to acknowledge it. The ultimate images of profligacy and dissipation that remain- ‘oh those rich Jews, sunning themselves on their beaches and counting their shekels while the Palestinians waste away in abject poverty’ could have been taken directly from the pages of Der Sturmer and drives home the notion that this country of Jews may be no more than an actualized collection of Fagins drawn from English literature.
It shouldn’t be any surprise, then, that this is the same magazine , who when introducing the newly elected prime minister Menachem Begin in 1977, transliterated his name as ” Bay -gin – rhymes with Fagin.”
One has to wonder whether the magazine would ever commission a parallel cover story about internal Palestinian life? Would it have the nerve to expose the seething Jew hatred in the Palestinian media and in its education system or the manifest hypocrisy of leaders such as Saeeb Erekat who bray about peace but do all they can to prevent actual negotiations?
Probably not. To portray the Palestinians as anything other than victims and underdogs would be to upset a fundamental value of liberal magazines such as TIME – strong equals wrong; weak equals right. Far easier, it would seem, to render a portrait in keeping with accepted dogmas and age- old stereotypes.
Maybe this is, after all, what sells papers.