Obama’s Goal: Peace in the Upper East Side


Few New York Times stories have been as boring or irrelevant as Jeff Zeleny‘s aptly headlined “Obama Meets With Israeli and Palestinian Leaders.”

If a U.S. newspaper dared to print what the major Israeli paper Haaretz ran yesterday about Barack Obama‘s Middle East schmooze — Aluf Benn‘s analysis titled “Obama visiting Israel to impress Jewish voters, not Israelis” — the paranoid Jewish establishment types in this country would howl with rage and hint at anti-Semitism.

Israel is too touchy a topic for the U.S. journalism establishment. The funny thing is that the only U.S. papers that really cover the intrigue of political relations between Israel and the U.S. are the Jewish papers, primarily Forward.

Benn’s analysis in Haaretz is a must-read, summed up by this passage:

Israelis don’t interest McCain and Obama. Rather, it is their Jewish voters and contributors at home. Barack Hussein Obama – with his Muslim stepfather and his childhood in Indonesia, his suggestion to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the leftist image that adheres to his advisors – has raised deep anxieties among the Jewish establishment. Republicans sensed a massive defection of Jewish voters. Obama’s campaign managers have identified it as a problem and their candidate has been working on calming things down and issuing pro-Israel statements.

Newspapers may be increasingly irrelevant in the U.S., but not in Israel, where people are still addicted to them and the press culture is vibrant, contentious, lively, and extremely literate. Sound unfamiliar?

Read the Israeli papers if you want to see what’s really going on over there with Obama and McCain and the Middle East quagmire.

Haaretz is a lefty paper, but it is one of three major dailies in Israel. As Gal Beckerman noted in his fascinating inside look at Israeli journalism in the May 2005 Columbia Journalism Review:

Haaretz’s news and editorial pages have serious impact. No one in the power elite can afford to ignore its daily, unsigned editorial. Like the New York Times, Le Monde, and the Guardian, it sees itself as a player, one with a distinct perspective on the country’s often existential dilemmas.

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Beckerman’s piece, which is long, but worthwhile.

On the other hand, you probably do have to be Jewish — and a member of the Jewish establishment — to love the well-put-together Daily Alert from the heart of that establishment, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman headed from 2001 to 2003.

In other words, don’t look for any cogent analysis of the Middle East in Zuckerman’s paper.