Friday, June 4, 2021

Reflections on All the News Fit to Print

The New York Times devoted a full page of its Thursday Styles section to the new cache of metal detectors. Not only does one need a designer model detector, but from the accompanying pictures in print and on The Times web site you apparently also have to dress like a super model to search fields and shores for lost objects of junk or treasure (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/31/style/metal-detectorists-ring-finders.html?smid=em-share).


It was not always a pursuit of the rich and famous, or those who aspired to such status. Back in 1976, during my time as the bureau chief of West Haven, Bethany, Orange and Woodbridge for The New Haven Register, I was required to write a Sunday feature on a topic of my choosing. 


Driving around looking for an interesting idea when I came upon a treasure hunter on the West Haven city green. He was a quirky looking dude, just a little more presentable than a homeless man might appear. He was bent over his metal detector, earphones propped atop his heads, listening for the telltale ping of metal. It was a few minutes before he realized I was standing next to him.


After identifying myself and asking if he would be willing to talk about his hobby, I proceeded to find out he had been moderately successful at this enterprise, having released from the earth many rings, a necklace and bracelet or two, plus valuable coins. His treasure was worth close to a thousand dollars, he estimated. I concluded the interview by taking his picture and recording, as was the requirement of The Register for any article, his name, age and address.


You’ve probably guessed where this story is going.


Sure enough, two days after the article appeared, I noticed in the police blotter a stolen property report. The scavenger’s house had been burglarized. Gone was his treasure trove lovingly dug up over many years. If he hadn’t already lost it, also gone were his innocence and sense of trust in his fellow man.


I have few regrets about my years as a reporter. But I do regret adhering to the newspaper’s policy of printing addresses. Sometimes, too much information is a bad thing. 



Say My Name: As a journalist I am always drawn to stories about press suppression, the incarceration of reporters and editors, and their deaths at the hands of tyrants. Last week Danny Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, was arrested at the airport as he was about to leave the Southeast Asian country (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/29/world/asia/myanmar-prison-coup.html?smid=em-share).


I  had never heard of Danny Fenster. I might have merely skimmed the article if not for his last name—Fenster was a high school nickname I acquired after an Israeli teacher repeatedly mispronounced my name (he must have had difficulty reading my Delaney card). 


Back in 2010 a weekly notice from our temple said Matt Fenster of Riverdale was seeking bone marrow donors to treat his acute myelogenous leukemia. In the past I’d always shied away from even considering the thought of a bone marrow donation. I shuddered at even the test, though I learned it was rather benign, a simple cheek swab to determine compatibility. The actual bone marrow donation also has passed from being needle-scary to the painless routine of giving blood.


With his name as a sign of to be brave, Gilda and I drove to the testing site, only to be turned away because we were 61, one yer older than the donor age limit. We gave a donation but were bummed out we couldn’t do more. 


A year later we learned Matt Fenster passed away.



Critical Eye: As could be expected Nicholas Kristof’s criticism of Israel’s actions in the recent conflict with Hamas has attracted numerous comments plus a followup essay, “Were My Criticisms of Israel Fair?” (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/02/opinion/israel-gaza-conflict.html?smid=url-share)


The short answer is, “No.” 


To reach his view that Israel overreacted to the thousands of rockets launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip, Kristof compared Arab violence to terrorist attacks in India and Afghanistan plotted inside Pakistan, the separatist movement of ETA Basques from Spain, and the bombings by the Irish Republican Army to secure freedom from Britain in Northern Ireland. Those attacks did not induce the type of overwhelming response Israel leveled on Hamas and innocents in Gaza, he reasoned.


He suggested, “Yet, slowly, almost imperceptibly, restraint helped make a path to peace possible. Moderation dampened extremism instead of fueling it.”


Kristof is not usually so naive. All of the terror unleashed by the IRA, ETA and Pakistan is no match for what Hamas sent to Israel—4,000 rockets in less than two weeks.  All of the terror unleashed by the IRA, ETA and Pakistan never had the intention of destroying a sovereign state. Hamas wants to eliminate Israel.


Without preconditions, Israel turned Gaza over to the Palestinians in 2005. Hamas turned the strip into a rocket launching pad.


Palestinians repeatedly have rejected a two-state solution because it would mean recognizing Israel’s right to exist in secure borders. 


Until Hamas (as well as Hezbollah and the Palestinian Authority) accepts Israel’s existence, Kristof and other myopic observers will have to learn that their analogies to other conflicts offer a false equivalency to the reality on the ground.   

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