On (Im)Balance and Credibility in America: Israel/Palestine

PALESTINE / ISRAEL, 21 November 2011

by Richard Falk – TRANSCEND Media Service

I could not begin to count the number of times friends, and adversaries, have give me the following general line of advice: your views on Israel/Palestine would gain a much wider hearing if they showed more sympathy for Israel’s position and concerns, that is, if they were more ‘balanced.’ Especially on this set of issues, I have always found such advice wildly off the mark for two main reasons.

First, if the concern is balance, I am not the place to begin, but the absurd pro-Israeli balance that pervades the response to the conflict in Washington, in the Congress, at the White House and State Department, among Beltway think tanks, as well as in the mainstream media. There is a serious problem of balance, or I would say distortion, that undermines diplomatic credibility. Such a toxic imbalance here in the United States makes the American claim to mediate the conflict and provide neutral auspices futile, if not ridiculous, or at best a reliance on geopolitical ‘justice’ in place of legal justice (based on rights). When the Goldstone Report is rejected before it has been read or the World Court’s near unanimous Advisory Opinion (14-1) condemning as unlawful the separation wall constructed in occupied Palestinian territory is repudiated without offering a serious critical argument, it is clear that bias controls reason, making the resulting imbalance a willing partner in crime.

But what of the imbalance that sides with the evidence, with the law, with the ‘facts on the ground’ to arrive at its findings and conclusions? What of the continuous expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the denial of Palestinian refugee rights of return, of the apartheid legal structure of occupation, of discrimination against the Palestinian minority living as Israeli citizens, of the appropriation of scarce Palestinian water reserves, of the abuse of prisoners and children, of the long siege imposed on the people of Gaza as a sustained collective punishment? What of the continuous defiance of international law by Israeli reliance on excessive and disproportionate uses of force in the name of security? In light of this record, is not such imbalance, particularly in the inflamed American atmosphere, the only possible way for truth to speak to power?  Or stated more strongly, is not a circumstance of imbalance written into the fabric of the conflict, and exhibited in the daily suffering and thralldom of the Palestinian people whether living under occupation, in refugee camps in neighboring countries, in exile, and as a subjugated minority?

Finally, the idea of balance and symmetry should also ‘see’ the structures of life that describe the contrasting conditions of the two peoples: Israelis living in conditions of near normalcy, Palestinians enduring for an incredible period that stretches over six decades a variety of daily hardships and abuses that is cumulatively experiences as acute human insecurity. To be structurally blindfolded and blind is to adopt a common, yet deforming, appearance of ‘balance’ that perpetuates an unjust ‘imbalance’ between oppressor and oppressed.

In relation to self-determination for Palestinians and Israelis I favor a stance of ‘constructive imbalance,’ which I believe is the only truthful manner of depicting this reality. Truth and accuracy is my litmus test of objectivity, and as such, knowingly defies that sinister god who encourages the substitution of balance for truth!

_______________________

Richard Falk is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, an international relations scholar, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, author, co-author or editor of 40 books, and a speaker and activist on world affairs. He is currently serving his fourth year of a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights. Since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies, and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. His most recent book is Achieving Human Rights (2009).

Go to Original – richardfalk.com

 

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2 Responses to “On (Im)Balance and Credibility in America: Israel/Palestine”

  1. satoshi says:

    In my comment here, in principle, the word “you” is addressed to the TMS website visitors and its subscribers. That is, I am addressing to them or the person, “you,” who is reading this comment.

    Regarding the Israel-Palestine issues, I do not think what Prof. Richard Falk has discussed so far on this TMS website is imbalanced. In my judgment, his discussion is highly well-balanced. If you carefully examine his discussion, you will be impressed by that how his discussion is well-organized, well-researched or well-investigated, and that how well/precisely-described. It seems that there is nothing wrong with his argument. His arguments can be considered as excellent models for anybody who is preparing an argument. Besides, he is a professor of law (international law). It is, therefore, no wonder that he can prepare excellent arguments. Probably he must have puzzled when some people said that his argument was “imbalanced.” In fact, Prof. Falk says, in the second paragraph of the above essay, “But what of the imbalance that sides with the evidence, with the law, with the ‘facts on the ground’ to arrive at its findings and conclusions?”

    Then, why some people point out that his discussion is “imbalanced”? The main issue of their “advice” is not whether Prof. Falk is imbalanced or not, although they use the word “imbalance.” Then, what is the main issue in this context? In other words, by using the word “imbalance,” what message do they really want to convey to Prof. Falk?

    When we deal with issues like the Israel-Palestine issue, we should not forget the fact that we are dealing with humans. A human consists of the reason, the emotion and the spirit/soul, in addition to the physical body. I discuss neither the spirit/soul nor the physical body here. But let me discuss the first two, the reason and the emotion in this comment. The core of the reason is mind, while the core of the emotion is heart.

    A court judge’s tasks are based mainly on mind. His tasks include to examine the fact and relevant evidence and to judge whether a certain act (or a series of acts) constitutes a breach of a relevant law(s). In other words, in performing his tasks, he concentrates on the reason of humans. It is not his task to consider the emotional aspect of the relevant persons of the case. His tasks are somewhat comparable with those of a mechanical analyzer. A mechanical analyzer analyzes a machine and finds out which part of the machine is malfunctioned. His tasks require him consistency, logicality and clarity. Because he deals with a machine, there is no need for him to consider the emotional aspect of the machine. (No machine has emotion.) A court judge’s task also requires him to maintain consistency, logicality and clarity. His task does not necessarily require him to consider the emotional aspect of the relevant parties. Relatives and friends of the disputing parties may consider the emotional aspect of the disputing parties, but it is not the judge’s task to consider it. The judgment by the court judge and its implementation form the legal solution. The legal solution is as such; the fact, relevant evidence, their analysis, examinations of relevant laws and cases, and the argument based on all that. This is because any considerations on the emotional aspect of the relevant parties of the case may bring about the “imbalance” to the judgment.

    The solution as such, however, may split both parties emotionally each other. The legal issue itself may be settled, but the anger and sadness remain (permanently very often) in the bottom of their hearts of both parties. It can hardly be expected, in that situation, that both parties will restore their friendship, at least in the foreseeable future. It can hardly be said, therefore, that a win-win situation exists in such bitter condition.

    In general and overall, a peacemaker’s task is based not only on mind but also on heart. His task, regarding the Israel-Palestine issues for instance, is to bring about both negative peace and positive peace to the Palestine area. The peacemaker’s task is not only to point out the facts and to examine relevant evidence but also to prepare an opportunity (or opportunities) to let the disputing parties reconcile by searching for their common goal(s). In his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Dale Carnegie argues, by citing a dispute between Roosevelt and Taft as an example, the dispute that Carnegie does not care which to blame. He says, “The point I am trying to make is that all of Theodore Roosevelt’s criticism didn’t persuade Taft that he was wrong. It merely made Taft strive to justify himself and to reiterate with tears in his eyes: ‘I don’t see how I could have done any differently from what I have.’” (See page 12 of this website: http://pathologydocs.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people.pdf) Essentially the same or the similar thing can be said of Prof. Falk’s case regarding the Israel-Palestine issues. Carnegie would say, “The point I am trying to make is that all of Prof. Falk’s criticism didn’t persuade Israel that Israel was wrong. It merely made Israel strive to justify themselves and to reiterate with anger in their eyes: ‘I don’t see how I could have done any differently from what I have.’”

    Humans do not respond to you the way you want them to respond to you if you just point out their negative, brutal or illegal act. Consistent, logical and clear arguments are necessary in any issues but these arguments alone are not enough when you deal with humans because they have not only the reason but also the emotion. It is very often, not necessarily always though, that decisions are made based on the decision-makers’ emotions and that they justify such decisions by preparing a defensive argument. Their argument may be considered as a disguise of an expression of their emotion. Heart affects mind. Heart affects the process of the decision-making. You may successfully appeal to their mind but you may fail to appeal to their heart.

    The peacemaker’s task requires more than the legal court’s task. It is because the peacemaker’s task should bring about a win-win situation to both disputing parties (while the legal court’s decision does not necessarily bring about a win-win situation to both parties). To that end, the peacemaker considers not only the legal aspect of the issue but also other aspects of the issue. Accordingly, the peacemaker needs one more step to be taken. Then, what is the “one more step to be taken”? And how to do it? This is when and this is why Carnegie’s teaching should be considered.

    I do not say that Prof. Falk should agree with Carnegie. But I say that Prof. Falk can learn something relating to how to deal with humans, especially the emotional aspect of humans, from Carnegie for instance. This may be important if Prof. Falk intends to play not only as a judgmental role (whatever its title is) but also as a reconciling role. Prof. Falk is the champion of consistency, logicality and clarity. No doubt about it. But I believe that he should go beyond being the champion of consistency, logicality and clarity. He needs to learn a bit more. What is it, then? It is how to deal with the emotional aspect of humans in persuading the difficult conflicting parties in order to make peace. Prof. Falk may have an objection to say that he does not need to learn such a thing and that he is already a highly accomplished lawyer and peacemaker. But I do not think that he will lose something important even if he will learn how to deal with the emotional aspect of humans from Carnegie. Rather, I am sure that he will gain something important if he will learn even a bit of the emotional aspect of humans, for the purpose of peacemaking.

    If Prof. Falk will be the champion of both the reasonable aspect (mind) and the emotional aspect (heart) of humans, probably none of his friends will point out anymore that he is “imbalanced.” The comment, according to some of his friends, “His discussion is imbalanced” refers not to his argument itself but to the “imbalance (if any) between the mind and the heart in the way he treats the Israel-Palestine issues.” His friends’ comment, therefore, can be translated into something like this: “Get the disputing parties’ both mind and heart. And you will be able to get a successful peacemaking.”

    Needless to say, however, it is eventually all up to him to decide what role he really intends to play in the Israel-Palestine issues. He has been and he will surely be playing as a peacemaker. But there are at least two types of the roles of a peacemaker: A peacemaker as a judge or a peacemaker as a reconciling partner. (Or he can play both roles at the same time or in two different occasions, one role in one occasion and another role in another occasion.) He has a choice anyway.

    Although I have said as such, I hereby confirm that my respect for Prof. Falk remains the same as before. In fact, I highly appreciate his extraordinary efforts and achievements as a scholar and as a peacemaker over the years and decades. (By the way, I have just started reading his book, “Achieving Human Rights,” published by Routledge, New York and the UK, 2009. It is not a thick book, containing 244 pages plus x (ten) pages. But I cannot read it fast because of the nature of his arguments (as mentioned above) in the book. So, I am reading it slowly and carefully. When I am reading it, I feel as if I am drinking a well-prescribed concentrated nutrition supplementary drink. The book, divided into five parts – overview, nurturing global democracy, international criminal law, human rights after 9/11 and beyond politics –, coves major subjects on contemporary human rights and democracy, including democratic global governance, global democracy, the Holocaust and the emergence of international law, the Pinochet Case, the rule of law and counter-terrorist justifications, humanitarian intervention and more.)

    Finally, but not least, let me give a present to Prof. Falk. It is a quotation from Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh): “In this world, the greatest courage is to put the mind aside and see the world directly. The bravest man is one who can see the world without the barrier of the mind, just as it is. It is tremendously different, utterly beautiful. There is nobody who is inferior and there is nobody who is superior there is no distinctions.”

    In peace and respect for Prof. Falk.

  2. satoshi says:

    PS.

    Events, incidents, situations and conditions of a society are called, “social phenomena.” If they (or some of them) produce any negative effect, they are called, “social problems.” Social problems may well be called, “social symptoms.” Social symptoms are well reported by mass media. Social symptoms are well researched by academicians of relevant academic disciplines.

    Any symptoms have their causes. All or most symptoms of the society are ultimately attributed to individuals of the society. These symptoms are attributed to the consciousness and awareness of each individual of the society. Unfortunately, few mass media report this fact. Few academicians conduct a research to discover (or rediscover) this fact.

    Any campaign for a social change, a revolution or whatever you name it, will fail if the campaign does not reach the consciousness and awareness of each individual. If the consciousness and awareness of each individual will change, the society will also change by itself.

    The first step to change the consciousness and awareness of each individual is to know oneself. Socrates taught it. Buddha taught it. Jesus taught it. Any other historically wise people taught it. Unfortunately, few people understand it. Does Prof. Falk understand it? Ask him.

    Peace begins with you, with each of you. Peace begins from you, from each of you.

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