Friday, July 11, 2014

An unusually reasonable discussion about the current Hamas-Israel war (Alan Johnson & Chris Doyle)

And it happened in Britain, of all places. This on-air discussion comes from the news service of the Telegraph (not a source which I would always associate with the word "reasonable"). It's titled "Turning Down the Heat in Gaza"—which means, really, turning down the heat in polemics about the latest Gaza war—and the participants do try to do that.
Tim [Stanley]  is joined by the Telegraph’s chief correspondent David Blair, by Prof Alan Johnson, a senior research fellow at the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre and by Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding.
Unfortunately, in contexts like these, calling a discussion "reasonable" often means that it's wishy-washy, superficial, uninformative, and unilluminating (not to mention boring). That's not true in this case.

Johnson and Doyle clearly disagree, and I doubt that anyone listening to their discussion would accept everything said by both of them—in fact, I don't think I can agree completely with either of them myself, though I'm more inclined to Johnson's perspective. And their discussion does leave some important questions unaddressed (which is understandable, since it's a very brief discussion of a problem with deep and complex historical and political roots). But both of them make serious, important, and constructive points—sometimes in ways that are usefully complementary—and both of them are honest and well informed.

The latest Israel-Gaza conflict is escalating rapidly, and pretty soon it will be probably be difficult to find on-air or on-line discussions of it with such low levels of ideological hysteria, misinformation, distortion, and pure polemical point-scoring. So if you want to hear something useful about this subject before that happens, this isn't a bad place to start.


—Jeff Weintraub

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