teleSUR, 26 May 2015 **** Front Page

Are Israeli Occupation Soldiers Better Sources than Palestinian Human Rights Groups?

By Bruno Jäntti

The recent report, Breaking the Silence, received extensive coverage but Palestinian sources rarely attract media attention.

Albeit the tide is turning on the world community's perception of Israel's body politic, the trajectory in the occupied Palestinian territories is nothing short of alarming. Whatever prospects for a positive breakthrough perhaps loom on the horizon, the situation will undoubtedly deteriorate considerably until it might get better.

Public opinion and mass media in the EU and the US still nonetheless react to various developments in Israel-Palestine in ways which range between disturbing and fascinating. One such instance is the authority granted to the Israeli organization Breaking the Silence.

Recently, Breaking the Silence released a report titled This is how we fought in Gaza. The report contains testimonies from more than 60 officers and soldiers from the Israeli military who participated in the 50 day assault against Gaza last summer.

Palestinian human rights organizations have for years and decades displayed an exceptional level of expertise. Al-Haq, founded in 1979, is arguably the most professional human rights group in all of Israel-Palestine. Adalah The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Palestinian Centre for Human Rights continuously produce top-notch research and analysis. How come we don't hear about these organizations in the mass media? Of those who consume daily news on Israel-Palestine regularly, yet exclusively from major media outlets in the West, I would be surprised if even 0.1%  heard of any of these human rights groups. I, at any rate, have probably never seen a reference to any of these Palestinian organizations in mainstream reporting.

When Breaking the Silence published This is how we fought in Gaza, it was instantly was featured in The Washington Post, CNN, Newsweek and The Independent, to name just a few examples. But when Palestinian human rights organizations publish their findings, the agenda-setting media is not listening. How come?

In the early phases of the Second Intifada, say, in late 2000, 2001 and 2002, the contrast between Western attitudes towards Israeli groups, on one hand, and Palestinian groups, on the other, was way more in your face. I recall countless of conversations from those years in Finland with journalists and people from many spheres of the Finnish society. When I referred to a Palestinian source to prove some axiomatic fact say, the illegality of Israeli settlements many implied that they would simply prefer Israeli sources. But many would also state outright that Israeli sources tend to be more reliable and convincing. A number of my comrades all across Europe have shared similar experiences.

One would have to be clinically insane not to recognize how far Europe has come just since WWII in terms of its political culture, having said that, let us not get carried away. It is a work in progress, nothing more. Indeed, the conventional European stance towards Israel-Palestine is a case in point. And so is the standard European reaction to Breaking the Silence.

The Palestinian territories are witnessing what is the longest ongoing military occupation since WWII and an incredibly violent occupation at that. There is a permanent apartheid in the West Bank. That is the status quo. Then there are regular mass slaughters of the Palestinians and the Lebanese carried out at will by Israel. But what is remarkable is that, unlike in many other cases, there is a gigantic body of data of research and documentation on all of this. There are Palestinian sources, there are Israeli sources, but there are also countless international sources, such as research conducted by major international human rights organizations, the United Nations and so on and so forth.

When Palestinian human rights groups produce thousands of pages of documentation, including countless meticulous eye-witness testimonies, on the crimes committed by the Israeli military, it barely elicits any reaction in the West; when some Israeli soldiers describe their modus operandi as occupiers, often speaking anonymously and without calling for prosecution of those who have committed war crimes, they attract passionate interests from Western media.

What is the contribution of Breaking the Silence reports to our understanding of Israel-Palestine? That the Israeli army does not care about Palestinian civilians? That adherence to international humanitarian law is not a priority for the Israeli army?

In 2015, do we truly need Israeli soldiers who have personally violated or have witnessed first hand as other soldiers have violated international law to convince us that there is something wrong with the Israeli conduct? Dehumanization of and contempt for Palestinians appear to run so deep in Western thought that, for many, the answer is in affirmative.

It is possible that Breaking the Silence the testimonies of which resemble testimonies given to truth commissions in countries like South Africa, Guatemala, Chile and East Timor after systematic violations have seized plays a constructive role in Israel, a society that remains deaf to concepts such as international law. However one wants to assess the internal role of the organization in Israel, the group's prestigious status in the EU and the US underlines what has been true for the whole duration of Israeli expansionism: that Israeli sources which are rather tame in terms of political and legal analysis are still superior to Palestinian sources which produce sound, competent and thorough research and analysis.


The archive : Bruno Jäntti, Middle East, Ramzy Baroud, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Moshé Machover


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