Monday, August 9, 2010

Tom Friedman - let's try some constructive criticism

In case you missed Tom Friedman's column in the Sunday Times, read it now.

I've long been an admirer of Israeli filmmakers. They have an ability to touch the heart of an issue without melodrama and without finger pointing. So, when Friedman writes about a film, "Precious Life," he got my curiosity up.

The film is a documentary about Israeli medical efforts to save the life of a young Palestinian child from Gaza. From there, the story gets more interesting and I want you to read Friedman's column to get the gist of the movie.

I have been to Israeli hospitals. And I have seen first hand that they treat all patients-- Jews, Arabs, Christians, Muslims, Druze and all others-- with equanimity and first rate medical care. It's a far cry from medical treatment in other Middle Eastern countries. All that Friedman writes about medical care is true.

What disturbs Friedman today is the lack of constructive criticism when speaking of Israel and he raises one key point-- everyone there is open to it.

But there are two kinds of criticism. Constructive criticism starts by making clear: “I know what world you are living in.” I know the Middle East is a place where Sunnis massacre Shiites in Iraq, Iran kills its own voters, Syria allegedly kills the prime minister next door, Turkey hammers the Kurds, and Hamas engages in indiscriminate shelling and refuses to recognize Israel. I know all of that. But Israel’s behavior, at times, only makes matters worse — for Palestinians and Israelis. If you convey to Israelis that you understand the world they’re living in, and then criticize, they’ll listen.

As Friedman explains,

Destructive criticism closes Israeli ears. It says to Israelis: There is no context that could explain your behavior, and your wrongs are so uniquely wrong that they overshadow all others. Destructive critics dismiss Gaza as an Israeli prison, without ever mentioning that had Hamas decided — after Israel unilaterally left Gaza — to turn it into Dubai rather than Tehran, Israel would have behaved differently, too. Destructive criticism only empowers the most destructive elements in Israel to argue that nothing Israel does matters, so why change?

How about everybody take a deep breath, pop a copy of “Precious Life” into your DVD players, watch this documentary about the real Middle East, and if you still want to be a critic (as I do), be a constructive one. A lot more Israelis and Palestinians will listen to you.

No comments: