Monday, February 22, 2010

Good News, Too

My English is reasonable, I travel to the US once a year if not more often, some of my best friends are Americans and I often spend time with Americans who visit Israel. I also spend time almost daily reading American websites. Having said all that, it's almost impossible for me to gauge what the proverbial "man on the street" thinks about most matters, including what people really think about Israel. Are the loonies on Mondoweis gaining traction, as they continuously crow? Was the war in Gaza a crucial and negative turning point, as Andrew says? Are thugs who shout down Israeli public figures at universities marginal, or is the silent majority willing to let them do their thing out of a lazy agreement with their sentiments? These things are not easy to know from afar, just as well-meaning American Jews can't easily know that criticism of the NIF has nothing to do with McCarthyism, and everything to do with Israeli society turning on its home-grown enemies.

In this spirit of uncertainly, here are a couple of indicators of the nice kind.

Americans rather like Israel.

The Jewish community of San Fransisco (San Francisco!) is more clear-minded about Israel than some of the locals might have you believe (h/t David B).


Anonymous said...

judging from my own experience with the news and the office chats for my almost 50 working years I would have had no chance to be neutral about Israel let alone become a friend.
Since I am retired I have read up and checked up and sorted out misconceptions which before the age of the internet plus living in a German language bubble I would only have been able to do if I had been willing to tolerate pontificating from pro-advocating group. Besides some lucky contacts the best influence on me probably was historical fiction which made the drivel of the anti-Israel-crowd seem scarce on likelihood.

All the infos I have been able to find on the net unfortunately have one thing in common, they are insidertalk of well-educated minds and leave all my colleagues, manual and office alike, out of it. Take Dalrymple's lament Barry posted the other day. Dalrymple whom I like quite a bit grants that scholarly pursuits may have the same benefits as religion for humans - I automatically ask handicraft does not? and the reason I ask that because I know how much the great unwashed, the handicraft and service and peasant and receptionist people mind that they never seem to count as part of the picture.
This blog is better than most as it doesn't claim that only the uneducated fell for the braune Dreck but fails as all others do to even think about how it might be possible to get a hold of the "great unwashed" and one day another one will show up who gives voice to our resentment.

That's why I keep harping about doing "silly" propaganda like stuff - when I still had a TV I saw 4? parts Massada - I never checked whether it was good or bad it made me partisan with the Israelis - period!


Anonymous said...


"silly" propaganda -

you mean like Israeli figure skaters performing to Hava Nagila at the Olympics?
watch the video here

or do you prefer Paul Newman in "Exodus"? ;)


Anonymous said...

It is the job of the Mondoweiss blog and that of Andrew Sullivan's to turn the tide against Israel. Just because they will it doesn't make it so.

I am a Jewish American and noticed that the anti-Israel crowd has gotten A LOT more vocal since the last intifadah, especially on college campuses. I only know this from the web. I don't see this stuff in my face or anywhere around me. They have also been really encouraged by the election of Obama, who clearly does not favor the Israelis over the Palestinians or Arab countries.

It is really hard to know what the silent majority thinks even from here. It is hard to know what a person thinks who just walks by a crazed activisit screaming about "Israeli genocide." I guess this poll answers some of our questions.


Zach said...

In my experience traveling abroad and when people would ask me, "What do Americans think about this or that?" I came to one conclusion: There is no American 'man on the street.'

One of the things that makes America great is how different people in one part of the country are from another. To generalize almost anything about America is very difficult to do (not that that has ever stopped people from trying).

I'm afraid that doesn't help you out much with your question, though. You'll have to rely on polls, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I am denied access to the video - wrong part of the planet and couldn't find it on YouTube - hope it was heart-rending and not pathetic
I've seen Exodus but strangely enough it didn't impress me overly much (Massada did "it" for me) - I remember though havening been terribly exited after having read Leon Uris book but when I checked the story on Wikipedia it didn't ring much of a bell, probably too much politics I knew nothing about at the time.
As to artsy stuff I saw one Israeli film on TV a girl coping with her on and off mentally ill mother - unforgettably great and really good to make you realize "they" are just like us which is important because it is constantly ever so subtly insinuated that this might not be so.
- just as an easy point to make: look at the offerings of this said to be still very successful publishing house, even though they are heavily biased towards Southern men and Northern women I have as yet to stumble across an Israeli hero or heroine while sheiks seem to show up all the time -
in my observation Pop Culture trumps it all - and if Italians, Greeks and Arabs may be imagined (and devoured by readers) with smouldering eyes and sculpted chins why not Israelis.

Bryan Z said...

Nycerbarb: the Ice Dancing "theme" was folk dances. A whole bunch of couples used folk music, and the Zaretskys used Jewish (Eastern European Jewish, specifically) folk music as well. I don't see how that's any more propagandistic than the French team ice dancing to a can can (which they did, by the way).

Anonymous said...

Bryan Z -

I wasn't at all complaining about the ice dancing. I liked it. Silke is looking for pop culture type things that make Israel look good.

Too bad about not being able to see the video. I thought they skated well, had cute costumes, and used a nice arrangement. I was entertained.

"smouldering eyes and sculpted chins"

Wow, and Paul Newman doesn't do it for you! (You're right - the book was much better than the movie.) Try Kirk Douglas in "Cast a Giant Shadow." Is there a more sculpted chin?

If you like romantic comedy, try "Goodbye, New York"


Bryan Z said...

Oh okay. My sarcasm detector has been wonky today. I liked the Zaretskys' performance too (and hopefully they'll stay in third so they get a medal *knock on wood*).

Anonymous said...

at the tender age of 11 I was exposed to Clark Gable in GWTW and Burt Lancaster as Crimson Pirate. After that probably only Richard Burton was able to get to my "instincts" except for Pavarotti. Even the unforgettably wonderful Newman while raindrops were falling on his head didn't manage "it" - must be an age thing which is probably why it is so terribly difficult to hit it off via that path


as to polling Israel-friendship maybe one should ask if people would be more fearful to decorate their balconies with an Israel-flag as compared to say a Finland-flag - I would be ...

ModernityBlog said...


The old-fashioned British version used to be: the man on the Clapham Omnibus.

I would very much doubt that what you see on many of these blogs is representative of anything other than people venting their spleen.

My impression and it's only that, is that lot of these so-called Anti-Zionist and rabid anti-Israeli types are ultimately very sad people, with some pain in their life, neurosis or other infliction and the way that they relieve a lot of their stress, anxiety, etc is to vent at Jews/Israelis, etc

If you read the Guardian, you might think that Britain is festooned with antisemites at every bus stop, but most Brits (accepting that there’s a lot of xenophobia in Britain) are not particularly anti-Israeli.

Brits are probably more liable to be anti-French or anti German than worry about the Middle East.

Certainly, there is animosity towards Israelis and Jews in Britain, scanning the Guardian or any broadsheet newspaper would show that, plus the fact of the recently released CST figures on racially motivated attacks on Jews, which were at an all-time high in 2009.

However, that hostility is mostly confined to the media, the chattering classes and the British intelligentsia.

Not forgetting the extreme right and neo-Nazis, but most Brits, as far as I can tell, aren’t hung up on Israelis or Israel, except when there is a conflict and the British media goes into overdrive, with every negative story you can imagine, and then some.

Anyway that’s my impression.

Anonymous said...

so it's only or mostly the media and the majority of people don't care?
but as long as people don't care they may be easily swayed one way or another which means as long as no enticing seducer or seductress shows up nobody may feel safe.
and if a gifted speaker should show up and he/she should be of the evil kind it will matter very much if there are so many people to be easily convinced of this or that.

Anonymous said...

I have finally found a photo of the Zaretskys at the Olympics ... and I am aghast ;-)

Israel has a competitor who can make it at the Olympics to rank 10 and doesn't take the chance to use them to show some beautiful fashion? and lets them perform in those dreary clothes?

That's a shame - you must have designers who can do better than that - look at the smashing outfits that Korean girl is wearing - makes even me getting all itchy to find out more about Korean fashion.

ModernityBlog said...


As far as I see it, it is mostly three elements not one,

the media and those that inhabit it.

the chattering classes

and the British intelligentsia.

Britain is still a country riven by classes, and a class structure.

The overall influence of the media in Britain on the topic of Israel is consistent, with a few exceptions, consistently anti-Israeli.

You would only have to look at the BBC news web site’s Middle East section to see. There's a range of human interest stories published from the Middle East there, and with most countries covered there is a certain balance. Even if a few negative stories on a particular country are published then soon after you will see a relatively positive one, except when it comes to Israel.

Even stories, which can’t be spun, negatively always have something at the end to detract. There is never a positive and balanced view of Israelis given, never.

That constant drip-drip does affect British perceptions of Israel and so when a conflict comes about the British viewer never receives the full picture, but I suspect that the average Briton's contempt for the media does offset that slightly.

If you did a survey of most Brits (excluding the media, the chattering classes, etc) outside the time of conflict then my bet is that their views would even be moderately Zionist, they accept Israel is here today, etc

Whereas those in the media find Israel a perfect whipping boy, and in Britain there are no negative comebacks for attacking Israelis or Jews.

The very worst that happens is a strongly worded letter gets written, read and then thrown in the bin.

See Richard Ingrams as an example.