Last night – November 28 – This Writer was asked by a very young friend (she’s 21) which side I’m on in the Israel/Hamas conflict.
My answer surprised everyone who was there. I said I’m on the side of peace.
They had not considered that as an option. It won me applause all around – in contrast to what happened when a left-wing journalist said the same thing after watching Israel’s film that purportedly shows Hamas atrocities committed during the October 7 attack.
Owen Jones created a YouTube clip describing his feelings, which you can find below. I urge you to watch it before drawing any conclusions about the comments it attracted.
In it, he says he was invited to a screening of the film, which the Israel Defence Forces specifically stated was intended to drum up support for their onslaught against civilians in the Gaza Strip.
He acknowledges from the start that the film confirms that Hamas committed war crimes (along with members of other groups who crossed the border on the same day, one assumes, although that isn’t actually made clear in the clip). He makes it clear that the taking of hostages is itself a grave war crime. It should be emphasised that he does not attempt to hide or minimise the fact that war crimes were committed. As I have mentioned several times in articles about Israel and Hamas (quoting Paul Newman in another – Hollywood – movie): “There are only murderers in this room.”
He emphasises the principle that “no cause on Earth justifies the killing of civilians”. This indicates that, no matter what Jones saw in the IDF film, it was never going to sway him into supporting the IDF’s operations in Gaza that are now said to have killed more than 14,800 people, including 6,000 children (Jones himself suggests more than 20,000 people – 20 times as many as the number of Israelis killed on October 7 and one per cent of Gaza’s population, including more than 8,000 children).
He makes the point that the 43-minute film is a selection of what the IDF says are thousands of hours of material, and concludes that it is likely to show the worst events the Israeli authorities were able to find. This is logical as they are trying to trigger outrage in their chosen audience of journalists and influencers, and support for ongoing slaughter in Gaza.
But it means the material is biased, and all footage gathered by the IDF should be submitted to independent inspection; this is basic journalistic practice – a genuinely independent journalist or historian would not be able to say they could accurately assess what happened on October 7, based only on this selection. For balance, Jones adds that some horrors may not have been recorded or be in the captured material.
The footage does not support some of the most serious claims made by Israel and the IDF in the weeks since October 7. So:
- There is no material suggesting that babies were beheaded. There are beheadings – one of a dead soldier (therefore not an execution) and one attempt to behead a dying Thai migrant worker that fails.
- There is no evidence of torture.
- There is no evidence of rape and sexual violence. Bodies found without underwear do not constitute conclusive evidence of such crimes, as Jones states.
- Some have claimed that there is material showing children being killed but Jones could find no evidence of this.
Jones makes it clear that this is not to say that none of these things happened. It simply doesn’t prove that they did.
The images are coupled with audio recordings, purportedly of Hamas communications that were intercepted. Jones questions their veracity. Other such clips have been released by Israel/the IDF in the past weeks, and have been dismissed as fake by experts. There is no reason for this material not to be passed on for independent assessment.
Some of the most shocking footage was of bodies burned beyond recognition – but we have learned that hundreds of them belonged to Hamas personnel, according to Israel spokesman Mark Regev. These people would not have been burned by their colleagues in Hamas – so Jones asks the obvious question: who burned them and how?
He also asks how many people were killed by reckless fire – from either side, although he does qualify this by saying evidence only suggests two incidents involved IDF forces allegedly killing Israelis – at Kibbutz Be’eri and at the Nova rave (and the rave claim is hotly disputed). This Writer would add the IDF’s Gaza Battalion headquarters, where the commanding officer, safe in a bunker, ordered an airstrike on the surface where his troops were engaged in combat with Hamas personnel.
Jones moves on to examine articles by other journalists, including one saying the film shows Hamas are worse than the Nazis – which he correctly describes as “insulting” and “ahistorical”, belittling the horrors of the Holocaust.
Then he tackles criticism of his own behaviour, and his words (found at around the 15-minute mark in the video clip) are worth quoting here: “The roots of my politics is a revulsion at human suffering. That is the entire point of all of my work. You might not believe it, you may have invented a perverse, bogeyman caricature in your head, of who I am, but that is the point of everything that I believe in.
“Watching this film of horrors – and they are horrors – does not lead me to want to support other horrors. Watching innocent civilians being killed in Israel does not make me more likely to support killing more innocent civilians in Gaza. Indeed, several times over more innocent civilians.
“The fact that this is controversial – and I know that … those who supported this screening and its purpose find this controversial – is absurd.
“Now, you have a choice, when you learn of the horrors that humans are capable of inflicting against each other. You either allow these horrors to deepen your humanity or you use those horrors to numb your humanity so that you can be complicit in even more, and indeed even greater horrors.
“This is a very basic and fundamental lesson from human history, which is never learned, with a grave human cost.”
He returns to this later in the clip: “It’s that point at which you either look at horror, you see horror, and you deepen your humanity – or you numb your humanity; you allow your humanity to be chipped away.
“And here’s how I understand the purpose of the screening can be used for just that, is that when attendees see what is happening in Gaza, the thousands of innocent civilians, many thousands of little kids among them, as well as maimed little toddlers, newborns suffocating to death, and feel horror and anguish – and then we are meant to think back to what we saw at those screenings, to remember those poor, injured little boys crying for their dead father, and then to wipe away the horror and anguish we feel about Gaza’s innocence, so that we continue – we can continue – to support a military onslaught which will take many more lives.
“This has happened throughout history, where you are encouraged to break down your empathy for the suffering of others by selectively focusing only on the suffering of some.
“I won’t do that.”
He continued: “Those behind the screening would rightfully regard even one of the killings of Israeli civilians which I saw as intolerable. I did.
“But 20,000 dead Palestinians, many thousands of them children – that’s entirely tolerable?
“Well, there we differ in our responses to the horrors that we saw.”
He concluded: “Throughout the tortured history of our species, horror at atrocities has long been used to build consent for yet more atrocities.
“I left that screening, yes… ashen-faced, horrified, disgusted, repulsed – and more determined than ever to spare innocent people from violent deaths and suffering. That should be your response too.
“No cause on Earth justified crimes committed against innocent civilians. And those crimes don’t justify collective punishment and the mass slaughter that the people of Gaza are now suffering.”
Here’s the clip:
The response Jones received for this display of humanity in the face of horror has been, itself, horrifying.
Here’s a selection, so you can see for yourself, and put names to those who have numbed their humanity and allowed themselves to become complicit in more and greater horrors:
I have seen and heard some truly terrible things said by so called human rights activists these last two months
— We Stand With Israel (@SussexFriends) November 27, 2023
A journalist writing notes while watching something, regardless of what it is, is obviously standard practice.
The idea it should inherently arouse suspicion – as insinuated here – really underscores why Britain is buggered.
Goldsmith used to edit the ecologist! https://t.co/HgFvdMB2rD
— Aaron Bastani (@AaronBastani) November 28, 2023
I just watched Owen Jones sow doubt about Hamas atrocities in the name of “journalistic practice”. A hollow aim since he also spread debunked misinformation on the IDF killing civilians at the Nova rave. Jones is a propagandist not a journalist. pic.twitter.com/sX8u5E8RGq
— Heidi Bachram 🎗️ (@HeidiBachram) November 27, 2023
Owen Jones really is a nasty piece of work
The Jews suffer the biggest massacre since the Holocaust. Owen J wants to play it down & deny stuff
While he doubts actual atrocities. He quotes Hamas stats as facts
Some people are just awful human beings. Owen Jones is one of those
— David Collier (@mishtal) November 27, 2023
Owen Jones sat through video footage of horrific atrocities committed by Hamas then jumped on YouTube to say it wasn’t that bad. I’m not linking his video because he’s a revolting individual who has been platformed for way too long.
— Ben (@Jamin2g) November 27, 2023
I answered this one:
Sadly, Israel has lied time and again. Remember the "beheaded babies" lie, to quote just one example?
Where is the INDEPENDENT coroner's report agreeing with this sexual assault claim? Who made that claim in the first place? Why should we trust it?
— Mike Sivier (@MidWalesMike) November 28, 2023
Does anyone in British media have the moral clarity to say they won't work with atrocity deniers like Owen Jones and Novara again?
By booking them you endorse their positions as acceptable discourse in a civilised society.
— Nathan Comiskey (@ComiskeyNathan) November 28, 2023
None of the people attacking Jones in the tweets above deserve any of your attention. They present as bloodthirsty warmongers intent on the annihilation – not of Hamas, but of Palestine and all Palestinians.
If you can remember all the way back to the beginning of this article, you may recall that when I was asked whose side I take in the Israel/Hamas conflict, I said I was on the side of peace.
You don’t get peace by invading somebody else’s country, subjugating them, stealing their land, walling in, oppressing and murdering them for 75 years – as Israel has discovered.
You don’t get peace by breaking through the walls and murdering your oppressors in a vain and (proportionately) tiny act of rebellion – as Hamas has discovered.
All you get is a perpetuation of the cycle of violence.
International law says Palestine has a right to resist the occupation of its land and the oppression of its people by Israel. But that does not give it a right to commit a single act of violence against a civilian.
Israel has a right to defend itself against acts of violence that are committed against its civilians. The issues are muddied here because it is questionable whether those acts of violence were committed on Israeli land or land that has been stolen from Palestine, in which case those civilians had no right to be there. But in any case, that does not give it a right to commit a single act of violence against a civilian.
Both sides are in the wrong. Both have committed war crimes. Both have committed atrocities.
In fairness, both have also been trying to whip up support for further atrocities. That’s why my friends were so surprised when I didn’t say I supported Israel or Hamas (or Gaza, or Palestine) but wanted peace instead.
The only way to get peace is to put the weapons away, sit down with the people you’ve been fighting and talk about how it can be achieved.
The longer that moment is delayed, they harder it will be to achieve that peace.
And yes, every one of us has a responsibility to seek that peace. You don’t get it by cheerleading for war and its atrocities.
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