The Jewish Report Editorial

No one owns the truth

  • JNF - Tu B'shvat
The fathers of postmodernism offered the idea that there is not one objective “truth” but rather narratives that we “construct” as our versions of reality based on our backgrounds, agendas and a host of other factors.
by VANESSA VALKIN | Jul 01, 2015

The findings of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report on the 2014 Gaza war; the reports Israel and Israel-friendly groups published; and the varied news stories that covered them, offer wildly different versions of what actually occurred last summer during Operation Protective Edge (as Israel called it) and who was at fault. They all present the perfect case study for a constructivist postmodern philosopher.

The reports

Mary McGowan Davis, director of the much awaited UNHRC document and a former justice of the Supreme Court of New York, said that her group tried very hard to be even-handed, and that there was no bias in its findings.

The report found that both the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Palestinian armed groups, committed “serious violations” of international human rights law that may amount to war crimes. And Israel supporters say the report still focused more on Israeli wrongdoing, including putting responsibility for the conflict on Israel’s “protracted occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip”. The UNHRC will vote this week on whether to adopt the report’s findings.

In contrast, the Israel-friendly reports, including one by the Israeli government and another by a high level military group, found that the escalation of attacks on Israel by Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip justified Israel’s military response under international law and maintained that the IDF upheld “the highest standards of international law”.  

They generally found that Israel had sought to avoid a conflict for months despite rockets being fired at civilians, and that it was ultimately forced into a defensive war. These groups said that deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas and Hamas’ use of Palestinian civilians as human shields were clearly war crimes on the sides of the Palestinians.

The media coverage following the reports

The New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Richard Kemp, a retired British Army colonel, who was part of one of the high-level, Israel-friendly commissions, who called the UNHCR report “flawed and dangerous”, noting that Hamas actually sought to cause large numbers of casualties among its own people to bring about both international condemnation and heavy diplomatic pressure on Israel.

What a vastly different view to the page of articles in The Star last Wednesday (June 24) titled “The UN report on Israel’s Gaza war: What you need to know”. In an article by Professor Jerome Slater from the State University of New York at Buffalo, he said that the UNHRC report was “inappropriately” balanced and failed “to tell the truth” - including that Israel committed war crimes to maintain its repression of the Palestinians and Hamas committed war crimes to end that repression.

Slater compared this to the courage of Amira Hass whose article in the Israeli press talked about the “Jewish killers and torturers” who live in Israeli society and who are proud of their deeds. The Star also selected a piece investigating the psychological trauma endured by Gazans as well as the death and destruction wreaked by the Israelis.

Changing the story

For our own South African community, who are mostly Zionists with a deep sympathy for Israel but who live in a country whose media tell “the facts” through a lens that is very critical of Israel, it is easy to throw up our hands in despair and keep reiterating our own views.

We have to do better than that, however. If we want to powerfully assert our position amidst a cacophony of loud voices who are assured they own “the truth”, we first have to really hear what they are saying.

We need to embrace the narratives of our opponents in order to be convincing with our own. In any battle - of words, of views or of the sword - it is only when a party feels the other side is truly listening, that the platform can be laid upon which enemies are able to sit and talk about a possibility for peace and compromise.

But I’m a postmodernist and that is just my version of the story…



1 Comment

  1. 1 nat cheiman 02 Jul
    The truth is irrelevant. [Sentence removed as hate speech  -MODERATOR]. Europe should be canvassed too.
    The past wars and future wars with Hamas and radical Islam will  be recognized as the Jews march toward their land, promised to them by Hashem.
    Whatever Europe, Scandinavia or America (or any mid east country) says, is irrelevant. Most Christians support Israels existence and those that don't (like Robert Fisk , George Galloway and norman Finkelstein) can go and live in an arab country and convert to Islam and be subject to sharia law.
    Its not up for negotiation. Obama, the UN etc can go to hell. Gaza and the West Bank are just the start of Jews reclaiming their territory.
    In any event, Just who, precisely is going to stop Israel from doing that even if it is militarily?


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