The art of locking horns

‘Debunking the Bull,’ an anthology of veteran ‘Jerusalem Post’ reporter Sarah Honig’s columns, highlights her unmatched ability to connect the dots.

Sarah Honig 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sarah Honig 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Sarah Honig’s Debunking the Bull anthologizes 57 of the veteran Jerusalem Post reporter’s “Another Tack” columns, written since 1999. The column is her no-holds- barred soapbox for separating fact from fiction, as she sees it, in relation to Israel’s geopolitical situation.
Few writers are as firmly in possession of the facts – with enough gumption and conviction to connect the dots between those facts – as Honig is.
Whether or not readers agree with her hard-hitting conclusions, they’d have to admit she does her homework before putting fingers to keys.
Honig is a famously formidable writer. In his introduction to the book, Post Editor-in-Chief Steve Linde extols her “mind for fine detail… flair for flowery language and the moral integrity to tell the whole truth as she sees it.”
Before getting into the contents of the book, I must note that flowery language is indeed a Honig hallmark, for better or worse. However well-researched and on target her message may be, she tends to overdress it in lacy layers of alliterative prose, heavy with highfalutin vocabulary (“bon ton,” “palaver,” “saccharine,” “latifundia”) that sometimes distracts the reader’s attention from the exquisite garment beneath.
As for the book itself, it has one major fault: The essays lack the date of publication and therefore also a helpful context.
They do not seem to be in chronological order, nor are they grouped by category.
Still, this collection successfully highlights the author’s impressive gift for presenting her observations through the device of relevant historical and biographical anecdotes. She seems to be privy to a huge treasury of such stories, which, however obscure, provide a tangible and educational foundation for her arguments.
For example, in “Boycott is Beautiful,” she examines the BDS movement against Israel by detailing other significant but little-known boycotts – like the one that led to the ruin of Chinese businesses in America’s 1870s West. She cites a white supremacist organization’s resolution – “We recognize the Chinese as an unmitigated curse to the Pacific Coast and a direct threat to the bread and butter of the working class” – and compares it with “the terminology adopted by Israel’s renowned champions of democracy against ‘settlers,’ including residents and employees in Jerusalem neighborhoods beyond the Green Line.”
But her nose isn’t stuck only in history books. She takes on pop personalities including the late Gloved One (“The only thing I ever admired about Michael Jackson was his doll collection”) and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, a BDS supporter. Here’s a vintage piece of Honig writing: “Waters has consistently, almost robotically, espoused every wrongheaded doctrinaire leftist cause since his star first twinkled in the frenzied firmament of psychedelic and ‘progressive’ music.”
In another piece, decrying some Western governments’ warming to Hamas (again, we don’t know when this column was published), the author points out that “making nice to Allah’s fearsome warriors” is nothing new.
“It’s a pattern that replicates itself,” she writes. “The international community can’t wait to whitewash, exonerate, find extenuating excuses for and otherwise legitimize Arab terrorists, lessen their culpability, conceal their ideology, make light of their record, explain away their sins and in general gloss over their proven malice.”
One certainly cannot accuse her of beating about the bush.
BORN IN Israel and raised both here and in the United States, Honig clearly isn’t happy with the current occupant of the White House. But she wears no rose-colored glasses when examining past presidents and their Israel policies, either. One column designed to debunk Israelis’ “tribal myth” that “persistently portrays various White House residents as our trusted friends” unequivocally concludes that “the US consistently deprived Israel of victory, indirectly encouraged Arab attacks, instigated terrorism and incentivized Arab intransigence.”
This same essay provides a good example of her erudite dot-connecting, tracing the effect of US foreign policy decisions vis-à-vis the Jewish state: “Way back in 1948, despite Harry Truman’s hesitant de facto recognition of newborn Israel, America’s arms embargo emboldened Arab invaders. When Dwight Eisenhower forced Israel out of the Sinai in 1957, he promised to keep the Tiran Straits open. Nasser blockaded them a decade later, but America reneged on its assurances, signaling Egypt that its aggression would be tolerated.
Had the US honored its undertaking, there would have been no Six Day War and no ‘occupation’ for Washington to urgently seek to end.”
It must be wearying to maintain a nearly lone voice in the wilderness week after week, pounding away at the same points, sticking to her guns even though she occasionally must feel as if she is tilting at windmills. But unlike Don Quixote, Honig refuses to live in a fantasy world. She’d rather risk getting some of her readers riled up than leave the “bull” un-debunked.