Sunday, February 8, 2009

How We Know What We Know (Again)

A friend writes to tell me about a conversation he had with a BBC correspondent:
Having seen the destruction [in Gaza] and interviewed survivors, she is in little doubt that the Israeli intention was to punish the Gazans for having had the temerity to vote for Hamas.
To which I responded:

That’s what she’s convinced of, is it? Seems par for the course for the BBC.

About when I was finishing my undergraduate studies, when I already knew more about the Holocaust and Nazism than the BBC person probably knows about Israel, I decided the time had come to figure out for myself what the Nazis had thought they were doing. So I moved to Vienna and learned German, and then moved back and spent more than a decade reading tens of thousands of pages of Nazi documentation and many thousands of pages of historical research about them, and then I wrote that doctorate we alluded to; it was only at that stage that I felt confident in speculating about what the Nazis intentions had been. Once the book was published, some experts agreed with me, and others didn’t, and they were all knowledgeable about the topic.

It would seem to me that if the BBC correspondent wanted to speculate about Israeli intentions, the least she could do would be learn Hebrew and spend some time figuring out how Israelis understand the world; interviewing Palestinians seems to a peculiar method of comprehending Israeli intentions, don’t you think?


Anonymous said...

Let's face it: she could have simply interviewed Jeremy Bowen, he would have told her all about Israeli intentions a BBC journalist ever needs to know -- oh, and then she could have also interviewed this UN chap whom Bowen recently described as a former colleague (you had a post about it)-- nu, Yaacov, really, where do you live that you think there needs to be any kind of research or questioning to know what the Israeli intentions are...

Anonymous said...

You might find this interesting Yaacov, it's an analysis of British media reporting on Gaza. (it links direct to a PDF);

Just Journalism can obviously be accused of being partisan, but their analysis looks pretty professional to me.

Regards, Gavin.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov, are you saying that only people of certain pedigree can express opinions on various subjects? Seems to me the onus is on you to say to your friend (in a non-snarky way) - I don't really respect her opinion because she does not meet my criteria for opining on such things." Even then I would say to you "why don't you evaluate her opinion on its own merits rather than reject it as not worthy of consideration out of hand."

I live in NYC and I don't speak French. Does that make anything I have to say about the impact of Muslim immigration on social and economic dynamics in France rejectionable out of hand? Maybe not as informative as that of a French sociologist, but on the other hand maybe due to my interests in other parts of the world it would be a worthwhile opinion nonetheless.

Don't forget what the Talmud says - m'kol melamdi hiskalti

Anonymous said...

You seem to have pretty strong and definitive opinions about Arab/Palestinian intentions toward Israel. But have you been to Cairo to learn Arabic first? Did you write a scientific research about Arab politics or Palestinian society?

All what you write just reflect your own particular ideological stance...


Unknown said...

Anonymous wrote:
"All what you write just reflect your own particular ideological stance..."

On the one hand, rarely do we see things as they are. Mostly we see them as we are. However...

We can often know something is true but nevertheless lack the ability to prove it, while conversely there is no lack of people with the excessive capability to prove things that are not true.

Yaacov is competent at using and sharing sources and resources, and he is honest in stating what his opinions are. The dilemma that he confronts is that most of what he says is contrary to contemporary meadiaspeak/thought. Look at the printed NY Times which has (had?) a logo, "All the news that's fit to print/" For far too many years now, it's mostly been 'All the news that FITS IN print."

When I was a boy and didn't yet understand newspapers, my father would always rage against unbalanced, biased reporting and writing. Rebellious as I was against many things, time and age have proven to me how right he was then...and even more so today. The media doesn't report the truth; it fabricates it, and when you've bought into the fabrication, a 'Yaacov' is going to be unfathomable.