Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wash. Post's pursuit of gloom and doom for Israel

Wash. Post's pursuit of gloom and doom for Israel

Leo Rennert

In its coverage of Israel, the Washington Post has one consistent paradigm - the sky's falling on the Jewish state.  Last week, the Post speculated that the Arab Spring could bring hordes of refugees and terrorists streaming across the Syrian border into the Israel-held Golan Heights -- even though turmoil in Syria has lasted more than a year and no such prospect seems in the offing.

This Sunday, May 13,  the front page features a teaser about an inside article that again depicts a passel of woes for Israel --  "Israel sees signs of looming culture war -- A plan to end military exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews creates turmoil and a political nightmare."

The article, by Jerusalem correspondent Karin Burlliard -- along with two color photos, including a four-column one showing Orthodox men dancing around a bonfire during the Lag B'Omer festival -- takes up almost the entire first page of the world-news section. 

Headlined "Israel's brewing battle over military service -- Resistance among ultra-Orthodox to loss of exemption stirs resentment in a culture committed to universal conscription,"  it flatly states that the government's decision to end military exemption "has turned into a public policy nightmare."
"Fixing it could spark a culture war," Brulliard adds for good measure.

There's no question but that this issue of military exemption for the ultra-Orthodox is a delicate one, rife with religious-secular tensions.  The law allowing exemptions has expired and, besides, Israel's Supreme Court has struck it down, so renewing it is out of the question.

But Prime Minister Netanyahu, now presiding about a broad-based unity government with the addition of the centrist Kadima party to his governing coalition, has put in place a diverse, high-powered panel to come up with a solution this summer.  It's already clear that there are plenty of options that may be up for consideration -- not just forcing the ultra-Orthodox into military service.  Policy makers can pick from a variety of alternative, national public service solutions.

Will it be a difficult, hot-button assignment?  Yes.  But can the government devise a negotiated compromise that may not please all parties, but is also not so indigestible as to cause a "culture war."?  Again, yes.

Even Brulliard hints at such an outcome.  "Most proposals suggest a capped number of exemptions for top Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) students and gradual increases in enlistment or civil service for others," she writes.

The only catch is that she buries this glimmer of optimism in the 23rd paragraph of her 26-paragraph article -- far, far behind the "public policy nightmare" and the "culture war" scenarios in her scare-mongering fourth paragraph.

How many Post readers ever get to the 23rd paragraph?