On (Im)Balance and Credibility in America: Israel/Palestine
PALESTINE - ISRAEL, 21 Nov 2011
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).
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