The recent Israel-Hamas conflict has increased scrutiny of the way international media presents both sides of a conflict, but it’s not always possible to report the full story with each update, said J.J. Goldberg of New York’s Jewish Daily Forward.
Goldberg will be one of four panelists participating in “More Than Meets the Eye: What we say (and don’t) when we cover Israel,” an event organized by the New Israel Fund of Canada to foster discussion on understanding media coverage of Israel. The discussion takes place Monday, September 15, 7 pm, at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre.
Providing context in reporting is essential, Goldberg said, adding that it is impossible for everything to be repeated in each article for the uninitiated, who can often be the most opinionated.
“What is the cutoff point? And does it really matter?” he said of the long and complex history between the state of Israel and the many regional players involved in each rise of hostilities.
Goldberg is editor-at-large at the Forward, where he worked as the editor-in-chief from 2000 to 2007. He writes both a regular column as blogs on the Forward website. He has also worked, in various roles, for the Jerusalem Report, New York Jewish Week, Jewish Frontier magazine and HaMevaker, a Hebrew-language newsweekly based in Los Angeles.
During his time as editor-in-chief of the Forward, Goldberg said it was a challenge to get an authentic message across because of the biases through which people consume the news.
“I wanted the paper to speak to the broad Jewish community,” he said. “People get easily offended in all directions, so you want to say things in a way people can hear them.”
While Goldberg said his own bosses did not enforce a strict policy of what could and could not be reported, he self-censored in his own way due to his unique knowledge of the region.
“Some things you just want to leave unsaid, because you don’t think they’ll be heard properly,” he said.
As a columnist and blogger, Goldberg said self-censorship is not entirely necessary for him; his work is opinion-based, so he can be a “little rougher and a little more sarcastic,” but he also wants people to read his work and take him seriously.
“It’s the same feeling as holding a fragile box of eggs in my hand,” he said.
Goldberg was a founding member of Kibbutz Gezer near Tel Aviv, where he believed he would live before coming back to North America to pursue journalism. The New York-based writer and editor had also served as a sharpshooter with the Israeli Border Police Civil Guard. He often translates articles and columns from Hebrew publications into English so that a broader audience can read the experiences of those living in Israel, from their perspective.
Three other media professionals – including Ottawa Jewish Bulletin editor Michael Regenstreif – will join Goldberg in the panel discussion and share their own perspectives about media coverage of Israel. The other panelists are Lisa Goldman, co-founder and contributing editor of the Israeli-based, online magazine +972 and director of the Israel-Palestine Initiative at the New America Foundation; and Joseph Rosen, author of “The Israel Taboo,” a widely discussed article in The Walrus Magazine (January-February 2014).
Admission to the panel discussion is free of charge, but attendees are encouraged to register in advance for the free symposium through the events page on the New Israel Fund Canada website at www.nifcan.org or by calling 416-781-4322.