Mazel tov to Juan Cole whose Informed Comment won the Brass Crescent Award for Best Non-Muslim Blog. The Brass Crescent competition acknowledges Muslim blogs. Juan has certainly done a great deal to improve the understanding of Islam and and the Muslim world in the blogosphere and beyond, especially through his dogged coverage of the Iraq war and U.S. Middle East policy.
Lisa Goldman won honorable mention in this category, which is a pity.
She recently wrote a Haaretz column about the police investigation of her trips to Lebanon to report there for Israeli TV. Lebanese journalists have been terribly angry at her reporting. The Daily Star attacked her use of a Canadian passport to enter the country and claimed that she endangered any Lebanese who had any contact with her or was interviewed by her during her stay. Nicholas Noe, publisher of the respected MideastWire news service, which is based in Beirut, wrote this to me:
…She put all of us at risk here, which was selfish and unethical… also her reporting was just plain bad, inaccurate etc – as were her subsequent denials, clarifications etc.
Although she does not seem to understand it, there is a war going on – and her government is very much involved as are people and groups here – which is why, perhaps, she is being prosecuted in her country. Indeed, if nothing else, she willfully put the state of Israel at risk.
On an even more basic level though, her risk-taking failed to produce good journalism. If it had, then maybe, maybe even the journalistic community here could at least think her effort was for a greater good. But it wasn’t. For some weak “reporting,” she endangered other peoples’ lives.
Unlike Nicholas, I do not approve of her prosecution by Israeli police. And I admit to not fully understanding all the arcane intricacies of internal Lebanese politics. I can see that she would’ve put people at risk of being seen as Israeli dupes if they participated in any way with her reporting. And such people, in a volatile political environment, could end up threatened or even dead. I can also see that if, God forbid, a militant group HAD kidnapped her we could’ve had another Alan Johnston situation. That indeed would’ve been horrible for Goldman, for Israel and for journalism.
I think the main point Nicholas raises which I agree with is the insipidness of her Lebanon reporting. If you’re going to take a risk, why not do so in a good cause? Say something important. Make some groundbreaking observations or analysis. She did none of this. She wasted whatever opportunity she had to be an Uri Avnery, a bold, iconoclastic journalistic presence challenging both Israeli and Arab political shibboleths. In fact, this was one of her arguments justifying the value of her reporting to the Israeli viewing public:
“Given that so many Israelis expressed pleasant surprise at seeing Beirut as a beautiful, cosmopolitan city rather than a war zone, it is obvious that we are not obtaining an accurate picture of life in Lebanon.”
You mean it took the intrepid Lisa Goldman to make Israelis realize that Beirut is a “beautiful, cosmopolitan city??” If so, then Israelis haven’t been let in a secret that the rest of the world has known for decades. But I doubt most Israelis are as insipid and ignorant about the region they live in as she implies that they are.
And for this she gets a Brass Crescent Honorable Mention and can brag that the Muslim blog world values her blogging?
Congratulations also to Raising Yousuf for winning a Brass Crescent Award in a separate category. Her blog, based in Gaza is always interesting.
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