I refuse to take a side in the conflict currently boiling over once more in Israel. There are too many chauvinists, revanchists, and fools on each side of the line to make any kind of objective judgement.

I will only say this, as a card-carrying member of the Industry:

Let journalists do their damn job.

There can be no peace without understanding, and no understanding without dialogue. And we can’t have a rational dialogue if we don’t have the right information, if we don’t know the right questions to ask.

There are a few brave souls in the Industry who are willing to be blown to bits in any corner of the world, just to make sure Bobbie in Boston and Pierre in Paris get the facts – which they can then rant about on their blogs.

When you systematically suppress their ability to do so, we have a problem.

 

UPDATE: Kevin posted this article in the comments, and I think it deserves a full read.

We should of course remember that issues of free speech, and flow of information in the Territories, are as tedious, complex and distressing as any other part of the protracted conflict in that region.

And as Kevin points out, for decades much of the war has been waged in the media, which Israel can certainly not ignore.

But there is simply no excuse – zero – for this:

Israel first imposed the ban on reporters going to Gaza on Nov. 4 when its military broke the cease-fire with Hamas by sending forces in to destroy a tunnel. Since then, Israel has opened the border for reporters for only a few days.

Israeli officials argue that the closure is meant to protect its staff at the border crossing from being exposed to unnecessary risks of rocket fire. But that argument holds little weight because the Israeli workers have been routinely staffing the border crossing to allow UN officials and Palestinians in need of emergency care in-and-out of Israel.

Today, the FPA issued a a new statement of protest, calling the Israeli ban “unprecedented.”

“Never before have journalists been prevented from doing their work in this way,” the FPA said in the statement. “We believe that it is vital that journalists be allowed to find out for themselves what is going on in Gaza.”

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Over at my flagship, Austin Bay asks “what is peace?”:

For the past five years, I’ve taught a strategy seminar in the University of Texas’ Plan 2 undergraduate honors program. I sometimes kid the students and tell then that the course title ought to be “Big Plans.” We do consider a few rather large-scale planning problems, like Alexander the Great tackling the Persian Empire, Hannibal challenging Rome and the Mongols conducting operations from East Asia to Central Europe.

Without exception, one of the most difficult assignments comes very early in the semester: I have the students write a paper answering the question, “What Is Peace?”

I’ve yet to get a definitive answer, but without exception each class has produced deeply thoughtful and provocative analyses.

[…]

The “imperfect nature” of human beings utterly dismayed another student, but dismay was no cause for denial of rank imperfection. Instead, she castigated utopianism, particularly economic utopianism – not the idea of freedom from want but the notion it can be achieved. She concluded “peace” based on met needs was in fact “an undesirable end” because conflict “drives people to excel and forces improvement.” Curbing conflict, however, “in order to avoid violence and mass destruction” is possible – but she asserted that required creativity in resolving conflict.

[…]

Peace derives from a reduction in fear and an increase in trust. The business major’s marketplace meshed with a philosophy major’s theory that peace resulted when a population’s “collective expectations about the future” favored equilibrium or continuity on a “scale of perceived stability.” Thus soft talk and no surprises passes for peace. I asked them both if they supported very, very large intelligence budgets – and indeed they did.

A student from an immigrant family (he’s now in medical school), however, returned to Petrarch’s crooked traits, pegging the clash of human desires as the deep problem. Peace exists when “different desires” are “in agreement.” When desire refuses “compromise,” the clash of desires can escalate to the clash of arms and clash of civilizations.

This question has gnawed at me for some time now, and I was happy to see Bay address it. Most would agree that the absence of violence would be a solid byproduct of peace, but is it peace in and of itself?

One of my hangups in regard to the modern anti-war movement(s) is that they often confuse armistice – a temporary cessation of conflict – for the active presence of peace. Peace, unlike non-violence, actually requires consensus and some common understanding.

For example, the United States has had a relatively non-violent relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran for nearly thirty years. But can we define this relationship as peaceful? I’d say no.