News

Overblown

“It is a tale full of sound and fury, told by an idiot, signifying nothing.”

Contrary to the depressed musings of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, human life is replete with meaning. But these famous words could fairly describe some of the top news stories lately saturating every media platform – and dominating many a Shabbat table conversation.

Israel and the US have concurrently found their chief executives in hot water, with both Netanyahu and Trump facing what amount to legalized coup attempts by their political foes. While the campaigns against both leaders have given rise to a host of novel legal questions, the outcome in each was all but a foregone conclusion: The investigations targeting Netanyahu would lead to criminal charges, and Senate Democrats would never have the votes to remove Trump from office.

Elections – in Israel’s case, a third round, far from assured to yield a more decisive outcome than the first two – will put both leaders’ fates in the hands of voters, at least for the present. All dressing, no salad: A lot of drama and overheated rhetoric, little suspense or actual impact (so far). But you wouldn’t guess that from the volume of coverage these stories have generated.

Meanwhile, as a final vote on impeachment neared, Trump released his long-awaited peace plan. The unveiling of the so-called “Deal of the Century” opened the floodgates to endless analysis and commentary from every corner – positive, negative, and everything in between. Changing the parameters for discussion, allowing for annexation of some areas – the proposal may yet bear fruit. But its vision of peace between a truncated Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state in nearly three-quarters of Judea and Samaria (with a couple of other patches connected like Tinker-Toys) has a snowball’s chance in the Negev of coming to pass. Good dream, bad dream – but either way, a dream. The fresh spate of terrorist attacks following its release confirmed what we already knew about where the other side stands.

As such, debating the plan ad nauseum is like ruminating on what you’d do if you won the lottery (or lost your life savings, depending how you view the matter). An interesting thought experiment, but not terribly relevant to reality.  The “Deal of the Century,” like impeachment and immunity-gate, is a narrative driven by self-propelling bluster, theory, and speculation. Yet pundits turn these stories inside-out and upside-down to find new angles to report.

As these choreographed exercises run through their paces, truly volatile events unfold around us. The Wuhan coronavirus, which has claimed more than a thousand lives, sickened tens of thousands, and put millions under virtual lockdown, has become a global threat. Open anti-Semitism is on the rise across the US and Europe. Tensions with Iran have heated up, with the regime flexing its muscles with new provocations.

Those pressing realities, bleak as they are, deserve every bit of the attention they’ve received, and more. But there’s competition in the info-universe. And it’s amazing how much space a whole lot of nothing can fill.

Ziona Greenwald, J.D., is a contributing editor for The Jewish Press and recently published her first children’s book, Kalman’s Big Questions (Targum Press). She feels grateful to be living with her husband and children in Jerusalem.

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