One of the consistent themes of this blog is the very narrow slice of political discourse and information that the American Jewish leadership relies on in formulating its positions regarding the Israeli-Arab conflict. Many prominent analysts have noted that discourse is far more freewheeling in Israel than here; and that you can virtually be strung up as an anti-Semite for saying things heard and read almost daily in many of Israel’s major newspapers.
The deafening silence of the Conference of Presidents regarding the Hebron settler riots, which I noted in a post last week, provides an instructive example of this principle in operation. Marc Perelman wrote this week about the fact that the Conference’s Daily Alert, a compendium of news sources about the conflict, maintained full silence about the incident all of last week. Turns out, this was no accident because the Alert is prepared for the Conference by none other than Dore Gold’s Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:
The contents of the Daily Alert are put together by…Dore Gold, a former foreign policy adviser to Likud leaders Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, who is running for prime minister in the February 10 elections. Left-leaning groups have for years complained that the digest consists mostly of right-leaning articles or opinion pieces, reflecting the conference’s political leanings.
Gold, who was appointed by Netanyahu as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations in 1997 and attended a meeting in July between the Likud leader and Barack Obama in Israel, told the Forward that he did not have any formal tie to the Netanyahu campaign. “If I am called in for a meeting I will go but I am not on staff and I’m not paid,” he said on the phone from Jerusalem, adding that his center hosted meetings for political leaders from all stripes. “Obviously everybody comes from somewhere but I am first and foremost a scholar.”
Anyone who has read anything written by Dore Gold knows that he is first and foremost a partisan ideologue. He’s a scholar in the same sense that Daniel Pipes is a scholar, which is not at all.
Here’s Gold’s hollow explanation for omission of Hebron from the Alert:
….Gold…stressed that the Daily Alert was meant to cover issues pertaining to the relationship between Israel and the world and avoid Israeli domestic issues. “We don’t want to get drawn into Israeli internal disputes and the Hebron incidents were very controversial here,” he said.
[Actually,]…Daily Alert articles do…sometimes touch upon internal Israeli topics and often feature stories about Palestinian violence against Israelis. On December 5, two days after the Hebron incidents, the Daily Alert included a small news item from Ynet…about an Israeli woman and her two-month-old daughter being lightly injured by rock-throwing Palestinians near the West Bank town of Nablus…
Gold admitted that given the international repercussions of the Hebron incidents, “in hindsight, we probably should have included a factual story about it.”
The Conference is a consortium of the major national Jewish organizations (though it does not include a number of significant left-leaning ones) and as such, claims it has no particular ideological perspective. As Gold is one of Bibi Netanyahu’s most senior political operatives and Bibi is in the thick of a political campaign, all this raises the question of the propriety of a major, supposedly non-partisan American Jewish group, receiving news briefings every day from Dore Gold.
What does the Conference think Gold’s going to give its members? An unbiased political helping of Israeli political news? If that were the case, the Alert would’ve at least made mention of Hebron. The fact that it didn’t until after the Forward and Jerusalem Post articles both slammed its omission speaks volumes. The Conference, like Aipac, is the heartland of Likudist thinking in the American Jewish community.
I can understand why dovish groups like Peace Now and the Reform movement continue to be involved with both groups. But doesn’t there come a time when the affiliation becomes so noxious that drastic measures are required to either reform the beast from within or withdraw from it and start something new that is more democratic, more representative, while at the same time including an umbrella of mainstream Jewish groups.
Doug Bloomfield also wrote much earlier about this general problem of the Daily Alert’s omission of information that goes against the grain of a rightist Israeli nationalist political perspective. He quotes a telling comment by Ori Nir:
“American Jews simply don’t know about [the growing problem of Jewish terrorism]; they don’t read about it in their Jewish media, not in the Daily Alert…and they don’t hear about it from the leading Jewish organizations,” said Ori Nir, spokesman for Americans for Peace Now.