Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Never trust any Middle-East reporting — fact-check

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.

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff and Rav Meir Lubin. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he's misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. To see other blog posts by him, a second blog - under construction - can be found by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture.