I just read a story by the Washington Post’s Israel correspondent, Joel Greenberg which makes me retain some hope that this media outlet isn’t a hopeless slave to the pro-Israel hasbara line advocated in the Op-Ed section by Fred Hiatt. Though I don’t follow the Post as closely as I do the NY Times, I’m fairly sure Greenberg must be newish to the assignment as I remember they had another reporter there until recently. If that’s the case, it could bode well for the future independence of WaPo coverage there.
Greenberg was a reporter for the NY Times in Israel from the early 1990s through the early 2000s. Though accusations made against him during the Ethan Bronner IDF fiasco noted that Greenberg served in the IDF while he was covering the country for the Times, they did not note that he became an early seruvnik by refusing to serve in Lebanon in 1983. This was an especially brave act in those days and remains so today.
Greenberg’s reporting on the first Intifada exposed some of the worst excesses of the IDF in suppressing it, which was another brave reportorial choice for which he deserves credit. He is also the son of one of the most brilliant and respected Bible scholars of the era, Moshe Greenberg. I had the honor of studying with him twice, once as an undergraduate in Israel and once as a grad student. He was a towering figure intellectually and Jewishly. His students stood in awe of him.
Larry Cohler Esses, who updated my earlier incomplete reporting about Joel Greenberg’s background, informs me that the Bible scholar published a searing critique of racism among the most right wing Orthodox movements like Chabad. In fact, he accused such groups of advocating notions of Jewish genetic superiority that remind one of an earlier era (his way of politely referring to the Nazis).
Today’s story about the increasing moderation and pragmatism in Hamas’ political pronouncements is very acute reporting. Greenberg notes that the Arab Spring has proven a potential game-changer, not just for the Arab states which have toppled dictators, but for Hamas as well. He points to Hamas’ increasing distance from Bashar al-Assad’s tainted Syrian regime (as opposed to Hezbollah and Iran, which appear to have learned little from the bloodbath ensuing there).
He notes Hamas’ increasing convergence with the new Egyptian political reality and the Muslim Brotherhood there, which may form a majority government after elections are completed. If the moderate Islamists form a coalition that includes non-Islamists, that will send a strong signal to Hamas that it can and should do the same.
The proof of course is in the pudding, and it remains to be seen whether Hamas can overcome its antipathy to Fatah and join in a unity government, as it has been threatening to do for what seems like years now.
Hamas is now looking to nations like Turkey, Egypt, and Tunisia for it’s models of political Islam and not to its soon to be former patrons in Damascus and possibly Teheran.
What is important about Greenberg’s story is that he’s rejecting the storyline spoon fed by Israeli politicians to the media and the west, that the Arab states are transitioning from an Arab Spring to an Islamist Winter. This is utter nonsense of course and corresponds to almost nothing in the current Arab reality. Though it does correspond to an Israeli narrative which sees the Arabs as evil and Israel as the sole remaining western bulwark against radical Islam (see my recent post about Bogie Yaalon’s foreign press briefing last week).
It remains to be seen whether Hamas can truly capitalize on these massive changes in the Arab world. But any reasonable observer’s money has to be on Hamas rather than Israel as most likely to take advantage of the transformation and exploit it to their advantage.
One factor Greenberg didn’t mention is Hamas’ massive success in freeing 1,500 prisoners from Israeli jails in return for the freeing of Gilad Shalit. Not only is this seen as a success inside Gaza, but in Palestine as a whole, and even beyond. Israeli and U.S. media have been filled with stories proclaiming the biggest winner in the prisoner swap as Hamas (and not Israel).
If this is the quality of future reporting that Greenberg brings to this assignment, then I’ll have to branch out from my reliance on the Times for my main dose of U.S. MSM coverage of the conflict. Thanks for