This incident happened while I was visiting my brother in Oregon and I didn’t find out about it till my return, when I read an e mail from reader Dan Sniderman, who pointed me to this post at The Field Negro. Dan and I both agree that it was a disgrace for Maariv to publish Obama’s personal petek, placed reverentially by him among the stones of the Kotel.
Apparently, even yeshiva bochers at the Kotel have become the equivalent of Jewish paparazzi because one stalked Obama, searched through other p’takim till he found Obama’s and then shopped it to Yediot and Maariv, among others. It reminds me of desperate celebrity stalkers who rummage through stars’ trash for something salacious enough to be salable to the tabloid press. Thankfully, it was beneath Yediot’s dignity to bite on this journalistic fish. But Maariv, having no scruples to speak of, gobbled the morsel up and regurgitated it for its readers.
What I find especially repellant about Maariv’s “defense” of its actions are the lies and Judaic supremacism that characterized its response. This is how the Jerusalem Post reported the story:
…A Ma’ariv spokesman said that “Barack Obama’s note was approved for publication in the international media even before he put in the Kotel, a short time after he wrote it at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. In any case, since Obama is not a Jew, publishing the note does not constitute an infringement on his right to privacy.”
Obama’s campaign…made clear that the campaign hadn’t approved the publication of any kind of prayer note.
“Prayer notes at the Wall should remain private,” a campaign aide said.
The paper added that is was “pleased” with its “journalistic accomplishment.”
Either the Maariv spokesperson was woefully misinformed about the Obama note being approved for publication or he was simply lying with impunity. Either possibility is simply disgraceful journalistic practice.
I also find especially noxious the idea that since Obama is Christian and therefore not fulfilling any religious commandment in praying at the Kotel, that stealing his petek is somehow permissible. Have we Jews come to the point that we justify unethical behavior by denying that non-Jews have rights when they enter our holy sites?
In addition, you know that the thief also justified his actions to himself using the same rhetoric: it’s not theft since Obama isn’t Jewish and victimizing a goy is permissible. If that doesn’t bring Orthodox Judaism, or at least this particular practitioner of it, into disrepute I don’t know what will.
Gershom Gorenberg notes that a New Republic writer typically attempted to besmirch Obama’s alleged involvement in this episode only to find yet another Maariv spokesperson who denied the first spokesperson quoted in the Jerusalem Post, existed:
…The accusation [that the Obama campaign released the note] is “completely false,” and that he has no idea who these papers were quoting from Ma’ariv. “No official spokesman for Ma’ariv told this to any of the papers.”
You’ll note the phrase “no official spokesperson.” That provides a loophole big enough to drive a truck through since I presume they would claim someone speaking off the record was not an official spokesperson. But does Maaariv seriously expect us to believe that the Post simply made up the quotation?
I really like this laugher of a phrase from TNR’s blogger describing Maariv:
Though Ma’ariv is one of Israel’s most prominent newspapers, there is certainly reason to question its motives regarding this story…
There are a lot of adjectives I’d use to describe Maariv, but “most prominent” would not be one of them: ‘scurrilous’ perhaps, ‘slutty,’ ‘tabloid journalism.’ They all fit. But not “most prominent.” The fact that someone at TNR considers Maariv so tells you a lot about TNR and its standards.