WRITING once about the disinformation, propaganda, charge and countercharge that so characterised the civil war in Lebanon and Beirut during the 1970s and 1980s, the late New York Times correspondent, Bill Farrell once summed up this burying of actuality with the remark: “There is no truth in Beirut, only versions.”  

I couldn’t help thinking of that observation these past days in the wake of the searingly tumultuous events that have tragically played out in Israel and Gaza and the barrage of responses to them on social and other media.  

To this day it seems these “versions” of the truth still bedevil any correspondent’s efforts to try and get to the bottom of events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

As someone who has covered two Palestinian intifadas or uprisings in 1987 and 2000 and many turbulent events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since, I can think of few other international political issues that so quickly stir emotions, fill newspaper letter pages or generate the plethora of social media messaging, the way this long and bitter struggle does.

The simple, uncomfortable but inescapable fact is that nothing is neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

For the journalist or for that matter any individual who steps into the debate, it’s almost a sure-fire certainty that they will come under ideological bombardment and run a gauntlet of accusations from either side that could see them denounced as anything from an “antisemite” to a “Zionist stooge”.  

Such is the blizzard of partisan responses that it often blinds us to the actuality that only the most astute, thoughtful, truthful and level-headed of commentators are able to convey at times such as these.  

Fortunately these past days there have been a few such commentators whose take on current events encapsulates what I too believe is the actuality of the situation. Two of these observers are the Israeli journalists Gideon Levy and Amira Hass who both write for the daily newspaper Haaretz.  

Summing up the terrible events of the past days, Levy called it as he saw it, arguing that “behind all this lies Israeli arrogance; the idea that we can do whatever we like, that we’ll never pay the price and be punished for it.” 

READ MORE: Angus Robertson says 'no justification' for Hamas attacks on Israel

In no way condoning the horrors that Hamas committed, Levy rightly goes on to point out that what those few hundred Palestinians that breached the barrier and invaded Israel did was something “no Israeli imagined possible … a few hundred people proved that it’s impossible to imprison two million people forever without paying a cruel price.” 

In essence what Levy is reminding us of is that for far too long now much of Israel has been in a state of denial whereby “we’ll fire at innocent people, take out people’s eyes and smash their faces, expel, confiscate, rob, grab people from their bed, carry out ethnic cleansing and of course continue with the unbelievable siege of the Gaza Strip, and everything will be all right”.  

Never for a moment is Levy suggesting that in its murder of civilians what Hamas did can be justified in any way – far from it. Instead, what he is doing is telling us what has been in plain sight for decades going back to what Palestinians call the “Nakba”, also known as the Palestinian Catastrophe, with the destruction of Palestinian society and homeland in 1948, and the permanent displacement of a majority of the Palestinian Arabs. Ever since then such persecution has been unrelenting. 

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf calls for Israel-Gaza humanitarian corridor

As Levy’s colleague at Haaretz, Hass echoes: “In a few days Israelis went through what Palestinians have experienced as a matter of routine for decades and are still experiencing.”  

Those experiences have involved a litany of hardship, pain and injustice, “military incursions, siege, fear, anxiety over loved ones, captivity, ruined holidays or celebrations, weakness and helplessness in the face of all-powerful armed men, and searing humiliation”. 

Both Levy and Hass present us with powerful words.

The kind that are true testimony to what has really been going on and prosecuted by successive Israeli governments.  

There will of course be those Israelis and others who will condemn Levy and Hass for being, “apologists for terrorists”, but both are anything but that.

Instead, they represent those Israelis – of which there are many – who recognise that what has been underway for so long and lies at the core of this conflict is the longest occupation in modern history.  For some time now, long before last weekend’s massacres and atrocities, there have been signs of a coming explosion. 

Israel’s large-scale military attack on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin in the northern West Bank earlier this year was an ominous harbinger of things to come. Likewise, the running amok of Israeli settlers in Palestinian communities burning houses and cars in places like Hawara have been other early warning signs. 

The National:

But amidst all this bloodshed, bitterness and rancour between these two communities, it’s vital for all of us to keep to the forefront of our minds that both sides, Palestinian and Israeli, have their own respective narratives of victimhood.  

Without doubt, each community has a story to tell, a litany of atrocities that have befallen them over the years at the hands of each other’s soldiers, gunmen, bombers and assassins.  

The National: People attending a vigil outside Downing Street

Indeed, one of the other greatest difficulties facing any reporter of this conflict is the extent to which these dual narratives and the bloodshed that accompanies them have a way of blurring the specifics of each individual tragedy.  

But this too is also a collective tragedy, one in which, as Israeli troops mass ready to invade Gaza and again Hamas prepares to resist them, we might witness even more unimaginable levels of violence. 

As ever it will be Gaza’s 2.2 million ordinary citizens, half of which are children, that will bear the brunt of the fighting.

As Levy says, the latest threats of “flattening Gaza prove only one thing: We haven’t learned a thing … we now have to cry bitterly for the Israeli victims, but we should also cry for Gaza.”