Another real journalist calls it a career

You wouldn’t think that a newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana would be an industry leader–but because

Craig and me

Craig and me

of Craig Klugman, it is. Craig is retiring next month after more than three decades as editor of the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. We were at Indiana University together in the 1960s, putting out the campus newspaper.

With his keen eye and relentless sense of humor, he guided his Fort Wayne paper into territories rarely explored by mid-sized dailies–foreign news. Craig eagerly published many of my articles from Israel and Cairo over the years, when few others expressed an interest. I suspect that one reason is that my articles take readers off the beaten path, and few editors are prepared to “take the chance” of going it alone. That never bothered Craig.

Journalism will miss him, and I will miss him as an editor–but I am proud to call him a dear friend.

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Violence in Israel—how bad is it, really?

“This is the worst situation Israel has faced in decades,” said a worried and angry friend, repeating an assessment he’d heard. That was a few hours after I arrived in Baltimore straight from the “front” in Israel, where Palestinians have attacked dozens of Israelis, mostly in knife attacks, over the past several weeks.

His grim view is a reflection of the agony inflicted on supporters of Israel in North America with their perception of tendentious and one-sided media coverage of the Palestinian attacks.

Western reporting of the violence has tended toward treating the murderers and Israel’s response to their attacks as morally equal, playing up the suffering of the Palestinians and all but ignoring the Jewish victims. Local Israeli news coverage, on the other hand, concentrates on the targets of the Palestinian terrorists.

Here’s a typical contrast: On the same day, the New York Times headlined the despair of Palestinians in east Jerusalem, while the Jerusalem Post emphasized the attacks:NYT Jpost

It’s an extension of the decades-long identification of the West and its media with any side that appears to be the underdog—in this case, the Palestinians. So anything that doesn’t fit into that box doesn’t get into the paper or on the air. It’s not even intentional at this point—it’s automatic. Here’s the take of the Los Angeles Times:

Los Angeles Times

And a photo spread on CNN’s website, with 16 pictures—only one of them clearly of a Jew, and that one showing the Jew menacing a Palestinian woman:

photo spread

So no wonder that Jews over here in America seem to feel as threatened as Jews in Israel. In Israel, it’s not justified, at least not yet. It could develop into something more dangerous, and to some extent that depends on how Israel responds. At this point it remains largely a matter of individual attacks by young Palestinians, spurred on by incitement from their leaders—including Israeli Arab leaders—as well as the wave of Islamic extremism washing over the region and decades of Palestinians blaming Israel for everything that’s wrong with their lives.

Let’s be clear. This is far from the worst wave of violence Israel has had to deal with, even in this century. It’s not a “third intifada.” It’s not a threat to the existence of the Jewish state. It’s not a reason for people to cancel trips to Israel, and it’s not a reason for Israelis to stay off the streets or stop riding buses. Though some Israelis are showing that level of fear, most are just stepping up their vigilance while going about their regular daily lives—the right response under the circumstances.

Perspective—since 1987, there have been two bloody Palestinian “intifada” uprisings, a Gulf war that involved Israel, a war in Lebanon and two in Gaza. Thousands of rockets fell in Israel.

Let’s examine the “third intifada” image. References to the past are the standard human way of dealing with troubling events of the present. That said, a wave of stabbing attacks amounts to much, much less than the two Palestinian uprisings.

As a radio correspondent, I was on the scene of the Palestinian atrocities of those two uprisings. I walked through the rubble of blown-up restaurants. I picked my way through the smoking skeletons of Jerusalem buses hit by suicide bombers. Thousands died in those two conflicts.

As of now, about a dozen Israelis and two dozen Palestinians have been killed in a wave of violence that has centered mostly on Jerusalem. A few days before flying to the US, I was on an Israeli TV news program talking about media coverage, and the two anchors did what I have done so often that my wife covers her ears—they compared the death toll from the terrorist attacks to the death toll on Israel’s highways during the same period. At that time, it was terrorists 12, highways 19.

And here in Baltimore, 213 people were murdered in the first eight months of 2015. Perspective.

So while one can ask why the media coverage of Israeli-Palestinian violence is so one-sided, one can also ask why there’s much coverage at all.

Indeed, much of the criticism is over the lack of reporting about Israelis who have been attacked. It does appear that there is less coverage of this wave of violence than there has been in the past. That is easily explainable by the fact that there is a much larger and more important story developing in the Mideast—Syria, with its millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of dead and active Russian involvement—not to mention that there’s a Presidential campaign underway in the US, soaking up much media attention.

That leaves less room in the media for the usual out-of-proportion obsession with Israel and the Palestinians.

And considering the record of Western media when dealing with the Israel-Palestinian issue over the past two decades—that’s probably a good thing.

Egypt’s electing a parliament again–Mark on the radio

Voting for president in 2011

Voting for president in 2011

It’s election day in Egypt again. People are voting for a new parliament. Since 2011, they’ve voted for a parliament, four constitutions and two presidents.. They’re evidently getting tired of it–turnout for the first day was low. On KQV Radio in Pittsburgh a few minutes ago, I discussed the background with host PJ Maloney. The main fact–if it looks as if Egypt is a democracy now, look again. Military strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is running the show, and for now, his people are just fine with that. It’s counter-intuitive for the West, but here’s the fact–Egypt needs a dictatorship now to fix its critical problems. Democracy doesn’t work there. The quicker we realize that–and apply it to much of the world–the quicker we’ll start relating to the world in a realistic way.

Don’t ban reporters from West Bank–Mark shouts on TV in Hebrew

Mark on Channel 10

Mark on Channel 10

It’s how you get yourself heard in Israel. I’ve got the pipes for it, but I don’t like to do it…unless someone starts saying that reporters should be kept away from incidents in the West Bank because a Palestinian wrote “Press” on his shirt and then stabbed an Israeli soldier. Holding up his iPhone, the guy–a normally intelligent, thoughtful member of Parliament–said anyway we’ll find out what’s going on because of these things. No, we won’t, I interjected–this has happened before, when the Israeli government banned reporters from most of the West Bank durign the first Palestinian uprising 1987-1993, and what you get is photos and video of staged and fake events, tendentious shots and one-sided “coverage.” In the end he agreed with me. Even though the media isn’t what it used to be–journalists are still better than advocates and amateurs. Usually.

This is happening on Israel TV’s Channel 10 morning show at 7:30 in the morning. There’s more–me saying that today’s journalism is more about clicks than accuracy, that the tendency is to favor the underdog–the Palestinians–and stories that don’t fit into that framework don’t get reported. I get cut off just before I give the best example–Israel’s 2008 peace offer to the Palestinians, which I discovered, but was banned from writing about by AP. But you’ve heard me talk about that, in English even.

“Farewell to Syria”–experts echo Broken Spring

This sounds as if the experts have been reading my posts and listening to me on the radio: the Syria we knew before 2010 will

Fractured Syria as of Sept. 30, 2015 (National Geographic)

Fractured Syria as of Sept. 30, 2015 (National Geographic)

not return. That’s the conclusion of one of Israel’s leading think tanks, the Institute for national Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

I’ve been talking about a historic realignment in the Middle East that could well take decades to shake out, and it won’t be pretty. There is little the West (or Russia) can do to stop it or shape it, beyond helping the refugees–and that, in itself, is a noble and useful goal.

This article outlines the reasons why Syria cannot be put back together again. What the analysis lacks is an assessment or whether that would even have been a good idea. The Syria we grew up with was a terror state run by cruel despots–Hafez Assad and his son Bashar. What will replace that regime, eventually, may not be better for the people of Syria or the region, but it’s hard to imagine it would be worse.

There is a tendency among analysts to pick a point in history and declare it the ideal, something to be restored. That is usually the wrong approach. This article is the first serious one I’ve seen, outside this website, that moves toward acknowledging  that fact.

Israeli-Palestinian violence will subside, says Mark on the radio

Going out on a limb here, and on the air…I don’t think we’re seeing the beginning of a “third Palestinian intifada” knife despite all the knife attacks against Israelis, and I laid out my reasons on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh a few minutes ago, talking to host PJ Maloney.

Just as generals are known to prepare for fighting the last war, so ordinary citizens naturally look for a context to explain troubling events, usually a historical parallel. That leads to dire predictions of a “third intifada,” meaning mass demonstrations, suicide bombings, buses blowing up and all the rest.

I don’t see an inclination on either side to turn the clock back. Instead, there will be something new, and we had better all open our eyes and look for it instead of wasting our time looking backward.

What’s new is the emergence of a generation of Palestinians–and Israelis–who don’t remember the heady few days that followed the signing of the first partial peace accords between 1993 and 1995. These youngsters know the other side only as the targets of hatred and various levels of victimhood.

We better all start dealing with that.

Why the media screws up here–Mark on TV in Hebrew

This one’s in Hebrew…it’s me on Israel TV Channel 2’s morning news and features program, talking

Israel's 2008 peace offer

Israel’s 2008 peace offer

about why the current wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence isn’t getting prominent coverage in Western media. Short answer–because it’s no big deal internationally, especially compared to Syria. That said, in general there’s way too much news about Israel-Palestinians compared to the actual importance of the story, always has been. I say my next book might be titled, “The Most Over-Covered Story in the History of Journalism.”

I also explain why Western media mess up coverage here, and I recount the story of my huge scoop that was suppressed by AP–Israel’s 2008 peace offer to the Palestinians, which I was first to discover.

What’s remarkable about this is that I actually look relatively awake and sound relatively cogent at 8 o’clock in the morning ;-(