Live from Sderot
Every day, as part of my job on the copy desk at a newspaper, I scan news and pictures from the global wire agencies my paper subscribes to. In the past two weeks, I have paid special attention to pictures from Gaza as it is relentlessly pounded by the Israeli military, scenes of carnage and destruction that starkly show how uneven this battle has been from the onset (the latest body count is about a dozen Israeli soldiers killed — mostly from “green-on-green” incidents — to about 1,000 Palestinians, between one quarter and one half of whom were civilians).
Then something caught my attention. Amid the bloodied corpses, collapsed buildings, infernal explosions and anti-Israel protests worldwide were a handful of pictures of a bald Caucasian male standing some distance from a burning Gaza. I turned to the picture caption, which informed me that the individual in question was one Joseph Wurzelbacher, a “reporter” sent by the conservative US-based Web site pjtv.com to report on the daily lives of ordinary Israelis during the conflict.
Now, there is no doubt that a conflict of this scope and complexity requires the best journalistic minds, people like Robert Fisk of the Independent, the late Ze’ev Schiff and Amira Hass, both of the Israeli Ha’aretz newspaper, or the handful of Western reporters who still take their work seriously. (Of course, it would help if Israel stopped barring such reporters from entering Gaza because of their alleged “bias.”)
So who is this Joseph Wurzelbacher? For those who followed the interminable US election last year, he is better known as Joe the Plumber, the man who famously asked then-candidate Barack Obama about his tax plan, who supported candidates John McCain and his stark-mad running-mate Sarah Palin — and who agreed to the statement that one vote for Obama was a vote for the death of Israel.
I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry. Joe the Plumber, a man with no journalistic credentials whatsoever, a former unlicensed plumber who “owes taxes” and who now promotes digital converter boxes for analog television. Yeah, that’s what the public needs to stay informed on matters such as conflict in the Middle East, a conflict that with every invidious, murderous day that passes further angers and radicalizes the half on the “wrong” side of history — Muslims. At best, Joe the Plumber-Turned-Digital-Converter-Box-Advocate-Turned-War Correspondent will provide something else that increasingly (and dangerously) characterizes how many in the West regard and receive news — as entertainment. It would now seem that it’s OK for credible, seasoned war correspondents to be barred by governments from covering war, and that it is equally OK to minimize the horror of war by turning it into farce, a cheap form of entertainment that would be merely a terrible waste of bandwidth were the props not real human beings getting disemboweled and burned to death and crushed in the smoldering background. Oh, and if I were a Palestinian (or a Muslim), I’d be angry as hell and insulted to see this ludicrous personage dispatched in my backyard as a “correspondent.” First F-16s, Apache helicopters, cluster bombs and a variety of US-made bombs. Now Joe the Plumber. Ugh.
I wouldn’t even trust this man to fix my plumbing, let alone have him “inform” thousands of watchers on the “realities” of the Middle East. But some will. Some will…