Op-Ed Columns Opinion

Gentleman’s Agreement

By John R. Cohn

It is obviously easier to criticize how something was covered in the newspaper or who was included in an international or academic forum than to write about what or who was not there.  Often, the most powerful bias of a publication or conference organizer comes out in what they choose not to report or for a meeting, who was excluded.
Last year, the United States established a Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), inviting a total of 29 states.  As the State Department website reads, “Launched by Secretary Clinton on September 22, 2011, the GCTF is a major initiative within the Obama Administration’s broader effort to build the international architecture for dealing with 21st century terrorism”.
Israel, which has certainly had vast experience with terrorism, was not even mentioned in Secretary Clinton’s initial remarks in September, let alone invited.  As for a video on terrorism victims prepared for the GCTF, the State Department advised, “Watch Global Survivors Network’s documentary, featuring survivors from Jordan, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, India, Uganda, Turkey, Colombia, Spain, Northern Ireland, Indonesia and the United States”.  Still no Israel.
And from the New York Times and other media?
Nothing.
As a physician I am often reminded, “If you don’t document it, it did not happen”. The New York Times famously promises to provide “All the news that’s fit to print”.
The United States established the GCTF.  While this is commendable, Israel was excluded not only from the initial membership but also from the June meeting in Turkey and the July meeting in Spain.
In her remarks at the GCTF’s most recent meeting, Israel was also MIA (missing in action) from the list of terrorist victims recounted by Maria Otero, the State Department’s Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.
It has been observed that not inviting Israel to a counterterrorism conference is like excluding Colombia from a coffee conference.  Colombia, of course, is an exporter of coffee, while Israel may be the world’s leading recipient of terrorism.  Israel’s experience combatting terrorism is unmatched.
There has been an ongoing effort at boycott, divestment and sanctions directed at Israel, the so-called BDS movement. Israelis have been excluded from academic conferences, as well as from appearing on campuses and international forums, her enemies seeking to isolate and thereby destroy her.
It is concerning that the United States may be seen as having joined the BDS movement as it relates to excluding Israel from this international forum.   Based on the size of their population, Israel has been a major victim of terrorism, from the murder of their Olympic athletes, to the ongoing rocket fire from Palestinian ruled Gaza.  It is difficult to imagine their experience not being extremely valuable at a conference our State Department calls, “A unique platform for senior counterterrorism policymakers and experts from around the world to work together to identify urgent needs, devise solutions and mobilize resources for addressing key counterterrorism challenges”.
It is also difficult to imagine this was not a conscious decision by our government, which reinforces the view of Israel’s enemies that small country can be isolated and destroyed.  How can Israelis be expected to believe America will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, when our State Department can so easily be dissuaded from even inviting them to a conference?
And it raises questions as to why the “newspaper of record” and other mainstream journalists have chosen not to even cover this “major initiative.”
The 1947 film “Gentleman’s Agreement” won three Oscars, including Best Picture, for Gregory Peck’s portrayal of a Jew who was a victim of pervasive but informal anti-Semitism driven discrimination in New York and its suburbs.  Jews were unwelcome, but it took a courageous producer to bring that out, despite pressure from Hollywood Jews to avoid the topic, fearing it would “stir up trouble”.  Unfortunately, less has changed than we thought.
Then again, perhaps the Times’ editors share my opinion that a global counterterrorism forum that does not include Israel does not deserve to be taken seriously.

John R. Cohn, M.D., is a Philadelphia physician and professor of medicine at Thomas Jefferson University who writes regularly about media coverage of Israel.  His email is john.r.cohn@gmail.com.

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