Media and the Middle East

Where do you get your news about the Middle East?

It’s an important question. Most of the media reporting on Israel and the Middle East have a definite anti-Israel slant. Even very respectable news organizations have been sloppy or downright biased in their reporting.

For instance, a week ago the New York Times printed an article that cast considerable doubt that the Temple had ever stood on the Temple Mount. It noted that this is a “politically loaded question.” Then it proceeded to present the information in a politically slanted way. For a look at the problems with the original article, I recommend The New York Times Goes Truther on the Temple Mount in Tablet Magazine.

Last year the Atlantic printed an article by AP reporter Matti Friedman, What the Media Gets Wrong about Israel. In it he talks about the reasons for the reporting, and why “the pipeline of information from Israel is not just rusty and leaking, but intentionally plugged.” In another example, he notes that “the construction of 100 apartments in a Jewish settlement is always news; the smuggling of 100 rockets into Gaza by Hamas is, with rare exceptions, not news at all.”

So where do I get my news about Israel? Here are some (free) outlets that I follow:

The Times of Israel – A Jerusalem-based English language online newspaper. The founding editor is UK-born Israeli journalist David Horowitz.

The Mideast Reporter – Here’s how they describe themselves: “an independent nonprofit news organization with an ambitious purpose: to improve the standards of journalism on the Israeli-Palestinian and other Middle East conflicts, and a variety of related topics. Among them are Iran; the financing of global terrorism; Islamic extremism; and the boycott-Israel movement. We will accomplish our mission by producing groundbreaking investigative journalism on significant subjects that do not receive adequate attention, and by critiquing articles and broadcast segments that fail to meet professional standards.

The Jerusalem Post – The venerable JPost is a bit more political than the Times of Israel or the Mideast Reporter.  It has a distinct right-wing bent. However, for quick information about what’s happening, particularly in a crisis, it offers solid and local information.

Al Jazeera America – Just from the name and the logo, it’s clear that this is not an Israeli organization. My reason for choosing them as my non-Israeli source for news is that I know and trust John Michael Seigenthaler, their American news anchor. Al Jazeera America (as distinct from Al Jazeera) does its reporting with journalistic ethics.  I care about hearing both sides of every story – I just insist that the telling come from a place of journalism, not jingoism.

I also subscribe to Haaretz.com, but it is behind a paywall. If you are serious about following Israeli news, you should consider a subscription.

Where do you get your news about the Middle East? How do you decide whom to trust?

Geopolitics and “New PhD Disease”

My father-in-law, a very wise man, often used to say with some amusement, “So-and-so is suffering from ‘New PhD disease.'”  New PhD disease had one major symptom: the person suffering from it had the delusion that because he had become a bona fide expert in one field, he had magically become an expert in every field. A New PhD in mechanical engineering might lecture at length on a question of theology. His cousin, the New PhD in Physics, might consider herself an expert on finance. And of course, their friend the New PhD in History knows everything there is to know about child development!

(Jim holds a doctorate in metallurgical engineering and had a long career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Since his PhD is no longer new, he claims expertise only on matters of metallurgy, fishing, and the vagaries of new PhD’s.)

I’ve been watching the debates about the Iran treaty, thinking that there certainly are a lot of New PhD’s in the world lately.

I am not going to tell you what to think about that treaty. I have some private opinions, but they are not of a quality that provides merit to my opinions. There are some subjects on which I feel I can say more than a bit: I have both academic and practical experience with economics and finance, and I know a thing or two about Jewish ethics, Biblical and rabbinic literature. What I know about geopolitics, nuclear weapons, and treaty compliance verification wouldn’t get me out of a wet paper bag.

The same is true for a lot of the people holding forth about this treaty. Even the people who might count as experts were spouting opinions long before they had a copy of the document in hand to read, which worries me. Personally, I like to check out the data before I offer an educated opinion on anything.

Here’s what I’m doing about this treaty: I’m praying. I’m praying that all those who vote on it will remember that the stakes are very high, far too high for this to be about personal likes or dislikes, or any petty consideration. I’m praying that however it comes out, the result in the long run will be peace. If there is some way to bring Iran back into the fold of respectable nations, to step back from bankrolling terrorism, that would be very good.

Mostly, I’m praying that whatever is decided, it does not lead to an escalation of woe in the region, because all the regular people there (Iranian, Iraqi, Israeli, Syrian, etc.) are suffering too much already. Sim shalom, Hashem – bring peace, God, and let it begin soon.

And please, God, help the New PhD’s stick to their dissertation topics!