Poisoning the Cup of Consolation

I can’t search the hills in Chevron for Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach.

All I can do is daven.

That, and obsessively follow news stories.

Which led me to an article in The New York Times:“Missing Israeli Teenagers Revive a Mother’s Hard-Earned Intimacy With Loss,” by Jodi Rudoren.

I usually don mental Kevlar armor when reading something from the Times. But the first few  paragraphs were so poignant, I let down my guard.

It started out at a vort for Rabbi Seth and Mrs. Sherri Mandell’s daughter. In middle of the simchah, the chassan put down his l’chaim and said, “I’m sorry, but we have to stop the party. Something terrible has happened.”

Mrs. Mandell immediately started searching for information. She Googled “Israeli teenagers kidnapped,” but the search results turned up stories about the capture and savage murder of her 13-year-old son Koby Mandell, 14 years ago, near their home in Tekoa.

“She spent much of the next day — what would have been Koby’s 27th birthday — in bed, crying. ‘It was just too unbearable,” Mrs. Mandell said. … For weeks … Mandell did not leave the house. “It was like razor blades cutting my body up,” she recalled.

Besides my obsession with Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, I took this story personally. I know Rabbi Seth Mandell since 1978. My brother, Harav Nota Schiller, Rosh Yeshivah of Ohr Somayach, said the hesped at Koby’s levayah. He told me it was the hardest thing he ever had to do.

I should have known better. Soon, as I read on, I started choking on my tears.

The dateline should have been the first tipoff: “TEKOA, West Bank.” There is no such place as “West Bank.” It’s Yehudah and Shomron.

Then, as Yisrael Medad points out in a post on Arutz Sheva, “The language thieves,” Ruderon goes on to write:

“If only these three boys had not hitchhiked in occupied Palestinian territory — if only Koby and his friend, Yosef Ishran, had not ditched school to go hiking in the canyon behind their West Bank homes.”

Medad points out, “Actually, the Gush Etzion Bloc was pre-1948 Israel so it cannot be ‘occupied Palestinian territory,’ well, maybe it could be ‘occupied illegally occupied Jordanian territory.’ … Always blame the Jews.”

Then, in an “et tu, Brute” backstabbing (at least Brutus stabbed Julius Caesar face-to-face), Ruderson writes:

“For all her bereavement work … Mandell has never involved herself in a Palestinian-Israeli group of people who lost loved ones in the conflict — ‘that’s more political,’ she said. But she, too, is political, exploiting the emotion of her trauma to make the case against Israel’s prisoner releases as part of peace negotiations.”

Exploiting?

Frankly, I was shocked that even The Times could stoop to poisoning the cup of consolation.

Again, I shoudn’t have been surprised. Before Mrs. Jodi Rudoren became N.Y. Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief, she tweeted about a Times review of a new book:

@NYTCohen on new book by @PeterBeinart.

Book is terrific: provocative, readable, full of reporting and reflection.

That review begins:

“Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism is an important new book that rejects the manipulation of Jewish victimhood in the name of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians and asserts that the real issue for Jews today is not the challenge of weakness but the demands of power.”

The New York Times is highly professional at what it does. The question is, what does The Times do?

A phrase that comes to mind is “social engineering.”

In The Art of Deception, Kevin Mitnick, the legendary hacker turned computer security expert (who would know better?), says: “Social Engineering uses influence and persuasion to deceive people by convincing them that the social engineer is someone he is not, or by manipulation. As a result, the social engineer is able to take advantage of people to obtain information with or without the use of technology.”

To my knowledge, The Times isn’t in the business of information hacking. But they use similar techniques of deception to spread disinformation. That is a cousin to newspeak, the language created by George Orwell for the nightmarish world of 1984.

The current definition of newspeak is “any corrupt form of English; esp. ambiguous or euphemistic language as used in official pronouncements or political propaganda” (Oxford English Dictionary).

As Orwell put it, “Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought.” And The Times reports all the newspeak that’s fit to print.

Or, to paraphrase Abba Eban, even when covering a catastrophe, The New York Times never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.