Monday, 26 November 2012

From Fox News to Al Jazeera, your truth is out there!

I’m the meat in a terrible sandwich. Each time there is conflict within Israel and the Occupied Territories, my heart starts to bleed through several holes. My soul gets twisted and screwed until eventually I feel overwhelmed and profoundly sad.
It is during these periods of conflict that I feel more alone than at any other.  

Trawling the Facebook feed I read posts from close friends in Galway crying out in support of the beleaguered Palestinian people. They say we have to stop buying Israeli produce and show maps of how much the Palestinian lands have shrunk since the United Nations recognised Israel’s right to exist back in 1948.

I agree with every one of them, just as I agree with my family who feel an emotional and historical link to Israel that is impossible to justify to non-Jewish people.

Then I think how these friends will be shocked and plainly appalled that their mate, usually so caring and compassionate, can possibly have anything positive to say about Israel.

Then I think of my family, and the fact that they won’t be reading this, because the last time I wrote about these crushing periods of war, they de-friended me from Facebook and sent e-mails saying they didn’t need this type of thing from me.

As I do to my Irish friends, I tried to explain to my family that there is no crime in seeing both sides. During the Apartheid years, it would have been impossible for me to feel the same emotional connection I feel with Israel towards South Africa. As a youth, my weekends were spent marching from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, crying out for justice for black South Africa.

In the same way, I dream of justice for the Palestinians, but there also exists an incredibly strong irrational need within me to cling to the existence of the State of Israel.
Logic shmogic, my whinging isn’t going to help a jot, but what is really important is to realise how subtle and subversive are the ways that you free-thinking colyoomistas are trained to think.

Somewhere between Fox News and Al Jazeera, your truth is out there.

My brother calls Fox News ‘Israel TV’, seeing their gloss coating of Right Wing truth for what it is, while my sister regularly bemoans the anti-semitism of the BBC. Over here, RTE presents itself as a voice of moderation, but everywhere, subversive insidious bias exists.

Of course your opinions are your own, and you are entitled to every one of them, but never ever make the mistake of believing that you have considered the facts and come to a conclusion.

Others have manipulated the facts and presented your conclusion to you.

We need news, and as most of us are moderate intelligent people, we spurn the extremities of tabloid TV, and watch our State Broadcasters in hope of dispassionate journalism.

Sadly it rarely exists.

Let’s go back to the start of this present crisis (rather than to the moment when Moses saw the Promised Land from the top of Mount Sinai, or when Abraham sent his son Hagar to dwell in the land of Egypt) and compare the BBC and RTE reporting.

On November 16th, the RTE Signing News reported that:
“At least 20 Palestinians and 3 Israelis have died since the Israeli Air offensive began two days ago.”
Three minutes later, on the BBC’s 6 o’clock news, Fiona Bruce reported:
“20 Palestinians and 3 Israelis have died since Wednesday.”
No mention of who started it. No use of “at least’’ in connection with the numbers of Palestinian dead.

They might not appear at first particularly earth-shattering, but these differences are very significant. Alas, if you suffer this colyoom each week, you might have forgotten how immensely powerful a weapon language can be.

Online, the bias continues.
On the RTE website it states:
“Israel began the offensive Wednesday by assassinating Hamas' military chief and striking dozens of rocket launchers. But militants have continued to rain rockets across Israel … Hamas militants have vowed to resist the Israeli offensive.”

The BBC website on the same day reads:
The latest flare-up of violence began on Saturday evening, when Palestinian militants fired an anti-tank missile at an Israeli patrol on the Israeli side of the border fence, wounding four soldiers. The Israeli army responded by shelling sites in Gaza, killing six Palestinians, including four civilians.”

The same BBC that appears anti-Semitic to my sister appears to be incredibly pro-Israel to my Irish friends. In a similar way, while to my family I’m seen as a disloyal Jew who hates Israel, if I dare to express my opinions to my Irish friends a heavy silence falls, as they consider what it’s like to have mad bad Zionist bastard in the room.

So as you form your strong opinions, never forget that a dead Israeli child is a loss as great as a dead Palestinian child.

Yes, there is an agonising crime of scale involved in this conflict. The IDF are terrifyingly more powerful than any of the Palestinian military brigades. As I write, there thankfully hasn't yet been an Israeli ground invasion, which being offensive rather than defensive, could not be justified.

But scale plays a part on the Israeli psyche too. They live in a country the size of Wales, surrounded by the vast land masses and populations of Jordan, Syria and Egypt, all of whom have at one time sworn themselves to the annihilation of Israel.

Nothing justifies the death of innocent people, but there is something we can do to help. If we all take seriously our personal responsibility to look that little bit further into the news as it’s reported, we might start to build our collective truths on stronger foundations.

With compassion in our hearts, our eyes and ears open and a stronger desire to understand, we might then start to think less reflexively of the evils of one side and more about how to collectively find a peaceful solution.

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