FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Insidious Myth Prevents Peace in Gaza

by

Media frame violent conflict to reinforce certain biases and myths, emphasizing some facts and omitting others to produce compelling, narratives. Good guys and bad guys are crafted and re-crafted in media discourse, and this is especially the case with the protracted Israel-Palestine conflict. Unfortunately, many of these myths enter the public discourse, on both sides, to the detriment of peace.

What’s even worse, well-intentioned authors hoping to dispel these harmful myths also degrade peace efforts by perpetuating harmful assumptions. Chiefly, that violence could be justifiable, depending on who the real victim is. This myth is dangerous, perpetuates violent conflict and seriously hinders peacemaking efforts on both sides.

Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, addressed five myths about “militant Islamist organization” Hamas in a July 18th Washington Post article.  Brown argued that although Hamas may have some capacity to provoke fear in Israel leadership, it is “absolutely true that Hamas does not pose an existential threat to Israel.” The existential threat of Hamas: myth-busted.

Kim Sengupta and Khan Younis, Belfast Telegraph reporters, exposed the myth of Hamas’ human shields in Gaza in a July 21, 2014 article. They wrote, “Some Gazans have admitted that they were afraid of criticizing Hamas, but none have said they had been forced by the organization to stay in places of danger and become unwilling human-shields.” The use of human shields by Hamas: myth-busted.

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America published a report July 21st on the “top nine Gaza media myths” in current circulation. Among them, in a chicken-and-the-egg analysis, that Hamas’ rockets are not simply responses to Israel’s embargos: “Missiles are not the answer for the embargo, they are the cause for the embargo.” Hamas rockets as retaliation for Israeli blockages: myth-busted.

The problem with these and many other myth-busting analyses, from both sides, is that they impose some under-the-radar assumptions on readers that may seriously hinder conflict resolution and peace processes. If Hamas does not pose an existential threat to Israel, as Brown argued, then Israel’s actions in Gaza are not justified. In other words, if Hamas did pose an existential threat, Israel’s actions would be justified. The Sengupta and Younis argument is similar: If Hamas isn’t actually using human shields in Gaza, then Israel’s actions aren’t justified. Therefore, if Hamas did use human shields, Israel’s actions would be justified.  Per the Committee, if Hamas is firing rockets as a response to Israel embargos on Palestine, then Hamas may be justified. Get the picture?

There’s really only one myth that needs busting around here and it’s this: “Violence is justifiable.” Violence is never justifiable.

That’s the only myth that needs dispelling right now. The philosophical tradition of “Just War,” which serves to perpetuate this myth, is an additional fallacy that needs further dispelling.  However, what we have to immediately address, if we want to prevent another 666 human deaths and sleepless, fearful nights for children, is the practical limitations of the “violence is justifiable” myth on conflict resolution processes.

If the authors of myth-busting analyses, as well as the original myth-perpetuating journalists, had a foundation in conflict resolution – practical or theoretical – they’d know that arguing over violence justification – who’s good, who’s bad and who “deserves it” – is devastating to peace. It’s the direct violence from both sides, no matter the proportion, that perpetuates the conflict and degrades peace efforts in Gaza, Syria, Ukraine and beyond. Unless the direct violence ends, civil society may not be able to address the actual issues or create a sustainable resolution. Violence only creates additional grievances on all sides and perpetuates a conflict spiral.

Furthermore, what many analysts call “myths” are actually perspectives. These perspectives – such as who the victims and aggressors are and when violence may be justified or legal – are held by people all over the world and, most importantly, by people on the ground coping with the violence on a day-to-day basis.

Myth-busters need to know what conflict scholars already know: Everyone believes their in-group is the real victim, and everyone is correct.  Trying to convince someone that their reality is false, that they should adopt the reality of their perceived enemy, is conflict resolution-suicide. In peace processes, accepting multiple realities by listening to one another through sustained, mediated dialogue is a more productive force for resolution than any violence, ever.

We must demand that both Israel and Hamas immediately cease all violence (even if one side isn’t very effective in this regard). At the same time, we must reject this assumption that violence can be justifiable. Peacemakers in Gaza need our support in breaking the cycle of violence – listening. Listening leads to dialogue, dialogue leads to transformation, transformation leads to sustainable peace, and it’s really, really hard to hear over the sounds of rocket fire.

Erin Niemela (@erinniemela), PeaceVoice Editor and PeaceVoiceTV Channel Manager, is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University, specializing in media framing of violent and nonviolent conflict.

Erin Niemela is a Master’s Candidate in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University and Editor for PeaceVoice.

Weekend Edition
April 29-31, 2016
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail