Larry Snider

Seeking Truth in War

The other day I read a provocative column by J.J. Goldberg of The Forward; “How Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War in Gaza:” .

Reading through it again I pick out all the things I agree with in theory, those I don’t and how much appears to be based on opinion even as it is delivered as fact. Now Jonathan Jeremy Goldberg is Editor at Large of The Forward and has amassed an impressive history of journalistic accomplishment including many articles that have gotten under the skin of the situation well enough to provide real depth and perspective for this erstwhile student of the conflict. I read and read and read from Caroline Glick to Ali Abunimah and beyond on the left and the right in my unending effort to make sense of the senseless. Mr. Goldberg has covered a lot of territory since his days working as an education specialist at the World Zionist Organization and living in Kibbutz Gezer where he served a term as secretary general. I must admit in my daily haste that I read his column irregularly, always looking for a unique insight. I found one this time extraordinarily well expressed in the title itself.

There was a period when I started paying daily attention to the conflict some 15 years ago that the enormity of the occupation and ongoing enfranchisement of the settlement enterprise led me to view everything through a grim and narrow telescope. I saw the pain of the Palestinian people magnified through my visits to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramle and Ramallah up close and considered it in reference to the biblical injunction not to oppress the stranger for we were strangers in the land of Egypt, (Exodus 23:9). I continued reading and learning and seeking peace and gradually understood two different stories representing two truths and two peoples. It is an appreciation that makes it impossible to accept Israeli Independence without the Palestinian Nakba. But it also forces one to look deeply into a history that only becomes visible through the combination of Israeli and Palestinian eyes wide open.

I found a problem with a number of J.J. Goldberg’s assertions including what I believe to be his central allegation:

“The initial evidence was the recording of victim Gilad Shaer’s desperate cellphone call to Moked 100, Israel’s 911. When the tape reached the security services the next morning — neglected for hours by Moked 100 staff — the teen was heard whispering “They’ve kidnapped me” (“hatfu oti”) followed by shouts of “Heads down,” then gunfire, two groans, more shots, then singing in Arabic. That evening searchers found the kidnappers’ abandoned, torched Hyundai, with eight bullet holes and the boys’ DNA. There was no doubt.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately placed a gag order on the deaths. Journalists who heard rumors were told the Shin Bet wanted the gag order to aid the search. For public consumption, the official word was that Israel was “acting on the assumption that they’re alive.” It was, simply put, a lie.”

I responded with this comment in The Forward:
“There’s no simple answers although it’s clear that J. J Goldberg goes hunting for the underlying truth. When did they know the boys were dead? Did the DNA evidence confirm death or wounding or something else? When should the government of Israel share information from an ongoing investigation with the public while the three boys are still missing? What did they know and when did they know it? Goldberg makes a case and pins the tail largely on the government for lying to utilize his word and points to the fact that the lying had an impact on triggering the War that Israel is now in with Hamas. I believe he is not exactly wrong, but I’m not sure he has enough facts to be exactly right either.”

I don’t have a crystal ball, and there is little evidence in the article that Mr. Goldberg has one either. To make matters a bit more complicated the column was answered on Sunday by Gil Lainer, Consul for Public Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York, in an article that also appeared in The Forward on Saturday; “Gaza War ‘Unintended’? Nope, Hamas Is Sworn to Destroy Israel;” This response goes into a number of conjectures attacking the idea of any conspiracy promoted by Israel to give it the ability to go after Hamas.

To further confuse the complicated, J.J. Goldberg responded in writing to the Consul yesterday; “Is This Best Defense Israel Can Muster?” . He does a better job of professionally taking the Consul to task, (my opinion), than Mr. Lainer did in taking apart Goldberg’s original argument. But the best line, (again only an opinion), was his attempt at humor:

“As a devout Zionist, I’m glad to see a strong, cogent defense of the state of Israel. Unfortunately, as Groucho Marx once put it, this wasn’t it.”

So with all that said and dozen’s more demanding editorials from all over the political spectrum the question is did Israel compromise its integrity in its pursuit of the kidnappers/killers of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah? My answer as an avid reader is that I’ve seen lots of opinions, but no proof. Is everybody angry? YES! Is any of this funny? NO!


About the Author
Larry Snider was President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace a non-profit based in suburban Philadelphia. Today he lives in New Jersey and is a Board Member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey.