Contextualizing the JPost and Chazan: You can’t have it both ways
Other recent posts on the latest wave of suppression of dissent in Israel | Essays Hadas Ziv; Hagai El-Ad; Yariv Mohar; Aeyal Gross; Dorit Abramovitch; Amir Paz-Fuchs| News and analysis IDF joins assault on Israeli human rights community;Israeli media goes after New Israel Fund: “Responsible for Goldstone Report”; Hagee and CUFI fund anti-NIF campaign organizer; Two senior Maariv reporters attack the anti-NIF campaign sponsored by their newspaper; Following the Im Tirzu campaign: First Knesset steps against NIF; Israeli McCarthyism, circa 2010; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part I: Keshev’s Yizhar Be’er; Debunking the Im Tirzu report part II: Ha’ir media critic on journalism as propaganda; Delegitimization and censorship continue: JPost stops publishing Naomi Chazan’s columns; Nahum Barnea: How US Jewish leaders stepped in to block the Knesset anti-NIF bill; Yediot’s Sima Kadmon methodically deconstructs the anti-NIF smear campaign |
The firing of Naomi Chazan by The Jerusalem Post has quickly turned the newspaper into a convenient (and attractive) punching bag for the many in Israel and among Jewish-Americans angry and indignant over the anti-NIF smear campaign. Indeed, its conduct in this matter has been more than problematic, as I will expound below.
I believe it is important, however, to be careful not to allow this sorry episode to sully the reputation of what is largely a quality newsroom. Reporters like Dan Izenberg, Tovah Lazaroff, Ben Hartman, Ron Friedman, and Hilary Leila-Krieger, to name just a few, regularly produce good journalism, under incredibly difficult conditions. Abe Selig has closely followed an issue I have been intimately involved in — the emerging protest movement against the evictions of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah — and his reporting has been both fair and balanced (not in the Fox News sense.) He has also done a professional job following the issue at hand.
The news editor, Amir Mizroch, is a responsible and conscientious journalist. On Gaza-related issues, he recently investigated and published an important report on questionable Israeli conduct, which went above and beyond what most of the Israeli media, except Haaretz, were willing to do. In addition, he was the first, on his personal blog, to expose the problematic connection between the Israeli Government Press Office and Maariv’s sponsorship of the anti-NIF campaign.
Many Jewish-Americans have a compelling need to consume in-depth English-language reporting on Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian issues. The English editions of Haaretz and, to a lesser extent, Ynet, are important, but insufficient. The Jerusalem Post expands the breadth of information available and its newsroom performs an important function.
The Post’s editorial line is, in understatement, not my cup of tea. Some of its columnists, like Caroline Glick, engage in a kind of fascist demagoguery that makes even Fox News appear mainstream. Blogger Shmuel Rosner consistently and dishonestly wraps neoconservative talking points in a “centrist” wrapping and seems to operate without any kind of effective editorial supervision. That, however, is part of what a vibrant public discourse is all about and is irrelevant to this discussion.
Having said all that, I will cut to the chase — on the recent Naomi Chazan flap, the Jerusalem Post’s behavior has been unethical and duplicitous. It was the first among the Israeli media, last Sunday (January 31 2010) to publish the Im Tirzu ad, with its explicit incitement and anti-Semitic overtones. When I questioned a senior journalist at the paper about it, he replied, in effect, that there was a firewall between the business and editorial sections of the paper. That is a contentious, but legitimate argument (Haaretz’s editors overruled their ad departments.)
The following day (February 1 2010,) Chazan’s lawyer, Gilead Sher, sent a letter to all the business managements of the Israeli media outlets running the ads — the Post, Maariv and Ynet — demanding that they cease and desist. Notably in this context, this correspondence did not stop the Maariv and Ynet editorial departments from running commentary by NIF associates throughout the week.
On Friday morning, Haaretz English edition’s Dimi Reider revealed that Chazan had been informed by the Post’s editor-in-chief, David Horowitz, that her column was to be discontinued after 14 years. Over the weekend, this development was heralded (including on Coteret) as a sign that the Post had joined the Im Tirzu campaign. This morning (February 7 2010,) Horovitz demurred — the reason for the firing was the above-mentioned legal correspondence.
The Jerusalem Post is trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, it is shirking responsibility for the content of the ad by claiming “separation of powers.” On the other, it is justifying the removal of Chazan from the editorial section by pointing to her confrontation with the business section. This is either dishonest or an admission that the editors are completely subservient to the whims of their bosses. Both options do not bode well for the paper. Its journalists and readers deserve better.