Deep thoughts, random insights, and musings by Susan Jacobs

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Disengagement Summer

In addition to reading many articles and blog posts from Jewish perspectives this week about the disengagement from Gaza and the northern Shomron, I have also been watching ABCNews and Nightline. I was fully prepared to be disgusted by the coverage, expecting them to paint the "settlers" and protestors as extremists and showing them little or no sympathy.

I have been very relieved and impressed (and deeply touched) that they are showing all the Israeli sides --settlers, protestors and soldiers -- in a sympathetic way. They profiled a young woman who left one of the settlements willingly, but reluctantly and with great pain, and also showed the anguish of the soldiers who are being forced to evict their brothers from land where they have lived for 30 years or more. They are even hinting at the sincerity and conviction of the protestors. It is a big comfort to see the "liberal" U.S. media showing some sympathy for Israel and the sacrifices being made now by Israelis.

It is also incredibly inspiring to see the patience, empathy and restraint of the soldiers involved in the disengagement. Last night on Nightline, they showed some footage of a soldier patiently taking a tongue lashing from an impassioned protestor. In the midst of calmly absorbing the verbal onslaught, the soldier handed the protester a large bottle of water, and the protestor paused from his tirade long enough to take a long drink. Where else but in Israel would so-called opponents show such concern for one another?

It is hard to guess how the American public absorbs such images, but I think that anyone who sees these reports understands that the Israeli people and its army are impassioned, but non-violent, and have respect for one another. I hope they see how painful this disengagement is, and understand that the settlers who are leaving peacefully are doing so out of great love and respect for the state of Israel, even though the move is personally devastating. I can't imagine landowners anywhere in the United States giving up their homes and communities so peacefully (though the final outcome remains to be seen), and the stakes in Israel are not at all comparable to any potential scenario in the U.S.

In all fairness, the ABC coverage hasn't all been what we Jews would like to see. The second half of Nightline tonight focused on the Palestinian reaction to the withdrawal (which some claim as a victory for Hamas), and I felt Ted Koppel was much too "soft" on Hanan Ashrawi (whose appearance infuriates me) and I think the new correspondent covering the Palestinians is acting more as a representative of their opinions than as an objective journalist. Perhaps I've just been jaded by many years of exposure to the media, or perhaps my expectations are too low, but even in spite of these obvious flaws, I felt that all-told, Israel is doing okay this week in the press.

As a journalist, I do sympathize with the difficulty in presenting "two sides" to every story while not sending the message that the two sides are equal. It is not an easy task.But watching tonight as images of Israeli soldiers showing compassion for their fellow Jews were juxtaposed with images of masked Islamic militants marching in Gaza with rocket launchers on their shoulders, I felt that intelligent viewers will draw their own conclusions about who wants peace and who doesn't.


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