Time Adopts the Language of Anti-Israel Activists

Time Magazine and its Jerusalem bureau chief Karl Vick attracted much attention with their September story casting Israelis as indifferent to peace and consumed by money-making and materialism. In part, this was because the widely-criticized article was featured on the magazine’s cover, along with a large Jewish star made of daisies and an inflammatory headline.

The magazine appears to be making a habit of distorting the realities about Israel. Vick’s most recent piece, published in the Dec. 20 print edition, didn’t make the cover. Its headline — “Palestinians, Contained” — is not quite as sensational as the earlier “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” But in some respects, the current article is even less objective than its predecessor.

The text of the Dec. 20 story is replete with grossly partisan language, which both inflames and misinforms. Vick adopts the inaccurate language of anti-Israel activists when repeatedly labeling Israel’s barrier, which is almost entirely fence, as “the Wall.” Adding his own twist on the inappropriate Soviet analogy, the Time reporter goes so far as to accuse Israel of erecting an “iron curtain.” And yet again borrowing from the lexicon of Israel’s most extreme opponents, Vick dubs West Bank Arabs “natives,” in implicit contrast with outsider Jews who are supposedly foreign to the biblical heartland.

In an apparent attempt to justify his preference for the term “Wall,” Vick bizarrely states that the term separation barrier is “the seldom-used formal name for the Wall.” Assuming he really believes that, it speaks volumes about the disconnect between the reporter and the country he is tasked with explaining to U.S. audiences. Israelis overwhelmingly refer to the barrier as the “separation fence,” and their government formally calls it the “security fence.” In the U.S., of course, “barrier” is most common. And mainstream media organizations across the world likewise opt for the term “barrier.” For example, the BBC, which not known for its sympathy toward Israel, calls on its journalists to “avoid using terminology favoured by one side or another in any dispute,” and elaborates:

The BBC uses the terms “barrier”, “separation barrier” or “West Bank barrier” as acceptable generic descriptions to avoid the political connotations of “security fence” (preferred by the Israeli government) or “apartheid wall” (preferred by the Palestinians).

Elsewhere in the piece, Vick insinuates racism when stating that “Israeli Jews” sail right through checkpoints between the West Bank and Israel, without bothering to clarify that Israeli Arabs, too, sail through those checkpoints.

The crux of the story, meanwhile, is that it is mainly Israel’s fault that young Palestinians are hostile toward Israeli Jews, since “the Wall” has prevented Palestinians from being able to see, and thus humanize, regular Israelis. But Vick also makes sure readers are unable to make an informed decision on that topic, since his article says not even a word about the ongoing drumbeat of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish incitement in Palestinian society, which is obviously a crucial factor in Palestinian dehumanization of their neighbors.

At the same time, he doesn’t hesitate to relay outlandish accusations to support his thesis. Jamil Rabah, a pollster who found that Palestinians have become less amenable to reconciliation over the past few years, is paraphrased attributing a negative shift in Palestinian attitudes toward Israel

partly to the rise of political Islam across the Muslim Middle East—and partly to Israel’s pushing Palestinians into that very community, not least by taking as its own nearly the whole Mediterranean coast, which historically kept Palestinian elites, at least, oriented to the West. (Emphasis added.)

Again, Palestinians are stripped of responsibility for radicalism, which Vick instead blames on Israeli greed. But Israel did not “take as its own” the coast. It was the international community that called for this area — a portion of the Mandate Palestine, which under international law was meant to be a national home for the Jewish people — to become part of Israel. Moreover, Vick certainly should have been more skeptical about the claim that being on the Mediterranean coast staves off political Islam, since Palestinian support for the Islamist Hamas party is concentrated in the coastal Gaza Strip, and since political Islam did not make much headway against pan-Arab nationalism until long after 1948.

Broadly speaking, there is nothing wrong with a magazine examining whether Israel’s security barrier “has made it much harder for young Palestinians to know Israel—and understand its people,” as the article’s subhead argues. A thorough examination of how Palestinian attitudes toward Israel are shaped would also have to examine the denial by Palestinian officials of Jewish history in the country, societal praise for suicide bombings, and other areas of Palestinian responsibility. And such an examination would be all the more appropriate if Time treated the rest of the world as it treated Israel — for example, by suggesting that Iraqis and Afghans should be allowed unencumbered access into the U.S. because in their own countries they encounter Americans only as soldiers. (Of course, the magazine has made no such argument.)
There is, however, something very wrong with the magazine reporting on this topic, or anything other one, in such an overtly partisan manner.

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