Media Must Police Media

hen The Washington Post started drawing heat for its latest “Mouthpiece Theater” video, in which Post staffers Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza suggested it would be appropriate for Hillary Clinton to drink “Mad Bitch” beer, the paper made the problem go away—literally. There doesn’t appear to be any official record of the decision to remove the video anywhere on the site—not in the corrections column, not on the page that collects Milbank’s work, not on Cillizza’s blog “The Fix,” where the post promoting the video is still in place, but the player itself is unresponsive. And no mention of the decision has been appended to the transcript of Cillizza’s live chat from 11 a.m. Friday, and etc. etc.

But the Post’s decision to publish, and then quietly “unpublish,” the video raises questions, which CJR's (Columbia Journalism Review) Greg Marx asks today.

Meanwhile, two takes on the recent complaints about fair linking practices from Ian Shapira of The Washington Post.:

Megan Garber parses the lack conflicting impulses in the debate, and notes that it calls out for linking standards.

And Bill Grueskin points to another example, in which Gawker credited the St. Petersburg Times for a courageous and time-consuming investigation, but buried the links to the Times under a number of links to Gawker's own content.

Finally, CJR's Trudy Lieberman finds several bright spots in press coverage of the debate over health care reform. Coverage lately has centered on the legislative horse race, as we knew it would, and the press has went wild covering nearly every twist and turn in the chase to get bills passed by the full House and Senate before the August recess. This sort of coverage has two downsides: it misses what the special interests are up to, and it shortchanges the public—which most of all needs to know how health reform would affect them.

But here, Lieberman commends a trio of exceptional pieces that do try to address those questions.

We hope you enjoy these stories,

the editors





Singing for peace in Israel


Singing for peace in Israel

A campaign to stop a Leonard Cohen concert fails to understand the impact of such artists as Joan Baez and Roger Waters
"This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender," reads the famous slogan on Pete Seeger's banjo. The legendary folksinger, who is celebrating his 90th birthday this year, popularised one of the most powerful peace songs ever written: "Last night I had the strangest dream, I'd ever dreamed before. I dreamed the world had all agreed, to put an end to war" – a song that was played for many years every day on Abie Nathan's pirate Voice of Peace radio station based "somewhere in the Mediterranean".
Music has frequently accompanied struggles for freedom, equality and peace, like the songs of the Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish civil war, the civil rights movement in the United States, and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.

For us in the peace movement, many of these songs have been part of the soundtrack of our lives and struggles.

And now a group of academics in the UK – among them Professor Haim Bresheeth, who spent many years in Israel – is urging Leonard Cohen to cancel his concert in Israel, scheduled for 24 September, because "your songs have been part of the soundtrack of our lives". It is not "the right action" according to the Buddhist precepts he identifies with, because it sends a message of support for Israeli military actions against Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Well, Leonard Cohen's music is part of the soundtrack of my life as well, and I think he is doing the right thing performing in Israel this September, and I will add that I have no idea where he stands on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since he usually doesn't voice his political positions either in his music or otherwise.

But there are others who have made their positions very clear.

Back in 1978, Joan Baez was invited to appear at an Israeli Woodstock-type festival in the Sinai desert oasis town of Nuweiba. When Israeli peace activists told her that it was in occupied (ie Egyptian) territory, she cancelled her participation. However, she insisted on coming to perform in Israel and Lebanon, to demonstrate her identification with both Israelis and Palestinians. Her visit coincided with one of the first major Israeli-Palestinian dialogues, organised by the Tel Aviv-based peace monthly New Outlook. It later appeared in book form under the title When Enemies Dare to Talk.

She used the opportunity to meet the Israeli participants in the dialogue at the Jerusalem home of Yaacov Arnon, the former director general of the finance ministry, and one of the first people to enter into ongoing dialogue with the PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. She also met Palestinians at the home of Professor Nafez Nazzal in Ramallah, and academics at Birzeit University.

In 2006 there were calls for Roger Waters, the Pink Floyd leader, not to perform in Israel out of identification with the Palestinians. Waters – who performed The Wall when the Berlin Wall came down, and will hopefully have an opportunity to perform when the separation wall snaking along and through the West Bank comes down (and it will come down) – did not listen to those calls. Instead he chose to make a statement against the occupation and for Israeli-Palestinian peace by performing in Israel at the joint Jewish-Arab community Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam.

And just about a month ago, Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul and Mary) also chose to come to Israel, after the Gaza war, to perform Blowing in the Wind, and to sing with the audience about having a hammer "of justice, of freedom, a song between my brothers and my sisters, all over this world". Yarrow came, together with the educator Charlotte Frank, to promote a programme called Operation Respect which advocates using music to overcome violence in the schools and developing respect for the other. They wanted to introduce it in both Israel and Palestine, since children are the key to a non-violent, peaceful future.

Yarrow told me that he became involved in the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace after appearing at a Passover peace rally on the streets of New York back in 1989. When he decided to come to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, he consulted with his family, including his daughter, who had gone to struggle against apartheid in South Africa. They all supported his decision. "People here are desperate," he said. "They need new sources of hope. We must engage young people, and one of the key ways of doing this is via music and art."

And at all of his public appearances during his latest visit, mainly before educators and activists, he made his positions on war and peace, the need to end the occupation, and the need for freedom and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians very clear. When he was unable to perform in the West Bank because of "the situation", Yarrow insisted on meeting Palestinian journalists in Jerusalem so that he could communicate his message to the Palestinian people.

Professor Bresheeth, one of the organisers of the call to Leonard Cohen, was the founder of the cinema studies department at Sapir College, in the Negev near Sderot and Gaza. Last week I went to the Tel Aviv Cinemateque to see a showing of an impressive feature film called 18 Kilometers, directed by student Avi Levi. It tells a very human story – in both Hebrew and Arabic, with Jewish and Palestinian actors – about the lives of ordinary people in Gaza and Sderot who live 18km from each other. After the film ended, the current department head, Avner Feingelrant closed the evening by declaring: "May the flame of creativity defeat the fire of war."

Hillel Schenker
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 14 May 2009 10.30 BST

letter to Leonard Cohen regarding tour in Israel

Robert Kory

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Dear Leonard Cohen,

I realize that via your manager, Robert Kory, you have received numerous requests not to appear in Israel. This is not such a letter, even though I do agree with the requests and the principles of the boycott. Still, you are an adult and must come to your own conclusions.

However, your decision should be grounded on facts, as, for instance the cost of Israel’s occupation and colonization to Jewish Israelis.

Personal Background: (author)
Just so that you know who is writing, let me briefly describe myself.
I am a 77 year old Jewish Israeli female who has both US and Israeli citizenship, and a PhD from Tel Aviv University. I have lived in Israel for 51 years, having come here with the desire to raise my 3 children in a Jewish state. Having been of the Holocaust generation, I was sure that Jews needed a state of their own. I convinced my Israeli husband, who had come to the US to study (and who at the age of 10 had escaped from Austria with his parents and brother to Palestine in 1939), to return to Israel, although he would have been quite content to stay in the US (he has an MA in engineering from UC Berkeley).

I was utterly ignorant at the time of Palestinian suffering. I believed the mantra that the Jews were a people without a country coming to a land without people. It took years before I discovered that this and other such claims were lies, and that the Zionist founding fathers themselves were aware of this.

But I do not want to write about the injustice and tragedy that Palestinians have suffered. I am sure that you have had more than enough of that in other letters. Again, I by no means imply symmetry between Palestinian suffering and Israeli when I claim that Israeli Jews pay a high price for occupation.

Still, that price exists, and you should be aware of it. It can be stated in a single phrase: the devaluation of human life, Jewish as well as Palestinian. This devaluation is due to the policies of expansion and ethnic cleansing common to all Israel’s governments.

Devaluation, in turn, can be divided into at least 4 areas: loss of life and limb in violence, socio-economic conditions, the incidence of PTDS among Israeli combat soldiers fighting a civilian population, and the total absence of security.

Since I realize that to detail these would take more time and space than you would have to read, I attach 2 compilations that I have made, and which I hand out at my presentations abroad (mostly in the US). One of these, Living in a continuous state of war shows that over 22,000 Israeli ‘security’ forces have been killed in violence since Israel came into being, and over 1000 civilians since the year 2000. These numbers may seem small to an American. But remember that Israeli Jews number but 5 million—about as many Jews as presently live in the US.

These figures alone tell you that the Zionist dream of a safe haven for Jews is a myth. It has never occurred. In fact, since WWII there is no place in the world (excepting war zones as Afghanistan, et al) less safe for Jews than is Israel.

In Israel the Jewish womb is a mechanism for producing soldiers, with no end to this in sight. According to Jewish lore God refused to allow Abraham to sacrifice his only son. But in Israel mothers who love their children no less than mothers elsewhere (but who are thoroughly brain washed) lead their sons and daughters (Israel is one of very few countries that conscripts females) to sacrifice their lives if need be. That so-called need has come up in 12 (yes TWELVE) wars and military campaigns in less than 61 years! Can you imagine at your age having lived through these? And for what? For the sake of expansion and ethnic cleansing. Israel’s forces are not defense forces (as they claim to be) but occupation forces carrying out their governments’ theft of Palestinian land and the harassment and killing of Palestinians.

Furthermore, while Israeli governments expand huge sums of money on expansion and ethnic cleansing, they continue to call on the Holocaust to justify their acts while at the same time leaving aging Holocaust survivors to live under the poverty line in misery (the second compilation has statistics and reports on this and other such matters).

With the hope that you will at the least thumb through the 2 compilations, I end with only one further comment: Israel not only is not a haven for Jews, it is one of the worst things that has happened to them. Israel is not a democracy. It is an ethnography. And just as any country grounded on race, religion, ethnos will always have an eye to demographic concerns rather than to democratic ones, so Israel is racist, undemocratic, and is always preparing for the next war.

Only when there will be justice for the Palestinians and an end to Israel’s colonization of Palestine will there be peace for all who live here and a future to look forward to. Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived here in peace for centuries until Zionism began to raise its head in Palestine. It can happen again. If there is a will, it need be no dream.

Please keep these data in mind, Leonard Cohen, and rethink your decision to sing in Israel. Since your intention to come to Israel has become public, Israeli radio has been singing your praises.

Thus by coming, you are putting a feather in Israel’s political and cultural cap, but are not doing a favor to either Jews or Arabs or others who live here. Your place should be on the side of right and justice, not on the side of the strong who use force and brain washing to attain political aims.

Finally, if you nevertheless decide to come, I should be happy to accompany you to Sderot and other such Israeli communities as well as to a tour of a portion of the West Bank. Seeing is not necessarily believing, but it can help to inform those who wish to be informed.


Dorothy Naor

Herzliah, Israel