JNews fulfils an urgent need

Antony Lerman on the launch of JNews

Monday, 15 March, 2010 - 07:08
London, UK

JNews answers a need which some of us who approach the Israel-Palestine conflict from a concerned Jewish perspective, although not an exclusive one, have felt increasingly acutely in the last few years.

When it comes to understanding the Israel-Palestine issue, information, commentary and analysis that goes beyond the clichés, recognizes the complexities and truly illuminates is indispensable per se for anyone involved, no matter which of your identities is particularly important to you. That is what JNews sets out to provide.

But we are living at a time when the situation in Israel-Palestine is becoming increasingly desperate, and when the fallout from the conflict for Jews has never been more intense. In consequence, opinion among Jews has become increasingly polarised.

On one side, we see the hardening of the view that Israel is singled out for grossly unfair treatment, expressed most starkly in the trashing of the Goldstone report and the character assassination of Goldstone himself—a proud Jew and a Zionist. The alacrity with which certain Israeli and Jewish circles willingly embraced this disgraceful attack is a sign of just how seriously under threat is the culture of reasoned and civil debate among Jews.

On the other side, critical Jewish voices have multiplied, especially since the attack on Gaza in December 2008, which exacerbated divisions within the Jewish community. And there are very clear signs of a deep disquiet among the middle ground of Jewish opinion in the UK as to the path Israel is following. The fact that more than 500 people listened intently and sympathetically to three panellists at a Jewish Book Week event on 7 March, all of whom staked out critical and radical positions on the ‘way forward’ in the Israel-Palestine conflict, demonstrated this very starkly.

Despite this shift, the variety of Jewish opinion on the conflict is represented in neither the Jewish nor the general media. The strand of opinion which insists on the paramount need to assess the conflict and seek its resolution on the basis of a fundamental concern for human rights and social justice is, we feel, particularly underrepresented.

Of course, this approach is not, by any means, a uniquely Jewish one. But since Jews everywhere are uniquely affected by the conflict, together with Palestinians, we feel an urgent need to respond by emphasising more strongly than ever our support for the human rights-based approach, and by working to ensure that the media take far more cognisance of the need to report, examine and comment on the conflict from that perspective.

We believe that the strength of JNews, a British Jewish initiative, lies in its independence. JNews is not the creature of any organization. It opposes the occupation, but does not promote specific policies. Nevertheless, by acknowledging the importance of the media in influencing attitudes to the conflict, by eschewing the tendency of many pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups always to want to shoot the messenger even when negative coverage is justified, and by producing material of a high quality, we hope to be successful in persuading the media to make full use of what we provide.

Some of JNews’s output will be original news, comment and analysis, either written by our Director, Miri Weingarten, or by our expert contributors, including many who are Patrons of JNews. Other material will be sourced from organizations and individuals whose work provides a deep insight into how the conflict affects the lives of ordinary people in the region.

The creation of JNews begins to fulfil the need I have described. The more complete fulfilment of that need will only come if JNews is successful in influencing the media’s coverage of the conflict. This is no small challenge, but it is an urgent one—and we believe that by working to meet it, we can help make some improvement in the prospects of protecting and promoting human rights and social justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Antony Lerman is the former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) in London. He is Chairman of JNews.

This article may be reproduced on condition that JNews is quoted as its source

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