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January 12, 2012 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-01-12

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points of view

Presbyterian from page 29

Church (USA) website describes MRTI
as "a way for the wider church to act as
faithful stewards." Church investment
is called "an instrument of mission"
and the stewardship of God's resources
is "entrusted to the church." Thus,
MRTI is empowered to direct the G.A.
through corporate screening (suggest-
ing investments based on criteria root-
ed in church values), corporate engage-
ment (striving to affect the behavior
of a company in which stock is held)
and community investing (encourag-
ing funding to economically stimulate
communities overlooked or excluded
by traditional financial structures).
A close reading of the "MRTI Report
to the 2012 General Assembly" reeks
of anti-Israel bias. It suggests there's
somehow a correlation between acts
of terror precipitated by Hamas and
Fatah terrorists and defensive strikes
initiated by Israel's military.
The church has every right to chal-
lenge the Israeli government. But its
bolting of the peacemaking burden to
Israel is flat-out wrong. If its hope is
to derive a unity of purpose between
Presbyterians and Jews, there's the
pressing matter of the church knowing
so little about the driving forces of the
Middle East and Israel's security needs.
Presbyterians who back the
Palestinian side in the conflict do not
know how much Jews in Israel really
do care about Palestinians enchained
by their oppressive leaders. Angered
by so much Palestinian terror, the
Jewish world, however, has never been
good at expressing appreciation for the
plight of indoctrinated Palestinians
— Muslim or Christian. Christian
Palestinians have borne a special brunt
perpetrated by Islamists, a faction
of Muslims who look to the Koran to
affirm violence against non-adherents.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) has
the capacity to become an interfaith
champion were it to fundamentally
recalibrate its narrative. Key to that
is embracing the ideal that a fruit-
bearing relationship can grow without
agreement on every nuance of Middle
East governing.
At its biennial this summer, the
church also will present and adopt
a resolution to bolster Presbyterian-
Jewish relations, which are fickle on a
good day.
Meanwhile, even as they ardently
defend Israel's right to exist with safe,
secure borders, Jews can't let interna-
tional hostility toward the Netanyahu
government blur their support for
improved conditions for ordinary
Palestinians, who certainly lack the
means to help themselves.

30

January 12 - 2012

Commentary

A Skewed View

Israel a target of imbalanced media focus.

0

ver many years, there has been much
anguish over how the news media
cover Israel, with critics and media
watchdogs analyzing every word to prove how
Israel is being unfairly pilloried.
Much of the work of many Jewish organiza-
tions involves "setting the record straight" by
developing responses to what they consider
inaccurate and biased reporting.
Of course, there is some – perhaps even more
than some – truth in the charge that the media
overall deal with Israel unfairly, yet the major
point that has been missed is not what is said
about Israel but what is omitted about the Jewish state
and, more importantly, what is not reported about Israel's
adversaries.
Therein lies much of the unfairness and one-sidedness.
Consider that the New York Times has for years run
countless editorials about Israel, many of them critical of
its treatment of Palestinians and Israel's intransigence in
refusing to negotiate a peace while it generally has been
silent about how the Arab states treat their own or their
reluctance to compromise.
(I did not research New York Times editorials to write
the last statement but having read the Times for decades,
I am confident that I am accurate in stating that it has
been much more critical of Israel in its editorials than of

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Arab countries.)
Most recently, the Times has reported
almost daily on "extremist" settlers attacking
Palestinians but has ignored the continuing
rocket attacks from Gaza. This is not to sug-
gest a defense of settler attacks but intended to
show what might be called a "double standard."
Syria's recent oppression of its own people
during protests in which thousands were killed
by the government did not garner the same
kind of coverage that Gaza or the Lebanon War
received.
Moreover, equally noteworthy, is that the cov-
erage, in tone, lacks the moral outrage the media exhibit
when covering Israel.
For all its flaws, Israel is still the only democracy in the
Middle East while its neighbors – its enemies – are dic-
tatorships that blatantly violate human rights. But very
little of that reaches the public. When such coverage is
ignored, whether inadvertently or intentionally, the pic-
ture is skewed and consumers of such news receive an
unbalanced portrait of the Middle East crisis.
Years ago, for instance, when the Detroit News had
more space and devoted more resources to the cover-
age of local mayoral races than it does now, the rule was
never to write a story in the general election on any day
on one candidate without having a similar story of equal
length on the candidate's opponent. The news orga-
nization understood that if it ignored one candidate
even on one day that would imply – more than imply
– unfairness if not a bias. This "bias by omission"
problem is, indeed, a difficult nut to crack. While
it is easy to identify "unfair" coverage by pointing
to inaccuracies, bias or distortion of history, it is
almost impossible to attack the media for what they
omit.
But, again, the omissions may be much more seri-
ous than an unbalanced or biased report on Israel,
particularly when these omissions occur over many
years. A published report can be analyzed and cri-
tiqued, but nothing can be done on what never sees
the light of day.
What if the world's news organizations had a rule
in the coverage of Israel, i.e., when they wrote how
Israel abuses Palestinians next to a story of how
Arab states treat Jews? They would not even have
to do this daily, just periodically.
Thus the problem is not entirely what is written
about Israel, but what is not said – not said about
Israel's democracy or its enemies.
So here is a question that Israel's critics in the
media might ponder to start a more civil and objec-
tive discussion of Israel: Would they rather be Arab
journalists living and working in Israel or Jewish
journalists plying their trade and raising families in
an Arab country – any one of them? ❑

Berl Falbaum of West Bloomfield is an author and public rela-

tions executive. He teaches journalism part-time at Wayne

State University in Detroit. He is a former political reporter.

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