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Half a truth is not the whole truth

It sounds like common sense that half a truth is not the whole truth, but in truth most people are probably not aware when they only have half a truth. A little crumb of compelling truth is enough to decide things for them.

You may have seen assorted news about the conflict in Gaza, especially about student protests such as this one at UBC.

I can't remember when it was that I first learned about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, but I do remember it was about the Hamas "terrorists" acting for Palestine.

Just the label "terrorist" decided for me that Hamas were the bad guys and therefore, Israel must be the innocent victims. After all, that's what terrorist groups do: They attack innocents to force governments to recognize their demands.

War has erupted again, and this time students in North America were siding with Palestine. Older and more guarded about the various subtle attempts by media and politics to influence the masses, I decided to do more research.

It turns out that there's a long history that starts with the British in 1923. Maybe you too are wary of people trying to sell you an ideology or make up your mind for you, so it's probably better if you look for that history yourself. (That is, if you even really care about something happening in a place you probably can't even point to on a map but nevertheless want to have an opinion about -- but this is a separate discussion).

Search engines directed me to an easily digestible summary of history at Al Jazeera (reckoned to be politically left-center). There is a timeline that lists key events but with little information; as well as a summary of key events in bullet point and a video if you don't like reading.

After investigating the history of the region (as much as any layman can from simply reading various online articles), it seems to me that everyone has the blood of innocents on their hands -- the Palestinians, the Israelis, and the British (how come no one ever mentions the British?)

Two main takeaways:

(1) One of the key differences is what labels each side gets.

On the Palestinian side, the Hamas are labelled "terrorists". But on the Israeli side, their aggressors are labelled "settlers" -- a pretty benign label for armed persons who carry out deadly attacks. But when they are just called "settlers", there's no reason to look deeper into them. Just as when someone is called a "terrorist", you mind might be sufficiently made up.

Increasingly, we simply can't trust the media or political leaders to tell us "the truth". Even if they wanted to, the complexities of language are often too tricky to navigate in order to present a truly neutral tone.

(2) When an institution doesn't take sides, it is not a moral failing

All three sides (yes, I'm counting the British, even though no one seems to) have the blood of innocents on their hands. So no matter what side is chosen, another will feel injustice. This is not simply a matter of calculating who's the good guy and who's the bad guy.

From the CBC article:

Trudeau reiterated his support for a two-state solution and said it’s important that the Liberal Party has the perspectives of both Muslim and Jewish MPs.

From the CTV news article:

The president of the University of British Columbia has told pro-Palestinian protesters that the school must remain neutral on the Gaza conflict.

Benoit-Antoine Bacon says in response to demands by the organizers of a protest encampment on the Vancouver campus that professors and students hold a broad range of opinions and the university can't "presume to speak for everyone."

Bacon says if the university took a position, it would undermine the rights of people who hold different views to express themselves.

Positions like that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the University of British Columbia are probably the most rational, reasonable, and practical for this huge mess. Picking a side wins them votes from that side. But taking the most fair path loses them votes from all sides.

ASIDE: Canadian news sources like CBC and CTV are rated highly for Factual Reporting, Credibility, and clean Fact Checking. This is something important not just for Canada but the world at large; therefore something to be protected as the people's safeguard against the various selfish interests of different nations, politicians, and social movements; and certainly something to be proud of as Canadians.


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