‘Rebuilding’ a foundation for truthful dialogue

Roei Eisenberg | Op-Ed Submission

For two weeks now, I have asked the campus community to “pay it forward” when discussing the situation on the ground in the Middle East, specifically in regards to Operation Cast Lead and the corresponding backlash in public opinion worldwide. “Rebuilding” (Student Life, Feb. 13) was a well-crafted affront to that request. The Stephen Walt routine pulled by Daniel Bilsker and Jacob Stern makes a mockery of intellectual debate. Its use of normative language, strategic misrepresentations and deliberate omission of facts shows no commitment to a lasting and honest debate but rather the same rabid ideology that has long represented the purveyors of muck.

Casting aside their pathos-ridden diction, the pair goes on in an attempt to qualify their outrageous comparison of Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto by relying on Richard Falk, who they falsely identify as the “U.N. humanitarian emissary to the Middle East,” and who, in reality, is a pioneer of the recent trend equivocating Israel and Nazi Germany.

Falk was appointed by the United Nations’ notoriously impartial Human Rights Council as the “Special Rapporteur to the Palestinian territories.” His position requires that he monitor and report on alleged violations of international law only by Israel. Not anyone else in the Middle East—not even the Palestinians, as he once pointed out.

The authors didn’t think this was information worth sharing. Nor did they bother mentioning the Israeli response to Falk’s appointment and claims: “[Falk] has taken part in a U.N. fact-finding mission which determined that suicide bombings were a valid method of ‘struggle.’ He has disturbingly charged Israel with ‘genocidal tendencies,’ and accused it of trying to achieve security through ‘state terrorism.’ Someone who has publicly and repeatedly stated such views cannot possibly be considered independent, impartial, or objective.”

This lack of commitment to such journalistic values as objectivity allows Bilsker and Stern to inform their readers that Israel refused a renewal of the truce, “and on Dec. 27, Israeli Air Force planes bombed Gaza, incinerating hundreds of people.” They neglect to mention the salvo of Qassam rockets that Hamas launched. And they try to once again draw forth images of genocide. What they won’t tell you is that recent reports show that at least half of the identified dead were combatants. Gaza City was nothing like Dresden.

These are not facts they would like to tell you. These faux-military analysts will tell you that Israel’s “goals cannot be attained using incredibly destructive but otherwise limited military means.” That Hamas is “too entrenched” and that “Israeli violence predictably increases Hamas’ popularity.”

But they won’t discuss the new poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion which shows that only 28 percent of Gazans support Hamas post-Cast Lead, down from 52 percent in November. They won’t discuss Hamas’ treatment of Palestinians or this recent Amnesty International statement: “Since the end of December 2008…Hamas forces and militias in the Gaza Strip have engaged in a campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of ‘collaborating’ with Israel, as well as opponents and critics.”

Nor will they tell you that UNRWA, the U.N. agency in charge of supplying the Palestinians with basic goods and services, had to halt its operations in the wake of the conflict after Hamas seized shipments at gunpoint. The old habits of a terrorist organization are hard to break. While Hamas offered the people of Gaza limited ‘protection,’ there are several reasons why governments aren’t run by the mob.

In April of 2008, when reporters in Gaza City cried over the ‘gasoline crisis,’ a Palestinian Authority official admitted that Hamas confiscates half of the weekly fuel transferred from Israel to Gaza. That week, Hamas left 820,000 liters of diesel and 200,000 liters of gas untouched in the depots, while the entire Strip shut down because of a ‘fuel crisis.’ Hamas used its power to shame Israel on the world stage, instead of using the fuel to power the hospitals, generators, water pumps and sewage pumps.

Finally, Bilsker and Stern lie outright, claiming that “recently, Hamas has shown its willingness to accept a 50-year cease-fire and a two-state solution along the 1967 borders.” On January 11, Hamas sent a broadcast ‘message’ to the Israeli people: “The Zionists—I swear to you, by God by the world…We will not recognize Israel. If you want security or peace, you should go back to where you came from.”

Does the pair really believe that Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, will abandon that plan? Or do they think that Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas, lied while being broadcast internationally on Al Jazeera TV in October of 2008, when he said that “the day will come, within several years, when this world will change, submitting to the Arab Islamic will, Allah willing.”

Bilsker and Stern have no problem turning a blind eye to Hamas’ statements over the last year, while ‘informing’ their readers of lies that the Biased Broadcasting Company (BBC) wouldn’t see fit to publish. That is also why they have no problem placing the blame wholly on Israel. Not on the despicable culture of death taught by Hamas clerics and U.N.-funded schools. Not on the ‘liberation group’ that hides explosives under private homes and launches rockets from public buildings and school compounds. And not on the people who yell “send the Jews back to the ovens.”

We do, indeed, have a lot of rebuilding to do. We should start, however, by building—for the first time—an educated and truthful basis on which we can discuss the Arab-Israel conflict.

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.