Friday, January 27, 2012

This Is How You Do It

Ruben Navarette seems to be visiting Israel with a group sent by "America's Voices In Israel". I found out about this when I opened the Oakland Tribune to find an article of his about a recent High Court decision, "Israel's Wrong Turn On Citizenship".

Navarette believes that the Israeli court made a bad decision when they upheld a law preventing Palestinians from gaining Israeli citizenship through Israeli spouses. Depending on your feelings about this issue, you may want to write to Mr. Navarette and tell him he's right on, or totally wrongheaded and stupid. Personally, I'm a little torn on the issue, but I'm not linking and commenting on this article because of my take on Navarette's take on Israeli immigration law.

I'm linking it because it's a rather unusual piece of reporting. Unfortunately.

It's a criticism of an Israeli policy. That's all. It does not accuse Israelis broadside of racism or atrocities. It does not question Israel's right to exist. It does not question whether Israel can be considered a democracy. It does not carefully include any heart-tugging dubious anecdotes.

It reports on a specific Israeli policy, accurately, and then discusses, with some practicality, and realistic reference to reasons why such a policy exists, why he does not believe it is a good one. He acknowledges that he does not live in Israel, but that he believes that this was a poor call.

And he manages to describe the decision as 'troubling', without throwing in a wholesale dismissal of Israel's legitimacy among nations. Even that headline: "Israel's Wrong Turn ON CITIZENSHIP", not "Israel's Right Wing Takes Over Everything Even More".

You know how rare that is? I was almost puzzled when I finished reading it. It was as though something was missing. If you spend enough time reading about Israel in the papers, you get used to the myriad small buzzing stings of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism that leave poison all over the most innocuous article topics if only Israel gets involved. I kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting. For the second shoe full of malice to drop. It didn't. I think Navarette is just...for real, not in the sarcastic, malevolent sense it's usually used...criticizing an Israeli policy.

That's not to say that this is a perfect piece. I think the connection he tries to make to U.S. immigration issues is clunky and forced, the situations too dissimilar to make a good parallel.  I think that it's inevitable that he would try to make a connection to U.S. immigration policy, both because it's familiar to his readers, and is a topic he frequently discusses, but I don't think it works.  I also think that some of the consequences he envisions are, similarly, not terribly relevent to the situation.

Nevertheless: for all the whiners who complain that if you 'criticize Israel's policies', you're immediately marked an anti-Semite, please take note of Mr. Navarette. I think he did a good job.

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