“Open Zion” – The Case of Bad Journalism

Weekly News Commentary

Netanyahu, Abbas

The role of international perception in the Israel-Palestine conflict will always be a crucial factor in the continued efforts to reach a resolution. And in this post I will be making the case against a US-based column that has served its readers with information that suffers from contradiction, a lack of context and abatement of facts. Journalism serves as the primary source of knowledge for the majority of the public, and examples such as these arguably stunt the progress of which their mission claims to support.

I am referring to The Daily Beast’s, “Open Zion”, operated and edited by Peter Beinart, a Jewish writer who emulates neoliberal views on Zionism. The column’s calling is to be a source for “a new conversation” with concern focusing on the “Jewish future.” The articles featured are from a diverse set of journalists – none of which appear to be “certified” experts.

Peter Beinart’s apparent goal, like in his book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” is to demonstrate that Zionism’s inertia as a political ideology has lead it away from righteous independence and transformed it into a non-democratic machine no better than its opposition. He has consistently protested that the Israeli government has become deaf to criticism (as well as racist) and advocates the boycotting of Israeli production out of the West Bank. Ultimately, he has come to garner a disdain for modern Israel and seemingly sees himself as the voice of reason in trying to reset its political direction.

As much as I admire any efforts to keep Zionism in check, especially to ensure that Israel’s image earns international support rather than skepticism, “Open Zion” is doing nothing to help American readers. In fact, it’s arguable that it’s doing just the opposite. For example, in an article by Emily L. Hauser, she claims that Israel’s trends of settlement construction will eventually “drive a final nail in the coffin of the notion of two-state peace.” Besides being an unwarranted declaration of hopelessness, it’s short sided. She discusses Netanyahu’s 2009 ten-month moratorium on building but fails to mention that Abbas didn’t keep his side of the bargain until the last half month only to ask for an unjustified extension. We see Israel portrayed as a reckless bulldozer, but when more light is shed, we see both sides simply exercising their bargaining chips.

Another article, written by Youssef Munayyer, argues that the “complete imbalance of power between Israel and the Palestinians” renders peace talks as implausible. Again, facts are used sparingly. Youssef makes the Palestinians seem like they’re getting the short end of the stick because the U.S. has been a biased mediator. All the “weight” is on Israel’s side, thus it becomes “impossible” for Palestine to negotiate peace talks, he claims. It doesn’t seem to matter that Israel has offered to satisfy over 90% of what Palestinians demand. Nor does forcing Israel to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to intercept every rocket seemingly play into negotiations. Except that it does.

Which brings me to the omitted point that discredits all of the bad journalism that has been painting an incomplete picture. One cannot forget to discuss the smile as the most important part of the Mona Lisa.

Peace talks between Israel and Palestine are contingent upon a ‘demonstrated’ period of peace. In a collaborated article by Alan Dershowitz and Peter Beinart himself, the point is made that, “Israeli and Palestinian leaders [must be] willing to lock arms and help the other overcome the enormous pressures exerted by the rejectionists on his own side.” If only perspectives and ideas such as this one were seen more often throughout the column, then we could look to thought leaders like Beinart to better influence the public’s perspectives.

The issue remains that in Gaza, Hamas, a body whose charter refuses to accept Israel’s right to exist, maintains power. HAMAS! A terrorist organization as classified by multiple international agencies! Israel cannot and will not come to the table with Palestinians supporting an organization that has allowed its members to threaten non-militants and administer unwarranted surprise attacks on Israeli citizens.

Here’s my disclaimer: Israel has not been innocent. Their tit-for-tat strategy has allowed for mistakes and actions that no one can morally excuse. They may have called and sent flyers warning people of impending attacks, but if the women and children were still there, the human shield excuse is unfortunately difficult to vindicate.

So, if Peter Beinart wants to simultaneously help Israel and criticize her with new perspectives, “Open Zion” needs to offer facts and ideas that are historically supported and play into the real time events. Articles in the column can’t forget to show where Palestinian advocates are playing dirty nor how Israel’s stubbornness serves neither side.

Bad journalism has been glorified in the industry of late. Journalists will seemingly do anything to offer quick chewable solutions to their readers so that no one chokes on the complexity of reality. If the democratic world truly wants a two state solution, then journalists need to provide information that is within historical context, asks the tough questions, is well-researched, and avoids misinformed claims.

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