Commentary on the Commentary: Power of perspective

Frantzman discusses how the JPost avoids a common journalistic pitfall by doing more than just stating the obvious.

flotilla 311 (photo credit: Marko Djurica/Reuters)
flotilla 311
(photo credit: Marko Djurica/Reuters)

There is a tendency in some publications for the Oped section to become the ‘complaint and critique’ section of a newspaper; a space to bash politicians and rag on whatever the commentator doesn’t like in his or her daily life.  This is an unfortunate tendency since an idea is not a euphemism for a critique.  That trains don’t run on time is a problem, pointing it out without proposing a solution is simply stating the obvious.  At the Post we strive to provide a section that is more than just stating the obvious, hopefully we are living up to that goal.

Paul Ryan was the name to watch last week, especially for Americans.  Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential running mate became a lightning rod for debate.  A reader of Ayn Rand and a fan of ‘Rage Against the Machine’ we ran a page debating the pick.  Columnist Michael Freund argued that “he is a strong and dependable supporter of Israel.”  Douglas Bloomfield played down attacks on Romney.  That didn’t stop Senator Frank Lautenberg from writing a scathing indictment of the GOP for ‘playing politics with Israel’.

Civics came in for a lambasting as well.  In the West the word ‘civics’ conjures up people in smoking jackets with pipes because it seems like a word that belongs alongside “rhetoric” in an old Oxford classroom.  But in Israel what is called civics is actually translated as “citizenship.”  It is supposed to teach people about government and the citizen’s rights, but in recent years it has become the political playground of interest groups who seek to dominate education in high school and foist opinions, about such things as the ‘Nakba’ or army service, on impressionable minds.  Susan Hattis Rolef and David Newman, both columnists, wrote about how the right is attempting to control civic.  On the other side of the coin was Knesset member Alex Miller and writer Michael Widlanski, arguing that left wing notions are attempting to re-write Israel’s history.

Our foreign friends were also in the pages of opinion.  Rafael Medoff of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust studies wrote about a return to the bad old days of American critique of Israel’s policies, when James Baker famously said “f… the Jews, they don’t vote for us.”  Ben Levitas, a community leader in South Africa wrote about how South Africa has become “unabashedly one sided” in its anti-Israel stance in recent years.   Ilya Meyer, deputy chairman of the Sweden-Israel friendship association chimed in about the latest “Scandinavian stunt” in which some Nordic do-gooders are sailing a ship to Gaza.  The story here comes amidst a backdrop of mass state-sponsored killings in Syria.  If, in past year, one wondered why human rights abuses in the region don’t’ merit European attention, now one can see that even when tens of thousands are dead in Syria, that the ships of “human rights activists” still set sail for Gaza.  It also comes against the backdrop of a “kippa-walk” in Malmo where Jews are marching with yarmulkes to protest anti-Jewish discrimination and attacks. 

The week that was also had a well written oped by Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, writing about the continued ham handedness of the International Olympic Committee towards Israel’s Munich athletes, who were massacred in 1972.

As a new week begins it is worth remembering that Ramadan ends this Sunday night.  Khaled Diab, an Egyptian journalist based in Jerusalem, wrote an interesting contribution about the benefits of fasting. At the same time Richard Schwartz explained that Jewish law also includes a celebration of the life of animals, which might make us consider becoming vegetarians.  For those of us who love meat, the “meatetarians”, it goes without saying that a life without meat is akin to a life of fasting.  Healthy living, to be sure.