Elihu Stone responds to Gideon Levy’s “terrifying” take on Al Durah: Will Ha-aretz Publish the letter?

On one level, the blogosphere represents all those “letter to the editor” that never gets published. Here’s one from Elihu Stone to Ha-Aretz in response to Gideon Levy’s column on the al Durah Affair (fisked below). Will they publish it? I doubt it. But here it is, with permission of the author (emphasis mine).

Dear Sir/madam:

I read Gideon Levy’s story “Mohammed al-Dura lives on” appearing in today’s online version of Ha’aretz in utter disbelief.

After all, haven’t we been raised on the media’s mantra that journalism is all about discovering the truth? Most media outlets seem rather anxious to have us believe this. Indeed, the journalist’s claim to having uncovered ‘the real facts’ is the very source of the media’s pretension to moral authority. The Pulitzer Prize is reserved for folks who uncover the truth of events, like Watergate, or Vietnam, or the Rosenberg trial. Conversely, the standard fare of scandal is obfuscation of the truth by those in positions of authority. We generally condemn folks who lie in order to advance their personal agendas and take umbrage when their positions are questioned. For all the good that President William Jefferson Clinton accomplished in some areas, there was a visceral public reaction to his legendary prevarication “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Similarly, when President George W. Bush, Sr. said “Read my lips; no new taxes,” the American people expected him to keep his word. It seems to me, by the way, that deliberate misstatements about the past are more reprehensible than getting the future wrong, because some leeway might be allowed for promising a future that one does not irrevocably control. The past however, is composed of events, that people can acknowledge, or lie about, as they choose.

When a news analyst tells us that facts do not matter, it is time to sit up and take notice.
What are we to make of a newspaper article that explicitly excuses, and perhaps endorses, the ignorance of actual history in favor of manufactured “facts” that support the author’s particular political views? Mr. Levy would have us believe that it just does not matter who killed Mohammed Al-Dura. I beg to disagree.

Mr. Levy’s article posits that it is a diversion to examine and debunk the killing of Mohammed Al-Dura. However, that seems odd. If the event was ever newsworthy, then uncovering whether the event occurred in fact or was a fabrication would also seem to be newsworthy. This is especially so because more than a little solid evidence has emerged over the last decade that the disinformation surrounding the Israeli – Palestinian conflict is dramatically affecting the course of the war and the lives of thousands of people. It is not a ‘diversion’ to ask whether a seminal event was manufactured to shape public opinion. Indeed, when Holocaust deniers who pretend to academic respectability, revisionist historians and leaders of state like Ahmadinejad are re-examining whether or not the world is flat, to great international fanfare, it seems particularly important to examine the truth of opinion-shaping events, when there are legitimate questions surrounding their historicity. If the Al-Dura affair was not only a lie, but also a lie that that contributed to the death of hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocents, is that not important?

Gideon Levy’s wholesale abdication of his role as a truth-seeking journalist in this particular instance is breathtaking – and nothing short of terrifying.

When a reporter deems the search for truth to be the pursuit of “tasteless questions,” something is rotten. This is especially so, when the one insinuating that we should ‘pay no attention to that man behind the curtain’ claims to be the arbiter of Truth. When the pursuers of some larger perceived Truth arrogate to themselves and report manufactured facts as news, the free press is at risk. One would think that journalists everywhere would find this of moment.

Theatre is not news. Theatre is – well – theatre. It would seem obvious that staged events do not deserve be elevated to fact, simply because reporters have failed to capture otherwise in print, on celluloid or in digital media what they believe to be true. It seems to my impoverished way of thinking that if a journalist wants to advance his or her view of the facts, the reporter has an obligation to investigate and publish the facts as they are. There are certain red lines. A journalist might possibly be forgiven for cherry picking the facts he or she puts forward; but manufacturing “facts” –or the unbridled rationalization of such misleading behavior – is just beyond the journalistic pale. Now, perhaps I am naïve; perhaps the Emperor indeed never had any clothes. But, then we – the public – are entitled to a jaundiced view of the Emperor’s pronouncements concerning his wardrobe and his demand that we adopt his mode of dress.

Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.” The problem with statistics is that they are often wielded in the employ of ethical arguments while systematically stripped of all the essential detail that would provide them with real moral weight. It does matter how many people have died on each side of any military divide; but what matters more is the circumstances under which each person died.

To be fair, Levy’s concern with the death of Palestinian children is admirable and morally important. Indeed, the death toll of the past years of conflict is tragic and should horrify Arabs and Jews, alike. The violent death of even one child, Arab or Jewish, is too much. In an ideal world, the unjust death of every single person would be understood as a tragedy that that should make all of us shudder. Is this not the message of the entire Hebrew Bible, after all? Yet, Mr. Levy goes excessively far in his collective breast-beating, because he and ends up being supremely cruel in his erstwhile kindness.

Levy says the question of who killed Al-Dura is not important, because so many Palestinian children are dying from Israeli bullets. I would argue that who, if anyone, killed Al-Dura is supremely important– and for the very same reason. The question of how war is waged, the bases for the killing and the notion of truth-telling are all at the very heart of this conflict. History matters. Reality matters. It is stunning that this has seemed to escape Levy’s grasp.

Making history up out of whole cloth allows one to excuse any behavior, any mindset. We have seen the result of this phenomenon throughout human history. The substitutions of fantasy for reality, whether involuntary or willful, are symptoms of mental instability. The premeditated fabrication of history is simply immoral and a lie of the most damned sort. Justifying those who lie in order to incite others to murder is beyond unconscionable.

Mr. Levy’s article itself makes fundamental mistakes of fact and logic. Mr. Levy would dismiss those who question whether Palestinian bullets killed Al-Dura by stating that, as far as he can remember, there has been no other case in which Palestinians fired at the IDF and hit a Palestinian child. Is Mr. Levy’s memory and implied omniscience really so authoritative as to censor such an important question? Is Mr. Levy’s failure to recall any Palestinian militant mistakenly shooting a Palestinian child when aiming at Israelis truly relevant to anything other than the issue of Mr. Levy’s memory? Perhaps we should remember that on January 26 of this year, a two-year-old baby boy was killed in the crossfire of Hamas and Fatah bullets near Khan Younis. Over a dozen of people died in Palestinian infighting on that day. Scores more were wounded. True, the gunmen were not aiming at Israelis when they shot the baby, but that seems less than relevant. What is relevant is the deafening silence that this shooting engendered among Palestinians compared to the violent rage sparked by the Al-Dura affair. Perhaps it is more relevant to recall in this context that Palestinian militants have intentionally sent Palestinian minors to their deaths as suicide bombers. On August 27 of this year, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy carrying two explosive devices on his body, was arrested in the northern Gaza Strip after he attempted to carry out an attack against soldiers operating in the area against Palestinians launching Kassam Rockets on Israeli civilians across the border. Frankly, Mr. Levy’s point escapes me.

Such behavior on the part of the Palestinian Arabs does not excuse our own failings, but the it seems that journalists should be calling for more truth – not less.

Respectfully,

Elihu D. Stone, JD
Efrat, Israel

It looks as though the al Durah affair’s re-emergence into the light of MSM has the added benefit of flushing out the twisted agendas of so-called journalists, really advocates of a remorse (the etymology of which is to bite [oneself] again) who not only disregard the ethics of their own profession, but reveal their profound ignorance of what’s actually happening. And in the case of Gideon Levy, who can’t think of a case where Palestinian fire has killed Palestinian children, that’s actually his “beat.”

9 Responses to Elihu Stone responds to Gideon Levy’s “terrifying” take on Al Durah: Will Ha-aretz Publish the letter?

  1. [...] his “terrifying” editorial piece on al Durah, Gideon Levy, icon of the self-critical Israeli left made a remarkable [...]

  2. Rudi says:

    A similar logic as Gideon Levy’s would be “it doesn’t matter if the Jews crucified Jesus or not, the cross became the symbol…”
    We all know the “results”.

  3. fp says:

    Here’s refreshing Levy’s memory: why doesn’t he recall the killing of two children of a Fatah commander on their way to school? Let me suggest that he watch the daily abuse and lethal use of children on Hamas and Fatah TV. But even if he did, it would not change his mind.

    That’s because whatever notions of truth are held today — divine, ideology, multiculti, PC — they have nothing in common with factual truth. The collapse of education has produced a public which no longer comprehends or appreciates the importance of logical truth. After all, logic is just a manifestation of power, no?

    That’s how the Levy’s of the world can, therefore, continue to claim they stand for truth even as they disregard it. And there is hardly any reader left which discerns the difference.

    Abuse and killing of children happens is documented as happening everyday in the arab/pal world, but the Levy’s don’t watch Hamas or Fatah TV. But they can’t help it — Israel makes them do it.

  4. [...] Richard Landes wrote a fantastic post today on “Elihu Stone responds to Gideon Levyâs âterrifyingâ take on Al …”Here’s ONLY a quick extractHere’s one from Elihu Stone to Ha-Aretz in response to Gideon Levy’s column on the al Durah Affair (fisked below). Will they publish it? I doubt it. But here it is, with permission of the author (emphasis mine). Dear Sir/madam: … [...]

  5. Eliyahu says:

    Rudi makes an excellent point. History doesn’t go away nor is it forgotten. But it is falsified. By ignoring it, by belittling its importance, one helps the falsifiers. The way history is remembered or perceived [both false and true history] shapes the future. Didn’t somebody, maybe Santayana, say that He who controls the past controls the future?? That is, he who controls the dominant interpretation or understanding of the past can shape the future. Neanderthals like Shimon Peres don’t seem to understand that. Peres once said that history is of no importance. One of the prophets said that forgetting the past can cause the people to perish.

    The arguments directed against Levy could also be directed against Arad Nir [see later post].

  6. Richard Landes says:

    there is something breathtakingly irresponsible in how these people manage to sweep away historical concerns. i must confess, i did expect palestinians to claim it was a higher truth; but i thought israelis, even dogmatic leftist israelis, wouldn’t be so openly and shamelessly contemptuous of the past. aren’t these the very people who think it’s so important to set the record straight on what happened in 1948?

  7. Eliyahu says:

    In my opinion, they are not concerned with the truth about the 1947-49 war. That war began with attacks by Arab irregular forces on Jewish civilians shortly after the UN partition recommendation. The first people driven out of their homes in that war [1947-1949] and could not return to their homes after the war, were Jews. But I don’t think that the “new historians” really care about the truth of that war and who was displaced or expelled and when. Nor do they care about the correct international law status of Judea-Samaria & Gaza. Rather they and most of their comrades want to be part of the international “left,” of the approved international consensus on what happened in 1948 here in the Land of Israel. Actually, these people don’t think for themselves, they are other-directed, to use a phrase of circa 1955 psychologists.

  8. fp says:

    rl,

    we have discussed many times what induces those moonbat lefties to ignore history, and there are multiple reasons.

    however, i have this theory that at least some of it has to do with the bandwagon effect: what does history matter, the reality is what palestinians claim and the world believes them, and we don’t want to be perceived as believing otherwise.

    a glimpse of this was implicit in wieseltier criticism of judt, when he said that judt is concerned with being perceived by his social circle as associated with what israelis do to the palestinians”. that’s why wieseltier said that judt “reproduces anti-semitim”.

    now consider this:

    Mainstreaming Holocaust Denial at Oxford
    http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=27485_Mainstreaming_Holocaust_Denial_at_Oxford&only

    we’re not talking conflict history now, but THE HOLOCAUST; and not israeli left, but OXFORD!!!!

    now tell me the west is not finished.

  9. fp says:

    on a more mundane note, what do you do when history is in conflict with your dogma and your notion of moral superiority?

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