Truth & Beauty is…
Transparency. Diversity. Dialogue. Hope.
There are numerous Facebook pages and groups about the world’s most intractable conflict and seemingly hopeless struggle: the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Truth & Beauty is one among hundreds. But I have a few very specific goals for the page:
At Truth & Beauty, I aim to:
1. To show reportage, commentary and analysis of this conflict from a variety of sometimes very differing points of view.
2. To encourage closer scrutiny of media coverage for bias, credibility, etc. and to become aware of how one’s beliefs are affected by media consumption.
3. To show those who only know this conflict from the media the other things that also happen here — the positive things, the activism, the coming together.
4. To encourage those who only know this conflict through media coverage to be only pro-peace and pro-resolution, rather than “pro-Palestinian” or “pro-Israel” or “anti-Israel”. Only pro-resolution.
Shared posts are sourced from the left and the right. From national and internationally recognised publications, from respected sources. I look for transparency. Can I find the board of directors easily? Does this publication cover other conflicts and news items? Does this publication make an attempt to publish both perspectives? The publication may have a bias or agenda, but is it clear about that fact? If a publication meets at least two of these criteria, I consider them a somewhat credible source. It’s not easy to decide. I do my best. Transparency is by far the most important criteria.
These are Sources I Consider Most Credible
972 Magazine and Haaretz on the left. Times of Israel in the Centre, The Jerusalem Post on the right. Jewish Voice for Peace, on the far, far left (scan the board of directors and advisory board here) MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) (see board of directors here), Tablet (left/center, thoughtful and moderate), Ynet News, which is, on the whole, straight reportage. Read their “about” page: I also like HonestReporting as they are 100% transparent about documenting media bias against Israel.
The Gatestone Institute (with board members like Elie Weisel and Alan Dershowitz, you can imagine Gatestone’s stance.) Still, I find them reasonable, credible and transparent. The Ma’an News Agency, an independent, 24 hour new source based in Palestine, while definitely pro-Palestinian, is not then subsequently overtly anti-Israel, per se. They are transparent about their take and their funding (in “about”). Ma’an also covers other issues in the region and the tone of discourse of their news items is not vitriolic. I am always looking to add to this list. Particularly, I am looking for more moderate Palestinian sources.
Sources I Consider Somewhat Credible But Bias is Very Clear
These are sites then, that I include less often:
Mondoweiss is a credible but not entirely transparent site. It takes a few minutes to find out who they really are and even more clicking to be led to where they get their funding and then no actual names are there. They are pro-BDS and overtly so, but still, their analysis is transparent, their reasoning is sound and I find no evidence of hysteria, incitement or anger (all big disqualifiers) on the site, so it’s a point of view worth entertaining.
The BBC is a source that I occasionally use — only occasionally, as their anti-Israel bias is oft cited. I cited this article because it is a fairly good explainer, linked to other informational articles.
Social Media/Activism Groups
Arabs for Peace is a Facebook group that I find is generally even handed and the agenda — of encouraging coexistence and peace — is quite clear. Yala Young Leaders is a very encouraging organization, founded by the Peres Peace Center and sponsored, in part, by the US Embassy department of cultural affairs. Both of those groups, laudable as they are, are groups for inclusion and activism — not reporting. In fact, there are many laudable Facebook groups like “Palestine Loves Israel” and “We Refuse to Be Enemies” that offer interesting conversations and perspectives. I have tried joining up and sourcing several pro-Palestinian Facebook groups but have been immediately taken aback by the level of violent discourse and heavily edited videos. More exploring to do here.
About That Social Media…
Increasingly, war is being waged online, using social media. You know what I mean, the hostility and hate, the trolls and the fake footage. It’s overwhelming and it’s ugly. But this is The Information Age, so it’s also very powerful and it isn’t going anywhere soon, if ever.
We are awash in a sea of information but there’s no lifeguard to blow the whistle to alert us to a rip tide of persuasive, seemingly real “news” or privately funded “research” or whether or not photoshop has been invoked. In other words, there’s really no manual for navigating the sea of information the internet coughs up daily and yet we are all swimming in it.
Truth & Beauty is Yoga for Your Mind
When you choose one side or the other? You cheat yourself out of a wider context and not only your own personal evolution but any possiblity of an end to this conflict. Choosing sides, in other words, is definitely not helping.
Reasonable Discourse & Critical Thinking
Truth & Beauty asks you to contemplate:
Is it true? Is it propaganda? How can I tell? Can I consider this point of view, even if it’s different from my own?
Truth & Beauty asks you to consider a new way of thinking:
Not pro-Israeli. Not pro-Palestinian. Only pro-coexistence, pro-resolution and pro-peace.
Paradox: We Have to Live With It
Both sides are right. Both sides are wrong. Extremists on either “side” force the issue into violence and thusly get most media coverage. But thousands of Palestinians and Israelis work tirelessly together and separately toward coexistence and peace. That doesn’t make the headlines. So just who is telling this longest of stories to you and to the world? The media. I’ll go out on a limb and say that we must therefore scrutinize what we believe and why very carefully.
Not all posts on Truth & Beauty necessarily reflect my personal point of view, but rather are posted for you to consider and to think critically about. I do not want to do your thinking for you. You get enough of that every single day.
If you find the source of an article or news item to not to be credible please tell me why you think so. If a report is denied or later updated or altered by the media, I’ll always include that in a separate post. If you disagree with an opinion piece, ask yourself why. Challenge yourself to find even one point that you can understand. It’s yoga for your mind to practice flexibility.
Why Anti-Anything Protests Don’t Work
When young people demonstrate in pro-Palestinian protests and in those protests say “slaughter the Jews” — they are not demonstrating for the Palestinians. When young people organize BDS groups and protests, they are not advocating for the Palestinians. They are advocating against Israel. They are advocating for the status quo.
Show me a pro-Palestinian rally that excludes vitriol against Israel but rather, joyfully, persuasively and successfully demands democratic elections, libraries, jobs, soccer fields and hospitals and I will show you positive change. Show me a pro-Israeli rally that excludes any fear and paranoia but instead persuasively and successfully demands the government of Israel to be totally, 100% accountable and honest about “neutralizing” Palestinians without due process and overlooking settler crimes and I will show you hope.
You have to ask what you are advocating for. If you are for one side or the other — you are also against one side or the other. It’s a zero/sum game. That is not the way toward peace — ever.
We need reconciliation, we need to slowly change minds, we need to stop seeing each other as alien and start seeing each other as All One. And yes, every individual who can shift that message and thinking does make a difference in the long run. Even now. Even you.
Make peaceful coexistence go viral with your words and actions. It’s less sexy and satisfying than ranting and raving, trust me. It’s a slow road and it requires patience. There is, however, a Third Way. Please join me and make this a less lonely journey.
Who am I?
I am Julie Gray. I used to live and work in Los Angeles. You can google my name and find a lot of information about me in interviews, blogs, Linked In, Facebook, the Huffington Post, etc.
I started Truth & Beauty during the war between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014, along with a few co-editors in response to the vitriolic wave of primarily anti-Israel sentiment on social media .
I did not start the page to defend Israel. I did not start the page to show that Israel is a horrible, murderous state. I started it to ask people to consider other views. My co-editors have all moved on to other things so now Truth & Beauty is just me. One person, a Jewish lady originally from California, now living in Israel. I am a published writer and story teller. I love my Palestinian friends. I love my Israeli friends. I felt helpless in the face of such a wave of social media hatred against Israel, against Islam, against Palestinians, with whom I have shared so many cups of mint tea and so many laughs. How could I try to persuade people to stop the hating and the judgment and to consider more context and nuance?
I don’t have fancy credentials. Just a very open and foolish heart. I have volunteered for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, helping young Afghan girls express themselves and their experiences in writing. I have volunteered for Amnesty International, helping Sudanese and Eritrean refugees find dignity and expression. I have been to the West Bank many times, sometimes socially, to see friends, a couple of times on peace/dialogue exercusions meant to build bridges. I have done some work with MEPI (the Middle East Partnership Initiative) a program through the US Embassy, to create business opportunities and cooperation on both sides of the green line. I’m just your typical, bleeding heart hippy girl. I lost my brother to suicide and I am a mental health advocate. I’m a mom. I’m writing a funny book about having moved from Hollywood to Israel. Funny?! I know. You’ll see.
But I am also a Jew and and Israeli citizen. And I’m scared and upset about what is happening. I don’t want to die here. I don’t want anyone to die here. Not like this.
Recommended Reading List:
From Beirut to Jerusalem — the ultimate primer about the sprawling conflict in the Middle East. I’ve read it twice.
The Lemon Tree — a beautiful, personal, powerful non-fiction book about a woman who discovers she has grown up in the house that was taken from a Palestinian family. A must read.
The Jews, God and History — a sprawling — and I mean sprawling book that is on the one hand fascinating but also a bit of a Jewish hagiography but still, I found it to be really interesting.
Contested Land, Contested Memory — this is a must read. It talks about how one catastrophe (the Holocaust) lead to another (the Nakba). Very well researched and even handedly written.
My Promised Land — a fascinating look at Israel then and now- by famed Israeli writer, Avi Shavit, who is very much on the left. It’s a bit depressing, but from the point of view of an Israel mourning what has become of his country, it’s a must read as well.