Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Dueling Narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

This is a letter submitted to The New York Times by Arthur Toporovsky in response to an article by Jodi Rudoren entitled "The Dueling Narratives of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict."

The old story of the blind men and the elephant serves to show us how, by focusing only on a certain part of a whole, each person can walk away from something with a completely different perception of what they have encountered.  However, while witnesses to the events may be prone to bias due to their nationality or other factors, that does not change the fact that there is potentially an objective reality to be had.  If we consider "The story of Shorouq" we might ask, "which pieces of evidence are verifiable?".  Where are the videos of her veils and cloak being torn at?  Can the Israeli police show the Facebook message? These are the "proof" that any critical thinker might ask for.  If nothing else, the fact that she did actually stab someone and was shot by that very person does mean something.  Of course, if one is predisposed to disbelieve anything that an Israeli says, doubt then becomes almost impossible to overcome.

Sadly, Ms. Rudoren's retelling of the shooting of Bassel Sidar at the Damascus Gate is full of questionable statements.  While the picture published by the Israeli police shows what is known as a "butterfly knife," which is often seen in martial arts films, she describes it as a pocketknife of the "kind Boyscouts use."  Of course this picture is not provided for the readers of the article.  She also quotes "many people" who insist that he was not carrying a knife, and that if there is one then the Israelis must have "planted it."  Ironically, this also occurred on live television as Ayman Moyhelin, of MSNBC, started broadcasting immediately after the shooting, and as the video that his crew had recorded played onscreen, assured the audience that he had seen that the Arab's hands had been empty.  At that moment, the anchorman, Jose Diaz-Balart interrupted Mr. Moyhelin to point out that the video he was broadcasting clearly showed that the Arab had items in both hands, and that the item in his right hand was clearly consistent with reports of a knife.  Mr. Moyhelin immediately and ineffectually tried to repackage his statement, but it was clear that he had been caught in a lie.

People under President Mahmoud Abbas have acknowledged that he knew that 13 year old Ahmad Manasra was not dead when he accused Israel of "executing him" and have tried to insist that the supposed mis-statement was due to a grammatical error.  Of course, they do not even attempt to address Saeb Erakat's statement that the video shows the boy being beaten by "settlers" while the police stand by.  It is worth noting that the very video that shows the boy on the ground, and which records a man's voice harassing him, also shows him getting up off the ground. Still, why should the obvious truth stand in the way of using a good visual image to promote more anti-Israel sentiment? Why shouldn't Ahmad be portrayed as an innocent victim?  Even though Prime Minister Netanyahu's assertion that Haj Amin al Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was the primary force who prevented Nazi Germany from allowing the Jews to emigrate and inspired the genocide is incorrect, it is certainly more debatable than Pres. Abbas' or Mr. Erakat's comments.  Husseini did intervene to prevent Jewish emigration on multiple occasions, and letters show that he did specifically insist that the Jewish people in question be kept in areas where they would be killed.  Husseini personally witnessed the operating procedures of the death camps and was responsible for raising several divisions of Bosnian Muslim SS soldiers, who were responsible for killing 90% of Bosnia's Jewish community. While Husseini was not the "architect" of the genocide, he was far from a bystander, and surely has substantial blood on his hands.  By comparison, anyone looking at the video of Ahmad Manasra can see that he is not dead, nor was he being beaten by anyone, despite the accusations by Pres. Abbas and Mr. Erakat.

Ms. Rudoren reports that Hanan Ashrawi has twice "raised the possibility" that the Israelis were planting knives, but also that she has no proof at all.  One has to wonder, shouldn't the group eye-witness testimony reported at the Damascus Gate incident by Ms. Rudoren be proof?  Then again, one has to consider the shooting of Muhammad al Khasbeh, where multiple Arab eye-witnesses eagerly reported that he had been trying to climb the wall so as to get to the Al Aqsa Mosque for prayers.  Ironically, it was pro-Arab B'Tselem which obtained and released a video that clearly showed Mr. al Khasbeh hurling a rock into a windshield and then running away. One also has to consider events from Gaza, confirmed by Arab human rights group Al Mezan, where the Arabs consistently denied any casualty's combatant status, as they had been encouraged to do by Hamas.  This pattern of making accusations without evidence or basis is hardly something new.

It is fascinating that in an attempt to demonstrate parity between the two sides we once again see an article in which evidence of Arab dishonesty is matched, for the most part, by Arab accusations of Israeli dishonesty that "must" be happening.  Even when both sides have been shown wrong, such as with the video of Mr. al Khasbeh, it is only the Israeli statement, that he was shot as he was an immediate danger, that is publicly refuted, while the Arab statement, that he was totally innocent, is not mentioned at all.  In this case, the predominant evidence is that the Palestinian Arabs are lying, and there is no logical reason to try to depict both sides as being exactly the same.  The Arab insistence that any Arab who suddenly stabs an Israeli standing nearby is "resisting" instead of "attacking and that every Jewish man, woman or child is a valid target is surely a big part of this, but that is not something that the Western media wants to discuss.  Perhaps it needs to be.

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