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Friday, August 21, 2009

Distorted values

Three events took place this week that are seemingly disconnected, but in each event a meaningful value was distorted almost beyond recognition. It's important to look at how the values were distorted and to learn the lessons that need to be learned for the future.

The first value is compassion.
Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, suffering from terminal prostate cancer, was freed from prison in Scotland, with Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill citing compassionate grounds for the release and saying al Megrahi was “going home to die.”

A large crowd, waving flags and honking horns, greeted al Megrahi at the military airport in Tripoli.
But the Torah teaches us that compassion is not always the correct value to invoke. The classic case of compassion wrongly shown is the case of King Saul, who ignored God's command to totally wipe out the Amalekites - who posed a mortal threat to the Jews - allowing their female children, sheep and king to survive. The king managed to escape long enough to impregnate a woman, and as a result, the Amalekites survived and continue - say the rabbis - to threaten the Jews in every generation (albeit under different names). God punished Saul by revoking the royal line from his family.

Our rabbis derive from this story that one who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind. Saul ends up pursuing King David all over the land of Israel, and ends up murdering an entire city of priests who helped King David without knowing that he was fleeing from Saul.

Al-Megrahi is a mass murderer. Although he is dying, releasing him to the hero's welcome that took place in Tripoli on Thursday was completely out of place. Aside from the fact that it let a mass murderer feel loved, it let the next mass murderer know that society will forgive his crime too, even without any remorse on his part.

The second value is freedom of expression. Earlier this week, the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet published a disgraceful story that accused IDF soldiers of harvesting organs from dead 'Palestinians.'

The Israeli government has asked the Swedish government to condemn the story. The Swedish government has refused to condemn the story, has criticized its own ambassador to Israel for condemning it (and insisted that the condemnation be removed from the embassy's web site) and has defended its behavior with references to 'freedom of expression.'
Bildt said in a blog posted late Thursday that he would not condemn an article in the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet that suggested Israeli troops had harvested the organs of dead Palestinians. He said freedom of expression is part of the Swedish constitution.

"Freedom of expression and press freedom are very strong in our constitution by tradition. And that strong protection has served our democracy and our country well," Bildt wrote. "If I were engaged in editing all strange debate contributions in different media I probably wouldn't have time to do much else."

Bildt said he understood why the article stirred strong emotions in Israel, but said basic values in society are best protected by free discussion.
But no one asked Bildt or anyone else to restrict freedom of expression. I may have the right to say whatever I want (so long as it does not endanger others - I can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater when there is no fire), but that doesn't negate the right of others to criticize the things I say. Surely it would not impair a free press in Sweden if the country's foreign minister denounced this story as the blood libel that it is.

Read the whole thing.

The third value that was distorted this week was the value of having a critical press. Growing up in America, I understood the differences between the news page and the editorial page. News pages gave facts, editorial pages gave opinions. This has never been true in Europe, where even the facts are editorialized, and unfortunately, it is becoming less true in the United States and in Israel as well. One example of the blurring of the fact/opinion distinction in Israel this week was the treatment of Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon's treatment of Israel's Left. Israel's leftist mainstream media went berserk in Friday's editions, publishing editorial condemnations of Yaalon as facts on the news pages.

Yediot Acharonot, the nation’s largest-circulation paper, featured a front-page editorial on Ya’alon under the header “Degeneral” – a combination of the words “degenerate” and “general.”

The column, by senior correspondent Sima Kadmon, goes on to say: “Instead of beating about the bush, [or] looking for hidden motives, let us say things directly: the man is simply not so smart.”

“True, it is terrible to think that he was the supreme commander of our army,” Kadmon wrote, “and it is no less tragic to think that he serves today as Deputy Prime Minister.” She suggests that people need to recognize “the fact that there is a personality problem here.” She winds up her psychological analysis of Ya’alon with the words: “someone once said: when you are born stupid, you remain that way for life.”

The front page headline of Ma’ariv refers to Ya’alon by his nickname, “Bogie,” and calls the entire matter “A Bogie malfunction.”
While it's important to have a critical press, it's also important for that press to distinguish between fact and opinion. Sadly, that lesson was lost in Israel this week.

Read the whole thing.

Shabbat Shalom. Have a wonderful Sabbath everyone.


At 12:32 AM, Blogger chanan dov said...

To a Muslim it is not distorted. Allah told Muhammad to tell all Muslims to form a pan islamic world. Non-muslims were to live subjected to Muslims till they converted, or were killed, or converted. He was only doing what Allah told him to do.

At 1:48 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

The Israeli government has asked the Swedish government to condemn the story.

why not ask the Swedish government to return the gold stolen from dead Jewish bodies that they received for iron ore to the wehrmacht.
The Swiss have been dragged through the mud recently, wh y have the Swedes escaped scrutiny.

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Russ Harris said...

Well the Swiss are no better.

The Swiss government has been accused of bowing to totalitarianism after apologising to Libya for the arrest of one of the president's sons, Hannibal Gaddafi, last year.


Face it, Europe is capitulating without having ever fired a shot


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