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Gaza Notebook: The Bullets in My In-Box

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DogPoundPup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 06:16 PM
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Gaza Notebook: The Bullets in My In-Box
GAZA Faisal Husseini, a Palestinian leader who died at the start of this decade, used to tell a story about his first visit to Israel. The 1967 war had just ended, borders were suddenly opened and he took a drive to Tel Aviv, where at some point he found himself detained by an Israeli policeman. Questions and answers ensued. At one point the policeman said to him, As a proud Zionist, I must tell you .... At which Mr. Husseini burst out laughing.

Whats so funny? the policeman asked. I have never in my life, Mr. Husseini replied, heard anyone refer to Zionism with anything but contempt. I had no idea you could be a proud Zionist.

I have written about the Arab-Israeli conflict on and off for more than a quarter-century and have spent the past four weeks covering Israels war in Gaza. For me, Mr. Husseinis story sums up how the two sides speak in two distinct tongues, how the very words they use mean opposite things to each other, and how the war of language can confound a reporters attempts to narrate or a new presidents attempts to mediate this conflict in a way both sides can accept as fair.

Among Israels Jews, there is almost no higher value than Zionism. The word is bathed in a celestial glow, suggesting selflessness and nobility. But go anywhere else in the Middle East and Zionism stands for theft, oppression, racist exclusionism.

No place, date or event in this conflicted land is spoken of in a common language. The barrier snaking across and inside the West Bank is a wall to Palestinians, a fence to Israelis. The holiest site in Jerusalem is the Temple Mount to Jews, the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims. The 1948 conflict that created Israel is one sides War of Independence, the Catastrophe for the other.

After Israels three-week air, sea and land assault in Gaza, aimed at halting Hamas rocket fire, it is worth pausing to note how difficult it has been to narrate this war in a fashion others view as neutral, and to contemplate what that means for any attempt by the new Obama administration to try to end it.

It turns out that both narration and mediation require common ground. But trying to tell the story so that both sides can hear it in the same way feels more and more to me like a Greek tragedy in which I play the despised chorus. It feels like I am only fanning the flames, adding to the misunderstandings and mutual antagonism with every word I write because the fervent inner voice of each side is so loud that it drowns everything else out.

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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 06:21 PM
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1. Very interesting article; really points out a lot of the complexities.
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Douglas Carpenter Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jan-24-09 06:40 PM
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2. excellent article which shows both sides. Thanks for posting DPP!!
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Igel Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 02:26 PM
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3. One of the few articles I've read that I'd have posted here.
It's not about sides per se (contra poster #2), but about the built-in idiocies on both sides. I'd note that there aren't just two sides in this particular article; he simplified for the sake of exposition.

I've read that reality is socially constructed; it's a hubristic notion, one that can only be held in the most rarefied of situations. News narratives are one of them, where what's said is often indexical to what's not said, and common assumptions between writer and reader trigger such a deep and overt confirmation bias as to render news less news and more of a bonding experience.

Another article related (in principle) to this is . If the relation isn't obvious, I'll spell it out: Each side has a narrative, and while the reporter is concerned that by not showing solidarity with one side or another (or neither) he loses readership and gains foes, this article shows the importance of the narratives themselves.

The main point--it would have been nice had it been buttressed with numbers instead of generalities--is that the narratives aren't just PR, but reflect deeply held values. Even if their narrative makes no sense to us, because we're Xian or enlightened or sane or whatever the appropriate ego-boosting self-aggrandizing term of the moment is, it makes sense and has to be dealt with. Personally, I'd argue that Atran and Ginges glossed over some important differences between Fatah and Hamas (whose very names are enlightening--one means 'zeal', the other is the word used for the initial Islamic conquest), between secular and religious Israelis, and between the Palestinians and the Israelis as a whole. What their self-concepts are based on is different, even in a single society; what 'honor' and 'dignity' means are radically different at times. The Palestinians haven't missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, in terms of their narrative; they've done everything to make sure they haven't missed an opportunity to gain what is important.
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cali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 02:33 PM
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4. interesting reflective article
that gives a real view into the pitfalls of reporting from the region.
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oberliner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 04:06 PM
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6. Bronner is quite a reflective guy
Edited on Sun Jan-25-09 04:06 PM by oberliner
Wrote a very interesting book about the Bork nonsense called Battle for Justice.
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oberliner Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-25-09 03:57 PM
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5. Interesting point about "common ground"
Very hard to find any of it.
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