Jews are known for being mistrustful (don’t blame the victim — make our lives safer), but can also flip between being paranoid (paranoids may have enemies too) and totally naive. I say, neither is adequate. Trust must be won. Fact-check and don’t be too quick to distrust or believe anyone. Some people are reliable on some issues and not on others.
Khaled Abu Toameh, after a hiatus of years, is back as the Jerusalem Post as Arab affairs correspondent. Most Israeli Jews love his candor and criticalness about both Jewish and Arab Israel. He’s awarded the prestigious Daniel Pearl Award and is internationally widely acclaimed. He holds that he’s attacked for his criticism of Arab-Palestinian society but not so much by the PA. If the latter is true, his writing is no big deal, but somehow, others think it is. In any case, I wish him continued safety and good health.
Fact is that in his newest report, he explains that Abu Dis lies “south of Jerusalem.” Now, I live in the most southern part of Israel’s Capital, so I should know. What I know is that south of Jerusalem lies Beit Jalla (from where we were shot upon during the Second Intifada) and Beit Lechem (Bethlehem) — no Abu Dis. Abu Dis lies east of East Jerusalem which lies (no big surprise here) east of West Jerusalem. Look at the above map.
In a one-minute piece, there should not be such mistakes. But still, this seems immaterial. Not so the next strange thing.
He writes about the brother of a leading Gaza terrorist just killed by Israeli troops. This older brother is a “famous” professor astrophysics who worked briefly for NASA. (They probably thought: Gaza, NASA, it’s all the same thing. Just kidding.) At the death of his brother, he is quoted as being fascinated by science’ “real capacity to change history” (sic).
I don’t think that he was referring to SF’s time travel through which we theoretically could change facts before they would happen. Rather, he probably misspoke or was misquoted but meant to say: change our view on history, or: change the course of history.
In any case, the untruth that bothers me lies in what was omitted. I do not believe that interviewed at the death of his brother, the lecturer just talked about his profession and not of his feelings and ideas related to the untimely death of his sib.
I am all for giving more space to reporting reasonableness in Palestinian society, but not by pretending that negativity doesn’t exist. That is untruthful and unhelpful. Tell us that he hates Israel for killing his brother or how much he loved his younger brother or that politics never stood between them, or anything else that’s true and human. The silence about his loss is deafening and for me stands for falsity – sorry to say.
To be fair, he does mention that the professor’s 12-year-old son allegedly was killed in an Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip in 2008, and that at NASA, he was uneasy, daily being around colleagues could have developed the missile which hit his son. I add, then just imagine what he would feel about any Israeli who could have supported launching that rocket. (This must have been Operation Cast Lead at which Hamas boasted using women and children as human shields who were, they claimed, happy to die as martyrs. On the opening day of the war, children were killed in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes.)
And that is the problem with this kind of reporting, just saying that in Arab-Palestinian society, there is much reasonableness we should know about. I believe that, without reading that. But it doesn’t reassure me not to read that in the context of the widespread hatred. Moderation then comes even out better. But I get scared by when the negative backdrop is made invisible, or just represented by a token criticism.
We, the readers, need the truth and the whole truth. In that context, we can see others as similar to ourselves, as fully human too. Not by whitewashing, fancying up reality. Saying something realistic like: There were also, however, expressions of support for Israel and condemnations of Hamas as a terrorist organization doing Iran’s bidding in the Arabic-language social media, but “not many,” the Foreign Ministry found. In fact, write anything that doesn’t generalize “all Arabs.” Preferably, texts that make one think “What would I feel/want/say/do if were an Arab Gentile?” Text that generates empathy without throwing out reality.