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Thursday, December 30, 2010

More on the Forward article on Richard Goldstone

Over at Contentions, Omri Ceren talks a bit about the Goldstone Report Watch website I mentioned here.
And here is a screenshot of “Understanding the Goldstone Report,” a project spearheaded by Richard Landes of Pallywood fame, where more than a dozen journalists and bloggers (myself included) picked apart the report paragraph by paragraph and often sentence by sentence. I’ve unscrolled the “Case Study” category on the menu bar to show where some of the distinct accusations — “the contents of the report” — were dealt with specifically.

There are also pages documenting the broad procedural flaws of the investigation, the caliber of individual witnesses, the importance of concealed evidence, the role of anti-Israel mediators, the dynamics of human-shield accusations, plus about 30 other issues. Yet another section, maintained by Daled Amos, served as a clearinghouse for criticisms posted on related blogs, like Elder of Ziyon, which alone had more than 25 Goldstone-related posts digging through the text of the report.

In size and scope, the site rivals the IDF’s comprehensive Goldstone rebuttal — another document that, by the by, directly rebutted “the contents of the report.” It has so much material and is so on-point, in fact, that it’s the top result on Google for “goldstone report.” It ranks higher than the .pdf of the actual Goldstone Report, which continues to be the focus of an international anti-Israel feeding frenzy. SEO tricks might give a site a slight advantage on Google, but nothing can push irrelevant content to the very top of a very crowded field.
As some of you know, I am also one of the bloggers who contributed to Understanding the Goldstone Report.

So what motivated Letty Cottin Pogrebin, who wrote the Forward article? This article from 2008 by Phyllis Chesler sheds some light on that question?
Pogrebin, a founding editor of the original Ms. and a friend and ally of Gloria Steinem, feels she has been "forced" to choose between her feminism and her Zionism, between the preservation of her own feminist legacy and her pro-Israel and pro-Jewish principles.

The AJCongress is a liberal Jewish organization that - finally feeling desperate enough about all the defamatory anti-Israel propaganda - was willing to pay Ms. to run a neo-feminist pro-Israel ad featuring three powerful Israeli women over the headline: "This is Israel." Ms. decided not to run it, at which point the AJCongress held a press conference that challenged Ms.'s decision.

(Full disclosure: I was one of the speakers and letter-writers whose words and ideas Pogrebin characterizes in her column as "hysterical rants." The others include Blu Greenberg, Susannah Heschel, Francine Klagsbrun and Cynthia Ozick.)

Subsequently, The Nation - a far-left, relentlessly anti-Zionist publication - accepted the ad.

In her new Moment column, "The Ad War: American Jewish Congress vs. Ms. Magazine," Pogrebin concludes that "Ms. was right to reject the ad not just because it was nationalistic but because it violated truth in advertising."


In his 2006 book The Wicked Son, playwright David Mamet analyzed not only the opportunism and cowardice but the religious hunger gone awry that may account for the ways in which many progressive secular Jewish men savagely critique - or at least spurn - too close an association with Israel or with religious Judaism. He likened this syndrome to that of the "wicked son" at the Passover seder who does not think that the story of Jewish slavery and redemption has anything to do with him.

Pogrebin does not fit that mold. She is far from being a self-hating Jew. Her leftward shift, both in general and in her column, is therefore even more troubling - it is certainly more heartbreaking to me. Pogrebin may not believe that her current ideological point of view has deadened her to certain "Jewish Sorrows." But based on her column, one can fairly conclude that Israel's life-and-death struggle has little resonance with her. She magnifies serious social inequalities in Israel (which exist everywhere, even more so in Muslim countries) and minimizes Israel's unique existential struggle for survival.

Pogrebin focuses mainly on the suffering of Israel's women at the hands of Israeli and Jewish patriarchy. The women are suffering. Pogrebin is not wrong about this. But I despair when her emphasis suggests that only such evils are worthy of her deepest concern. To her, there is no "larger" jihadic war that has targeted Israel, Jews and the West, there is only the war against women waged mainly by - men? Jewish and Israeli men? American, Republican, warmongering men?

Pogrebin speaks for many American Jewish feminists who wish to escape the burden of being associated with an increasingly defamed Israel - with an Israel that has, in their eyes, failed to hear the cries of its most vulnerable female citizens.

Such Jewish left-feminists are reluctant to criticize the far greater barbarisms of the Islamic world, including its system of gender and religious apartheid, lest they be viewed as "racists." But if Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, Fatah, and al Qaeda have their way, the secular feminists of Haifa and Tel Aviv will be blown to smithereens together with their haredi and right-wing opponents.

To Pogrebin I say: Let us agree to balance our feminist criticism of Israel with similar criticism of other countries - and to never forget that such criticism will invariably be used against Israel.

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