Socially Progressive Terrorist’s Latest Casualty is CNN’s Senior Editor

Nasr and Fadlallah

Nasr and Fadlallah

I hate to tweak Thomas L. Friedman, whose experience and readership dwarfs Jewish Jihad’s by about a million to one, but his published defense of the recently fired CNN senior editor of Middle East affairs, Octavia Nasr, is off base.

Nasir was fired for tweeting “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.” Fadlallah, a prominent Lebanese Shiite spiritual leader, was involved in the founding of Hezbollah. He hated Israel and supported terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. Nasr described him as “one of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

The only fault Friedman finds in Nasr’s tweets is that “reporters covering a beat should not be issuing condolences for any of the actors they cover. It undermines their credibility.”

But reporters do this all the time. Tributes after the deaths of “covered actors” are the norm, from Ted Kennedy to Michael Jackson. They demonstrate our values.

Perhaps Nadr was enamored of Fadlallah because, unlike most other terrorists, Fadlallah argued in favor of equal rights and education for women, and against domestic violence. Or maybe because, although he opposed the U.S., he also opposed obedience to Iran.

Friedman appreciates that people who position themselves as anti-Hezbollah, or who oppose murdering Israeli women and children, will rarely be heard within the Shia community, because no one will listen to them. Friedman would like to see people like Fadlallah strengthened, because they can bring about social change in other areas.

I can’t be so generous. Fadlallah advocated murdering my innocent relatives and friends in Israel. And we Americans will die along with them, if we happen to be visiting the Holy Land when one of Hezbollah’s rockets explodes. And Fadlallah didn’t just advocate it; he acted to make it so, by creating and nurturing the Hezbollah.

Friedman notes that if Fadlallah had not advocated this evil, he would not have any followers, thus the position of women could not have been improved. It’s a distracting argument, but Fadlallah’s advocacy and practice of terrorism appear to have been heartfelt rather than motivated by any cynical political requirement.

During the Holocaust, a Jew’s chances of survival depended more on what his neighbors thought of Jews than on what the German laws said.  Does the guilt of so many antisemitic civilians make Hitler any less evil?  Similarly, Friedman’s mitigating argument exposes the guilt of the Shiite multitudes, without exonerating their dead leader.

Friedman says Nadr should not have lost her job, because her loss of credibility is outweighed by her in-depth knowledge of the Lebanese-Christian Arabs, of whom she is one. When Friedman says, “A journalist should lose his or her job for misreporting, for misquoting, for fabricating, for plagiarizing, for systemic bias — but not for a message like this one,” he is essentially denying that Nasr exhibits systemic bias.

But the truth is that Friedman and Nasr (and many other major news sources) already show systemic bias. As soon as a reporter stops using neutral geographical place designations (like “West Bank” and “Gaza Strip”), and begins using an editors’ choice from among competing political claimants’ labels, the reporter is exhibiting systemic bias. Friedman and Nasr refer to the West Bank as “occupied territories” rather than as “liberated territories.” They routinely refer to disputed areas as “Palestinian territory” rather than as the Jewish lands of “Judea and Samaria.”

One person’s “context” is another person’s “bias.”

Nadr’s tweets simply exceeded the level of bias already shared by her editors and colleagues; and exceeded what most consumers of American news will tolerate.

Friedman would like to see the Arab societies change and thereby thrive. Well, wouldn’t we all!  He believes that change can come only from within. Not necessarily true, although that would be the best way for it to happen. It does not follow, however, that good reporting can come only when written by the people within. We can know about Arab societies, without demonizing them, by listening to them and conversing with them — even with the many whose positions or actions we find reprehensible.

Friedman writes: “I prefer to get my news from a CNN reporter who can actually explain why thousands of men and women are mourning an aged Shiite cleric — whom we consider nothing more than a terrorist — than a reporter who doesn’t know at all, or worse, doesn’t dare to say.”

Isn’t Friedman himself such a reporter? Why does a reporter need to be an Arab or a follower of this socially progressive terrorist to provide that explanation? Friedman himself could have provided all the context we need,  just by interviewing Fadlallah’s many fans within the Arab societies, including Lebanese-Christian Arabs like Nadr.

Fadlallah architected the murders of many innocent people.  The man was working at murdering still more.  He died.  Good riddance.  A woman who is a fan of that man will no longer be overseeing CNN’s coverage of the Middle East conflict. Also good riddance. Will it make CNN’s coverage any less biased? I doubt it.

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