I’ve just returned home from a two-week trip to Israel. This is not a political blog, it is a writer’s blog, and I have no desire to spark a political discussion here. But I have noticed something that I think speaks to a very central writer’s issue — the “art, technique, and process of narrating,” one of the definitions of “narrative” at Dictionary.com.
One of the things that has been painful for me is the cold shoulder or disapproval I have experienced from certain people, whether I’m talking about personal friends, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, or readers, when I mention Israel. For example, I oversee a Facebook group focused on animals (my other passion) called “Our Place to Paws.” The number of “fans” in the group had remained unchanged for months, because I don’t advertise it, and it’s the kind of group that people tend to join and then forget they joined. This past week I posted a photo of a cat sitting on a motorcycle in Israel on the group’s wall, and within 24 hours two people had left the group. This is not a high number, and it could be a total coincidence. But as the number of fans had not changed at all for months, I wondered if was.
I am fully aware of the narrative about Israel that exists in the worldwide media. As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, I am also sensitive in general to the narratives that have been created throughout history about the Jewish people, and the often dangerous effects of these narratives.
One friend and author I respect a great deal feels that both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict create narratives intended to forward their cause, and that this is why it is so difficult to discern the”truth.” But what I can tell you after spending two weeks in Israel is that the narratives we get from the media do not represent, in most cases, the full story. And they are clearly written, in many cases, to sway readers’ thinking. While I was there, a number of incidents occurred, including rockets fired upon Israel from the Gaza strip (one of which killed a young boy who was riding a school bus home), and Israeli retaliation for those rockets that led to the deaths of militants and, tragically, some civilians. I made an effort, when these things happened, to read media reports from numerous sources around the world. And I was struck by how different the reports were, and how they were crafted by writers and editors at the various media outlets to lead readers toward a certain point of view.
After talking to a variety of people in Israel who have many different opinions and political leanings, the only thing that is clear to me is that the “truth” is complicated, as will be any potential solutions to the conflict. Opinions, ways of viewing the conflict, and predictions of how it will unfold in the future (and why) are hugely varied, especially among Israelis themselves. But please realize that what you read in the media in the U.S. and worldwide is not always true. And often, when it is true, it is reported in a way that leaves the story severely skewed. This bothers me, because this kind of misinformation, I believe, fuels, and possibly is fueled by, an undercurrent of anti-Semitism.
I am happy, one on one or in person, to discuss what I saw and experienced in Israel, and to offer my own impressions. But in this more public forum, all I ask is that people do their own research or visit the country themselves if they want real information. Please don’t jump to conclusions about a country, or certainly a people, based on carefully crafted media narratives.
That was an important and brave blog post. I’ve told you how I feel about the knee-jerk and predictable reactions people have to the headlines they read without truly investigating the whole story or at least questionong the perspective they are used to hearing. I think Israel is one of the most complex stories we have. Thank you for your courage in posting this as a reminder to readers and writers to do our homework, especially, I would add, before we post political one-liners all over FB or Twitter.