Ignoring failings, like the Addario incident, only helps Israel’s enemies
We’re not in the habit of stepping out against commenters—especially since we cherish these most active voices, and also because we know that they often don’t speak for everyone. But we couldn’t let go unchecked the ugly responses to Allison Hoffman’s post about photographer Lynsey Addario’s treatment at a Gaza checkpoint. Not only do we admire Addario and her work; we are reliant upon it, as fellow journalists—and more importantly, as citizens. The refusal to accept that an obvious tragedy took place here is unconscionable.
Heads-up, peacocking commenters: Addario, who is one of the most famous photojournalists on the planet, entered the checkpoint with her very hard-to-come-by press credentials on her, along with a quite substantial Google trail behind her—both of which, as any actually knowledgeable observer or user of checkpoints knows, quickly convinced those on duty that she wasn’t a terrorist. So, stop that rubbish; it only makes you look silly.
And “silly” isn’t bad as “retrograde misogynist,” which roughly describes the other category of negative reaction to this post: those who lambasted Addario for entering the checkpoint while pregnant. It’s a nifty defense mechanism—in Israel, bad things only happen to people who deserve them!—but it is poison. Jews, especially, should reject the notion that victims of violence somehow did something to have it coming, a false logic applied throughout history to rationalize our own persecution. And reveals nothing so much as the utterer’s utter ignorance. The belief that war reporters are simple adrenaline junkies is proof that you have never actually met one. Nor do you have any idea what they endure—or for whom. Addario and her colleagues risk their lives to bring us (that includes you) the information we need (you too) to make informed decisions about our (and your) world. That she does this while pregnant is an additional mark of bravery for which we should all be grateful. The refusal to see this, and to instead attack her, belies nothing more complicated than simple misogyny.
So, let’s call a spade a spade: A few young soldiers made a mistake and badly mistreated a paramount professional—one who risks her life so that all of us might have the information we need to make the decisions of civic life. Mistakes, even terrible mistakes, happen; when they do, though, what must follow is a robust and believable apology from the adults in the room.
Those of us who know and love Israel believe that Addario’s experience was an anomaly, and so are well within our right to wonder why this happened. The incident and the lack of proper apology is a black mark on Israel’s record of defending free press. At a time when those who want the end of Israel are finding any foothold, any convoluted excuse to chip away at the Jewish state’s legitimacy (I mean, pinkwashing?), is it wrong for us to want Israel not to make it easy for them?