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Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2002 / 14 Tishrei, 5763

Julia Gorin

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All the World is an Arab Stage, but Where is the Audience's Sense of Humor? | When watching a sitcom, an audience of average intelligence or below easily recognizes the drama queen character, the martyr-manipulator who creates situations that will reinforce her status as the put-upon victim, in need of constant sympathy and attention. The antics she engages in to achieve her ends provide the main source of the show's humor-because no one buys into them and only the character has the endurance to take herself seriously. There's no chance that the audience will mistake her endless roster of grievances for authentic or for being anything other than self-created and self-perpetuated.

So I have often asked myself, "Could the people of average and above intelligence dominating our primary news airwaves just be stupid when it comes to the Middle East? Have the media classes really been unable to see that all those over-the-top sob stories manufactured by the Arab world had to have started out as a joke or, at most, a long shot for sympathy? Could people whose world view is otherwise guided by compassion, if not clear thinking, really have a mental block when it comes to Israel?"

Certainly such mental blocks are possible, as in the case of conservative commentator and ex-Jew Bob Novak, who is otherwise bright but suffers from a distinct psychosis when it comes to Jews (indicating that either his Jewish parents abandoned him or he just hates his mother). But this is a very specific case.

So why do so many other seemingly intelligent folks double and triple the standards when it comes to the Jewish state? Are they really unable to appreciate the difference, for example, between targeting terror ring leaders and targeting civilians? Could they really be so dense?

Here, the instructions of Ayn Rand come to mind: There are no contradictions. If you encounter one, go back to your original premise. It's probably wrong.

So they're not stupid. Or compassionate. In which case what they are, are calculating anti-Semites, managing their end game strategically.

At the same time, there has been conspicuously little criticism of recent Israeli actions. To be sure, the chiding from the world press was immediate and widespread after Israeli air strikes in July killed Hamas leader Salah Shehade, along with 14 of the men, women and children protecting him. But it didn't last long. Even the New York Times had no editorial the day after the strikes, apparently since there is only one editorial that the paper's software is programmed to generate-but this would have risked another backlash from Jewish subscribers and advertisers. So The Times settled for just a cover shot of a dead Palestinian infant.

The criticism during the more recent Israeli incursion into Nablus, in response to the Hebrew University bombing, was likewise uncharacteristically understated. In both cases the storm broke almost as soon as it gathered.

Could the jig be up?

Increasingly, news organizations and individual journalists are becoming keen to the new reality that criticizing limited Israeli response to genocide bombings are tantamount to advocating the genocide. Today it comes across too much like blatant advocacy for the destruction of Israel. And they've invested too many years in the cover-up, in feigning journalistic objectivity to camouflage the commonality of their goals with those of the Arab world-an objectivity whose sustenance, at its most honest, demands the willful suspension of one's powers of logic and reason.

Indeed, they're effectively as violent and bloodthirsty as Muslim culture itself. Or else how to explain the indignation at the Israelis' recalcitrant, un-chic efforts to prevent their own deaths? And how is it that "humiliated" Palestinians are a worse humanitarian crisis than dismembered Israelis? Why else would checkpoint-inconvenienced Arabs be a bigger tragedy than dead Jews? Why else, in a world with Somalia, China, Rwanda, North Korean, Cuba, Iraq and any number of other oppressive states, is the most passionate opposition and abhorrence reserved for a Jewish state? And why the virtual non-coverage here of riots by Palestinians and their supporters physically intimidating and attacking Jews at university campuses, most recently preventing Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking at Montreal's Concordia University? Because there's no way to blame the Jews for it?

Finally, where are the human-interest interviews with all the maimed Israelis--the young invalids, survivors of suicide bombings who are handicapped for life?

In fact, it only now occurs to me that the on-again, off-again hullabaloo over the so-dubbed "disproportionate force" of Israeli retaliation is relevant here. An armed Israeli soldier has the ability to take down a vast number of rioters, brick-throwers and snipers before going down himself--assuming he goes down at all--keeping the Israeli death toll since the start of the new Intifadah at roughly one-third the Palestinian one, even with all the genocide bombings. This disproportionate ratio has been very grating on progressive nerves. It is supremely irrelevant that the Arab death toll includes mostly armed or strategically planted Palestinians, while the Israeli death toll includes mostly unarmed Jews. What is relevant is that Israeli deaths have been moving along at an agonizingly slow pace, thereby prolonging the Middle East "issue." If only the Israelis could answer bricks with bricks and genocide bombings with suicide bombings, it would even out the numbers and move the Israeli extinction along.

And yet the elites don't necessarily want the Jews to be killed. They're just imagining how peaceful it would be if they woke up one morning and the Jews simply weren't there anymore. That Jews are interfering with this vision by fighting back and insisting on staying alive is a source of constant annoyance. Those Jews, whose behavior was so much more palatable during WWII--what's gotten into them? Why do they refuse to jump into the Red Sea? Maybe it'll part for them again.

To give the well-intentioned the benefit of the doubt, it is possible that they are just trying to bring meaning to the words "never again." By not leaving any Jews for it to happen to again.

If one is against checkpoints and curfews, if one is against the incursions that stave off attacks against Israelis, then one does want Jews to die. Admittedly, this is A=B-and-B=C-therefore-A=C logic, and it's not the kind the media are used to, conditioned as their minds are to the new, whole math abacus marketed by the Arab world, in which A=BCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.

Still, the media fear that the public is finally connecting some dots, so that it's become perilous to condemn Israelis when they act to prevent their extermination, without seeming anti-Semitic. Or Arabic.

Nor is it lost on the media that they have blood on their hands from buying into the cheap tricks that these martyr caricatures have been peddling, what with their coverage of the Mideast over the years enabling the violence to escalate from stone-throwing to genocide-bombing to retaliatory strikes, then over again. Therefore they continue to cover the tracks of their Palestinian darlings, so that finding out, for example, about the vats of chemical and biological agents nestled amid the "desperate," "destitute" "refugees" of Jenin earlier this year was like pulling teeth. The press corps have dug themselves into a hole, so that now they'd better keep digging. They can't at this stage start admitting that killing Jews is wrong.

So they've toned the act down, in order to not blow what's left of their cover. Ever since the all-hands-on-deck attempt to paint Jenin into a massacre that came up empty, they are wary of being too obvious that they think Jews would be more comfortable in the water than on the land. I have an uneasy sense that this reprieve is all too temporary, that the mainstream press is regrouping and making a cogent plan for the next time Israel screws up in some way--or could credibly be construed to have done so--and the jig will resume.

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JWR contributor Julia Gorin is a journalist and stand-up comic residing in Manhattan. Send your comments by clicking here.

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© 2002, Julia Gorin