Sunday, March 2, 2008

Understanding the Palestinians

There is a common refrain whereby Israelis are indifferent to the hardships of the Palestinians, that they're callous, and that if only they would listen with empathy to the Palestinians, if only they could perceive the Palestinians as equally human, they (they Israelis) wold seek peace rather than war.

Which is of course nonsense on may levels. The case can easily be made that Israeli disillusionment with the Palestinians is precisely the result of the fact that we're far better informed than most distant observers when it comes to what is going through the minds of the Palestinians: because we're nearby, because many Israelis understand Arabic and hear what the Palestinians talk about directly and unfiltered - and because our media tells us far more than the media anywhere else. On Israeli television, for example, we are regularly shown normal Palestinians telling our (Israeli-Arab) journalists what they think, in Arabic, on prime time news reports.

Here's an example you can examine without watching Israeli news broadcasts. On the front page of Haaretz today there is a column written by a Gazan journalist telling how hard life is in Gaza right now; Avi Issacharoff tells us what the Arab TV stations are broadcasting, and reports on his daily conversations with Palestinian colleagues; and Zvi Bar'el warns that if there's a war in Gaza, it will spill over into the West Bank because the national feeling of the Palestinians will over-ride their local ones. Bar'el, as regular readers will be aware, is an Arabist and spends all his time following the Arab media and Arab societies.

I defy anyone to find me any serious news outlet anywhere in the West with a remotely similar array of reportage, not only about the Palestinians, but about any corner of the Arab world.

1 comment:

Richard F. said...

The case can also be made, and is made in today's Los Angeles Times by Yossi Klein Halevi, that the day of the "Guilty Israeli" is over.

That Israel has first-rate reportage about events in its region is no surprise. It's survival. Of far more significance (if true) is that the Israeli population may have seen the enemy and learned that "they" ain't "us." There is no institutionalized Palestinian constituency for peace, just like under the Nazis, there were Jews not ultimately slated to die.

And the analogy is apt because that it quite close to how both degenerate Fatah and fanatic Hamas understand your country: by their lights, it (and many of its inhabitants) have no choice but to cease to be.

Because this truth is what honest media coverage conveys, Israel is well served by its current news diversity.