The root of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – and ‘the occupation’ of the West Bank – does not date back to 1967.
Amidst recent media reports that Alan Rusbridger will be stepping down after twenty years as editor-in-chief of the Guardian, many have begun wondering whether a change in editors will result in less biased coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Such questions arise in the context of the disproportionate role played by the Guardian in the delegitimization of Israel and obsessive coverage of the country, as well as its propensity to legitimize anti-Israel extremists and ignore, whitewash and even legitimize antisemitism.
Read the rest of this post, at Times of Israel, here.
In a great example of the media’s use of language to blur moral differences within the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, The Economist expanded the common understanding of the word “militant” – a word fancied by those fearing “terrorist” is too judgmental a term for those committing violence for political ends – to include Jews wanting to peacefully pray at Judaism’s holiest site.
An article published on Nov. 17th titled ‘The trouble at the Mount‘ included the following passage:
THE Temple Mount in Jerusalem is one of the world’s most explosive bits of real-estate. It has started to rumble again in recent weeks, with demands by Jewish militants to extend prayer rights, riots by Palestinians and the killing of several Israelis in knife or car-ramming attacks.
An October 14th report by Guardian chief political correspondent Nicholas Watt (Alan Duncan to condemn Israeli settlements in blistering speech) included this passage:
In one of the strongest attacks on the government of Binyamin Netanyahu by a frontline UK politician, Duncan will criticise Tel Aviv for its “reprehensible” behaviour in encouraging and supporting the creation of “illegal colonies”.
It is unclear who in Tel Aviv Duncan will be criticising, as Jerusalem is of course the Israeli capital.
In carrying out this blog’s mission, we often attempt to contextualize Guardian/UK media coverage of Israel and the Jewish world by explaining not only what they get wrong, but also why they get it wrong.
Tablet Magazine just published a long and extremely important article (by former AP correspondent Matti Friedman) which masterfully dissects such institutional bias against Israel – in the broader Western media – and we strongly encourage those who’ve thought seriously about the subject to read the 4,000 word essay in full.
Here are some excerpts:
The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry;
How Important Is the Israel Story?
Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined.
To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel.
What Is Important About the Israel Story, and What Is Not
A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate…
Israeli actions are analyzed and criticized, and every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period, from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011, I…counted 27 separate articles, an average of a story every two days….this seven-week tally was higher than the total number of significantly critical stories about Palestinian government and society, including the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas, that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.
The Hamas charter, for example, calls not just for Israel’s destruction but for the murder of Jews and blames Jews for engineering the French and Russian revolutions and both world wars; the charter was never mentioned in print when I was at the AP…
What Else “Isn’t” Important?
In early 2009..two colleagues of mine obtained information that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made a significant peace offer to the Palestinian Authority several months earlier, and that the Palestinians had deemed it insufficient. This had not been reported yet and it was—or should have been—one of the biggest stories of the year. The reporters obtained confirmation from both sides and one even saw a map, but the top editors at the bureau decided that they would not publish the story….
This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.
How Is the Israel Story Framed?
The Israel story is framed in the same terms that have been in use since the early 1990s—the quest for a “two-state solution.” It is accepted that the conflict is “Israeli-Palestinian,” meaning that it is a conflict taking place on land that Israel controls—0.2 percent of the Arab world—in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The conflict is more accurately described as “Israel-Arab,” or “Jewish-Arab”—that is, a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries…
The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party…
The Old Blank Screen
For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew…
Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned…is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.
Who Cares If the World Gets the Israel Story Wrong?
Understanding what happened in Gaza this summer…requires us to understand what is clear to nearly everyone in the Middle East: The ascendant force in our part of the world is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam that assumes different and sometimes conflicting forms, and that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West. Those who grasp this fact will be able to look around and connect the dots…
Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion.
A Church of England Priest named Giles Fraser penned a column at the Guardian defending the Palestinian right of armed resistance.
The column, ‘If we can have a just war, why not just terrorism?‘ (which follows a similar pro-terrorism argument advanced by Guardian associate editor Seumas Milne in a column last week) begins by suggesting that the IDF intentionally targets civilians in Gaza, while benignly characterizing Palestinian acts of ‘retaliation’ against the ‘occupation’.
Or, to put it in terms of today’s news: the Israelis won’t have any definition that would make them terrorists for bombing old people’s homes in Gaza, and West Bank Palestinians won’t have any definition that will make them terrorists for fighting back against occupation with petrol bombs
In addition to the risible suggestion that the IDF targets the homes of innocent elderly Palestinians, such Palestinian ‘resistance’ includes much more than Fraser indicates. Such acts of “resistance” have included (to cite just a few recent examples) the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, Palestinian sniper fire at an Israeli civilian vehicle that killed a father of five, and an attempted suicide bombing.
Fraser then introduces us to his Palestinian protagonist:
I am eating aubergines and flatbread with Dr Samah Jabr in a cool Palestinian cafe in Stoke Newington….She is an educated, middle-class Palestinian (in no way a rabble-rouser) but she insists that the word terrorist has become a powerful…political pejorative employed to discredit legitimate resistance to the violence of occupation.
What some would call terrorism, she would call a moral duty. She gives me her paper on the subject. “Why is the word ‘terrorist’ so readily applied to individuals or groups who use homemade bombs, but not to states using nuclear and other internationally proscribed weapons to ensure submission to the oppressor?” she asks. She insists that violent resistance must be used in defence and as a last resort. And that it is important to distinguish between civilian and military targets. “The American media call our search for freedom ‘terrorism’,” she complains, “despite the fact that the right to self-determination by armed struggle is permissible under the UN charter’s article 51, concerning self-defence.”
Though Fraser uncritically cites Jabr’s claim that armed struggle is permissible under the UN charter’s article 51, a review of Article 51 demonstrates that there is no such right:
Here’s what Article 51 of the UN’s charter states:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
The language is quite clear. UN “member states” have the right of self-defense, not armed terrorist groups and illegal militias. Such a doctrine clearly grants Israel (a UN member state) has the right to respond to rocket fire, while Hamas, as an internationally proscribed terrorist group which indiscriminately attacks civilians, is not granted such a right under Article 51.
I took part in the Moral Maze recently on Radio 4 and was howled at for suggesting that there could be a moral right of resistance to oppression. And the suggestion was made that, as a priest, I ought to take no such line.
It is nonsense to think that being a state grants some sort of blanket immunity from the charge of terrorism – and certainly not from the moral opprobrium we attach to that term. We talk of asymmetric warfare. This is asymmetric morality: one that, in terms of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, loads the dice in favour of the occupation. This is just not right.
It seems that a priest should avoid emboldening a proscribed terror movement by distorting international law to suggest that attacks on civilians may be legally justified, and – even more importantly – refrain from obfuscating the profound moral difference between homicidal antisemitic extremists and the Jews they’re trying to kill.
- Israel acting disproportionately? Think again (thecommentator.com)
- Jenin redux? Guardian omits reports of rockets, terror tunnels in Shuja’iya (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian editor defends Hamas’s right to kill Israelis, AGAIN. (cifwatch.com)
- Minutes after Tel Aviv terror attack, Glenn Greenwald praises Seumas Milne’s defense of ‘armed resistance’ (cifwatch.com)
Let’s jump to their main argument:
The chain of causation, as with so much else in Israel, leads back to Ariel Sharon
The Guardian explains:
He conceived of withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 as above all a tactic which would allow him to postpone wider negotiations on the future of the West Bank and weaken the Palestine Liberation Organisation. He would garner some peace laurels while inducing the Americans to give commitments on what Israel could keep when and if West Bank negotiations began again. It was a skillful and even a brave piece of political maneuvering both domestically and internationally; but it was also a cynical and ultimately a counter-productive one.
Israeli divide and rule policies had already had the effect of strengthening the PLO’s more militant rivals. Before disengagement, Israeli security forces attempted to decapitate the extremist leadership. Hamas might even so have opted for co-existence, but it did not. It went on to win the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, and then the Hamas coup of 2007 set the stage for the periodic confrontations of which this month’s fighting is the latest, but not necessarily the last.
It will only be the last if it is grasped that the way Israel left Gaza institutionalised violent conflict rather than made it less likely. Those Israelis who portray the disengagement as an act of generosity for which they have received no credit misunderstand what happened. Unilateral disengagement in Gaza weakened Palestinian moderates, enabled successive Israeli governments to drag their feet in peace negotiations and is even now being used by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who opposed it at the time, to lay down Israeli security requirements for any future disengagement from the West Bank which would make a peace settlement almost impossible to achieve
So, Ariel Sharon, and not Palestinians, was the party responsible for electing, in 2006, an antisemitic extremist terror group which rejected Israel’s right to exist within any borders, to run their affairs.
And, evidently, Ariel Sharon, and not Hamas, was the party responsible for subsequently firing thousands of rockets at Israeli towns, abducting Israeli soldiers and engaging in other acts of terror.
Further, apparently it was Ariel Sharon’s fault that the leaders of Hamas diverted billions of dollars in aid money to construct a labyrinth of terror tunnels in the hopes of launching even more deadly cross border attacks on Israeli civilians.
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza was, you see, was apparently just a sinister, furtive plan by Ariel Sharon to further subjugate Palestinians and – in the Guardian’s words – “institutionalize” Palestinian violence.
We’ve often argued that the Guardian’s denial of Palestinian moral agency – the liberal racism of no expectations – informs much of their coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and this editorial is, in many respects, exhibit A.
(Editor’s note: The strap line for the Guardian editorial, “The roots of the violence go back to the Israeli withdrawal in 2005″, was cropped out of the graphic above to allow readers to see how they reached their conclusion further in the text.)
This post is part of a series which re-focuses on the problem of biased moderation at the Guardian’s blog ‘Comment is Free’ (CiF) – particularly, reader comments which are off-topic, ad hominem or antisemitic, and yet not deleted by their professional moderators. All of the following comments have been posted under ‘CiF’ op-eds which have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Here’s phindrup’s answer to the question “where will their [ISIS] killing stop?”
None of these reader comments have been deleted by ‘CiF’ moderators.
- Focus below the line: Guardian readers ‘reflect’ on Israel and the Jews (cifwatch.com)
- Why the Guardian’s new Jerusalem correspondent won’t take Palestinian antisemitism seriously (cifwatch.com)
- UK media silent about Pope’s meeting with Mufti who claimed that Muslims’ destiny is to kill Jews (cifwatch.com)
- BBC ties itself in knots over antisemitism yet again (bbcwatch.org)
In what reads at first glance as an April Fool’s joke, Bar-Hillel writes the following about the former Israeli Prime Minister.
Reader, I didn’t marry him. Not even close. But I did once go out with the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has just been convicted of bribery and corruption.
Back in late 1969 a blind date was arranged for us. We moved in the same circles for a few years: he as an aspiring politician, me as a journalist. Then as now, Olmert was highly intelligent, with a sharp legal mind. On the downside was his raw ambition.
Olmert was the accidental PM. ‘Arik’ Sharon made him his deputy mainly to force him to toe the line. But when Sharon fell into a coma in 2004, Olmert inherited the job without having to bother with an election which he would probably not have won.
His legacy as PM includes the ill-fated adventure in Lebanon in August 2006, which killed over 1,000 people, mostly civilians, devastated civil infrastructure and displaced approximately one million Lebanese. Two years later, he ordered the molten lead attack on Gaza in December 2008, which again left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead, many of them, as in Lebanon, children.
Additionally, Bar-Hillel significantly inflates the casualty figures in the 2008-09 war in Gaza.
Even such politicized pro-Palestinian NGOs such as B’tselem haven’t claimed that the three-week conflict between Israel and Hamas “left over 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead”. While other sources (including, quite tellingly, Hamas) place the civilian casualty figures dramatically lower, B’tselem has claimed that 773 of the 1387 Palestinians they claim were killed in the war “did not take part in hostilities” – more than 20 percent less than the figure cited by Bar-Hillel.
While Bar-Hillel acknowledges that the failed shidduch with the disgraced former PM didn’t provide an opportunity to really get to know the man, readers of the Independent would likely benefit from an equally frank admission that the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is an issue about which she knows even less about.
- Harriet Sherwood revisits 2006 Gaza Beach Incident (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian continues pushing false narrative of Israel’s ‘lurch towards the right’. (cifwatch.com)
- CiF Watch prompts Guardian correction to report on Palestinian prisoners (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian Makes Catastrophic Error: Refers to Palestinian ‘Terrorists’ Without Quotes (algemeiner.com)
Quite a few commentators have rightly taken the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, to task for his recent absurd suggestion that the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict represents the root cause of instability in the Middle East.
Fabius’s remarkably myopic understanding of the region prompted Binyamin Netanyahu to point out the obvious: that if peace with the Palestinians were achieved today, the centrifuges won’t stop spinning in Iran, the savage civil war in Syria won’t abate, the instability in Egypt wouldn’t end, and attacks on the West will continue.
However, when I read Laurent’s comments, uttered in Ramallah after he met with Mahmoud Abbas, it reminded me of something the Guardian once claimed at the dawn of what they still were calling the “Arab Spring.” Sure enough:
A Guardian Feb. 2011 official editorial (“The Middle East: People, Power, Politics“) on Muammar Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown against protesters at the dawn of their civil war, and the broader political upheavals in the region, included this risible line:
“the Libyan leader may still be considered too valuable to lose, as US influence in the region decreases. Nowhere is that truer than in the cockpit of the crisis, Palestine.
The Guardian’s surreal editorial, which though dealing with Libya somehow managed to devote 200 of 675 words to the issue of ‘Palestine’, was indicative of the paper’s shameful misreading of the political upheavals which had occurred, or were to occur, in Bahrain, Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere.
Such framing of events in the Middle East – which attributes most political maladies to Israel’s ‘injurious’ effects on the region – represents more than mere hostility to Israel, but is part of a broader political framework which often shows itself impervious to facts, logic, and new information.
Whilst the Guardian’s editorial line no longer seems wedded to this absurd Zionist causality, the fact that their initial response was to draw a line from Tripoli to Jerusalem speaks volumes about the intellectually crippling effects of their far-left ideology.
Over the past several years the Guardian has averaged over 1000 reports or commentaries annually tagged with “Israel”, an average of over 2.7 Israel-related posts per day, representing a statistically disproportionate (overwhelmingly negative) focus on the Jewish state in comparison to other nations – a dynamic we’ve noted continually at this blog.
However, recently there has been a brief but noticeable change to this pattern. Remarkably, there has not been an Israel related entry at the Guardian since June 30 – an unprecedented ten-day respite from the jaundiced and obsessive coverage of the region which, as much as anything, has come to define their institution’s brand of pseudo liberal activist journalism.
Additionally, save for one piece in the culture section of The Observer (sister site of the Guardian) about Arab films, there has been nothing on the Guardian’s ‘Palestine’ page since June 30, and nothing new on their Gaza page since June 24.
Whilst it’s possible that the civil war in Syria and the political upheavals currently taking place in Egypt have (organically) driven Israel off the ‘front page’, such a theory doesn’t square with the fact that, up until now, the violence and unrest throughout the Middle East since the start of the “Arab Spring” in 2011 hasn’t even minimally resulted in less Israel-related coverage at Guardian Group sites.
However, one thing is certain: the failure of the “Arab Spring” to bring genuine democracy or nurture even a minimal ethos of tolerance and pluralism – and the contradictions within Arab nationalism more broadly – contrasts markedly with the success of Jewish nationalism and the state’s thriving, progressive polity, and demonstrates the irrelevance of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to the political pathos which haunts the Arab Middle East.
Far be it from us to even suggest that Guardian editors may have actually learned something and allowed new information to penetrate their ideologically-inspired myopia, but it would certainly represent an invaluable gift to their readers if the recent dearth of Israel-related content reflected even a minimal awareness of the supreme folly of their long-time obsession with the Jewish state.
Yesterday, we cross posted a piece by the CST on a forum held at the Front Line Club in London which was titled “Critiquing the media’s approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict” and included British Islamist, Ibrahim Hewitt, ex-BBC Middle East correspondent Tim Llewellyn, and Guardian foreign leader writer David Hearst. The discussion was chaired by Mark McDonald, a founder of Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East.
Sure enough, the event did not disappoint, with participants continually attempting to explain the dangerous influence of the Israel lobby (which was alternately referred to as the Zionist lobby and the Jewish lobby) on media coverage of the Middle East.
Highlights include this from Llewellyn about the apparent fear of the Jewish lobby within the UK media:
Why are we afraid of [the Jewish lobby]? That’s what I don’t understand.
Is it because. I can see it in the BBC. They’re frighten’, these people are quite aggressive, right. The Jewish Lobby is not much fun. They come at you from every direction.
Here’s Hewitt on Zionist “sleepers” all around the world:
It’s very telling that…the Israeli Foreign Ministry actually issued a directive to the hasbara people, the propaganda people, around the world, start placing articles…so they were very confident that they had the ability, the people in place to be able to do that…said a lot, if they can just basically give this directive and all these sleepers all of a sudden wake up and start doing things. There are clearly people in positions of influence who are able to do this.
Here’s a clip of some of the more inflammatory comments:
However, there’s another fascinating glimpse into the mind of the British anti-Zionist left in comments offered by Hearst, which you can hear if you forward to the 24 minute mark of the full video. Here’s part of what Hearst says:
In my short time as lead writer [at the Guardian] I felt that pressure very, very personally, both within and outside the organization.
If you just Google my name you’ll see…there’s a whole organization which is there to monitor everything I write from a point of view of antisemitism. I mean, the who thing is disgusting….but it’s pressure. It really is pressure.
In addition to his pejorative reference to our blog, what most stands out is that Hearst genuinely seems shocked by the criticism of his work by monitor organizations like CiF Watch – groups which use the power of the written word (and other democratic mechanisms) to hold his colleagues accountable to the EU Working Definition of Antisemitism and the professional standards of the UK editors’ code.
In monitoring the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ for antisemitism we’re often struck most by their contributors’ appalling hubris and over-sensitivity to criticism – convinced, it seems, that they should reap the privileges associated with their profession without the corresponding responsibility to engage in accurate, ethical reporting.
In case Hearst needs to be reminded, here are the words of C.P. Scott, the Guardian’s former editor and owner, which appear on our masthead:
‘The voice of opponents no less than that of friends have a right to be heard’.
Regardless of the smears directed against this blog by the likes of Hearst, we will continue holding them to account, and certainly won’t cease in our efforts to expose their relentless, often bigoted assault on the legitimacy of the Jewish state and on the integrity of its passionate supporters ‘all around the world’.
The failure of many to truly understand the ‘root causes’ of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and accurately contextualize news in the region is based in part on the MSM’s general tendency to ignore or significantly downplay the pervasive antisemitism and anti-Zionist agitation within Palestinian society.
This blog’s ‘What the Guardian won’t report‘ series often focuses on such disturbing stories about the official Palestinian glorification of violence, racist indoctrination of their children and other such grossly underreported examples of the reactionary Palestinian political ethos which ‘genuine’ advocates for peace can not reasonably ignore.
Whilst reasonable people can argue over what degree such Palestinian incitement represents an impediment to peace relative to other factors, such as the issue of Israeli “settlements”, the Guardian’s obsessive focus on the latter and their almost total silence about the former serves to grossly misinform their readers on the politics of the region.
As such, it was encouraging to read a recent story by the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood, entitled ‘Gaza schoolboys being trained to use Kalashnikovs‘, April 28, which reports on news that Hamas is now providing Gaza schools with military training for young boys. The program, which includes the use of firearms and explosives, will likely be extended to girls next year.
Sherwood even quotes Al Mezan, a Gaza-based “human rights organisation”, criticizing the program thusly:
“It’s unbelievable. Hamas has been cutting sports activities in schools for the past six years, saying there is no time in the curriculum, but now they find the time to have military training inside schools,”
Additionally, on the very same day that Sherwood filed her story, Phoebe Greenwood published a piece at The Telegraph entitled ‘Hamas teaches Palestinian schoolboys to how to fire Kalashnikovs’ – a report which is especially noteworthy in the context of a CiF Watch post back in 2011 which noted Greenwood’s skepticism over ‘claims’ made by Israeli officials regarding Palestinian incitement.
Though both reports are problematic in many respects, and indeed ignore the broader problem of Palestinian incitement in both the West Bank and Gaza, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Further, we can at least hope that Sherwood and Greenwood will follow-up on their stories and continue to inform their readers on the pathos within Palestinian political culture which inspires the constant vilification of Israel and dehumanization of Jews – a dynamic which makes most Israelis wary of the conventional wisdom which uncritically accepts that a two-state solution will necessarily result in peace.
- Harriet Sherwood gets it right (cifwatch.com)
Cross posted by Richard Landes at Augean Stables under the full title: “The Dead Baby War: Reflections on Palestinian Thanatography and Western Stupefication”.
Max Fisher, formerly of the Atlantic Monthly, now the WaPo’s “foreign policy advisor,” just posted a reflection on the war of images in the current Gaza operation. In it he makes every effort to be “even-handed.” And in the end, comes up empty-handed. A remarkable example of how intelligent people can look carefully at evidence and learn nothing. If I didn’t know better (which I don’t), I might think he was doing some “damage control,” if not for Hamas (in which case, presumably it would be unconscious), then for the paradigm that permits him not to acknowledge Hamas’ character.
Posted by Max Fisher on November 16, 2012 at 3:17 pm
Left, a journalist for BBC Arabic holds his son’s body. Center, an emergency worker carries an Israeli infant from the site of a rocket strike. Right, Egypt’s prime minister and a Hamas official bend over a young boy’s body. (AP, Reuters, Reuters)
Wars are often defined by their images, and the renewed fighting between Israel and Gaza-based Hamas has already produced three such photographs in as many days. In the first, displayed on the front page of Thursday’s Washington Post, BBC journalist Jihad Misharawi carries the body of his 11-month-old son, killed when a munition landed on his Gaza home. An almost parallel image shows an emergency worker carrying an Israeli infant, bloody but alive, from the scene of a rocket attack that had killed three adults. The third, from Friday, captures Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, in his visit to a Gazan hospital, resting his hand on the head of a boy killed in an airstrike.
Each tells a similar story: a child’s body, struck by a heartless enemy, held by those who must go on. It’s a narrative that speaks to the pain of a grieving people, to the anger at those responsible, and to a determination for the world to bear witness. But the conversations around these photos, and around the stories that they tell, are themselves a microcosm of the distrust and feelings of victimhood that have long plagued the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Studiously even-handed. One of my favorite memes: “both sides…”
The old arguments of the Middle East are so entrenched that the photos, for all their emotional power, were almost immediately pressed into the service of one side or another.
Actually, there’s a huge difference between the sides. Israel has, over the years, shown enormous reluctance to use the photos of their dead and wounded to appeal for public sympathy; whereas Palestinians have actually created victims in order to parade their suffering in front of the public. Indeed, Palestinian TV revels in pictures of the dead (so much so, that when my daughter wanted to help me with some logging of PLO TV footage, I had to decline lest she be brutalized by the material). They systematically use the media to both arouse sympathy from an “empathic” West, and to arouse hatred and a desire for revenge among Arabs and Muslims. Nothing uglier.
Israel, on the other hand, studiously avoids pictures of the dead, and only a shocking incident like Ramallah can break those taboos. They were so reluctant to exploit these images that, even at the height of the suicide campaign (2002-3) they refused to release pictures of the dead victims. The two cultures could not be more different on this score, and yet, Fisher has no problem finding his symmetry.
To obfuscate this fundamental difference with a pleasing even-handedness symbolizes the literal stupefication of our culture that necessarily accompanies the politically correct paradigm (PCP1), founded on a dogmatic cognitive egocentrism. It forces one not to see critical information. It’s as if we were under orders to not notice everything that a good detective should pick up on, as if we were required to assist the clean-up crews that want to frame the story to their advantage. In such a world, the protagonists of the Mentalist, Lie to Me, Elementary, CSI, House, are not merely unwelcome, they are banished.
Conventional wisdom – as advanced by the mainstream media (MSM) including the Guardian – regarding the factors representing the main obstacles to ending the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict rarely faces much critical scrutiny. Indeed, assumptions regarding the primacy of issues such as “settlements” and “the occupation” are often impervious to contradictory evidence.
The Guardian’s coverage of the region is constantly colored by such assumptions.
Here are a few facts which, if more widely disseminated, would at least allow for a more honest debate about the conflict.
Percentage of West Bank land inhabited by Israeli “settlers”, per even Palestinian sources: 1.1 %.
Palestinian’s want peace?
Percentage of Palestinians who accept Israel’s right to exist: 23%.
Palestinian support for terrorism
Percentage of Palestinians who support suicide bombing: 68% (Highest percentage of any nation/polity in the Arab world).
Percentage of Palestinians who openly express an unfavorable view of Jews (and not merely Israelis): 97%.
Percentage of land from which Israel withdrew in the 45 years since the Six Day War: More than two-thirds. (Sinai, Gaza, South Lebanon and much of the West Bank)
Logic of land for peace:
Israel withdrew from 100% of South Lebanon in 2000, 100% of Gaza in 2005 and 40% of the West Bank under the Oslo Accords.
Contrary to expectations, Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon dramatically strengthened the political influence and military capacity of Hezbollah and arguably led to the Second Lebanon War.
Similarly, Israeli withdrawal from Gaza resulted in the territory being taken over by Hamas, more than 8,000 rockets fired at Israeli communities and, ultimately, the Gaza War.
Finally, whilst none of these facts should necessarily preclude negotiations between the two parties, it is vital that the clichés, distortions and outright lies about what truly prevents a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian (and Israeli-Arab) Conflict be abandoned and a more sober, and factual, understanding of the moral and political dynamics embraced.