Category Archives: First Look Media

Writing “As a Jew” ?

 

What to Think When Someone Writes “As a Jew….” 

“… joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance, “ St. Luke teaches us (15:7).  And so those who hate Israel and/or the Jews have always been joyful to present us with a Jew to give witness against his own.  “Why, even a Jew admits …”  Of course sometimes the “Jew” in question, upon closer inspection, may not really be as Jewish as he is claimed to be.  But never mind that for now.

As we have seen quite a bit on this blog, Mr. Pierre Omidyar of Hawaii runs an online publication, Intercept,  that regularly, about twice a month, rants against the state of Israel.  Just what moves Mr. O in this direction is a matter of conjecture.  It has been believed that the politics of Intercept are mostly determined by Glenn Greenwald, its reputed, well, brain, with Mr. O just writing the checks.  But then there was the case of an Omidyar grant (through the Roshan Institute) to attack alleged Israeli “pink washing,” quite independently, at least apparently, of any Greenwald involvement.

Now we have, and here we get back to St. Luke, an entirely separate Omidyar publication, the Civil Beat of Hawaii, joining in with Mr. O’s anti-Israel campaign.

This Civil Beat is generally a strictly Hawaiian affair, dealing with matters of that state, and publishing a Community Voice feature — a series of op-eds — also dealing with matters of Hawaii.  But this local focus was broken recently by the publication of a viciously anti-Israel comment by a Mr. Jon Letman of Kauai, Hawaii.  The gist:  Netanyahu is a war monger;  Iran is peaceful;  Israel is an apartheid state;  etc. etc.  If the Iranians have called for “death to America, death to Israel,” Mr. Letman ignores that or perhaps has never heard of it.

Of course Mr. Letman has a right to his opinions, as Mr. Omidyar has the right to publish them.  On the other hand, Mr. O, who repeatedly proclaims that all he does is strictly in the public interest, might be expected to allow his readers to read more than one point of view.  But that is not how Mr. O treats the subject of Israel and Jews.  But be that as it may, there is something curious about Mr. Letman’s little essay.  It begins with the assertion that he speaks “as a Jew,” an assertion made once again at the very end.  The argument of rational people should stand on its merits, not on the identity of the arguer.  But in this case Mr. Letman insists on the ad hominem;  his views, he indicates, gain weight because of his identity as a Jew.  This identity is presented to us as a qualification in the same way a physician might mention his medical expertise when speaking on medical subjects.

Of course it is questionable that the Jews of Hawaii are better equipped to opine on Israel than non-Jews.  But if we assume, arguendo, that Jewishness is indeed a qualification here, the question arises of how to verify a claim to Jewishness even as we have learned to verify medical credentials in this age of quackery.  We know that many who write “As a Jew I oppose Israel” turn out to be only questionably  Jewish.  Some belong to a Christian church or have otherwise abandoned their Jewish identity, some may have a Jewish relative but no more than that, some,like Mr. Gabriel Schivone,  have no claim to  Jewish credentials whatsoever, .

With these problems in mind, I wrote to Mr. Letman, explaining my concerns.  Yes, I did get a prompt reply, a very courteous one at that.  But no, Mr. Letman did not feel that he wants to explain just in what sense he is Jewish.  We both, he suggested, have more important things to worry about.

In the meantime, I consulted Mr. Letman’s website, and learned the following:

Jon Letman is an independent freelance journalist and photographer on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.  His articles on conservation, the environment, politics and the Asia-Pacific region have been published in Al Jazeera English, Truthout, Inter Press Service, Christian Science Monitor, CNN Traveller, as well as publications in Finland, Iceland, Russia, Japan, Canada, the UK and across the US.

Not much Jewish background in this description ?  But look at the connection to Al Jazeera — and, after all, aren’t the Arabs cousins to the Jews ?  Practically Jewish ?

My Writings on “Partial Jews”

Prolegomena to the Study of Jews Who Hate Israel

The Partial Jews in Nazi Germany

What About the Partial Jews ?

Rise of the Schivone Jews

What to Think When Someone Writes “Speaking as a Jew, I am against Israel”

 

 

Mr. Greenwald Promises Transparency But Delivers Opaqueness

 

Cherry picking, suppressing evidence, or the fallacy of incomplete evidence is the act of pointing to individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position.  Wikipedia

Some four years ago I had the occasion to visit the northern German city of Lübeck, home to Thomas Mann and setting of his Buddenbrooks, where  I joined a sightseeing groups of German-speaking tourists.  Our guide explained various periods of the city’s history.  For WWII, he found only one event worth mentioning:  what he described as the barbarity of bombings by the RAF.  Indeed, it occurred to me while listening, the people of Lübeck had suffered.  But I also recalled something the guide did not mention, i.e. the Holocaust that had occurred  some kilometers further east.

Fast forward four years.  Within the last three weeks Mr. Glenn Greenwald and his Omidyar-financed website Intercept have thundered against Israel and Israel’s various putative barbarities in Gaza.  I found not one word, not a single one, that could be construed as criticism or even reservation concerning the actions of Hamas.  (I have blogged about one of these recent Greenwald anti-Israel broadsides.)

So one of Glenn Greenwald’s offenses against intellectual integrity — and there are a number of these  is cherry picking, as defined in my quotation above.  But the problem with the Omidyar-Greenwald website is actually much more extreme because it is not just some ordinary  propagandistic one-sidedness  that  can be detected by the observant reader.  I would call it a higher cherry picking, consisting of the total suppression of any information  that does not fit into the author’s ideology.

It is no secret that Greenwald has obtained the vast trove of US government secrets that were stoled by Edward Snowden.  Now, more than a year later, Greenwald and his collaborators dip into this trove and other stolen government documents from time to time, pick from them whatever they want to pick,  and present the result as a truthful representation of what the world is all about.  Since nobody outside of the Greenwald organization has access to these materials there is no way for Greenwald’s readers to know whether a) the particular document now “revealed” actually comes from US government sources;  whether b) if indeed it does, it is presented in its entirety;  and finally whether c) if it is, there are other documents in the collection that limit or contradict it.  In other words, a reader must accept, on faith alone, that the document exists and that it means what Greenwald says it means.

A typical example of the Greenwald method is his posting, just three days ago, of an article “Cash, Weapons and Surveillance:  the U.S. is a Key Party to Every Israeli Attack.”  The piece purports to tell a story, using Snowden documents, of secret US military, financial, and intelligence support of “Israel’s military assaults — such as the one in Gaza.”

First of all, there are publicly available materials that US assistance of this kind is routinely given to Arab countries as well, something Greenwald does not mention.  We know, for instance, that the US has provided Qatar, the ally of Hamas, with such cooperation. Moreover, as Cliff Kincaid has reported,  ” [Greenwald’s] own reporting [inadvertently] discloses that the NSA and the Israeli signals intelligence unit (ISNU) have shared information with the Palestinian Authority Security Forces.”

So much for Greenwald’s cherry picking, which, indeed, can be detected by diligent googling.  But there is the more insidious “higher cherry picking,” which consists of citing wholly opaque sources (the Snowden papers), not accessible to anyone but Greenwald himself, and which Greenwald expects his readers to accept on his sole say-so.

So here is my question to all those who see some value in Greenwald’s journalism:  since there is no way of verifying his assertions, and since, moreover, his record for veracity has never been established, what possible grounds can there be for defending his work ? Mr. Greenwald says that he favors “transparency” of government, but what he practices is total opaqueness.

 

Greenwald’s War Against Israel

 

Mr. Glenn Greenwald, author, columnist, and self-described journalist, has become well-known for his collaborations with Edward Snowden.  Several months ago Mr. Greenwald obtained substantial funding from the billionaire Pierre Obidyar to establish an online publication Intercept, part of Obidyar’s First Look Media.

Now, several months forward, Intercept, as it promised it would, devotes space to Snowden’s cause.  But that is not the only cause  which it supports.  Another one, to which it has given substantial space as well, is that of Israel-bashing.

About a week ago, Greenwald ran a particularly untruthful, hateful, shameful attack on Israel:  Netanyahu’s ‘Telegenically Dead’ Comment Is Grotesque but Not Original .  Greenwald’s assertion is that Israel behaves like Nazis in Gaza.

Greenwald begins by what he says is a quotation from Netanyahu, which he presents as follows:

“They want to pile up as many civilian dead as they can. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.”

Next, he gives what he says is a quotation from Joseph Goebbels, as follows:

“The Jews gradually are having to depend more and more on themselves, and have recently found a new trick. They knew the good-natured German Michael in us, always ready to shed sentimental tears for the injustice done to them. One suddenly has the impression that the Berlin Jewish population consists only of little babies whose childish helplessness might move us, or else fragile old ladies. The Jews send out the pitiable. They may confuse some harmless souls for a while, but not us. We know exactly what the situation is.”

The emphasis, in both cases, is of course supplied by Mr. Greenwald.

I have taken the trouble to look at the context of both of these quotations.  That by Netanyahu is also reported by the Forward, but together with a clarifying statement by Netanyahu:

“Israel regrets every injury to civilians,” the prime minister said. “I call on the residents of Gaza: Don’t stay there. Hamas wants you to die, we want you to be safe.”

If Mr. Greenwald’s reporting on Netanyahu is grossly misleading, the same must be said of his reporting on Goebbels.

The passage from Goebbels in question (dated November 16, 1941)  can be seen here in the original German and here in an English translation.    The article is quite long,  approximately 1600 words, and is entitled “Die Juden sind schuld !,”  (“The Jews are at  fault !).    It makes the following points:  Every Jew is our enemy.  There is no such thing as a good Jew and a bad Jew.  Every Jew is evil.  Judaism must be destroyed. 

Has Mr. Greenwald even read this German-language article, either in the original or in translation, or does he depend on some tendentious report by a third party ?  In either case, the paragraph translated and presented by Mr. Greenwald is in no way representative of the gist of Goebbels’s piece, and, in fact, grossly distorts it.

 Whether he cites Goebbels or Netanyahu, Mr. Greenwald  misleads his readers.  Read in relevant context, Netanyahu asserts, as does his government, that Israel is deeply concerned over loss of life, whether Jew or Arab.  And when read its entirety, Goebbels is seen to advocate the destruction of all Jews.  When Greenwald tells us that these two positions are the same,  he tells us more about his own integrity — or rather lack thereof — than he tells us about the ostensible subject of his rantings.

Obviously, Mr. Greenwald’s publisher, Pierre Obidyar, must share in   the moral responsibility for what is published under his imprint,  First Look Media.

As it happens, there is indeed a Nazi connection to be found in this topic of Israel vs. Hamas.  And pace Mr. Greenwald, the Nazi connection is on the side of Hamas.   The Hamas Charter, available freely on the Internet and elsewhere, calls for the destruction of Israel and the  killing  of all Jews and cites, with great approval, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a veritable bible of the Nazi movement.  But on this topic, the Hamas Charter, Mr. Greenwald is strangely quiet.

READ ALSO:  my earlier posting on Comrade Greenwald and Mr. Pierre Obidyar