Lauren Wolfe: Writing about journalism and saying this about the war
Why does an interesting article about contemporary journalism have to start like this?
Yesterday, journalist Lauren Wolfe, who writes about writing on her Substack site, published an article entitled: “Why Israel bumped Ukraine off the News.” Here she talks about people’s attention to the news and how the press can/should respond to the changed readership environment. It is interesting, but she makes it hard for me to take seriously her pleas such as the following:
If we’re going to relate to what’s going on in this terrible war between Israel and Hamas, then we have to start looking. If we want to understand the biggest war in Europe since World War II, we have to start reading. And right now, the press isn’t helping.
Unfortunately, Wolfe is not helping either. (I can provide her with a reading list, if she is truly interested in helping, but I doubt she would pay any attention to me.)
Not only does the image representing her article show destruction of a street in Gaza with no hint of the destruction of Israel’s south, her article begins with:
As the initial shock of Hamas’s attack on Israel wore down and the horrifying campaign against Gaza began, I began to think about how there is little that could have knocked the war in Ukraine off the front pages other than something involving Israel. Or a terror attack in America.
As a reporter who has covered Ukraine since the war began in February 2022, I, like many of us, have been dealing with a kind of complex pain since the Hamas attack on Israel, which was horrific and was followed by utter brutality upon innocent Gazans. As I’ve written, I was traveling to a journalism symposium at Auschwitz when the initial invasion occurred. That was really a kind of F-U from the universe if there ever was one, right? [emphasis added]
Unfortunately, Israel got a huge F-U from the world when the war against HAMAS — NOT GAZA, HAMAS — was almost immediately construed in a vein similar to the framing Wolfe provided by these first two paragraphs of her article.
Just what is that “complex pain” she says she is dealing with? Oh — the “Hamas attack on Israel” (that’s an understatement if I ever heard one) versus the “utter brutality upon innocent Gazans.” She did add, almost as an afterthought, that the Hamas attack was “horrific,” but even that word does not come close to what they did. The “utter brutality” would have better fit what Hamas did to Israelis. Can I suggest that she accept an invitation to a screening of the 40-minute horror film of Hamas’ utter bruality?
And Wolfe’s claim that the “initial shock” has worn down may be true for her, but it is not true for us, in Israel. It would be more appropriate to say that the initial shock here has turned into bottomless grief, unbearable pain (not complex, unbearable), ongoing stress of uncertainty and fear (fear for oneself, fear for loved ones, and fear for the country), together with a smidgeon of hope that our leaders know how to bring us through this nightmare to security and the knowledge that there will be little chance Oct 7th can happen again.
Complexity, the word she applies to her pain, suggests cognitiion rather than emotion. I guess I could give her the benefit of the doubt and suggest that she means ‘mixed emotions.’ Yes, we Israelis know about mixed emotions. We know the joy of seeing hostages walk out of captivity, the anger of seeing them forced to part from their masked green-bandana-wearing Hamas captors as if they were guests in a luxury hotel in Gaza (of which there were several, pre-war at least), and the fear and pain for those many more still to be freed.
As a beginner-level journalist, I was excited when I first discovered her Substack site, looking forward to gleaning from her articles bits of wisdom acquired over two decades of journalist experience that I could apply to my own development. But that soon turned to dismay. The second paragraph of her very popular article entitled, “I am Jewish and I say that because I am scared,” begins with this:
I will not allow Israel to be the beginning and end point of this conversation.
Why has Israel become so tainted, controversial, unacceptable in polite conversation, that such a statement seems to be okay? Necessary, even?
Wolfe should know that Israel IS the beginning and the end point — not of conversation — but of Jewish life around the world. She should understand that had there been an Israel to which her family could run, they may not have been murdered, remaining nameless and uncommemorated, in ovens or pits or whatever somewhere in World War II Europe. After all, later in her article, she writes:
And I am Jewish because we have always had to fight to exist in the world, and because I know that when they come, they will come for me.
First of all, she is Jewish because she was born Jewish. These other things she claims define her Jewishness are not the cause of her being Jewish but the consequence.
Does she not understand that Israel protects her in this “fight to exist in the world” as best as the country can? Yet she sees no inconsistency between this and her claim that she will not allow Israel to be the beginning or end of conversation. And why this reticence? The continuation of the second paragraph shows why:
The politics on the nightmare the Palestinians are living are clear to me — mistreatment of any group, including the Palestinians, is to be condemned. The Israeli settlers taking over their land, I find abhorrent. To clarify: These extreme actions by the Israeli far-right are not the ways I was ever taught or thought that those who are Jewish are meant to think. I’m not talking biblically, although there are reasons to believe that too, but as someone who has been steeped in a tradition of tolerance.
“In a tradition of tolerance,” eh? Except ….
That she can blame “the nighmare the Palestinians are living,” not on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, but on Israel or on “settlers” demonstrates how little she knows.
To be clear, she published this article on being Jewish in January 2023. So, long before this war. Still. This paragraph shows that Lauren Wolfe has fallen for the propaganda against Jews living in Judea-Samaria. And because she has fallen for the propaganda (I cannot blame her, as the Israeli left wing colleagues with whom she likely has contact, have also fallen for it), she feels the need to make excuses for being a Jew belonging to a People who have a Jewish state. She needs to distance herself (I will not allow ….) from the Jewish state that needs, like she herself needs, to fight to exist in the world.
As we are doing now — fighting Hamas and their allies. Fighting for all the Jews, Arabs, Druze, Bedouin, Christians who hold the blue ID card and those who come on foreign passports to care for our old and handicapped and work in our agricultural fields.
Come to Israel, Lauren. Come and take a journalist tour of the south and see the film of what Hamas did to us — and would have done to you if you had happened to have been here on Oct 7th. Come see why we are fighting, who we are fighting, and why we will fight to the end and then tell us about YOUR shock and what becomes of it. Don’t give up your humanity and your concern for human rights — but broaden your scope and deepen your knowledge and understanding. It is your duty as a journalist.