Posts tagged Historians

When do we start the clock?

Here is a very good video of Phyllis Bennis, a peace activist talking about historical amnesia and Gaza. She asks a very important question on how history plays a vital role in understanding the conflict in Gaza today. When you start the story of  the current conflict, gives you a different story. People can decide what it just and unjust by when they begin the story. And people will choose the history they wish in order to prove the point they want to make. Whether it is a Zionist American Jew trying to convince you that everything Israel does is justifiable, or a American Leftist who wants to convince you that Israel is breaking international laws and has been for years and years, people will use history for their own arguments and agendas.

I am obviously not excluded from this. I got a comment on my last blog entry about how I need to go back to ancient Israel in order to understand the current situation, and that might be entirely true, but I am not. A historian has to choose their focus, their time frame, and it is by individual historians looking in, that creates the picture one gets by looking out. What I do on this blog is not formal history. I don’t footnote and the writing style is very different. This is a casual endeavor and outlet for me to talk about things that I ponder, one of which is the larger problems of how history effects the present. No one historian has all the information or all the answers. No one person will ever be able to right a TOTAL history of the world. And if they could, no one would read it. What historians do is add small pieces of work to a collective pool of knowledge in the hopes that the sum will be greater than the parts.

Historians have often strived to be objective and tell the historical truth without any bias or taint. This has largely been a complete failure. If history were about a play by play of events it would be pretty meaningless, at least to me. Historians have the job to take information and evidence and make an argument. Historians do not write encyclopedias, they write academic and intellectual works that provide historical truth, not historical fact. Events and facts are interpreted and put together by the historian in order to submit an understanding of something the historian thinks is important. It is the job of the reader or the audience to decide if the argument is compelling or not. 

Back to Phyllis Bennis, she is a bold, opinionated, well-informed asset to the current peace movement and I think she does a good job of delivering her sense of what has happened in Gaza recently. This video is from the beginning of January, pre-Obama inaguaration and pre ceasefire.


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