I don't think adding lines like " it's not the story you'd expect if you're the kind of person who believes the NYT" really adds anything to your arguments. It's somewhat condescending and pointless.I try, as a general rule, to listen to criticism and learn from it when it's correct. (If the start-up company I'm setting up these days ever hits the big time it will be almost entirely because we were able to learn from criticism and adapt as we go). So I asked myself if perhaps Josef has a point.
On one level, he's responding with unease to a profound weariness that affects many of us as we face never-ending distortion, slander, and outright lies about our country. (Too much of the distortions, lies and slander originate here, in Israel, and are disseminated by Israelis). I admit that the need to dedicate a chunk of my life to defend my country and society from such malice wears me down and at times this may express itself in rough-edged formulations.
On a more basic level, however, not a personal one, the question is if the general reportage from Israel in mainstream American media is mostly fair and balanced, or perhaps hopelessly wrong. (The question can't even be posed about the European media, which is hopeless).
Israel is permanently scrutinized by the Western media to an unprecedented degree. Most people don't know much about the going-ons of such faraway places such as Australia, Korea, Ukraine, Poland, Spain, Argentina or South Africa, to name a handful of places each of which is much larger than Israel. Who knows anything about Chile except that they're good at getting miners out from under mountains? Not so Israel: since there are more foreign reporters here than in almost any place in the world except Washington, London and perhaps Paris or Berlin, the number of stories filed here is beyond any reasonable proportion. There's no other country in which mutterings of bored politicians routinely get into the New York Times, or where minor events will be reported on television screens across the world with predictable regularity.
That's the way it is, and I'm not even complaining anymore. However, since there's so much attention on us, it seems logical to expect that the overall story should be at least vaguely reliable. If it were, Josef's complaint would be justified. But is it? Here's a test for you.
For the long-term reportage of Israel to be reasonably reliable and unbiased, it would necessarily have to include, alongside the specifics of our mistakes and weaknesses, also a long-term presentation of most of the following:
1. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs identify themselves as Israelis, wouldn't wish to live anywhere else, and strive to be more integrated into the Jewish majority, not less so, even as they preserve their own cultural and religious identity.
2. A total majority of the large numbers of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians who used to work in Israel had at least some Israeli employers or colleagues with whom they had excellent personal relations.
3. Some 100,000 Palestinians have moved into Israel since 1967, and are now Israeli citizens.
4. A sizable number of Palestinians in East Jerusalem will chose to be Israelis, not Palestinians, should they be given the choice.
5. Hundreds of refugees enter Israel every day (500 refugees a day is the equivalent of 20,000 a day into the US, or about 5,000 into Germany). They cross over from Egypt, and as soon as they cross the border road they sit quietly alongside it and wait for the army to come and pick them up and bus them into Beer Sheva or Tel Aviv. Many, perhaps even a majority of them, are Muslims. None are Jews.
6. A large majority of Israelis - probably well above 70% - yearn for peace with an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. They don't believe it will happen in their lifetimes, but they yearn for it none-the-less.
7. The IDF, from generals to grunts, gives thought, plans, and trains so as to minimize the harm it does while at war, and respects the sanctity of human life, all human life.
I could go on and on, but my point is simple: are these fundamental outlines of Israel's story clear and obvious to the non-Israelis who learn about us from the American media, and does the media make clear that it's daily fare of stories about all the things wrong with Israeli society are a distortion, as news often are? If so, then Josef's criticism is justified.
If not, I rest my case.