Category Archives: Media

Cognitive Empathy

I have good friends and family who have told me (almost in a confidential tone) that they have tuned out of daily news (tv, radio, newspaper and social media) since Trump’s election. His antics and craziness must end one day and then we can return to normalcy.  Or so they hope.

I nod, but haven’t had the courage to tell them what I really think.

“Tuning out” in this day and age, at this moment of constitutional rot in the USA, is dangerous, self-centered and incomprehensible to me.


My generation (Baby Boomers), especially, owes it to future generations to be a role model for constructive engagement. After all, we’re in this challenging space in time together as a result of many of my generation’s actions.

Today, I bumped into the Mindful Resistance Project . This might be the answer.

Mindful (ˈmīn(d)fəl) n. Attentive, aware, careful.   –The Random House Dictionary of the English Language

The premise of the Mindful Resistance Project is that understanding and addressing the root causes of Trumpism is important—so important that we shouldn’t let Trump’s antics and outrages get in the way of this mission. To put a finer point on it:

1) We need to respond to each day’s news about Trump wisely—with moral clarity and forceful conviction but with awareness of the way overreactions to his provocations can play into his hands.

2) Meanwhile, we need to get a deeper understanding of the forces that led so many people to vote for Trump. These forces include globalization, demographic change, the loss of jobs through automation, and a political polarization that is grounded partly in the tribalizing tendencies of social media. This polarization is also grounded in what you might call the psychology of tribalism, in cognitive biases that afflict us all—so fostering an understanding of how our minds work will be among the goals of this project.

I immediately signed up for the weekly online newsletter. And I encourage you to read the premise behind the project here.


Robert Wright

Robert Wright, the mastermind behind the Mindful Resistance Project, is the author of Nonzero, The Moral Animal,” “The Evolution of God,” and, most recently, Why Buddhism Is True.” He is currently Visiting Professor of Science and Religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

And his most recent piece in The Intercept – How The New York Times Is Making War With Iran More Likelyis the breakthrough I’ve been waiting for, but haven’t seen, and I hope it circles the human consciousness worldwide. . . . quickly!

In a nutshell, he asserts that we need to develop our cognitive empathy skills when we examine global events — to understand the other’s perspective dispassionately — when we devise our response.  He dissects a recent article in the New York Times about Iran as an example, but I read it and thought about the New York Times’ reporting on Israel/Palestine.

Cognitive empathy — sometimes called perspective taking — is a matter of seeing someone’s point of view: understanding how they’re processing information, how the world looks to them. Sounds unexceptional, I know — like the kind of thing you do every day. But there are at least two reasons cognitive empathy deserves more attention than it gets.

First, because the failure to exercise it lies behind two of the most dangerous kinds of misperceptions in international affairs: misreading a nation’s military moves as offensive when the nation itself considers them defensive, and viewing some national leaders as crazy or fanatical when in fact they’ll respond predictably to incentives if you understand their goals.

The second reason cognitive empathy deserves more attention is that, however simple it sounds, it can be hard to exercise. Somewhat like emotional empathy, cognitive empathy can shut down or open up depending on your relationship to the person in question — friend, rival, enemy, kin — and how you’re feeling about them at the moment.

And, to make matters worse, there’s this: In Washington, lots of money is being spent to keep us from exercising cognitive empathy. Important institutions, most notably some we misleadingly call “think tanks,” work to warp our vision. And the reality-distortion fields they generate can get powerful when the war drums start beating.

All of the above . . . applies to our lack of understanding of the Israel/Palestine struggle.

Americans and our elected leaders understand this struggle from Israel’s perspective, not the Palestinians’.

We process the actions of both sides from Israel’s perspective, not the Palestinians’.  And to be fair, many so-called solidarity activists with Palestine process the actions of both sides from the Palestinians’ perspective without any cognitive empathy for Israel.

This is a very important piece of the puzzle that I’ve been working on — and now I need to learn much more about cognitive empathy.

Thank you Robert Wright.



Filed under Media, Peaceful, People, Video

How mainstream media gets Palestine wrong

Mariam Barghouti

Mariam Barghouti – credit Al Jazeera

Thanks to Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian American writer based in Ramallah, for lifting the veil from the mainstream media’s reporting on Palestine. Her piece in Al Jazeera (Dec. 30, 2017) is a must read for anyone who cares to understand the context behind the “news” and how the mainstream media can get so much, so wrong!

I like to think that I’ve become a more critical consumer of the news media since living in Gaza (2012-2013). I admit I was certainly fooled for many years, or perhaps just a lazy news consumer who had no reason to question the “accepted” narrative.

When the New York Times deletes reference to “occupied Gaza” as it did here, and NBC pulls its veteran reporter from Gaza after he witnessed and reported the killing of four Palestinian kids on the beach, it’s clear to any thinking adult that the mainstream media is massaging the narrative. The questions we should be asking ourselves are why? for what purpose? for who?  The following answers are my own formulations; I’d like to hear from more experienced media analysts.

WHY?  Why is the mainstream media invested in perpetuating the colonial narrative in the Israel – Palestine story rather than standing back and providing a deeper, richer context?

Some believe in the conspiracy theory, that the Jews control the media and so the narrative of the Middle East is naturally designed to suit their interests. Hogwash!  I’ve heard this old canard repeated by nuts and also by people who should know better. While there may be some Zionists in high positions who are able to exert editorial control, the notion that Jews control the mainstream media is a broken record and should be resoundingly rejected once and for all.  Read this piece from 1996 in FAIR to understand how this conspiracy theory got started.

I tend to think that the mainstream media is simply stuck in its own cocoon of ignorance. Too many generations of western journalists have grown up inside the colonial narrative which says that Israel is fighting for its very existence surrounded by hostile neighbors. If that skewed notion forms the bedrock of their understanding of current events, then we shouldn’t be surprised with the mainstream media’s version of events.

Maybe western journalists need to be acculturated into narratives other than their own. I’m not suggesting that they adopt wholesale the narrative propounded by the Palestinians; that would be just as unprofessional as the dilemma they face today. But they must be made aware of narratives that challenge the dominant narrative.

What purpose?  For what purpose does the dominant colonial narrative about Israel – Palestine seem to stick despite abundant contradictory evidence?

Here’s where I tend to believe in a conspiracy theory. Israel has been the U.S. protectorate since before David Ben-Gurion, the head of the World Zionist Organization, declared the independence of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The U.S. was the first country to recognize Israel minutes later. The state of Israel has benefitted from U.S. largesse both in terms of money and protection from international condemnation at the United Nations.

The state of Israel has also benefitted from the U.S. government’s refusal to investigate or hold it accountable for its misdeeds. If Americans only knew how tight the U.S. government and the government of Israel really are, we might question those in power. As it currently stands, there’s very little questioning and a great deal of genuflecting when Israeli leaders call Washington.iStock 20492165 MD - American and Israeli flags

For who?  Certainly, the fallacious facade of the U.S. as a neutral mediator for peace in the Middle East has been stripped away once and for all. Perhaps then-Secretary John Kerry was the last to believe he could carry such a mantle in 2013. Many of us knew years earlier which side the U.S. was beholden to.

The mainstream media’s dominant narrative serves one side, and one side only. It’s time for professional journalists and their editors to come to that realization. When Israel’s hasbara permeates our news diet so thoroughly and without question, we all suffer, and the media’s credibility suffers just as much as when Donald Trump yells “fake news”.

Please read Mariam Barghouti’s piece in Al Jazeera (Dec. 30, 2017). The lives of Israelis and Palestinians depend on more informed Americans.


Filed under Israel, Media, People, Politics, Uncategorized, US Policy, Video

When is “anti-Semitism” NOT anti-Semitism?


The program on Baltimore’s WYPR caught my attention because it was focused on a discussion about anti-Semitism with Ira Forman, a distinguished visiting professor at Georgetown University and senior fellow at the University’s Center for Jewish Civilization. Professor Forman, who has worked for more than forty years as a leading advocate for Jewish culture and community, is currently teaching a course in Contemporary Anti-Semitism. Previously, he spent four years as the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

This 40 minute program is worth a listen, here.

I thought the host, Tom Hall, did a great job with the discussion about BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) but, unfortunately, his guest’s mischaracterization of anti-Semitism went unchallenged. I wrote him a letter to point out the problem.

Dear Mr. Hall,

I listened to your program today with Ira Forman and was pleased with your discussion about BDS.
However, Mr. Forman was incorrect with his 3Ds (Delegitimize, Demonize, Double Standards) to describe an anti-Semite.
Wikipedia notes that “the 3D Test of Antisemitism is a set of criteria put forth by Natan Sharansky to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from antisemitism. The three Ds stand for Delegitimization [of Israel], Demonization [of Israel], and [subjecting Israel to] Double standards, each of which, according to the test, indicates antisemitism. It was published in the Jewish Political Studies Review in 2004. The test is intended to draw the line between legitimate criticism towards the State of Israel, its actions and policies, and non-legitimate criticism that becomes antisemitic.”
Although the 3D test has been adopted by the State Department and has gained wide acceptance among Zionists and Israel lobbyists, it is a recent aberration which the State of Israel has been vigorously pushing.
The correct definition of anti-Semitism is “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic or racial group.”
The clear danger of the Israeli government’s definition is the chilling impact it has on legitimate free speech. The potential sting of being called an anti-Semite silences many (most?) people who have legitimate criticisms about Israel’s 50-year occupation of Palestine.
Shielding the State of Israel from criticism has been a major foreign policy objective for its government for decades, but recent efforts have intensified in response to the growing success of the BDS movement.
I hope there will be an opportunity to correct the record on your program sometime in the future.
Lora Lucero

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Filed under Israel, Media, People, Uncategorized, US Policy


A question for my friends who are history buffs.

Were there any journalists in Germany in the 1930s writing about the shocking and disgusting actions occurring in the concentration camps? I’m talking about contemporaneous reporting that provided the truth behind the barbwired fences.


Inmates in Dachau line up. This photograph was on the cover of the Munchen Illustierte Press edition on July 16, 1933. Photo credit: USHMM Photo Arhives

Although I found this photo published in 1933, my hunch is that the German people were not informed about the atrocities occurring in the camps — the medical experimentation, the severe deprivations of food and other basics of life, and the gas chambers.  The Germans didn’t know about all of that, right?  (Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

In Israel today, thanks to journalists like Gideon Levy and Amira Hass, the average Israeli has access to the brutal facts about Israel’s occupation and 10+ years blockade of Gaza, the largest open air prison on the planet.

Although Israel has prevented Israeli journalists from entering Gaza for many years, reports are getting out, like this report [Gaza Kids Live in Hell: A Psychologist Tells of Rampant Sexual Abuse, Drugs and Despair] from Israeli psychologist, Mohammed Mansour.

Mohammed Mansour

Mohammed Mansour, a psychologist who volunteers in Gaza with Physicians for Human Rights. Tomer Appelbaum – Hareetz

Gideon Levy writes: Mansour describes dystopia, a society that is falling apart. Devastation. Gazans demonstrate astonishing endurance, spirit and solidarity in their families, villages, neighborhoods and camps, after all the plagues they have suffered: refugees, children of refugees, grandchildren of refugees and great-grandchildren of refugees, are falling apart.

Mansour described an all-out struggle for survival, with addiction to painkillers as the last refuge. Nothing is left of the Gaza we knew. Nothing reminds us of the Gaza that we loved. “It will be difficult to restore Gaza’s humanity. Gaza is hell,” says Mansour.

This is a man-made, evil catastrophe just as Hitler’s concentration camps were …. there is no difference, and no justification.

Maybe Germans didn’t know what their leader was doing to an entire generation of Jews secreted away in those concentration camps. The Israelis today have no excuse for the state’s inhumane cruelty perpetrated on several generations of Palestinians. History will judge Israel, its leaders and its people harshly, as it should.


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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Media, Occupation, People, Uncategorized

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project!

Open Roads Media is no ordinary media outlet. It was created a few years ago by a friend of mine with a very cool idea.  I wrote about its beginning here.

Bringing the media directly to the people — connecting people from very different parts of the world — is not only a super cool idea, but also opening minds and hearts in ways that the most experienced U.S. diplomats can only dream about.

Here are Eric Maddox’s latest videos connecting Palestinians in Gaza with people from Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Each side asks questions of the other side. Then they close by asking a global question to be shared with the average person on the street.

Listen to the Palestinians share their dreams, in the first video.  And in the second video, people in Rotterdam answer “what is the biggest problem in the world?”

I wish we could have virtual dinner guests in every community.


Filed under Gaza, Media, People, Uncategorized

#GazaChat connects the world to Gaza

Gaza chat

A little known secret must be shared.

I never would have had the opportunity I had living and teaching in Gaza (Sept. 2012 – May 2013) if it hadn’t been for the Palestinian friends I made on Facebook during the heady days of the Arab Spring in 2011.

My nephew was responsible for setting up my Facebook account in 2007 or 2008 over my initial resistance. I just couldn’t imagine how Facebook might improve the online messaging experience I already had with email.

I know some friends in my cohort (50s, 60s and 70s) who refuse to take the leap into Facebook or, if they do, they carefully circumscribe their “friends list” and the online experience. They hope to maintain a semblance of privacy on a very public social media tool.

I did just the opposite. I want everything to be public. In the early days, I searched out interesting people (like authors and leaders in different fields) to request their “friendship” on Facebook. One led to another, and to another, until I had a critical mass of “friends”, many of whom I didn’t know personally but I liked their minds. I appreciated what they wrote or posted on Facebook.

Facebook all Over the World

I knew the downsides of Facebook — the silo effect which might trap me in an echo-chamber of like-minded “friends”; the craziness from the trolls on social media; and the ugliness from obnoxious idiots. Thankfully, I’ve been able to tiptoe around the minefield and avoid most of the traps I’ve been warned about.

During the Arab Spring uprising in Cairo in early 2011, a young Palestinian from Gaza reached out to me on Facebook. I don’t know how he found me, but our only connection seemed to be English and a mutual interest in the Arab Spring revolution. When he told me he was from Gaza, my typing fingers started whizzing along on the keyboard, recalling my first visit to Gaza in 2004. I wanted to hear more about his life in Gaza.

One thing led to another — as so much with life on Facebook does — and I met more Palestinians in Gaza, and a university professor from Gaza, and then secured an invitation to visit Gaza. Al-hamdulillah!

Israel has had a stranglehold on Gaza for the past 10+ years, preventing Palestinians from leaving and, more recently, preventing foreigners from entering the Gaza Strip. Social media provides the critical connection to the outside world from the “largest open air prison in the world.

According to a 2016 report published by the Palestinian company Concepts, approximately 1.7 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip use Facebook, while more than one million use WhatsApp and more than 300,000 use each of Twitter and Instagram.

Now I have a Twitter account (although I’ve decided to avoid Twitter since the Tweeter-in-Chief began polluting the airwaves).

I’m stepping into the world of Twitterstorms and Twitterchats because I see a glimmer of what the future holds. The benefit of tweeting in 160 characters still seems a bit elusive to me but I’m willing to learn. What new path might this reveal?

Gaza chat

The Twitterchat tomorrow (August 8, 2017) is organized by Just World Books and Just World Educational which provide the following explanation:

How does a Tweetchat work?

A tweetchat is a semi-structured, Twitter-based conversation that’s held at a designated time and built around participants’ use of a single hashtag– in our case, #GazaChat. Our two planned #GazaChats will run:

  • On Tuesday, August 8, 10-11 am ET (5-6 pm Palestine Time) and
  • On Tuesday, August 22, 10-11 am ET (5-6 pm Palestine Time)

If you are on Twitter, we hope you’ll join them both! Simply log on to Twitter at (or slightly before) the designated start-time, and search for the hashtag

#GazaChat, which we will all be using.

Once you’ve done that search and arrived at the #GazaChat screen, be sure to:

  • from the options near the top, choose the “Latest” view (circled in the screengrab above);
  • refresh the page frequently (the “Refresh” button is also circled); and
  • remember that you can post your own tweets directly from the search page– and when you do so, Twitter automatically adds the hashtag to your tweet!

It is actually easier to refresh the search if you use a mobile device, where you do it simply by swiping down on the screen. Whatever device you use, though, you’ll likely find there’s a time-lag of around 20 seconds between when someone posts a tweet with the hashtag and when it shows up in the search.

For the hour of the tweetchat, our hashtag will function as our (globe-circling) chat room! By the way, for most participants, joining the conversation is a text-only experience, so you’ve no need for any fancy internet connections.

To help structure each chat, we (@JustWorldEd) will throw into it a series of questions, that we’ve previously prepared on static image-slides for your easy visibility. We’ll post a new question every few minutes, and we’ll number them, Q1, Q2, Q3… They will look like the sample one shown here.

We ask chat participants to try to respect the numbering system, which helps to give some structure to what could otherwise be an unruly Twitter free-for-all. When you see a question– or a series of answers to any question– that you want to comment on, discuss, or give an answer to, please preface your answer or other contribution with A1, A2, or whatever the number is of the discussion-portion it’s related to. Twitter will then automatically include the #GazaChat hashtag on your answer, if you’re connected via the hashtag search.

You’ll need to keep your answers short, of course. But you can certainly contribute more than once to each question.

We also ask you to keep your contributions respectful to everyone– and not to hog the discourse completely.

Once the discussion on Q1 seems to have run its course, we’ll tweet out Q2… then Q3, Q4, and so on… Stay tuned to the #GazaChat hashtag so you can see and respond to each of the questions as we send them out!






Filed under Gaza, Media, nonviolent resistance, People

Cameraman in Gaza films the attack that killed him #OperationProtectiveEdge

Two years after Operation Protective Edge, Aljazeera World produced this video to remember the journalists and cameramen killed during Israel’s assault on Gaza.

On July 8, 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, aimed at stopping alleged rocket fire from Gaza into the occupied territories.

One of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip, Shujayea was claimed by Israel to be the site of Hamas “terror tunnels”.

The attack started late on July 19, initiating 24 hours of sustained air bombardment and artillery fire.

An American military officer talking to Al Jazeera said 11 Israeli artillery battalions fired around 7,000 shells into Shujayea over that 24-hour period, in which at least 65 Palestinians were killed and 288 wounded.

One paramedic reported more than 200 calls for help at the peak of demand, one from virtually every house on targeted streets.

The emergency services responded to every callout with scant regard for their own safety.

In this film, cameraman Khaled Hamad joins local paramedics in Shujayea as they attend to the dead and wounded at the height of the raid. Risking his life, he documents the atrocities committed against civilians in the neighbourhood during Operation Protective Edge.

A number of journalists were killed. News photographer Rami Rayan died while shooting stills of a busy market where locals were shopping during a brief humanitarian truce.

Knowing the risks, Hamad continues to film until his camera dramatically captures the raid in which he and paramedic Fouad Jaber come under direct attack.

Paramedics, Hamad’s fellow journalists and family all maintain that Israel targeted journalists in order to try and minimise coverage of what the Palestinians described as a “massacre”.

Most of the footage in the film is Hamad’s, his camera never stops shooting even after he is struck, and continues rolling long after he has taken his final breath.

Source: Al Jazeera

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Filed under Gaza, Israel Defense Forces, Media, Occupation, People, Video