The Daily’s forays into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were not very good last year. I heard one editor then refer to two staff members as “experts” on the subject, when that label was more than a stretch. Those two staff members were ideologues-in-training.
[In fact, one was an editor known for the inability to put written sentences together, so that every piece he did became a collective enterprise. He made over $2,250 dollars that year from his Daily stipend. ]
From a non-ideological perspective, an expert can display strong beliefs or partisanship, but he or she also knows the arguments of other perspectives in detail, and the factual details that support those arguments. An ideologue confines his knowledge of a subject to a small group of facts (and false information), and gathers knowledge only in support of his or her rigid, and often simplistic, vision. He discards contrary facts as stressful and unhelpful, and avoids direct, nuanced engagement with arguments from other perspectives.
If someone argues “A,” the ideologue will often decide not to argue “not A” or “mitigating information for A,” but instead “B.” If someone then argues “not B,” the ideologue will often move to “C.” It usually goes on like this until one side gets hungry and wants a sandwich.
My best guess is that much of The Daily staff accepted these guys as “experts” because they offered alternative information to the broad-stroke reporting of the American main stream media, which is largely on the same page as the American political mainstream and the (evil?) center right: “Israel is a decent country and an authentic democracy. America should support it regardless of the current occupation of the West Bank and the resentment Arabs feel about sharing the Middle East with a Jewish state. Ending the remaining occupation on entirely Palestinian terms will not appreciably reduce the terrorism and radical fundamentalism that threatens Israelis.”
From my perspective, The Daily staff last year was for the most part well-intentioned and figured that any information which conflicted with MSM narratives on “Israel-Palestine” was helpful. Consequently, the informal guideline was “Go to one of the experts on staff when you’re writing or editing a story on Israel.”
However, there is also the “it’s-both-sides-fault-why-can’t-people-just-get-along” line of the MSM, which although it may be true ( —but not according to The Daily “experts”/ideologues-in-training— ) often condenses Palestinian wrongdoing and portrays the Israelis as intractable, without morally-defensible reasons.
Whatever Arabs believe about the Western MSM — and most Arabs swoon when George Galloway “speaks the truth” on Western media, even though he’s obviously pro-Syrian dictatorship, for starters — most Israelis believe that they get shafted by MSM groups like the NYT, CNN and Vanity Fair. They think these news organizations (1) have no sympathy with the country, and (2) leave out facts in their stories that Israeli newspapers across the political spectrum deem essential. Certain incidents definitely give them a case, although reporting that is positive about Israel appears in all those publications.
I’m not sure who The Daily went to for background info when they put together the story on Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunumah’s speech promoting his book One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.
[Note the replacement of the usual word “conflict” with “impasse.” Also, note the use of the word “bold” for a view that is as old as it is one-sided: it was the PLO’s professed position since it formed in 1964, before the Occupation even began, until the Oslo peace process.]
According to The Daily’s story, for Abunimah the end of the West Bank occupation (along with the proffered reparations for Palestinians) isn’t enough. That’s for people with small vision when it comes to what constitutes justice. However, it’s convenient, Abunumah tells us, that a two-state solution is not only unjust but also impossible. The reporter David Gruber writes:
Abunimah argued that Israel’s establishment of “facts on the ground” by settling Jewish Israelis in the Occupied Territories has made the two-state solution impossible. There are 430,000 Jewish settlers in the illegal settlements in the West Bank, including 180,000 in East Jerusalem.
It doesn’t seem clear in the quote above that the phrase “illegal settlements” is coming from Abunimah. The context for the phrase makes it seems like its just trustworthy background information from The Daily. The Daily should clear this up because although the label “illegal settlement” might be the most accurate term according to its “experts,” it is not according to the general news community.
If you search for the phrase with the word “Israel” in Factiva, over all publications and all dates, you get a lot of results. Whenever the article is a formal news story — as opposed to a letter or an opinion piece — the reporter does not call majority Jewish settlements in the West Bank that are authorized by the Israeli government “illegal settlements.” These results on Factiva include newspapers that are usually recognized as antipathetic to Israel.
So does this pronouncement on the question of the legality of all settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — including ones built on unoccupied land near ’49 Armistice lines that Arab nations invalidated in ’67 — result from just the way the article was typed out? Or are Drew Nelles and company looking to be trend-setters this year?
[Full disclosure: I’m an administrator on an “anti-anti-Israel” Facebook group that tries to get groups deleted for directing bigotry against Israel and its Jewish supporters … but I don’t consider myself an “expert” or an “ideologue.”]
[ UPDATE: I put a rule in the list of potential reforms of The Daily’s editorial policies that relates to this question of language:
(18) Conclusions that are the would-be result of an ongoing legal controversy should not be stated as decided fact. Legal opinions should be traced to the lawyers or legal organizations who share that view. If there is a strong consensus on a legal issue, the reporter should indicate that consensus — for example, “a policy which most experts in immigration law view as illegal search and seizure under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms” as opposed to “a policy which constitutes illegal search and seizure.”
If The Daily had printed “settlements, which most experts in international law view as illegal” that would have been appropriate. ]