Just not about Donald Trump. There are far too many checks and balances for any real distortion in reporting about our president. If anything, journalists bend over backwards to report reliably, to maintain their stature and, in the knowledge, that the world is watching and comparing. No, there’s no lying press where Trump is concerned. Really no need. He’s so much more creative in fabricating stories than any reporter could or would be.
But, today I read two articles, disparate articles at that, that showed me how important it is to read between the lines, or even merely to examine the illustration critically.
And so I read an op-ed in today’s New York Times Sunday Review. I’ve been reading the NYT off and on, but definitely mostly on, since high school in the 50’s I do have a love-hate relationship with them since I, and many other Jews, regard them as unfair to Israel, often. Last year I canceled our subscription. And then came Trump and I couldn’t live without it. I read it in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. I read it when I’m away from New Jersey, particularly in Israel, but in other places as well. Often I am so glued to the politics that I forget my sometimes animosity towards them. And then an article, really an opinion piece, appears that makes me distrustful and angry. Like today.
It was by Raja Shehadeh who is a Ramallah lawyer She wrote about the difficulties of getting to Ben Gurion Airport in a piece that was published in her new book about the occupation. And she lied. And the NYT published the article with the obvious lie.
First, there are checkpoints between Ramallah, and other places, and Israel. Some of the residents earned those checkpoints by frequent acts of terror directed towards Israel. When my family lived on French Hill in Jerusalem, in l973, Ramallah was easy to get in and out of. It’s a lovely city, very close to Jerusalem and we used to visit often. I remember a beautiful cafe in a garden where we’d sip strong coffee and enjoy the cool breezes. We never felt threatened or wary. We never took travel documents to get in or out. No one did.
But increasing terror by some of its residents made it impossible to live securely without monitoring who was coming and who was going. I know everyone would be happier if those checkpoints didn’t have to exist. Everyone!
So where was the dishonesty? Ms. Shehadeh claimed it used to take her 50 minutes, I guess before the checkpoints, to get to Ben Gurion Airport and now it takes her 5 hours. The problem is she was comparing the proverbial apples to oranges.
The 50 minutes was drive time. The 5 hours was time to taking off. Since the Israel Airport Authority urges all departing passengers to arrive 3 hours before their flight is scheduled to leave, and everyone must factor drive time into the equation we always leave Herzliya a good 4 hours before our scheduled flight. The Ayalon is packed with cars most of the time and we are cautious so we factor in enough time to deal with the traffic, return our rental car, and get to the checkin area. Four hours from Herzliya, which is closer to the airport than Ramallah. Five hours really doesn’t sound so absurd.
What does sound absurd is 50 minutes! In the best of times, without checkpoints, in the middle of the night when there is little traffic, one might make it to Ben Gurion Airport from Ramallah in 50 minutes. But, remember, we are all instructed to be there 3 hours before takeoff. So what’s with the 50 minutes? It’s clearly a gross exaggeration. A lie. You might get to the airport but you’d have long since missed your flight.
Note to Ms Shehadeh: if you want to state your case, do so honestly. Tell us the checkpoints make your trip somewhat longer.. But don’t tell us it’s 50 minutes vs 5 hours. It’s just not true.
I also read something funny yesterday. It was not written to be funny. It was in the business section of the NJ Star Ledger, pirated from the Washington Post. This piece was about a new device for airplane comfort. Called the JetComfy it was invented by a former Israeli. It’s a pillow and the illustration in the newspaper had me laughing, in times when I can’t find too much to laugh about.
Here’s a description of the lucky guy who owns a JetComfy. I saw him in a photo. If I were technically up to speed I’d include the photo, but some things are beyond old ladies. He’s on a plane and he’s sitting in the middle of a three-seater with no passengers on either side (not bad already; if the JetComfy can do that it’s worth the purchase price). His left arm is encroaching seriously on the empty seat next to him on the left. He owns that armrest. His right leg is several inches into the space assigned to the window seat. The right armrest has the stick of the JetComfy affixed to it, basically making the armrest inaccessible to either passenger. So the JetComfy works as long as you have three seats to yourself. This guy is so sprawled out that he’s got more space than in Business Class.
Here’s a tip: save yourself some money and don’t buy the JetComfy.
So, freedom of the press means we have to be good critical readers. But even with sometimes axes to grind, a free press is our only way outta here intact! So we can indulge them when they fudge the truth because we need them when they don’t, which is most of the time.