Mixing journalistic milk and meat

Mixing journalistic milk and meat

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee was the subject of a snarky article in Tuesday’s New York Times. Better known as AIPAC, the pro-Israel group has been under a cloud – several clouds – in recent years. It’s been viewed as exercising its undeniable clout with a heavy hand, and last year two AIPAC analysts were charged with sharing classified information with Israel. (AIPAC subsequently found a reason to fire them, and the case against them was dismissed last week. See page 28.)

The Times piece, about AIPAC’s conference this week, noted the group’s “‘roll call’ in which the [U.S.] lawmakers all rise. It is a conscious – and effective – effort to demonstrate the group’s influence on Capitol Hill.”

Really? Might it not rather have been a conscious effort to honor those lawmakers who honor Israel? We note that this observation appeared in a straight news story, not in an editorial or op-ed piece or in a news analysis. That’s not journalistically kosher.

There’s more: The piece describes the conference site, the Washington Convention Center, as “conveniently, and symbolically, about equally close to the White House and the Capitol, the two objects of Aipac’s muscular demonstration.” (The Times does not capitalize acronyms and names used like them.) Muscular demonstration? Has no other large interest group assembled in that place? Are we to assume they are all out to intimidate Congress and the sitting administration?

But the snarkiest snark of all was saved for last: The writer, Neil A. Lewis, went on to note that “[l]ast year, some prominent American Jews, asserting that Aipac’s generally down-the-line support of Israeli policy was neither helpful to Israel nor wise, founded a counter group called J Street. J Street, which is only a tiny percentage of the size of Aipac, is vocal about supporting lawmakers who might disagree with some Israeli policies.” So far, we have no complaints – that’s pretty accurate. But wait; here’s the last sentence: “Aipac officials have tried to treat J street as if it were lint.”

Lint? A good metaphor – you brush lint away. But it’s mean, nasty, and unattributed. It doesn’t belong in a news story.

In fact, the story didn’t report the news, didn’t report what was said at the conference, and by whom. For that, you have to read The Jewish Standard, pages 24 to 27.