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Kritische Auseinandersetzung mit den Medien

9.5.06

Tony Judt zitiert. Noch einmal

Durch die Klärung der Hintergründe für den Artikel über die Granddame der österreichischen Presse bin ich auf das nächste in Frage kommende Zitat bei Tony Judt gestoßen. Es ist kaum zu glauben - auch hier zitiert er selektiv, besser gesagt tendenziös.

Es geht um den israelischen Journalisten Tom Segev, der für die Zeitung "Haaretz" schreibt. Tony Judt zitiert ihn wie folgt:

Der israelische Journalist Tom Segev beschreibt den Essay als "arrogant", räumt aber dennoch ein: "Sie (Mearsheimer und Walt) haben recht. Hätten die USA Israel vor den eigenen Dummheiten bewahrt, würde unser Leben hier heute besser aussehen. Die Israel-Lobby in den USA schadet Israels wahren Interessen".
Wie wir uns erinnern, das ist die Schlüsselpassage des gesamten Aufsatzes, denn daraus hat die "Süddeutsche" den Titel "Doppelter Schaden" gemacht. Nehmen wir den Abschnitt genauer unter die Lupe und gehen wir deswegen zum Original. Tony Judt:

The Israeli journalist Tom Segev described the Mearsheimer-Walt essay as "arrogant" but also acknowledged ruefully: "They are right. Had the United States saved Israel from itself, life today would be better ...the Israel Lobby in the United States harms Israel's true interests."
Jetzt vergleichen wir das Zitat mit dem, was Tom Segev geschrieben hat. Sein Artikel (vom 23.3.2006) heißt

The protocols of Harvard and Chicago
Auf diese Weise wird der berüchtigte Essay mit einem antisemitischen Klassiker verglichen und als vergleichbar bestempelt. Auch im Text wird der Essay äußert negativ bewertet:

[...]In fact, it can be claimed that U.S. support for Israel reflects the fact that neither country respects the values of democracy, but this claim would destroy the thesis of the two respected scholars. Similarly, they do not confront the fact that the Israeli lobby in the U.S. usually operates by the accepted rules of the game in America, and expresses the view of a majority of Americans.

The article is very arrogant: Most of it is written in the past tense, as though reflecting historical research. In fact, the authors' academic degrees do not make their opinions any more worthy than those of readers of the newspapers that they often cite, including Haaretz, Maariv, Yedioth Ahronoth and the Jerusalem Post. The editor who allowed the two to touch on so many topics that are irrelevant to the issue did not do them a favor: Yitzhak Shamir did in fact operate as a terrorist, but the Britons whose rule he wanted to eliminate also defined the fathers of American independence as terrorists. And who even remembers Shamir today? Similarly, I wouldn't have dragged the murder of Ilan Halimi in Paris into this debate: What for, dear professors? After all, not every anti-Semitic incident in the world is an Israeli invention, wouldn't you agree?

What begins as an attack on Israel and its lobby, soon turns out to be part of a domestic debate: One gets the impression that Walt and Mearsheimer attack U.S. support for Israel because they don't like President Bush. One can understand them. Apparently, they won't be angry if the Israel lobby decides that Bush is bad for Israel, and works against him. Nor would they be opposed if someone were to convince the administration to force Israel to withdraw from the territories.

They are right: Had the United States saved Israel from itself, life today would be better. Therefore, the authors are also correct in the most important argument in their essay, which unfortunately is too incidental: The Israel lobby in the United States harms Israel's true interests. It made the continuation of the occupation and the settlements possible. Its influence led, among other things, to missing out on a peace treaty with Syria and to a loss of the opportunities created in Oslo. The effort to suppress the Palestinian national movement did not enhance Israel's security; on the contrary, it brought Hamas to power.

Now there is great excitement there in America on account of this essay, but maybe not really. Israel's influence is based on an ancient anti-Semitic myth about the Jews who rule the world. This is a myth that is self-fulfilling as long as the world believes in it: If you shatter it, you have eliminated Israel's influence. From that point of view, Walt and Mearsheimer are doing the Israel lobby a good service.
Nach Segev ist der Essay nicht "arrogant", sondern "sehr arrogant". Er beschränkt sich aber nicht auf die Feststellung, dass der Ton der Profs sehr arrogant ist, er erwähnt den polemischen und unwissenschaftlichen Charakter des Textes, betont seine antisemitische Intention und propagandistische Ausrichtung auf die innenpolitischen Probleme der USA. Segev filtert die einzige Invektive heraus, die ihm passt, und beschreibt sie mit eigenen Worten, eignet sie sich an und verwendet sie für seinen innerpolitischen Kampf - nämlich in Israel. Segev ist viel kritischer dem Essay gegenüber als das, was Judt davon wiedergibt.

Judt deutet den Text von Segev um und bringt ihn als eine Unterstützung für Walt/Meirshammer ein. Stellen wir uns vor, er würde den Titel von Segev wiedergeben und seine letzen Sätze komplett zitieren. Hätte die "Süddeutsche" dann seinen Artikel übernommen?

Um den Artikel, den Ton und die Hintergründe der Publizistik von Tom Segev zu verstehen, muß man sich die Rolle der "Haaretz" vorstellen. Shmuel Rosner, einer der anderen Kolumnisten dieser Zeitung, hat treffend gesagt:

Enter the Walt-Mearsheimer study, and some of my readers became confused. Firstly, the study contains many quotes from the newspaper I work for. These quotes are meant to help the authors prove the two claims they are making (I'm saying two because of Judt). But then they read what I have to say and start sending me emails along the lines of: "How can you say this study is flawed when it was built on anecdotes and remarks by Haaretz commentators?"

Some of the readers I answered personally, but I came back to the issue because of the Judt article, in which my newspaper is mentioned three times.

The first reference, in which he doesn't mention the paper, but the name of one of its columnists: "The Israeli journalist Tom Segev described the Walt-Mearsheimer essay as 'arrogant,' but also acknowledged ruefully that, "They are right. Had the United States saved Israel from itself, life today would be better... the Israel Lobby in the United States harms Israel's true interests'."

The second: "It was an Israeli columnist in the liberal daily Haaretz who described the American foreign policy advisers Richard Perle and Douglas Feith as 'walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments... and Israeli interests'." The columnist, by the way, is Akiva Eldar.

The third: "Daniel Levy (a former Israeli peace negotiator) wrote in Haaretz that the Walt-Mearsheimer essay should be a wake-up call, a reminder of the damage the Israel lobby is doing to both nations."

Now, as proud as this might make me, there's a problem here that's self-evident to any Israeli reading the article (and it doesn't matter to which political wing he belongs). The choices Judt made on whom he was going to quote are either uneducated or biased. You can't take these three (excellent) commentators, and pretend that they represent - well, what exactly do you want them to represent?

The Segev quote aims to prove that the lobby work is "bad for Israel." Is this true? Yes, if you believe in what Segev believes - and most Israelis and Americans don't.

And what about the Eldar quote? This one was meant to prove that "the uncomfortable issues" were aired in Israel, so why not here in America? On this I will say two things: First, you can "air" them here as much as needed, but make sure you don't do it in a manner that Eliot Cohen rightly exposes as anti-Semitic.

Second, don't rely on the bragging Israelis as proof. Israelis are sometimes very narrowly focused on the "Israeli" aspect of every issue, and tend to exaggerate it. So they think Douglas Feith has nothing better to do than to think day and night about Israel? Many of them will say the same about President Bush, or, for that matter, President Clinton. It's not because these people are so preoccupied with Israel as to distort everything else, but because Israelis are so preoccupied with Israel to the extent that they see everything through this narrow hole.

And, since I dealt both with Segev and Eldar, let me add a word about Levy. He was a guest writer for Haaretz. I thought his piece reflected a certain point of view. And, comfortably enough, there was no problem in finding an opposite opinion to use, had Judt wanted to. (Try "Embarrassing and dangerous" by Reuven Pedhatzur here). So why choose him?

As you might understand, this is a very delicate issue for me to write about. These are my colleagues, and this is the paper that pays my salary. However, the truth must be told, and in this case, the truth is that my paper is being used here in a manner that makes me uncomfortable (I'm sure that many Haaretz commentators will not feel the same - that's one of the reasons for which you need more than one person writing for a newspaper, and more than one point of view).

Haaretz is a very good source of news. It is also a good source for commentary, but when it comes to views you have to bear two weaknesses in mind. One, you need to use it in an honest manner, otherwise there's enough fringe material in it as to distort reality. Two, you have to realize that this fine paper does not - repeat, does not - represent the majority view in Israel.

That's why it was so easy for Walt-Mearsheimer to use material from Haaretz in their study. That's where the Judt piece is also somewhat flawed. The great thing about the paper though, is that it gives voice to more than one opinion. Hence, you shouldn't have been surprised to read in my blog my reaction to the study and its aftermath.
Die wichtigsten Stellen noch einmal: Die "Haaretz" vertritt die Meinung einer Minderheit. Es ist bedauerlich, dass sowohl Mearshammer/Walt als auch Judt nur die Meinungen von drei besonders israelkritischen Autoren dieser Zeitung übernehmen und dazu noch für die Meinung ausgeben. Auf diese Weise bedingen und bedienen sie einander. Wir wir darüberhinaus gesehen haben, werden Zitate dazu noch selektiv übernommen und angepasst.

Die Kette sieht somit folgendermaßen aus: 1) Inneramerikanischer politischer Kampf, in dem zwei Autoren versuchen, mit antisemitischen Mitteln die Außenpolitik der eigenen Regierung zu beeinflussen. 2) Innerisraelischer Politkampf, in dem Revisionisten (die seit Jahren versuchen, die Geschichte des eigenen Landes mit falschzitierten Dokumenten umzuschreiben) diesen ersten Auftritt für sich nutzen, um mit antizionistischen Argumenten die Außenpolitik der eigenen Regierung zu beeinflussen. 3) "Israelkritische" Stimmen nutzen weltweit diese Gelegenheit aus, um gegen die Politik des Staates und den Staat Israel selbst aufzutreten. Dabei werden Meinungen und Argumente nur selektiv wiedergegeben. 4) Führende deutschsprachige Zeitungen nutzen die Gelegenheit, um die Debatte einseitig zu präsentieren. Warum nur? Möchte man so gerne "israelkritisch" aussehen, dass alle Methoden dafür gut zu sein scheinen?

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