Where has the left been since violence erupted in the Middle East?
The editor of The Forward, the 109-year-old Jewish newspaper published in New York, has found bloggers on the right to be "going on about those horrible Muslims, the horrible Arabs," yet on the left "there's been an unwillingness to get into it."
J.J. Goldberg's paper reported on the silence from the left last week. Jennifer Siegel wrote:
...As the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah raged on and conventional media outlets covered the news from the ground, major players in the liberal blogosphere were keeping, by their own admission, decidedly quiet.
The most prominent liberal blogger, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, briefly addressed the topic Monday on his eponymous Web site DailyKos.com, in a post titled "Why I won't write about the Israel/ Lebanon/ Palestine fighting."
This is "a morass of a mess of a disaster of a quagmire of a sinkhole," Kos wrote. "It doesn't matter what the President of the United States says. Or the United Nations. Or the usual bloviating gasbag pundits."
A newspaper friend calls it "The Third Rail." Nothing I wrote in a quarter century generated the heated correspondence I attracted in two months of covering the Second Intifada from Jerusalem in 2002. All sides went after me with brickbats and honey, derision and praise - never losing focus of the need to draw my point of view closer to theirs.
No assignment I've encountered requires more strength and smarts - or tougher skin. All words go under a microscope and onto a scale. I invited everyone with such strong opinions to drop by the region for a fresh look -- about 200 people died during my tour, and I got tired of armchair surety. I tried to answer every email. Many wound up being posted in listserves. I grew more savvy about sharing my words.
The Forward reporter also contacted Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com, Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly and Matt Stollar of MyDD.com, and each acknowledged a reluctance to write about the subject "for reasons that included both the vehemence of rhetoric from readers on both sides, and the difficulty of commenting on the rare issue that truly divides liberals."
The "venom... is just, from my personal experience, just a whole order of magnitude greater than with garden variety political topics," Marshall told the Forward.
The piece also quotes Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, who rejects the argument that the events are too complex to lend themselves to blog treatment.
He wrote the Forward by email: "Maybe the problem is not complexity but complication the way in which sympathy with Israel's campaign against Hezbollah, and therefore with the use of force, might complicate their lives in progressiveland, where they live."
Atrios, too, has been quiet on the latest Middle East front. Today the popular Philly southpaw quotes from a post by The Poor Man Institute, introduced with "Finally somebody gets it right so I don't have to try:"
Ive said nothing about war in Lebanon or Ethiopia because I have nothing to add, and also because - as you may or may not be aware - the United States is actually involved in a hugely bloody war right now, and this is more of a pressing concern to me personally. I dont know the secret formula for unshitting any of these beds - I promise I wouldnt be shy if I did - but I currently only have to sleep in one of them; and, as it turns out, thats the one bed where I actually have some minuscule chance of influencing the situation. So thats my concern.
I've found one prominent lefty voice to be crying loudly in the tall cedars - Billmon, the progressive Philadelphia blogger and former business journalist, who writes at Whiskey Bar and who has long gone his own way.
Here, here, here, and here, for instance, he's delivered bruising looks at they way Israel is waging its Operation Midwife in retaliation against Hezbollah.
He thinks the Israelis are in danger of losing both the war and the war for public opinion.
Thursday morning update: Some bloggers have responded to this post. Here's what they're writing:
First reaction came from Conspiracy, What Conspiracy? a right-leaning blog from Philadelphia. The blogger, Logan, has a couple thoughts why liberals haven't been hammering conservatives for what they've been writing about the conflict:
1.) While , the Palestinians have been a left wing favorite and by extension Hezbollah they dont want to alienate the Jewish base that is notoriously Democrat.
2.) To come out strongly either for or against War over there weakens them in Iraq. Youre like WTF right?
Heres my reasoning on both points. Jewish Americans statistically vote and donate very heavily to the Democratic party (I dont know why since the Repubs are much better friends, they just do), to look weak on Israels right to exist and defend itself would seriously hurt the Dems coffers AND weaken them in the blue northeast states. If they come out strongly for Israel fighting terrorist Hezbollah it weakens their arguement on pulling troops out of Iraq. If they come out strongly against Israel hammering Hezbollah then they look very weak on the war against Islamic Jihadists. Repubs will bash them with stones either way. The best democratic tact might be to try and remain as silent as possible on it....
its important to remember that the left blogosphere is facing a huge conundrum here. Defend the civilians of Lebanon in Beruit, Tyre, etc and by this defense stand against the civilians of Israel in Haifa, Sderot, etc. Or do they do the opposite? See, the problem they face? The right has it much easier, see we dont look at this as "civillians being hurt" we look at this as "War on Terror". Yeah we realize that civilians are getting hurt but we realize that to stand by and do/say nothing is to give the terrorists aid by our silence. Something the left still needs to learn.
Downstairs (literally) at the Daily News, Will Bunch reacts on Attytood:
Frankly, we're not so sure that liberals are so divided on this. Call us crazy, but some progressives have this thing about senseless warfare and killing, especially when it's been going on for ages. Bloggers tend to be at their passionate best when they choose a side, like the case of Lamont v. Lieberman.
In this showdown, do you back the folks who kidnapped a couple of soldiers in the hope, frankly, of triggering wider bloodshed, and who launch inaccurate rockets into civilian neighborhoods, or do you support the people who manage to kill a lot more civilians, with lethal accuracy, who seemingly target ambulances and neutral UN observers and drop phosphorous bombs?
Some bloggers don't have a dog in that hunt. Can you blame them?
From Common Sense Political Thought:
But while Mr Rubin might be concerned that the liberal bloggers are simply stepping very gingerly around the subject, Id suggest that he got the reasons very wrong.
The liberal bloggers are shying away from the subject because they know that Israel is right about this one!
Oh, theyll certainly abhor what they see as an excessive response from the Israelis, but they know, deep down, that Israel didnt start this one.