Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cycle of Poor Reporting

The other day, Jefferey Goldberg was in a blue funk, and opted out:
I have friends in Gaza about whom I worry a great deal; I've seen many people killed in Gaza; I've served in the Israeli Army in Gaza; I've been kidnapped in Gaza; I've reported for years from Gaza; I hope my former army doesn't kill the wrong people in Gaza; I hope Israeli soldiers all leave Gaza alive; I know they'll be back in Gaza; I think this operation will work; and I have no actual hope that it will work for very long, because nothing works for very long in the Middle East. Gaza is where dreams of reconciliation go to die. Gaza is where the dream of Palestinian statehood goes to die; Gaza is where the Zionist dream might yet die. Or, more to the point, might be murdered. I'm not a J Street moral-equivalence sort of guy. Yes, Israel makes constant mistakes, which I note rather frequently, but this conflict reminds me once again that Israel is up against an implacable force, namely, an interpretation of Islam that disallows the idea of Jewish national equality.

My paralysis isn't an analytical paralysis. It's the paralysis that comes from thinking that maybe there's no way out. Not out of Gaza, out of the whole thing.
You can do that when you live in Washington. To his credit, however, he snapped out of it the next day, and came back with all guns blazing. I like Jefferey, and agree with him as often as possible between two Jews who talk too much. His post on "The World's Pornographic Interest in Jewish Moral Failure" should be required reading across the blogosphere; remember, Jefferey speaks fluent Arabic and has traveled widely in the Arab world.
One story the media isn't telling, because it's impossible to get this story in these circumstances (especially because Israel stupidly won't allow foreign reporters into Gaza) is how much resentment the Hamas policy of using Palestinians as human shields causes among Gaza civilians. Early reports indicate that Hamas mortar teams were firing from the UN School. This shouldn't surprise anyone.

One more thing, speaking of pornography -- we've all seen endless pictures of dead Palestinian children now. It's a terrible, ghastly, horrible thing, the deaths of children, and for the parents it doesn't matter if they were killed by accident or by mistake. But ask yourselves this: Why are these pictures so omnipresent? I'll tell you why, again from firsthand, and repeated, experience: Hamas (and the Aksa Brigades, and Islamic Jihad, the whole bunch) prevents the burial, or even preparation of the bodies for burial, until the bodies are used as props in the Palestinian Passion Play. Once, in Khan Younis, I actually saw gunmen unwrap a shrouded body, carry it a hundred yards and position it atop a pile of rubble -- and then wait a half-hour until photographers showed. It was one of the more horrible things I've seen in my life. And it's typical of Hamas. If reporters would probe deeper, they'd learn the awful truth of Hamas. But Palestinian moral failings are not of great interest to many people.
He really means pornography, doesn't he.

I'm unconvinced, however, that the reason the media isn't telling is that the IDF is blocking their access (which is fine, as I've explained). The Guardian-BBC part of the media would never tell that story, either because they're liars and bald-faced propagandists, or because they're constitutionally incapable of seeing it, these being two alternative interpretations of antisemitism: is the hatred conscious or innate.

The non-antisemitic media however, say, the New York Times, will also never really tell the story, because it contradicts one of the meta-explanations with which most people in this generation understand reality: the cycle of violence myth. According to this canard, hatred begets hatred, violence begets violence, and the only conceivable way to put an end to them is to desist one-sidedly and be nice, so as to start the opposite cycle of brotherly love or some such bunk. Using reverse engineering, this means that if the Palestinians hate the Israelis that badly, it must be the result of things the Israelis did in previous stages of the cycle: Blockades, retreating from Gaza without coordination with Hamas, putting down two intifadas, settlements, coming to Palestine in the first place, snubbing Mohammad, killing Jesus, eating that apple.... whatever. And since the Israelis have such an awful record of being nasty to the Palestinians, even if the Palestinians also played the cycle-of-violence game (remember, it's the NYT, not the Guardian), the Palestinians can't snap out of it; moreover, putting more pressure on them, using more violence against them, can only have one result. It will reinforce the hatred and add fuel to the cycle.

This is what the non-antisemitic media really believes, as does most of their public. Finding evidence that the Israeli violence is giving the Palestinian populace pause, that it could shake them out of their fantasies and put them on the road to rationality so as to figure out a better way of life - this can't be said, because it can't be true, because it would destroy an entire Weltanschauung in which most people have invested.

Though why this is so I cannot say, and admit to being truly puzzled. Look at a nutshell version of the history of the 20th century, so nutshell that most educated Westerners know about it: In WW1 the Germans had a harsh peace forced upon them and this caused a cycle of violence run by the Nazis. In WW2 the Germans had indescribable violence forced upon them - so they snapped out of it and refuse to contemplate any violence at all. No cycle.

Or look at what may - just may, perhaps, hopefully, I could easily be wrong but let's hope - be happening in the two parts of the Palestinian territories. In the West Bank there are some indications this past year that a strategic decision has been made to get their act together, and to prefer a chance for the future over the violence they always lost from. In Gaza, the good old violence is still the preferred form. In both places the Israelis are the same Israelis except that in the West bank there are settlements and IDF forces, and in Gaza there are no settlements and until this week no IDF forces. If this is happening, the Israeli violence of 2002-2003 will have been part of an awakening call to the Palestinians to woo us with peace rather than murder, and if so, eventually it will achieve more for them than the violence ever could have. One can only hope against hope that someday the same will be true also for Gaza.

What's the chance that the New York Times will ever tell this tale? Ever?

1 comment:

David Gleicher said...

That was a good analogy regarding the Germans. To go into further detail, it is now recognized as a major error that Wilson overruled Pershing, who had wanted to march the AEF right down Berlin's main streets to demonstrate to the Germans that they had lost. The failure to do so led to the "stabbed in the back" theory, and Hitler. The difference in Germany between 1918 and 1945 will hopefully be the difference between Lebanon-2006 and Gaza-2009. Another similarity between Germans and the Palestinians is the famous comment of Winston Churchill (?): The Hun is either at your feet or at your throat. Same for the Palestinians, so, all things being equal, if they're not going to make peace, I'd rather have them at my feet.