My new piece at Fortnight, partially inspired by the events of the MV Mavi Mamara Gaza flotilla raid, is all about the facts and just the facts, ma’m. More specifically, it’s about how no one agrees on what should be indisputable, universally accepted truths. Reality itself is now up for debate.
On May 31, 2010, Israeli naval commandos rappelled onto a series of boats in an enemy flotilla that was attempting to run a blockade off of Gaza. Provoked, Jerusalem had no choice but to respond to and interdict the flotilla. Met with hostile resistance as they boarded the boats—rappelling down from helicopters—the Israeli troops responded in kind, and neutralized the terrorist threat.
Or: On May 31, 2010, a band of Jewish thugs murdered several innocent protesters who were on a mission of mercy to the blighted Gaza strip. In an attempt to persuade the world of the injustices and cruelty being perpetrated on the innocent peoples of Palestine, Israel proved that it could not tolerate even peaceful protest, and violated its own principles of free speech by slaughtering those attempting to exercise their rights.
But, how about we phrase it this way: On May 31, 2010, a bunch of people were killed and injured on boats in the Mediterranean. Two parties, clearly at odds with each other, both overreacted and some people died because of it.
Sadly, time will heal little, and temporal distance from the Gaza flotilla incident will do even less to clarify what happened and why. Who is correct in their interpretation of history?
Today, there is no single agreed-upon history from which to gauge correct accounts of political events. Facts are debatable. Ignorance and willful denial can coexist in a single narrative. Conspiracy theories and epistemic alternate realities (or, to use the recent turn of phrase, a certain “epistemic closure”) run rampant and unchecked. Cultural differences in conceptualizing time even play a part. And this all assumes there is an active desire and search for truth; many news consumers now cope with a world in which shoving their collective past down the “memory hole” is de rigueur.