Israel Bashing “In Vogue”

Vogue, the well-known fashion magazine, has established a new trend — but not in the latest styles in jewelry and apparel. Articles presenting Israel as a ruthless occupier victimizing helpless Palestinians are apparently now the "vogue" at the magazine published internationally by Condé Nast.

In December, the American edition carried an article about Mèdecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the West Bank and Gaza, in which freelance writer Zia Jaffrey painted a one-sided picture of allegedly Israeli-incited violence. There was no suggestion that Palestinians bore any responsibility for their situation. Israel alone was faulted.

In the January British edition, excerpts from the personal journal of Emma Williams about life in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provide the only non-fashion, non-beauty, and non-shopping-related article. Williams is a physician who, with her three children, accompanied her husband, a U.N. employee, to the region. Under the title “Caught in the Crossfire,” the article, in diary form, offers an ostensibly neutral look by Williams, a third party observer, at “the escalating conflict [that] unfolds around their daily lives.” The picture presented, however, is anything but neutral. It is clear that Emma Williams’ sympathies lie overwhelmingly with the Palestinians among whom she lives. She conveys a one-sided, partisan look at the conflict, labeling Israeli security actions as “brutal,” while whitewashing or ignoring Palestinian provocations.

Take for example Williams’ September 10 entry recording her experience of being stopped at an Israeli checkpoint. This serves as a launching point for a diatribe about the evils of checkpoints:

“No-one allowed through. No-one at all. Orders!” was the Israeli soldier’s story this morning when I was prevented from taking medical supplies to Bethlehem…I am reminded that the checkpoints’ purpose is to humiliate and inconvenience. Anger is intrinsic to life here…

Williams, irked at being inconvenienced, echoes the Palestinians’ viewpoint that checkpoints serve no other purpose than to humiliate them. She conveniently omits mention of the significant events immediately preceding the tightening of restrictions — events crucial to understanding the “story.”

On the previous day, September 9, five Israeli civilians were murdered and over 100 were wounded in three separate Palestinian terror attacks that had rocked the nation. A driveby shooting that killed two Israeli schoolteachers traveling to work in a minibus through the Jordan Valley was followed by a suicide bombing carried out by an Israeli Arab at a Nahariya train station and another on one of the busiest highways in Israel at the Beit Lid junction. Israel accused the Palestinian Authority of having ignored intelligence information that the Nahariya suicide bomber was planning an attack and previous requests by Israel to arrest him. Also, the perpetrators of the earlier driveby shooting had escaped into Palestinian-controlled territory. Thus no one could have been in doubt as to why Israeli soldiers were following strict security procedures at checkpoints.

With news bulletins and TV broadcasts reporting continuously on the events of the day, it is inconceivable that Williams could have been unaware of the deadly attacks perpetrated by Palestinians against Israeli civilians. Yet Williams’ journal entry for September 9 completely ignores all of this!

The article’s last entry on October 29 further highlights the author’s prejudiced standpoint. She refers to Palestinian terrorists as hardliners, glossing over and excusing an act of violence, while focusing instead on Israel’s retaliation. She lodges unsubstantiated allegations against Israel, describing unnamed Arab victims and citing no dates, thereby making verification of her charges nigh impossible. She charges:

In revenge for the assassination of their leader, a hardline Palestinian faction shot and killed an Israeli minister on October 17. The Israeli retaliation has been brutal. Their army is invading Palestinian cities in defiance of world reaction. The siege is tightened; the bombardment and death tolls increase. Two mothers trying to reach my chosen hospital went into labour at the wrong time. Both were denied passage through checkpoints; both babies and one mother died.

On a personal level, Williams’ characterizations of Palestinians are effusively positive while those of Israeli Jews are invariably negative. She devotes one long journal entry to extolling the warm hospitality of her Palestinian friends, acknowledging the common ground she finds with them.

September 20: …The local Palestinian villagers are taking us out on their horses this evening. They always make a great fuss of us whenever we have guests, but especially now that my mother is here. To honour her presence, they appear with heaped plates of steaming rice, roast chickens, piles of chopped herbs and tomatoes, meat stuffed with vegetables and concoctions of nuts, sugar and honey. Every day I am ushered into their immaculate homes for tiny cups of sweet coffee laced with cardamom. Most speak sufficient English for me to get by, but some are fluent, and have become good friends like my neighbour, Intisar, a Palestinian social worker. She, too, is pregnant, so when we meet, the talk is about pregnancy matters as well as the “situation.”

While there is obviously nothing wrong with her warm expressions about the friendly hospitality of the Palestinians, these extensive descriptions sharply contrast with her generalized derogatory comments about Israelis, including a description of an incident where she apparently was not offered assistance by passersby when she fell near a busy intersection apparently in Jerusalem.

September 11: …No-one stopped even to ask if I was OK, let alone help me up. Later, watching the children’s swimming lesson with other parents, I complained about a city that nurtured such a lack of compassion…

To suggest on the basis of one incident that Israelis are indifferent to the suffering of others is both false and offensive. Further, to state that the “city… nurtured…a lack of compassion” seems to reveal an ingrained prejudice. Such strident overgeneralizations should have been a red flag to the editor that this freelance writer was not up to the task of writing a fair or insightful article.

It is certainly understandable that a diary would reflect its author’s personal experiences, including erroneous impressions. However, these lopsided views about a contentious subject of world significance should not be presented in the only feature story of an international magazine. At the very least, the article should be accurately identified as what it is — a Palestinian sympathizer’s own, biased look at the conflict. In the interest of fairness, a balancing perspective should be provided presenting an Israeli sympathizer’s viewpoint.

[In the original alert, action items were listed here.]

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