bds.jpgA blog post from Sol Salbe
It is not black and white. No matter which way you look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict the same conclusion is reached: matters are not clear cut. It just is not true that one side is always right and the other side is invariably wrong.
But of course that’s the kind of view that one hears most often because those who see the world without shades of grey usually shout the loudest. Time after time one gets the hardline-one sidedness where the facts do not get a run, or at most are selectively picked to fit in with the view the writer had long ago predetermined. You only need to know whether the writer belongs to the Israel-first or Palestine-first crowd, and you can join the dots yourself blindfolded.

Take the recently concluded first Fatah Congress in 20 years. There are those like the Angry Arab (As’ad AbuKhalil) and Antony Loewenstein who wrote about their contempt “for these wealthy, indulged, corrupt Palestinian ‘leaders'”. They were neatly matched by their pro-Israeli counterparts who spoke about a setback to the peace process and slammed the “confrontational talk like blaming Yasser Arafat’s death on Israel.” The US Anti-defamation League’s Abraham Foxman said that some of the rhetoric coming out of the congress was “not in line with the American initiative to bring the parties closer together.”
Let’s ignore for the moment the actions (and rhetoric) of Israeli leaders during that same time-span and examine the Fatah congress. Neither the critics from the Left or Right seem to have spent much time looking at what really happened there. There were indeed lots of disappointments. Not one woman was elected to this supposedly secular organisation’s ruling body, putting it far behind its Hamas adversaries. Many of the old corrupt leaders are back. But on the other hand, genuine debate took place, there was open criticism of the leadership expressed, and many who are not tinged by the corruption were elected. Further, voting wasn’t rigged and it took place in front of the TV cameras. There were factions and lists but the elections at least appeared to have been less manipulated than some similar Australian political gatherings. These are positive achievements.
A similar kind of selective blindness applies to the impending Leonard Cohen concert in Israel. Seven years ago the AJDS expressed a general view that those who wish to boycott Israel are on whole motivated by genuine concerns but we did not share their choice of tactics which was counterproductive. A lot dust has blown in the Negev since then [not much water flows in the rivers of either Australia or Israel] but those who lead the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions [BDS] do not fill me with confidence, because of their reaction to Leonard Cohen’s move. Rather than cancel his Israel concert, he decided to go ahead but donate all the proceeds to Palestinian and Israeli victims of the conflict.
To an outsider this seems a partial victory. If the aim of BDS is to convince Israelis that there is a price to pay for the Occupation, then the message should be getting through: which future artist will perform in Israel if s/he is not going to keep any of the proceeds? Also how many Israelis, who overwhelmingly endorsed the Cast Lead operation, will be happy to give money, however indirectly, to their victims? It is probably not a coincidence that ticket prices in Israel are much higher than in other venues in Leonard Cohen’s current world tour.
But instead of jumping for joy, the BDS movement have spent their time lambasting Cohen for performing in Israel at all. One wonders if they really want to deliver a message to Israelis or are they more interested in punitive action against Israel regardless of the political consequences?
Those on the other side are acting just as foolishly, attributing the desire for action against the Occupation to people’s whims, antisemitism, media bias, bad Israeli PR – anything other than a natural response to Israel’s policy and actions.
There are dozens of other examples with which one can go on. But you don’t have to be totally one-sided to possess a pre-set notion of your view which allows you to dispense with the facts. Some people choose to apportion blame to both sides equally. Statistically speaking they may get closer to the mark but it is still a faulty way of thinking. One is still unlikely to come up with meaningful conclusions if one ignores the facts.
It is for this reason that I personally don’t like the term “even-handed”. In no conflict are the two sides equally responsible for the situation at every stage. Whether the conflict is between Muslims and Hindus in India or Greeks and Macedonians in Europe share of the blame is something to be examined rather than assumed ex ante that it is 50:50.
Those who want to be fair to both sides, because both sides claim have some merit, should not be even-handed. They should be nuanced and considered. It is that voice that needs to be heard and it is up to us to work hard to ensure that it does.