Monday, September 13, 2010

Now Is Not the TIME to Cry "Wolf!"

Those who know me well know that when it comes to anti-Semitism, I don't generally keep my mouth shut. If I see or sense anti-Semitism, I respond to it, and openly. The "nice" thing about anti-Semites is that they are quite often direct and open, unless they are using criticism of Israel to mask their anti-Semitism, in which case their anti-Semitic views are subtle but still, generally, easily discerned.

So, today, when I read today in the Jerusalem Post intense criticism of an article published in a recent issue of TIME magazine, reportedly titled "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace" and authored by one Karl Vick, based in Jerusalem. I was deeply disturbed and ready to join "the bandwagon of justice".

Or at least I was ready to saddle-up and join the justice posse until I found the article online, and reading the few short paragraphs available there, I saw in italics the following message at the end:

This is an abridged version of an article that appears in the Sept. 13, 2010, print and iPad editions of TIME magazine.

At that moment, when I saw that "disclaimer", I knew there was more to the story than just what people were gathering from the title on the cover and the relatively few paragraphs shown in the abridged version on I knew, instinctively, that my intense desire to post the article on Facebook would have to wait until I had the full story...literally.

Being in South Korea, I do not have easy access to print versions of TIME, but I do have an iPad. So on my lunch break, I went to a nearby cafe in Mokpo that offers free WiFi, downloaded the TIME app and made an in-app purchase ($4.99) of the issue in which the supposedly anti-Semitic article titled "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace" appears.

And was immediately flummoxed.

Looking through the contents of the Sept. 13 issue, I couldn't find the article. I know that a story's title on the cover isn't always the same within the pages of a magazine itself, but...I was kind of annoyed. Of course, this was because I was looking at the images for a Star of David or something like that, and not the subject listed underneath ("Israel")...but setting aside a discussion of my more vacant moments for another day, what I ended up doing was going back to the cover, tapping in the middle of the Star-of-David-of-Daisies, right on"Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace"...

Et voilĂ ...

A funny thing happened, though, at that moment: The article it took me to was titled as "The Good Life and Its Dangers". Nothing particularly anti-Semitic about it. Nor could it be surmised that familiar anti-Semitic tropes would be found in an article whose blurb appears (under the title) as follows: "Israelis feel prosperous, secure - and disengaged from the peace process. Is that wise?" On first glance, not particularly...anti-Semitic on the part of TIME. Or wise, on the part of my fellow Israelis.

What followed, in the article itself, were - by my count - twenty-four paragraphs to judge it by. And the more I read of it, the easier it was to discern that people - the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) included - were apparently judging the article not by the 24 paragraphs seen in the print or iPad editions, but the mere five (yes, "5") that can be seen on I'm no mathematician, but 5 is a lot less than 24, any which way you look at it.

Undoubtedly, the article's title as it appears on the cover was unfortunately named, ill-conceived, insensitive, and quite possibly deliberately designed to portray Israel in a negative light. Based on that alone, as I began reading I steeled myself for an anti-Semitic blow...that never came. Ultimately, the most anti-Semitic thing about the article was, in my estimation, the title as it appears on the cover...but not in the magazine itself.

At the end of this post, you will find several images posted - eachtaken from my iPad this afternoon, images of the full article. I want you to look at both the abridged version, as it appears on, and the unabridged version, available both in print and on...well, my iPad. When you have time, if you have time, I want you to read both versions of the article and decide for yourself: Is it anti-Semitic? Was it meant to be? Or is this all much ado about nothing - or, at least, nothing like what so many think it's about?

I will leave it to you to decide for yourselves if the article merits the following criticism from ADL head Abraham Foxman, who said of it, "The insidious subtext of Israeli Jews being obsessed with money echoes the age-old anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews care about money above any other interest, in this case achieving peace with the Palestinian...At the same time, Time ignores the very real sacrifices made by Israel and its people in the pursuit of peace and the efforts by successive Israeli governments of reconciliation.”

I, for one, disagree that this is the subtext of the article. Then again, I read the whole thing.

I will leave it to you to decide for yourselves if the article merits this observation from American Jewish Committee acting Director Ed Rettig: “Leaving aside the libelous nature of the article (what awful people don’t care about peace?), its internalization by decision-makers would be catastrophic...The false belief that Israelis are indifferent to peace will prevent them perceiving the conflict as it really is, and cause a misreading of developments.”

I disagree that the article is libelous, and I disagree that Israelis are indifferent to peace. Again, the impression that this is what the article is asserting is left in part by the title on the cover, but isn't borne out in the text of the article itself (in my honest opinion).

And I will leave it to you to decide for yourselves if the article merits the following hits from "Yet, unbelievably, Time Magazine paints a picture of crass, wealthy Jews so busy with buying and selling that they have no real desire to make peace with the Palestinians,"and "In the case of the Time Magazine article, the straw man so painstakingly described are a couple of shallow-sounding Israelis who care only about money, say they don’t care about anything else, and even imply that they might be dishonest in their business dealings."

Considering that more than just "a couple of shallow-sounding Israelis" were interviewed for the article, I think this criticism is way off. Again, it seems blatantly obvious that the only basis for such criticism is a reliance on the abridged article (five paragraphs long) rather than the unabridged article (twenty-four paragraphs long).

Anyway...I know I'm asking of you a significant investment of your time and thought processes, but please...oblige me. Israel is undoubtedly and undeniably the subject of a perpetual anti-Semitic smear campaign by various media outlets, politicians, and countries throughout the world. This article, however, is not representative of that, and making it out to be will only distract people when truly abhorrent examples once again show themselves.

Furthermore, as the imbroglio over former White House correspondent Helen Thomas's comments regarding Jews a few months back showed, being charged with anti-Semitism can cost people their jobs. This is, I think, overall a good thing...but only when people who are actually anti-Semitic are the ones finding their positions threatened. Knowing our "power," in this respect, we should use it wisely ... sparingly ... responsibly.

On some websites I've seen people posting the address of TIME magazine, so offended Jews can write and complain.

I'd urge them to read the full article (posted below) first, not the abridged version.