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January 28, 1994 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-01-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Clinton And Assad.
What Happened?

ARTHUR J. MAG1DA SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

I

s Syrian President Hafez As-
sad with us or against us, es-
pecially after meeting in
Geneva with Bill Clinton?
No one really knows, despite
all the State Department's
crowing that the president had
made a breakthrough because
the Syrian said he seeks "nor-
mal, peaceful" ties with Israel.
And pundits are straddling both
sides of the fence about just
what the Geneva sessions real-
ly meant.
A Philadelphia Inquirer edi-
torial gushed that Mr. Assad's
declaration about Israel "in-
jected new life into the Arab-Is-
raeli peace process" and
"provides a new basis on which
Syrians and Israelis can talk in
private."
The Syrian's locution also
"smooths the way for the
United States to mediate be-
tween Israel and Syria, if need-
ed. It's only a signal, but in the

Mideast, that's good news."
But in a New York Times op-
ed, Daniel Pipes, director of
Philadelphia's Middle East
Council, took a harder, less op-
timistic line.
"If we want real improve-
ments in Syrian behavior," he
warned, "we'll have to stop cod-
dling ... [Mr. Assad] and con-
front him with a stark choice:
`You're either with us or against

us!

"...He would probably ask
himself this question: Which
route better assures me and my
co-religionist Alawis of contin-
uing to dominate Syria politics?
While the Iranian route [a coun-
try with which Syria is closely
allied] would suit his tempera-
ment, the American route
would out more promise."
"... If we want real change,
Washington may have to adopt
the sort of tough policy that this
canny despot understands."

Pollard Partisan

Certain causes forever galva-
nize some U.S. Jews: Soviet
Jewry; Israel's creation and sus-
tenance; whither Jewish chil-
dren? — and at the top of many
Jews' lists these days, convict-
ed spy Jonathan Pollard.
The Jewish press hasn't tak-
en the recent bashing that Mr.
Pollard has received from sec-
ular journalists sitting down.
But there's a time to defend Mr.
Pollard — and a place in which
to simply report about him. To
mix the two — the subjectivi-
ty of editorializing and the ob-
jectivity of reporting — is to
cross the hopefully inviolable
line between opinion and im-
partiality.
One of the more egregious ex-
amples of this occurred in the
Heritage, a Jewish paper pub-
lished in Los Angeles. There, in
what was really an editorial
masquerading as a piece of re-
porting, a front-page article by
publisher Herb Brin stated that
two Los Angeles Times re-
porters who wrote critical pieces
about Mr. Pollard last month
were "clearly being used by
forces in the State and Justice
Departments hostile" to Mr.
Pollard's release from prison.
Ronald J. Ostrow and David
Lauter, wrote Mr. Brin, "came
up with an obviously planted
story calculated to muddy the
efforts of thousands of Ameri-
cans who call for Pollard's re-

lease from what has been de-
scribed as a draconian prison
sentence."
The Ostrow-Lauter story had
quoted administration officials
who denounced Mr. Pollard's
statement of remorse to Presi-
dent Clinton because he had
sent a note to the New York
Jewish Week complimenting it
for an article praising his ac-
tions.
Mr. Brin claimed the story
dealt in "total half-truths" and
that "all men and women who
have any concern for human
values will recognize that... Pol-
lard's action alerted the Israelis
to imminent catastrophic
threats from Iraq, Libya and
Syria."
He also noted that if the two
Times reporters, who have "ap-
parently Jewish names," have
children, the youngsters "are
safer because of Pollard's total-
ly wrong and misdirected ef-
forts."
If the Heritage feels as
strongly as it apparently does
about Mr. Pollard, it should
have published its views in a
column signed by its publish-
er or in an editorial. In fact, it
could have followed the exam-
ple of National Review, which
this week took after the spy —
in an editorial — like a hound
after a fox.
Mr. Pollard is "a multiple be-
trayer," stated the conservative

weekly. "He betrayed his fellow
seamen, the U.S. Navy, the
oath he took when he was in-
ducted and his country. He has
done nothing to justify lenien-
cy. Why should he be the sole
prison beneficiary of the peace
that has broken out between
the U.S. and the former Soviet
Union and, more uncertainly,
between Israel and the Pales-
tinians?"

`Schindler'
Revisionism

When will we hear the last of
the reviews and the re-reviews
and the new chorus of new
films about Schindler's List,
Steven Spielberg's Holocaust
film about which most critics
were ecstatic?
The probable answer. Not for
a long time.
After the first avalanche of
rave reviews, a revisionist view
is setting in among some crit-
ics who weren't heard from the
first time around. Not only are
they harsh toward Mr. Spiel-
berg, but they even have a few
nasty words for critics who
praised his film.
Two samples of this second
round of reviewing:
• In the Washington Post
last Sunday, Philip Gourevitch
was distressed that Mr. Spiel-
berg had "strip[ped] Schindler
of his human complexity and
replace[d] it with... nothing.
"Byrobbing us of Schindler's
renunciation of Nazism [which
Mr. Gdurevitch says occurs in
the Thomas Keneally book on
which the film is based], the
filmmaker gives us the simple-
minded, enigmatic fiction of the
good Nazi. Heroism, he seems
to be telling us, is ambiguous,
goodness is ambiguous, right
action, decency, fellow feeling
— all ambiguous."
• In the New Republic, Leon
Wieseltier gives a back-hand-
ed compliment to Mr. Spielberg
and the back of his hand to crit-
ics:
Mr. Spielberg "fulfdled every
director's dream, which is to
make a film that will bring
about a collapse of criticism...
"Do none of [the critics] see
how self-regarding Schindler's
List is? Its renunciation of col-
or is adduced as a sign of its
stringency; but the black and
white of this film is riper than
most color. The darkness of this
film about darkness is gor-
geous. And its gorgeousness
gives it away. For it is a sign
that Spielberg has not grasped
his material, that the old rela-
tion between skill and under-
standing still obtains."
Most interesting — and most
timely — is a second review of
the film by Stanley Kauffmann
in the same New Republic as

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