TIME foreign affairs

In Ramallah, a Wedding Stands Against the Chaos and Hate

Israeli attacks continue in Gaza
Smoke rises when Israeli attacks continue in Gaza, July 29,2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Israeli and Palestinian narratives insist on continuing the carnage, with neither side seeming aware of the humanity of the other

Weddings in Ramallah usually take place on Saturdays or Sundays. But when my daughter Tania and her in-laws to be were discussing her wedding date, the main concern was to avoid the World Cup finals. The only available date was Friday, July 11th. Little did we know last April, when we met with the priest at the Latin Church in Ramallah with our expected new in-laws, that this July date would be in the crossfires of a war on Gaza in which rockets would be flying all over.

In addition to local friends and family, we were expecting relatives to arrive from Jordan and the U.S. via Jordan bridges, and some straight into Tel Aviv.

As the wedding day neared, we had to reassure friends and relatives that Ramallah was safe. Friends from Nazareth, Jerusalem and Amman were calling us, saying that they are worried about coming. A week earlier, my brother-in-law, his wife and another couple were nearly killed by angry settlers as he was returning from a wedding in Ramallah. The incident caused us all to reserve half a local hotel in Ramallah to ensure that family and guests would sleep in town rather than risk returning home at night.

Our friends coming from the U.S. were bombarded with news about how almost all of Israel was being hit by rockets from Gaza. The news and images were accompanied with voiceover and scrolling text that portrayed Palestinians as merciless terrorists who were carrying out a totally unprovoked attack on innocent Israelis and terrifying the entire country.

Relatives from Jordan who were also invited to attend the wedding were seeing the same images, but with an entirely different subtext. The rockets were given names and the attacks were part of the heroic Palestinian resistance. In addition to the images of destruction and killing, the narrative of the Arab media was of the Palestinian heroes who were presented as nothing short of some kind of Superman that could go through fire without getting hurt.

Both narratives accompanied angry voices refusing a ceasefire and insisting on the continuation of the carnage in order to accomplish some unclear political or, rather, emotional goal.

The American relatives coming via the Israeli crossings on the Jordan River were extensively questioned and interrogated. In one case, after six hours of delay, Israelis finally allowed all but my nephew. The reason this young man, who belongs to the pacifist Mennonite Church, was not allowed to attend the wedding was because he had volunteered a year earlier with the Christian Peace Makers teams, a faith-based group that helps disenfranchised groups around the world. They have missions in Mexico and in the Palestinian town of Hebron. His main job at the time, in a Palestinian town without any Christian Palestinians, was to help kindergarten children cross the street and protect them from rowdy Jewish settlers who feel that the city of Hebron is their God-given territory, irrespective of who has been living in the city for centuries.

Our Mennonite relatives that did make it visited the Tent of Nations near Bethlehem. The farm, owned by a Christian Palestinian family, is dubbed “people’s bridge” and has turned into a Christian retreat for locals and volunteers. This educational and environmental farm has become a target of nearby Jewish settlers. A few weeks earlier, Israeli troops had uprooted some 1,500 fruit-bearing trees, an act the Palestinian Christian owners felt was a prelude to a possible confiscation to make room for the expansion of the nearby Jewish settlement.

One group of relatives from the U.S. were surprised to find us sitting relaxed in a local hotel balcony when they arrived in Ramallah. On their way, the tourist bus driver had an app on his cellphone that would blare a siren every time a rocket was launched from Gaza. After some hot shawarma sandwiches and Ramallah’s best Rukab ice cream, our relatives began to settle in.

Judging by the diametrically preconceived attitudes formulated by mass media, it is difficult to find anyone on the planet that is neutral in this decades-old conflict. Neither stereotypical images of Palestinians as terrorists or as superheroes does much to show the humanity of Palestinians.

The ongoing onslaught of Gaza is being spun, on the one hand, as an act of self-defense. No country can accept being shot at with rockets, is the typical Israeli line. The speakers never tell their audience that Israel is no ordinary country, that it has been holding another people under military occupation for 47 years, that it has brought Jewish settlers into and besieged the occupied areas in contravention of international law. This siege of Gaza for more than seven years hasn’t been approved by any international body, yet no one is able to put an end to this basic right, describing it as a reward to Hamas rather a right to the human beings living in Gaza.

On the other hand, Palestinian fighters facing up F-16 fighter jets and powerful tank and naval shells respond with unsophisticated rockets that have barely caused any fatalities or physical damage—yet has produced much anger. While the war on Gaza takes on an asymmetrical nature when you look at the reported casualties (more than 1,200 Palestinian civilians versus three Israeli civilians), the conflict is never written about with anything but stereotypical adjectives.

A follower of the Israeli narrative hears the word Hamas as if every one of the 1.8 million Palestinians is a Hamas fighter holding a knife in his teeth and waiting to destroy the entire state of Israel. The pro-Palestinian narrative is similarly oblivious of the humanity of the Israelis and the desire of the majority of Israelis for peace irrespective of the fact that their government is being pulled to extreme positions that have included the yet to be proven justification of the war. Even though Israel began the war on an unproven accusation against the Gaza-based Hamas leadership, the fact is that those killed in Hebron, or in Jerusalem as well as the hundreds in Gaza, are human beings.

Neither side, nor their respective supporters and allies, seems aware of the humanity of the other. After an unbearable seven-year-long siege, Gazans want to live in freedom and independence with open borders so they can visit relatives and friends in Cairo or pray in Jerusalem. And Israelis don’t want to have to run to their shelters every time a siren warns of an incoming rocket.

The day after my daughter was born, September 7th 1990, I got a message on my beeper. Israeli soldiers had clashed with Palestinians in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque, leaving 17 Palestinians dead.

Despite all obstacles since her birth, my daughter has grown into a beautiful, smart and outgoing young woman. Her wedding and the festivities following it were beautiful and joyful. The bride and groom went to Turkey for their honeymoon and returned. But the war on Gaza has not stopped.

The hatred and the dehumanization have escalated to unprecedented levels on both sides. Neither calls of death to Arabs nor anti-Israeli rhetoric will change the basic problem that continues to fester.

The underlying roots of this conflict are political. No military solution can replace the human aspiration of people to live in freedom and independence. The sooner all parties can deal with these yearnings, the sooner we all can have our humanity back.

Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist. He is a columnist with Al-Monitor and a former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Follow him on Twitter at @daoudkuttab.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 30

1. The bipartisan deal on VA reform is a good first step, but more must be done to fix this badly broken system.

By Jesse Sloman at the Council on Foreign Relations

2. Notes from an intervention: What went wrong in Libya.

By Nathan Pippinger in Democracy

3. An independent Kurdistan could reshape the middle east – if we let it.

By Jonathan Foreman in Newsweek

4. Amtrak doesn’t need a writer’s residency; it needs to deliver affordable on-time transportation.

By Christopher Kempf in Jacobin

5. “Our nation’s baby steps towards political, social and economic inclusion could be stalling.

By Maya Rockeymoore in Huffington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME politics

What I Saw at the Border

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson at the Aspen Security Forum. Dan Bayer/Aspen Institute

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson describes his visit to McAllen, Texas

aspen journal logo

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson appeared recently at the Aspen Security Forum. Here he describes his visit to McAllen, Texas on the border with Mexico to NPR’s Dina Temple-Raston. His remarks have been provided by the Aspen Journal of Ideas, a new digital publication of the Aspen Institute. Find this article, more from the journal, and their daily list of the Five Best Ideas at Aspen.us.

I came into office December 23rd, and almost from the beginning I was hearing about the issue of unaccompanied kids coming into the Rio Grande Valley illegally. I went down to Brownsville, to our detention center near Brownsville in January. One of the things that struck me then was that day we had 995 detainees, only 18 percent of whom were from Mexico. And this is a mile from the Mexican border. The other 82 percent were from 30 different countries all across the globe, different continents, and so it was apparent to me then that the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the Southwest border needed to be an area of particular concern.

In January, in our budget process, we estimated that we were going to have 60,000 unaccompanied kids coming in. We ramped up resources. And then the numbers really began to spike to an unprecedented level in the period of March, April, May. I was hearing reports about this and recognized that we needed a plan to deal with it.

Thursday before Mother’s Day, so that was probably May 8th, I got a report from the Customs and Border Protection that the numbers were really spiking up, and we needed to address it, and they were recommending certain things to me that I needed to do as the Secretary of DHS on a DHS-wide basis to address this spike in migration by the kids.

And so my wife, Susan, and I were planning to go out to California to visit our son at Occidental College, and we were going to fly back in time to spend the rest of the day with our daughter, who’s back in Washington, for Mother’s Day. And I said to Susan, “While we’re out there would you mind stopping with me in South Texas to see a lot of other kids in between our two kids?” And we went there to the processing center at McAllen Station, and when you walk into a border patrol processing center you see a long table with border patrol agents in green sitting on one side in front of computer terminals, and they’re conducting interviews of the illegal migrants that have just come in, most often adult men, and they’re taking down basic information, name, where you’re from, age, and so forth, and so on.

We walked in on this particular day, it was Sunday, May 11th, Mother’s Day, and first of all, it was flooded with people, kids, and what was most striking is on this long processing table you’ve got the border patrol agents in their green uniforms, and on the other side, sitting on benches, are 7-, 8-year-old children, 10-year-old children being interviewed and processed. And my first encounter, I’ve been there probably five times, I think, and every time I go there I spend time talking to the children about why they made this journey. And my first encounter was the most memorable.

I saw this little girl with this beautiful long black hair, she was about 10 or 12 years old, sitting there being interviewed by a border patrol agent, and I asked her, “Where’s your mother?” And through the translator she said, “My mother is dead. I’m looking for my father in the United States. That’s why I came here.” And the translator started to cry. The little girl started to cry. And I don’t mind telling you I started to cry. And I came back to Washington the next day realizing this was a big problem, and we had to do something about it. And I made a bunch of phone calls to the ambassadors of the three Central American countries, the ambassador from Mexico, Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of HHS then, Deputy Secretary of Defense, the American Red Cross, to mobilize, to begin the process of mobilizing the resources that we needed to address this problem.

And as I’m sure you know, we’ve brought to bear a lot of resources to address it. Over the last four to six weeks, the numbers have been going down, and overall apprehensions among kids, adults with kids, unaccompanied adults, it reached its high water mark around June 10th, and it’s been going back down, but it could spike back up again at any moment, and so we’ve surged resources, and we have on Capitol Hill right now a request for supplemental funding, which is critical, which Congress is going to be taking up this week and next week, and if it doesn’t pass, we’re going to run out of money to deal with this.

And I’ve got my CFO working overtime without sleep trying to figure out how we are going to pay for this if Congress doesn’t act. Basically, that’s not an option because I’m going to have to dial back all the things we’ve done to surge resources to deal with this spike unless Congress acts. I’ve been in a number of conversations with members on both sides of the aisle about the urgency of this, and we really need it to pass. Sorry for the long-winded answer.

I do not know what happened to the little girl, and that’s something I will wonder about all the rest of my life.

TIME psychology

Being a Good Person: 5 Things That Can Help You Make the Right Choices

Man standing hesitating to make decision
Getty Images

In case you aren’t getting your RDA minimum of irony lately, I’m here to inform you that ethics books get stolen more frequently than other books:

Overdue or missing, as a percentage of those off shelf:

  • Ethics: 21.0%
  • Non-ethics: 10.0%

Missing, as a percentage of those off shelf:

  • Ethics: 8.2%
  • Non-ethics: 6.4%

Research shows that in a multitude of ways bad truly is stronger than good.

Via Good Boss, Bad Boss:

In everyday life, bad events have stronger and more lasting consequences than comparable good events.

Being a good person can be soooooooo inconvenient at times.

Here are five research-backed tips that can help you be good when doing the right thing isn’t easy.

 

#1) Reminders

The first step to being a good person is establishing reminders.

Seems too simple but reminders have powerful effects.

  • Mentioning the Ten Commandments before a tempting situation reduced cheating on a test.

 

#2) Supervision

Obviously, a boss standing over your shoulder can keep you in line but justfeeling like you’re being supervised is quite powerful.

How do you pull that magic trick off? Have a mirror nearby.

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Charles Carver and Michael Scheier, who arrived at a vital insight: Self-awareness evolved because it helps self-regulation. They had conducted their own experiments observing people sitting at a desk where there happened to be a mirror. The mirror seemed a minor accessory—not even important enough to mention to the people—yet it caused profound differences in all kinds of behavior. If the people could see themselves in the mirror, they were more likely to follow their own inner values instead of following someone else’s orders. When instructed to deliver shocks to another person, the mirror made people more restrained and less aggressive than a control group that wasn’t facing a mirror. A mirror prompted them to keep working harder at a task. When someone tried to bully them into changing their opinion about something, they were more likely to resist the bullying and stick to their opinion.

 

#3) Get Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep is correlated with unethical behavior:

In a cross-sectional field study examining unethical behavior in a variety of work settings, low levels of sleep, and low perceived quality of sleep, were both positively related to unethical behavior…

 

#4) Hang Out With Good People

Seeing others behave dishonestly makes you more likely to be dishonest.

Seeing people behave altruistically makes you more likely to be altruistic:

…these results provide evidence that witnessing another person’s altruistic behavior elicits elevation, a discrete emotion that, in turn, leads to tangible increases in altruism.

Research shows you become like the people you surround yourself with, so spend more time with the type of people you want to be.

From Charles Duhigg’s excellent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business:

In a 1994 Harvard study that examined people who had radically changed their lives, for instance, researchers found that some people had remade their habits after a personal tragedy, such as a divorce or a life-threatening illness…Just as frequently, however, there was no tragedy that preceded people’s transformations. Rather, they changed because they were embedded in social groups that made change easier… When people join groups where change seems possible, the potential for that change to occur becomes more real.

 

#5) Think About Your Childhood

Being a good person can be as easy as keeping a teddy bear nearby.

No, I’m not saying you should carry around stuffed animals but reminders of children make you more honest.

Via Harvard Business Review:

Half the participants were either in a room with children’s toys or engaged in children’s activities. Across the board, those participants lied less and were more generous than the control subjects.

Taking a minute to recall memories from your childhood can improve your behavior.

Four experiments demonstrated that recalling memories from one’s own childhood lead people to experience feelings of moral purity and to behave prosocially.

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Related posts:

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

What do people regret the most before they die?

What five things can make sure you never stop growing and learning?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Media

Martha Stewart: Why I Love My Drone

Martha Stewart attends the "Get On Up" premiere at The Apollo Theater on July 21, 2014 in New York City.
Martha Stewart attends the "Get On Up" premiere at The Apollo Theater on July 21, 2014 in New York City. Jemal Countess—Getty Images

Because it's a useful tool. And imagine what Louis XIV could have accomplished at Versailles if he'd had one

There’s been a lot of discussion and a tremendous amount of speculation lately about the nature of drones and their role in our society as useful tools and hobbyist toys.

Last year, while celebrating my birthday in Maine, I was given a drone fitted with a high-definition camera. After a quick introduction to the mechanics of operating the contraption and a few words about its idiosyncrasies, I loaded the appropriate app on my iPad and went down to the beach.

In just a few minutes I was hooked. In near silence, the drone rose, hovered, and dove, silently and surreptitiously photographing us and the landscape around us. The photos and video were stunning. By assuming unusual vantage points, the drone allowed me to “see” so much more of my surroundings than usual. The view I was “seeing” on my iPad with the help of the drone would have otherwise been impossible without the use of a private plane, helicopter, or balloon. With any of those vehicles, I would have needed a telephoto lens, and all of them would have made an unacceptable commotion on the beach. What’s more, I would not have been in the photos!

So much has been done in the past without drones, airplanes, hot air balloons, or even extension ladders. It is hard to imagine André Le Nôtre laying out the exquisite landscape designs for Vaux-le-Vicomte, and later the magnificent Château de Versailles, with no high hill to stand on, no helicopter to fly in, and no drone to show him the complexities of the terrain. Yet he did, and with extreme precision, accuracy, and high style.

Earlier, Henri IV drew up complicated plans for the immense and elegant redesign of Paris, capital of France. In England, Capability Brown somehow had the innate vision and perspicacity to reconfigure thousands of acres into country estates fit for royalty. He and Sir Humphry Repton invented an entirely new style of landscape design that had little to do with the grand châteaux of France. It became all about the “axis of vision” — relaxed, looming views of the distance that, without an aerial view, required the utmost in fertile imagination.

In the late 1800s, more people wanted the bird’s eye view of city and country and went to extreme lengths to rig up guy-wired telescoping towers, build extension ladders of dangerous lengths, and man hot air balloons, from which intrepid photographers could capture remarkable images—such as those of the Chicago Union Stock Yards and the U.S. Steel Corporation—from heights of 2,000 feet.

What about the Great Wall of China, or the Nazca Lines in southern Peru? I began reflecting on how the engineers and architects of the past accomplished so much without the modern tools we have at our disposal.

My mind started racing and I imagined all the different applications for my drone. I knew that every type of use had already been thought of by others (governmental agencies, businesses, Amazon.com, Google Maps), and I knew I could not even begin to fathom even a fraction of the social, ethical, and political challenges the widespread use of drones would create.

Do they raise legitimate privacy concerns? Should they be regulated? Should we have a national debate?

I don’t have all the answers. But I forged ahead, using a Parrot AR Drone 2.0, photographing my properties, a party, a hike in the mountains, and a day at the beach. I did my best to master the moves and angles that would result in most arresting pictures and video.

An aerial photo of Martha Stewart’s farm in Bedford, New York, taken with her drone. Martha Stewart

One of my farm workers used his drone, a DJI Phantom flying camera, to capture amazing images of my 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York. Suddenly we could see with astonishing clarity the layout of the open fields, the horse paddocks, the chicken coops, the greenhouses, the hay barn, the cutting gardens and henhouses, the clematis pergola, and the long allée of boxwood. The photos were so good I posted them to my blog on Marthastewart.com. The response was phenomenal!

Henry Alford wrote a satirical essay about me and my drones in The New Yorker that was really funny but missed the point about why I love my drone. Drones can be useful tools, and I am all about useful tools. One of my mottos is “the right tool for the right job.”

A few facts:

The hobbyist drones we can all purchase online or in stores are technically known as UAS: unmanned aerial systems. Many can fly up to 900 feet. With practice, a novice photographer can take really great photos.

The shots of my farm were breathtaking and showed not only a very good landscape design — thanks to the surveyors and landscapers who worked with me on the overall vision, much as le Notre worked with Louis XIV — they also showed me what more I can do in the future, and revealed unexpected beauty.

An aerial shot of the vegetable garden looked very much like my Peter Rabbit marzipan embellished Easter cake, which was designed without the help of a drone.

Martha Stewart, founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Emmy Award-winning television show host, entrepreneur and bestselling author, is America’s most trusted lifestyle expert and teacher.

TIME Parenting

If Cars Can Monitor Left-On Headlights and Rear Obstructions, They Should Be Able To Save Trapped Kids’ Lives

Today, technology saves your car battery—tomorrow, it could save your child

Thursday is National Heatstroke Prevention Day, so here is a little fact for your awareness: In the past 20 years more than 670 U.S. children have died of heatstroke in hot cars. To date this year KidsAndCars.org has recorded 18 such fatalities, including the death last week of a 10-month-old girl in Wichita, Kansas, who was unknowingly left in a vehicle on a 90-degree day.

Our national advocacy nonprofit works year-round to educate parents and caregivers about these dangers, including a nationwide “Look before you lock” program. But education is not enough when all it takes is a simple change in a daily routine to cause a parent to drive past their childcare center and forget their child in the back seat. Current state laws require putting your baby in a rear-facing child safety seat, which has saved the lives of thousands of children in car crashes. An unintended consequence of this shift is that when out of sight, quiet little unobtrusive passengers can slip out of mind.

How can we prevent this failure of memory? The auto industry obviously recognizes that we’re human and our memories often fail us: our cars are able to warn us if we leave our headlights on, our keys are in the ignition, a door is open, we’re low on fuel, if our seatbelt isn’t buckled… If we can monitor our headlights or gas levels, we should be able to get a signal that a child has been forgotten.

Some of the technology options currently on the market include car seat monitors and alert systems, key fobs connected to car seats that sound a reminder and weight-sensitive mats. One system activates when the driver has opened the back door to strap in the car seat, and then sounds a reminder chime when the driver leaves the vehicle. Mobile apps have hit the market, such as Cars-n-Kids Carseat Monitor, which connects with the carseat via a sensor, or the Amber Alert GPS, which tracks your child in or out of the car.

These after-market systems may be useful reminders to some people, but they have not all been tested, and they are not the failsafe solution we need in every vehicle. Furthermore, a 2012 study on “Evaluation of Reminder Technology” sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that a few of these systems were not always reliable.

Safety is something every family deserves. It shouldn’t be optional, like 4WD or leather seats. And it shouldn’t be political. The federal government and automakers along with safety advocates have the ability to solve this problem.

KidsAndCars.org recently launched a petition to push the Obama Administration to authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide funding for research and development of innovative technologies to detect a child left alone in the rear seat of a vehicle, such as infrared breathing sensors (a technology that already exists in certain baby monitors for the home). We also spearheaded an initiative to adopt federal safety standards that require all vehicles to be equipped with trunk release latches to prevent trunk entrapment, safer power window switches to prevent strangulation, and brake transmission shift interlock systems so children cannot inadvertently knock a vehicle into gear. In March, the DOT issued a rule requiring rear visibility systems, such as cameras, as standard equipment on all new passenger vehicles by May 2018.

Today, technology saves your car battery. Tomorrow, it could save your child.

Susan Pepperdine is the public relations director of KidsAndCars.org, a national nonprofit group dedicated to preventing injuries and deaths of children in and around motor vehicles.

TIME foreign affairs

How Hamas Wields Gaza’s Casualties as Propaganda

Israeli airstrike on Gaza
Smoke rises from a building following the Israeli attacks in Gaza City on July 25, 2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

The terrorist group casts Israel’s military as indiscriminate and civilian deaths as disproportionate, but Hamas-affiliated fatality figures should be viewed with suspicion

An informational battle of competing messages directed at international audiences parallels the military fighting between Israel and Hamas. Accompanying a barrage of wrenching images are Palestinian fatality statistics alleging disproportionate numbers of non-combatants. These figures are crucial because they form the basis of accusations that Israel uses excessive and indiscriminate force.

Hamas, the terrorist group controlling Gaza, endeavors to turn Israel’s military superiority to its own advantage by portraying the Israeli response to intense rocket and mortar fire as disproportionate and indiscriminate. In doing so, it hopes to turn public opinion against the Jewish state, as well as bolster its own standing at the expense of the Fatah-led Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank.

Fatality figures provided by Hamas and other groups should be viewed with suspicion. Not only do Israeli figures cast doubt on claims that the vast majority of fatalities are non-combatants, but a careful review of Palestinian sources also raises doubts.

Analyses of the casualties listed in the daily reports published by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza-based organization operating under Hamas rule, indicate that young males ages 17 to 30 make up a large portion of the fatalities, and a particularly noticeable spike occurs between males ages 21 to 27, a pattern consistent with the age distribution typically found among combatants and military conscripts. Palestinian sources attempt to conceal this discrepancy with their public message by labeling most of these young men as civilians. Only a minority is identified as members of armed groups. As a result, the PCHR calculates civilian fatalities at 82% as of July 26. PCHR provides the most detailed casualty reports of the various Palestinian agencies from Gaza that provide figures to the media and to international organizations like the UN. Its figures closely match those of the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry and other groups.

We have seen this before. A similar dispute over casualty figures occurred during Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” in the Gaza Strip in January 2009. The Israelis contended that the majority of the fatalities were combatants; the Palestinians claimed they were civilians. The media and international organizations tended to side with the Palestinians. The UN’s own investigatory commission headed by Richard Goldstone, which produced the Goldstone Report, cited PCHR’s figures along with other Palestinian groups providing similar figures. Over a year later, after the news media had moved on, Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad enumerated Hamas fatalities at 600 to 700, a figure close to the Israeli estimate of 709 and about three times higher than the figure of 236 combatants provided by PCHR in 2009 and cited in the Goldstone Report. Initially, playing to the international audience, it was important for Hamas to reinforce the image of Israel’s military action as indiscriminate and disproportionate by emphasizing the high number of civilians and low number of Hamas combatants among the fatalities. However, later on, Hamas had to deal with the flip side of the issue: that Hamas’s own constituency, the Gazan population, felt they had been abandoned by the Hamas government, which had made no effort to shelter them.

Scrutiny of Palestinian figures in the current conflict reveals a spike in fatalities among males ages 21 to 27 and an over-representation from ages 17 to 30. Data gleaned from the daily reports of the PCHR show that from July 8, the start of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge,” through July 26, 404 out of 915 fatalities tallied from daily reports in which the ages were identified occurred among males ages 17 to 30, comprising 44% of all fatalities among a group representing about 10% of Gazans.

Expanding the age range from 17 to 39 and including those identified as combatants whose ages were not given increases that number to 551 fatalities, or 57% of all fatalities, even though this group represents less than one-sixth of Gazans. By contrast, adult female fatalities were less than 10% of total fatalities for a group that comprises a quarter of the total population.

Children, here defined as those under age 17, represented 194 of fatalities, 20% of the total. Any child fatality is a tragedy, but it is important to note that children make up over half the population of Gaza.

Despite the discrepancies noted, the substantial number of civilian fatalities leaves room for further scrutiny. In seeking an alternate explanation for the excess of young male fatalities, it might be posited that this reflects some behavioral feature of this group separate from combat-related activities. However, the shape of the fatality demographic makes this unlikely. What feature would explain the sharp increase from age 17, peaking at ages 22 to 25 and then declining rapidly after age 30?

A more plausible explanation is that the age demographic of the fatalities reflects the relative involvement of different age bands in hostilities. Of course, some of those in the most represented age-bands aren’t combatants. However, balancing that, Palestinian and Israeli sources confirm that a portion of the fatalities over age 40 were senior Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives targeted by Israel.

Furthermore, this overall breakdown of the number of fatalities doesn’t address important issues like the portion of female and children casualties who were family members of targeted combatants who failed to heed Israeli evacuation warnings or were perhaps intimidated into remaining as “human shields.”

The demographic analysis of the fatalities in the Gaza conflict has limitations. It can’t identify who is or isn’t a combatant. But the spike in fatalities among males starting in their late teens and peaking in their early to mid-twenties, and the divergence of the pattern of fatalities from the demographic pattern of the population, raises considerable doubt about claims that as many as 75% or more of the fatalities are non-combatants. In light of evidence—provided by groups that monitor Arabic language media (like the Middle East Media Research Institute)—that Hamas has instructed Gazans to describe anyone killed as a civilian, journalists have a responsibility to convey this uncertainty to their audiences and not present figures provided by Hamas and Hamas-affiliated sources as unqualified fact.

Steven Stotsky is a senior analyst with The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a U.S.-based group that monitors the news media for what it considers to be anti-Israel bias.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: July 29

1. As voter turnout falls, primary elections can be hijacked by small groups with narrow agendas. Primaries often fail to attract much media attention, depressing voter turnout in the future. We can break this cycle with a National Primary Election Day.

By Elaine Kamarck at the Brookings Institution Center for Effective Public Management

2. To help defeat ISIS, the Muslim world must enact new regulations to stop the flow of money.

By Carol E. B. Choksy and Jamsheed K. Choksy at Yale Global

3. Tech startups are finally creating blue-collar jobs.

By Sam Rosen in Re/Code

4. No hope: The Defense Intelligence Agency chief fears there will be no Mideast peace in his lifetime.

By Yochi Dreazen in Foreign Policy

5. To achieve real social change, make your goals public and invite collaboration — with accountability.

By Jigar Shah in LinkedIn

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME

Negotiation Tactics: The 10 Minute MBA Course on Negotiation

Want to learn the negotiation tactics of an MBA?

I’ve cleaned up and distilled notes from the excellent negotiating course I took in MBA school taught by MIT lecturer John Richardson.

 

Preparation

  • Always, do your homework. Success in negotiation is strongly correlated with time spent preparing.
  • Preparing in a group helps; others will come up with things you didn’t.
  • Be ambitious. There’s usually a connection between aspiration level and what people get. (Obviously, you can go too far, so look at your benchmarks.)
  • It’s very valuable to have things you don’t want in a negotiationso you can give them away for things you do.

 

Early In The Negotiation

  • Focus on influencing them, not being passive and waiting for them to decide. If you want to influence them be clear and consistent. Influencing is like teaching. You are teaching the other group to negotiate. Explicitly talk with the other side about not just substance (making money) but also process (rules of the game.)
  • Act with a purpose, don’t react. Most people act without thinking. Decide how you want them to act and what you need to do to encourage that. People’s behavior is not to be predicted, it’s to be affected.
  • Small talk before a negotiation is good.
  • Be careful what behavior you reward.
  • Your first goal in every negotiation should be to find out more.
  • Always begin with the frame “Should this deal be made?” not “How should I make this deal?”

 

Smart Things To Do

  • Any time someone presents a benchmark number, evaluate it, don’t just accept it. Ask “Where did that number come from?” If they don’t have a good reason, they’ll need to come up with another number. If you’re not sure about it, a good response is always “Let me look at this and call you back.”
  • In ongoing relationships concealing things becomes very stupid because the chance of getting caught and retaliation are too big. Be less concerned with what you get in any one round. If either side wins all the time it will not be a successful ongoing relationship. You should want to win each one, but not to win them all.
  • Being perceived as fair is key. People don’t respond well to being treated unfairly, even if the alternative is, objectively, even worse.
  • Sometimes people don’t know what their problem is; you need to figure it out and solve it for them. Being purely positional and transactional can hurt you here. Making efforts to understand them and help them solve their problem can be win-win.
  • Let them talk and explain their story. If you can show them you understand their reasons, you take away the “you don’t get it” defense. And if you still disagree with them after, it makes them curious to know where you’re coming from.
  • If you can explain their argument even better than they can it shows you understand and they’ll be much more receptive to your POV. Don’t make their argument sound stupid.
  • Always attach a fairness argument to whatever you propose: “Here’s what I’m offering and here’s why it works for you.” This is much better than a positional “I want $100,000 because I deserve it.” A fairness argument allows you to be flexible. If they give you new information, you can alter your reasoning versus being stuck with an arbitrary number that no longer makes sense.
  • In salary negotiations: using third party information, verify what other comparable people in the field are making. It will make it much harder for them to justify giving less. If they can’t do better, work on bonuses and perks.
  • What should you ask for? The most aggressive thing you can request with a straight face. And you need a reason why it’s fair.

 

Things That Help In A Negotiation

  • Accurate information sharing.
  • Structure the negotiation so there is no incentive to bluff (starting with what you don’t want works here).
  • Simultaneous revelation (write down and show offers at same time).
  • Keeping commitment for the end.
  • Creating multiple options.
  • Both sides like each other and want the other person to be happy.

 

Fisher’s 7 Elements Definition Of Success

  • You want no deal or a deal that meets your interests, not your positions. Interests are why you want things, positions are what you say you want. (Interests: “I want a job that makes me happy”, Positions: “I want 100K a year.”) Failure is when the result fulfills your positions but not your interests (“Got the salary but also got a crappy boss, little vacation time and a dead-end role.”)
  • Leverage negotiation tactics that create value. Work with the other person to create more options and opportunities for both sides to be happy, not just settling on the first thing everyone says.
  • All proposals should be supported by valid criteria. What’s the story of why this offer makes sense?
  • Know your alternatives and make sure this deal is better than those alternatives.
  • Use negotiation tactics that build a working relationship. You end up dealing with the same people often so lay the groundwork for smooth negotiations going forward.
  • You want a deal that leads to a clear reliable commitment. The result has to be something they can and will do, not something that will fall apart.
  • You want to reach a deal with efficient communication so everyone is on the same page.

 

Strategies and Dealing With Dirty Tricks

  • Remember Schelling: One of the most powerful negotiation tactics can be to make it impossible for you to do the deal on terms less than you want (“The money is in the hands of a third party who will not release the funds unless you do XXX”) But there is a cost to doing this, which is you throw away ability to change your mind.
  • Paint a vivid picture of their pain.” Explain what it might be like if they lose this deal. What’s better is to paint a picture of how bad it will be for both of us if this does not work out… “Nobody wants this result.”
  • You need to have a strategy for un-committing people who use self-limiting options. People will back themselves into a corner, “I absolutely cannot go lower than $50!” But they can. You have to allow them to save face so they can reverse that statement, otherwise you both lose.
  • How do you know if they’re lying? Make them talk a lot. Long, involved lies are harder to tell than short lies.
  • If someone says “take it or leave it”, don’t respond. Wait. If they’re still there a minute later, you know it wasn’t legit. A good strategy here is to change the subject because you don’t want them to feel embarrassed and then have to do something even more stupid.

 

How To Keep Improving As A Negotiator

  • Review your negotiations afterward. Make it a habit to prep, do, review.
  • After a negotiation, always ask, “What did the other side do well that I can learn?”
  • Practice with a partner, don’t just read theory.
  • Get feedback from the opposition.
  • Have a particular skill goal in mind that you want to work on and improve.

 

Want To Learn More?

To get my exclusive full interview with former head of FBI international hostage negotiation Chris Voss (where he explains the two words that tell you a negotiation is going very badly), join my free weekly newsletter. Click here.

Related posts:

My interview with Robert Cialdini on the six ways to influence people

6 hostage negotiation techniques that will get you what you want

What are the 6 things that can make you dramatically more persuasive?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Religion

I Want My Christianity Back – Without the Ugly Baggage

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Little chapel Carlos Malvar—Flickr RF/Getty Images

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This article originally appeared on Patheos

I don’t like telling people I’m a Christian.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of being a Christian; I’m not – at all. It is just that the word “Christian” comes with so much ugly baggage.

Telling someone I’m a Christian means I must immediately follow it up with, “but not that kind of Christian.” It’s like saying, “Yeah, sure, these are some mind bogglingly ugly suitcases, but I’ve got the coolest stuff on the inside of them. No, really, I do.”

It’s just not worth the effort; and, frankly, I’m tired of lugging these ugly, heavy things around.

Truthfully, I don’t blame people who assume that if you’re Christian you’re anti-LGBT, anti-abortion, anti-real equality, anti-other religions and pretty much anti-anything else that one small but loud subset of Christians find offensive or threatening.

It completely makes sense. It’s why I don’t want to use the word to describe my own beliefs.

I get it.

Who can blame people for thinking Christians are all anti-everything kind of people when members of the U.S. congress like Michele Bachmann present themselves as speaking for all Christians –and via radio waves – accuses gay people of not only threatening the sanctity of “traditional marriage” but claim they are pedophiles who want to “freely prey on little children sexually.”

I get it. I really do.

I don’t want to be that kind of Christian. So, if that’s the only option, I’m opting out. And, I’m not alone. A whole slue of Christians is opting out as well.

As a 2012 Pew Research study indicates that while the number of people who identify as Protestant or Catholic is decreasing, the number of those who consider themselves religious, but identify with no formal religious group is on the rise. An earlier study by The Barna Group defines a big part of the problem: people who aren’t in the Church and many who are in the Church believe the Church is judgmental and hypocritical.

When looked at together, the findings of these two studies make a lot of sense. An organization whose primary religious figure taught about love has become known for being judgmental against any group they simply don’t like. Is it any surprise Christians are seen as hypocritical?

Christians are being viewed as hypocritical, because many are. Not all of us, of course, but you wouldn’t know that watching mass media. Tragically, Big Media and most of it’s consumers have no interest in coverage of food pantries and other programs across the country that feed hundereds of people each month – all without pushing their beliefs on those in need. On the other hand, the Ku Klux Klan claiming to be a Christian organization? We will Facebook “like” that article into the viral stratosphere.

I want my religion back.

Technically, it wasn’t really taken from me. It’s more like part of it’s been hijacked and held hostage inside all that ugly luggage.

Not surprisingly, the congressperson fear-mongering about gay people coming for your kids and the KKK claiming to be Christian will always make the news. Let’s face it, when the baggage carousel starts rolling around you are going to notice the neon green designer bag with the word “crazy” written across it in pink, but that 26-inch wheeled suitcase in a sensible shade of grey? No one is paying attention to it.

Christians who want to be known more for their love rather than for what they standing over and against need to more fully acknowledge this reality and begin actively speaking out and working against it.

What we see in media isn’t Christianity. Our faith tradition’s core teachings are found in the words of Jesus. The anti-everything Christianity we find on television, radio and in print would remind Jesus much more of the Pharisees than it would remind him of the people actually following his teachings.

It’s a power play. As Napoleon once observed, “Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”

When you see someone who claims to follow Jesus who has or wants power; when they are saying things about Christianity that cause hurt to other people, when they create divisions, stating beliefs or supporting policies that marginalize already marginalized groups, when they say things that would allow one group of people to exert their will and beliefs on another group of people, you need to immediately question their sincerity and more so their motivation.

Jesus would have advocated none of those attitudes or behaviors. However, they most certainly are tools through which those who already have power maintain their power while keeping those without power divided and bickering amongst themselves rather than focusing their attention on the small fraction of the rich who are nurturing systems that make life unnecessarily difficult for the rest of us – which is also something for which Jesus would not have been an advocate.

Jesus wasn’t a fan of ugly baggage. He confronted the Pharisees every time they tried to unload it onto him or others.

If we want our religion back, we are going to have to do the same.

If we want a Christianity that doesn’t come so unnecessarily cluttered with all of this ugly baggage, we are going to have to start standing up more consistently and begin challenging these power plays wrapped in religion.

Collectively we need to more closely follow the lead of Jesus and lovingly confronting those who want to turn the Prince of Peace into a tool for dividing and marginalizing. Every time anyone tries to exclude a group of people they dislike in the name of the Great Shepherd, we must pronounce the radical inclusion of a loving God.

And when they accuse us of being un-Christian (and they will), we must stand strong and tell them, “You no longer get to own that word. You have used it and abused it and crucified it on crosses of hate, greed, power and control. We are taking our religion back – way back.

All the way back to the teachings of Jesus.”

Mark Sandlin is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) from the South and a co-founder of The Christian Left.

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