Monday, November 19, 2012

Causation and Consequence in the Palestinian- Israeli conflict

Last night on ABC's Lateline uncritical anchor Emma Alberici “interviewed’ an embedded Palestinian journalist in Gaza whose dubious interpretations included some inaccurate and exaggerated statistics  re both the number of Palestinian casualties, and the number of  supposed civilians amongst these. These made up figures were supplied for  both Operation Cast Lead and the current attempts to halt Palestinian missiles. This was followed by a long “interview” with an Arab academic at the American University, Rami Khourie, who was not challenged even once, but simply given a platform to spout fiction after fiction without being called out on any of these. For example that the Arab world has essentially accepted Israel’s right to exist, and has ceased to attack, demonize, delegitimize, and discriminate against Israel at every opportunity and in every international forum.

When questioned as to why Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan had labelled Israel’s actions “terrorism” Khourie insightfully explained it was because “Erdogan is not afraid of upsetting Israel.” The interview compliantly nodded and then allowed Khourie to continue. Perhaps a more informed or critical interviewer might have examined Turkey’s bid for leadership in the Islamic world, and the way any Islamic leader can and does use anti-Israel rhetoric to garner popular support; the more extreme the rhetoric, the greater the knee-jerk support. A more critical interviewer might have examined how governments throughout the region have used – and continue to use – popular anger and identification with the Palestinian cause to distract from the more immediate challenges they face.

Khourie’s basic thesis: the instability, corruption, low productivity, lack off freedoms, factionalism, economic mismanagement, authoritarianism, and general decay in much of the Sunni Arab world is no one’s fault but Israel’s, and the growth of various forms of Islamic supremacism – from Salafists to Al Kayda to the Moslem Brotherhood – is all Israel’s fault. It is this very abdication of responsibility and culture of blaming the other which continues to perpetuate systemic dysfunction in many of the societies Khourie claims are now democracies. During the interview it seemed to me the meta text unwittingly slipped out. The profound sense of inferiority felt by many (men?) in the Arab world re the West, the resentment this engenders, and the psychological need to eradicate “reminders” of this perceived inferiority, such as Israel.

His thesis (his threat?) that Israeli intransigence has created radical fundamentalism and that Israel had better deal with its current opponents before worse ones come along can easily be reversed. It is the implacable belligerence and hostility of the surrounding countries and populations which has created, and continues to create, an increasingly radicalized and right leaning Israel. It is not easy to persuade Israelis that further territorial concessions and a Palestinian State will provide stability when ceded territory becomes one giant launching pad for missiles and mortars.

I hope that at the least, Lateline will allow equal and opposite views to be aired – for example an interview with celebrated Israeli historian Benny Morris, or with journalist David Landau (formerly Haaretz editor),  and give them as much freedom and latitude to provide alternative views of causality and consequence in this long running conflict.

Israeli victims of Palestinian torture ...

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