So, Trevor Noah asks an honest question about the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Good for him. Honesty cannot ever be overrated. Now it’s time to have an honest conversation about his honest question. A question that wasn’t honest, and wasn’t a question.
His visual essay was not meant for me, Obviously. My allegiances are with Israel. It was meant for the general neutral public. Those of them that stand on the sideline. Wanting to help; but are unable to do so because it looks so protracted and too complex to resolve. He pointed out just how pointless it is, because we can indeed choose every point in time we like, and each time a different side will look guilty. Every standing on the sidelines neutral will a have lot of empathy for him over that. A “he is exactly where I am” kind of feeling; a strong one. But if this is how he sees it, then why did he choose a date for the beginning of the conflict in the first place? 73 years, he says. That is the how long Israel exists as a state. For those that do not know.
It is a strange pick. First, because he later spoke emphatically against doing that very thing, picking dates. Second, because most people place the beginning of the conflict at the end of WW1. It could be a case of ignorance on his part. After all, one of his technique to generate empathy was to state at the very beginning that he will probably miss a few important details. But he also adds another, supposedly, historic fact. “The British took the land from the Palestinians,” he says. So, he does know it begun in WW1. So why choose a later date, when you know it’s the wrong one? And why phrase it the same way the Palestinian narrative describes the Balfour declaration?
Avoiding mentioning specific dates that are also controversial, helps focus on the main point someone wants to deliver. And Trevor’s main point? “Let’s look at who is dead and who is alive.” Alright. Let’s look at who is dead, and how they died. At the time of his piece, around 28 Palestinians were killed. Among them, 10 children. And around 150 wounded. With 2 deaths on the Israeli side. His numbers. Horrifying and sad, all the more a reason to look into that. So, let’s go back to these early Palestinian deaths. Were they all killed by Israeli fire? Or was it, in some cases, by Hamas’ missiles that fall short, and into Palestinian civilian areas? And those that were killed by Israeli fire. Were they human shields for Hamas’ weaponry and missiles? Were they warned by Israel to clear away before the attack? Were they all killed or hurt by Israeli fire? Or was it secondary explosions, or simple traffic accidents as many people fled? And what about accessible shelters to the general population? where there any nearby?
Like it or not, that is what looking at who is dead and who is alive means. It may not necessarily remove the main blame from Israel. But without mentioning it Hamas becomes blameless for those. Ignoring that possibility isn’t an accidental omission. It is an obvious expression of one sidedness. But Trevor is indeed not looking at that. He is looking away from that. And into technology. “Set aside motives and intentions and look at technology alone,” he says. He actually said that, set aside motives and intentions. How are people supposed to resolve a conflict if they don’t understand it? And how are they supposed to understand it if they are not looking at motives and intentions? If Trevor does not want to resolve the conflict, why bring it into focus in the first place?
Instead of motives and intentions he focuses on technology and the general strength of Hamas vs the bigger general strength of Israel. It’s the bigger picture, where individual suffering does not exist. To be clear it is an important subject that should be discussed. It is related to the other issues. But, like all of them, it is also separated. So, let’s go alone with it anyways. Trevor’s argument, Israel is so strong it doesn’t need to response. Iron Dom is so perfect it can take down anything in the sky. 2 people were already dead, more will die on the Israeli side later; so, it obviously has limits. And no that isn’t a surprise. Everybody knows that. This is why Hamas and Hizbullah have been stockpiling missiles. So, they can overwhelm this defense system. President Obama pointed to that fact in his Jerusalem speech. You do know who that is Trevor? You did interview him once, didn’t you?
He explains his argument with analogs. First, as a conflict among siblings. Him as Israel, his little brothers as Hamas. Really? Sibling rivalry has its nastiness. However, when one of them is hurt, let’s say with a sickness, the other will feel the same fear and anxiety as the rest of the family. No matter how hard he/she will try to conceal it. Nasty sibling rivalry among states is a hockey match between Canada and the USA. And Trevor, has any of your siblings ever came at you with a knife? If that happened, and I hope it didn’t, I’m sure your mother would have reacted very differently.
He is defensive about this analog; fully aware it could be interpreted as infantilizing the Palestinians. But that does not infantilize them. It’s just a bad analog. Denying them any agency does that. He moves to another analog; police disarming a man with a knife. And I am so glad he did that because that is not an analog. The situation between Israel and Gaza is an extreme version of this supposed analog. With one major difference. It is not a cop vs a man with a knife walking in the street. It’s a cop vs a man with a knife that is right now stabbing someone else. So, what should the policeman do, Trevor? Go and grab him, risking injury that would prevent the officer from helping? Grab his own knife, and repeat the same risks? Use his gun but only shoot at the assailer’s leg? It would keep him safe but won’t necessarily stop the stabbing. Or shoot to kill? And to be frank, that bullet could also hurt the person he is trying to save. Complicated, isn’t it? A gun though, has one advantage. It is fast. While we are contemplating all these alternatives, the victim is been stabbed over and over again. He/she is bleeding more and more, accumulating injuries that are more difficult to fix. Assuming we can get him/her to a hospital on time. And this is the hypocrisy of Trevor’s fair fight argument. This argument, typical to the anti-Israel narrative, not only wants us to choose between fairness and the safety of our civilian population. It demands us to choose this fairness over the safety of our civilians. How fair is that to them?
But of course, he is not demanding anything. He is just asking an honest question. An extremely bent honest question. But let’s go alone with it anyways. His last question, what is the responsibility of the strongest party? Great question. Let’s explore that. What is that responsibility according to international law? What are the operational-challenges Israel faces in order to fulfill those requirements? How do the actions of the IDF meet or fail to meet those requirements; while taking into account the military situation on the battlefield? Like it or not that is what you analyze when you examine responsibility.
Complicated, isn’t it? But we cannot answer that question. It’s the end of the segment. The thing is, we don’t have to answer that question. Trevor had already suggested the answer to us by emphasizing every negative thing about Israel. It’s not a fair fight, Israel is the stronger party, force isn’t necessary because of Iron Dome is perfect. More casualties on the Palestinian side. Showing Israeli police storming the al Aqsa mosque, but not the violence they were responding to, a dramatic news bulletin that begins with Israel’s reaction. Whatever makes Israel look bad, correctly or incorrectly is front and center. Whatever makes the Palestinian side looks bad is largely dismissed or ignored.
In Trevor Noa’s 8.53 minutes piece about honesty in discussing the Israeli Palestinian conflict, dishonesty is the dominating subtext. He delivers an amazing performance convincing he is one of the anguishing neutrals. But everything in it is in support of one side, the Palestinian side. He slides inside the Palestinian narrative about the Belfour declaration, in a way only someone familiar with it can. He emphasizes only things that make Israel look bad; be it actual matters, or angles on complex situations. The entire direction of his video is against Israel. It is not the conclusion of it, because nothing has been analyzed, so no conclusion can be made. And it does end with an open question.
To be clear, he has every right to be on the Palestinian side. To support it, to believe in its narrative, and to publicize it. But to pretend to be neutral while doing so?
And it doesn’t end there. He argues against looking into past, (while inserting his view of the past), because it is too complex. As if the other aspects of the conflict are not complex. however, every direction he takes has its complexities. Looking at who is dead, fairness, the responsibility of the stronger party, land, economy, religion, governments, etc. All have their own complexities. Discussing anyone of them isn’t much different than discussing the past. And any person that can understand them can understand the past. But Trevor isn’t discussing any of them. He is moving from one theme to the next as if they are one and the same. And using them to paint Israel in a darker light.
One of the complexities of the conflict is that they are all connected. Including the past. The past is one of the main reasons why it is ongoing. The past is where we can find what the Palestinian side did when it was the stronger party. It started with classical pogroms, and moved to armed death squads, targeting and massacring civilian populations. And kept on doing it until these very days. Only this time relaying more on artillery. And yes, I know, I just put forward a key part of the Israeli narrative. It is a war of narratives. That is what every decent person that did try to go beyond the complexities will tell you.
Trevor’s questions were nothing but a literary tool. Which he used brilliantly. It is too bad they were waisted on this unequivocal dishonesty.