27 July 2014

Lisa Goldman and the art of clipped narrative

History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.

Ambrose Bierce
It is absolutely normal for two persons to disagree about politics. For two Jews it is absolutely normal to have four contrary opinions on one subject and argue all four vehemently, foaming at the mouth not excluded. However, there is one element of the debate that should be preserved intact: the factual base (the history, if you will) the debate is about. When one side of the debate starts manipulation of the facts, there is no knowing where it will end.

I have already described some differences of opinion on various subjects I have with Lisa Goldman. Mostly on interpretation of events, some wildly "creative", but not on the substance of the facts the creativity is based upon.

The latest opinion piece by Lisa in Globe and Mail The Gaza war has done terrible things to Israeli society is a troubling example of such manipulation - an artful clipping of a narrative that not only changes the tone of the story but impacts our ability to adjudge its protagonists. Here comes a list of the relevant elements of the latest Gaza war story (I will omit, for example, the decision by the writer Sayed Kashua to leave Israel for greener pastures), as recorded in this article. I shall also withhold my personal opinion of the whole for now, leaving it for somewhere down the post, if at all:
  1. Mobs of hyper nationalist youth rampaged through Israel, the rampage culminating in the abduction and horrific murder of a 17 year-old Palestinian boy, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, from East Jerusalem.
  2. This orgy of internecine violence was sparked by the mid-June abduction of three Jewish teenage boys – Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer and and Eyal Yifrah – who were hitchhiking in the West Bank. (1)
  3. Violent demonstration on both sides of the divide ensued. The rage spread to the Galilee and other regions of the country. (2)
  4. ...oops, something is missing here, methinks.
  5. "And then the Israeli military announced its third military assault on Gaza in less than six years. The purpose of the operation, announced the government, was to destroy Hamas’s military capacity..." etc.
If you read the above narrative, without noticing that missing item #4, it becomes quite clear what happened: Israeli government decided to avenge the death of three Jewish boys by a bloodbath in Gaza - isn't it straight and simple?

Yes, as clear as the fact that a cop shot a criminal without a reason (if you didn't know that the criminal shot at the cop first).
As clear as the fact that Israel increased its territory allocated to it by UN in 1948 by going to war with its neighbors  (if you are unaware of the fact that it is Arabs who initiated the war in the first place).
As clear as the fact that Israel easily won the 1967 Six-Day War by dastardly attacking its neighbors first (if you weren't told that Egypt blocked the Straits of Tiran quite some time before the war started, practically and legally declaring war on Israel).

Etc. And all that because the author of the article omitted one (item 4) vital pertinent fact: that Hamas switched from the usual daily drizzle of Qassams (3) to a massive bombardment immediately after the (horrific, indeed) murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir(4). Which bombardment continued for several days before IDF made some serious steps toward entering the war. A person (even living as far as New York) who is interested in goings-on in our neck of the woods and didn't see the pictures of our soldiers cooling their feet near the border day after day, waiting for the command, must be really detached...

So that's it for the main point on our menu. Now for clarifications and a general response to that article.

(1) Interestingly, Lisa has chosen to start the narrative of the events preceding the war from the murder of the Arab boy, which chronologically follows that of the three Jewish boys. In literature flashbacks are a useful tool sometimes, in history lessons - I wonder about the purpose of it. I don't wonder about the effect on the reader, though.

(2) For some reason there is no reference to the gruesome fact that during the violent events mentioned, the Israeli Arab "protesters" (e.g. in the Arab "corridor" of Wadi Ara) stopped the passing cars, asked whether the passengers/driver are Jewish and in case of a positive answer beat the passengers and burned cars.

(3) How many rockets, launched at Israel per day, should be considered normal? Just asking...

(4) Doesn't the author feel that there was a lack of proportion between Israeli citizens' response to the murder of three Jewish boys and Palestinian citizens' response to the murder of Arab boy?

And now to the main thread of the article, which is aptly covered by its headline, to remind you: "The Gaza war has done terrible things to Israeli society".

Sorry, the headline is false and misleading - no less than the omission of a pivotal fact described above. It is not just the Gaza war (which one is meant, by the way? - go figure) that has done these terrible things to our society. It is the long line of events following the Oslo accords - the two Intifadas, the incessant lies and double tongue of late Yasser, the events that followed our "disengagement" from Gaza, the ascendance of Hamas with its (really) genocidal charter, the incessant rockets. As one of the former Israeli left, who waved the flag and cheered the peacemakers of Oslo, who applauded Sharon, the implacable warrior who decided to give Gaza its independence, I vouch for the total falsity of this headline, and so will thousands (nay, hundreds of thousands) of other Israelis, our hopes crushed to hell by this period. If the "let's all just get along" left has been decimated in Israel, it is not because of some mysterious ascendance of the diabolical right wing, but mostly because of disillusion and loss of faith.

On emotional level, here is what counts, and it is said by a better man (with all due respect) than Sayed Kashua - David Grossman:
Today, in an Israel that has known so much disappointment, hope (if ever mentioned at all) is always hesitant, a bit timid, and apologetic. Despair, on the other hand, is utterly confident and self-assured, as if speaking on behalf of a law of nature, an axiom that states that between these two peoples there shall never be peace, that the war between them is a heavenly decree, and that altogether, it will always be bad here, nothing but bad. As despair sees it, anyone who still hopes, who still believes in the possibility of peace, is at best naïve, or a deluded dreamer, and at worst, a traitor who weakens Israel’s wherewithal by encouraging it to be seduced by false visions.
And now to more logical arguments from another good man, who, accidentally, is not a  right-winger: Jonathan Zausmer's article To my friends on the left (truth is sometimes a bitter pill):
There is no easy way forward. The conflict is greater, deeper and more problematic than the previous operations in Gaza. Resilience is the word. Israel has all the means to create a changed reality but at this early time, the other side has generated initiative. Things will change but there is no place for a gentleman’s draw. If and when Hamas is demilitarized or the rocket capability eviscerated, options for meaningful negotiation may follow. So for those of you my friends on the left, who are leaning back on familiar formulas, please find a place in front of the herd, not behind it. After this conflict a lot of creative thinking will be needed to move peace onto the urgent agenda of our national priorities.
I don't know whether I shall live to see that which is mentioned in the last sentence. I wish to, though...

And the last remark: one of the things that bothers the Western lefties is the current Israeli consensus. Especially the point about Bibi's sky-high poll numbers. Well, tell you what, my leftie friends: the greater Tel-Aviv area, which is a place where half (or more?) of our country, including about 80% of the country's lefties (rough guesstimate) wasn't a target of Hamas rocket scientists. Until now.


P.S. And here is a typical result of the clipped narrative of the kind described in this post:


Dick Stanley said...

Six years now and the lefties still leave out the rockets. The IDF retaliation is just "an invasion." They aren't fooling anyone else. Are they fooling themselves, I wonder. Confusion to them all!

Dick Stanley said...

Six years now and the lefties still leave out the rockets. The IDF retaliation is just "an invasion." They aren't fooling anyone else. Are they fooling themselves, I wonder. A toast: Confusion to them all!

SnoopyTheGoon said...


SnoopyTheGoon said...

Of course, not, but one wishes some coordination of evildoers, some advance planning, whatever...

SnoopyTheGoon said...

I would say they are already sufficiently confused.

BHCh said...

This is a really good article. I know this for a fact, because I have a short attention span for blogs and this is the longest post I've ever read to the end.

Once you add number 4 to your first list, you probably need to add 3a.

Here is a more serious argument for "Israel started this":

1. Israel falsely blamed the murder of the 3 boys on Hamas and used the kidnapping to undermine palestinian "unity government".

2. Hamas had to respond to the arrest of hundreds of its members in the WB (aka shoot missiles at Israeli cities).

In this narrative everything depends on the murderers being "rogue" elements within Hamas, for which the rest of hamasniks bear no responsibility. Or at least there is no "proof" that the order came from the political arm of Hamas.

The problem with this line of argument is that on this basis, there was never any justification for going after Al Qaeda.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

First of all, thanks, I love compliments ;-)

And yes, the line of narrative you offer was already tried by a few people. If we extrapolate it further, Hamas, esp. its political wing, could you this line of explanation (Hasbara) to whitewash itself after any atrocity it commits.

And you are right, of course, in that last sentence, re Al Qaeda.

David Sigeti said...

Snoopy, this is superb, your best in a long time (not that what you normally write is bad).

Akaky said...

I agree. I'm telling you, Snoop, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue makes you wonder about the Jooz. I mean, really, he was the best you guys could come up with?

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Thanks, David. Support much appreciated.

David All said...

Speaking of the Elders' Lizard allies, news of their sex satellite has leaked out! Link to http://hurryupharry.org/2014/07/25/this-headline-may-explain-a-lot/ for the whole story.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Well, a last minute shoe-in, after no one wanted the job...

SnoopyTheGoon said...

OK, fine - confessing takes a lot off one's burden, even if one is a dastardly Elder ;-)