A new report by B’Tselem concludes that the Israeli military’s investigations into its own alleged crimes are little more than a whitewash. So what comes next?
Sometimes a seemingly dry bit of research can seem to rise to the level of literature, challenging the status quo in ways that, in the long run, only literature can. Take, for example, the first Arab Human Development Report. Penned by researchers from the region, the 2002 report concludes, rather boldly, that “the predominant characteristic of the current Arab reality seems to be the existence of deeply rooted shortcomings in the Arab institutional structure.”
Sure, that conclusion was used in too many reductionist opinion columns following 9/11. See, for example, Thomas Friedman’s 2002 piece, “Arabs at the Crossroads,” in which he declares that to “understand the milieu that produced bin Ladenism,” one need only “read this report.” But for the vast majority of Arabs who grew up in that milieu (myself included) and did not embrace “bin Ladenism,” Friedman’s invitation was neither here nor there. If we studied the report, we did so because it concerned us, because we weren’t afraid to see our notions of ourselves refracted, even reversed.
This mirroring is precisely what good literature can do. But to do so, it must not shy away from its cause. And that, I fear, is what discerning readers might conclude about a new report by the consistently top-notch Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.
Earlier this week, I sat down to read “Whitewash Protocol,” the organization’s latest report which offers a review of the Israeli military’s investigation of alleged abuses and crimes during Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 “round of fighting” (the quotation marks are B’Tselem’s) that left 68 Israelis and 2,202 Palestinians—546 of them under the age of 18—dead.
Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:
Fair enough, but the report is bookended by two seemingly contradictory statements: First, that it sets out to test a theory (that “any system is capable of self-correction”); and, second, that the subject at hand far too grave to be looked at as “a theoretical issue.”
Here are the last lines from the report:
So why posit a theory—and spend 13,000 words testing it—only to conclude by warning off theoretical pursuits altogether? The question is even more perplexing when one considers that B’Tselem and others have, since 2014, issued several other reports essentially disproving...Read More