Thursday, July 24, 2014


Philip Hammond says that the UNHRC's decision to investigate potential Israeli war-crimes in Gaza is 'fundamentally unbalanced'.  I suppose what he means is that there is no similar investigation proposed of Hamas.  I've also noticed that there have been complaints on the Israeli side about 'unbalanced' media coverage, and an 'unbalanced' or biased perspective.

A few thoughts on not being balanced:

1.  Trying to be balanced about an unbalanced situation will always put you in a false position.  Balance is not, in and of itself, good.  Truth is good.

2.  In presenting certain facts, 'balance' can be used as a means to contextualise them away.  For example, it is a fact that the Israeli offensive in Gaza has killed over 700 people, most of them civilians.  Any attempt to add 'but Hamas fired some rockets too' on to the end of that is just an attempt to blunt the force of the acknowledged fact.  It ought not to be a required part of discourse that we always give all the facts.  Not only is this impossible, it is often simply a device to downplay one particular fact.  It leads into debates about the context (who, historically, is to blame for the situation in Gaza?) rather than about current events (why is Israel bombing children?).

3.  As a corollary of this, it cannot be demanded of anyone that they deliver unequivocal condemnations of Hamas before they are allowed to critique Israel.  One can be as critical of - and disgusted by - Hamas as one likes, but one is not required to establish this publicly and thus gain 'credentials' before one can say that the Israeli state is committing murder in Gaza.

4.  A call for 'balance' can just mean 'hey, try to see it from my point of view'.  In and of itself, this is a good thing.  It is good to see things from different points of view.  But in situations of injustice and oppression, not all parties have an equal right to demand that their point of view be acknowledged.  If you are the party in power, you do not have a right to demand that I see it from your point of view.  To give a relatively trivial example, if it is proposed to take money from some very wealthy people and give it to some desperately poor people, the rich do not have the right to demand that their point of view be taken into account.  In this instance, the power is all on one side (evidence for this: Palestinian losses versus Israeli losses; the years of the Gaza siege; the ongoing occupation...) and that side does not have the side to scream about their perspective being ignored.

The question the world needs to ask right now, irrespective of the wider issues, is this: is Israel indiscriminately killing Palestinian civilians?

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