Thursday, May 15, 2008

Connecticut Jewish Ledger Editorial: Israel at 60 and the Hartford Courant

This may be viewed directly at

The Hartford Courant, “the country's oldest newspaper in continuous publication,” has always been consistent in its bias against Israel and on the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary it displayed that consistency again with a front page article that echoed its longstanding editorial policy of antipathy towards the continued existence of the Jewish State. Like all media, the Courant doesn't have to repeat its own point of view. All it needs to do is find others to express it for her. That's exactly what the Courant did last Sunday in a front page piece that had little good to say about Israel.

While the Jewish Community in Hartford and around the world joyfully celebrates the astonishing feat of Israel's survival, the Courant gives voice to an individual who's agenda is not about the miraculous existence of the Jewish state, but focuses instead on the satisfaction of Palestinian grievance which can only be granted at the expense of Israeli sovereignty. As a result, the Courant chose to ignore the reality Israel and its Israeli-Arab citizens, a healthy minority that at 1.3 million comprises over 20% of its population. The essence of Israel's survival is not found by focusing only on her problems. Every nation has them. It is far more revealing to see how Israel has grappled with the difficulties presented to her over the last 60 years and what the outcomes have been than to try and change the very nature of the country that has brought so much freedom to that part of the world.

In the early 1920's Lawrence of Arabia observed that the new population of Jews into the Ottoman territories that came to be known as Palestine carried with it the blessing of modernity, something Arab peoples were sorely in need of, but have not as yet chosen to adopt.  The values and talents those Jews brought to this tiny land translated into an Israel that provides one of the most dynamic economic narratives in the world today. Not only is she a font of scientific discovery and innovation that benefits of all mankind, but she has been able to translate this success for all of her citizens including its significant minority of those of Arab ancestry. By any measure, things like per capita income, literacy, infant mortality, and employment levels, Israel's citizens or far better off than their neighbors. That's why most of the Israel's Arab citizens prefer Israeli sovereignty to the variety of totalitarian-fundamentalist tyrannical regimes that pervade that part of the world. The true tragedy of the region is that less than one percent of the 300 million Muslim Arabs are allowed to avail themselves of the benefits that Western freedom can bring.

In focusing only on negatives, the Courant fails to see Israel's vibrant and tumultuous brand of democracy and the gifts it provides. Israel is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab citizens can express themselves at the ballot box and sit in a legislative body. By turning to an avowed critic of Israel the Courant completely misses the point that the extension of Western values in a part of the world where women are completely disenfranchised allows Israel's female Arab citizens the right to learn, drive, vote and thrive in an Israeli oasis that is relatively free of stoning, honor killings and punitive rape.

Israel is a nation born of strife and struggle. She has survived 60 years of continuous conflict and aggression against her by belligerent and unrelenting adversaries. And yet, a nation under constant duress has managed to extend the full rights of citizenship to all who live within her borders. But this historical context is not the narrative the Courant chooses to focus on. When it comes to Israel the Hartford Courant has shown time and again that as an institution it is wedded to the world view that Israel ought not to have been created, should not have been allowed to exist and has little right to defend itself from the existential threats that she faces today and in the future. The Courant is certainly consistent. And wrong.

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