Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Burston's Op-Ed

Bradley Burston of Haaretz has an excellent editorial called "How to Tell When a Mideast Expert is Lying" up on the website this morning. Here's an excerpt:

So, How Do You Know When a 'Mideast Expert' is Lying?

1. The Expert knows with certainty which of the two sides - only one - is responsible for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and which - the same one - for the failure of Mideast peace efforts.

2. The Expert treats the civilian victims of violence on one side as individuals, but assesses collective responsibility for the violence on the whole of the other side.

The Expert speaks as though the entire civilian population of the other - call it the Dark - side, were directly, actively, complicit and thus accomplice to whatever excesses were committed in its name, and therefore deserves whatever sanction, condemnation, or reflexive collective punishment the Dark Side civilian population is about to experience.

3.Field Guide

Dark Side: Commits atrocities, war crimes, crimes against humanity.
Expert's Side: Exercises its right to self-defense.

Dark Side: Violates peace deals with impunity.
Expert's Side: Cannot move forward in light of Dark Side's bad faith.

4. The Expert hints, implies, or states outright that the actions of the DS are comparable to those of the Nazis.

5. The Expert begins, "The conflict is fundamentally very simple."

I've generally considered it a rule of thumb that when I leave a lecture on Middle East politics, I should be more confused than I was going in. Burston hits the nail on the head with this article. The conflict has existed for so long because it's complicated, and not easily rectified. It doesn't mean there are some very clear moral and legal lines, but the vast majority of issues in the Middle East have at least two sides if not more.

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