With all the stories coming out of Israel recently, I have found that often the “comments” underneath the articles or Facebook posts are often just as disturbing as the stories themselves.

Where does all this venom come from and how can these commentators have such different views about the issue than I do? What have they heard that I haven’t?

Although I’m aware of the Palestinian textbooks that are used to educate Palestinian children and how those history lessons have spread hateful ideology, it wasn’t until recently that I’ve realized that those same stories are just as available to the rest of the world, thanks to the Internet.

After feeling overwhelmed by all the hatred for Israel I witnessed on social media, I recently spent some time searching for these stories that are being told. Perhaps I was naïve, but what I found shocked me.

For example, the organization What Americans Need to Know, a nonprofit started by Alison Weir, who, according to her website, is an American freelance journalist who traveled independently throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip in February and March of 2001 and found that the way the American press portrayed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was “significantly at odds with information being reported by media throughout the rest of the world.”

Her website – ifamericansknew.org – uses different methods to present her perception about the conflict. For example, there are charts comparing such things as the number of Israeli children killed by Palestinians to the number of Palestinian children killed by Israelis. I didn’t see anything about the fact that Israel sounds sirens to warn its citizens of incoming rockets so they can seek safety in the country’s bomb shelters or anything addressing reports that Palestinian gunmen often use civilians and children as human shields.

On her mission statement page, she announces that the organization’s main call for action is to encourage Americans to advocate cutting U.S. aid to Israel.

Her site also presents a paper titled “The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict,” which says that “Zionism was based on a faulty, colonialist world view that the rights of the indigenous inhabitants didn’t matter. The Arabs’ opposition to Zionism wasn’t based on anti-Semitism but rather on a totally reasonable fear of the dispossession of their people.”

The details there are very different from the history I’ve learned and Weir’s presentation of history helps explain why so many people around the world feel the way they do about Israel.

More insight on this version of history is on 1948.org.uk, describing the same people who Israelis call heroes as “Zionist terrorists” and telling a very different story of the founding of the Jewish state and its leaders and wars.

Here is an example:

The Zionist plan to transfer Palestinians out of their land was headed by no lesser character than David Ben-Gurion himself. He plotted these schemes in his own home aided by a small ad hoc group of people referred to as The Consultancy. Its aim was to plot and carry out the disposession of the Palestinian people.

At what point is history dictated? How is it even possible that there are those who deny the Holocaust, even as those who survived it are still alive? How can there be such different perceptions of the state of Israel when its entire existence has occurred in one life span?

As a child, one learns about history how it is presented to him or her and then forms a view on the world based on these facts. But that trait doesn’t often end in childhood. With today’s busy world, many people make decisions based on stories posted on their friends’ Facebook pages and don’t take the time to research other sources to form their viewpoint.

It doesn’t help that there are extremists on both sides that hurt their own cause by committing horrific acts and instances of media manipulation that portray Israel in a negative light.

On the flip side of Weir’s website are theisraelproject.org and honestreporting.com; the first is a non-partisan American educational organization dedicated to informing the media and public conversation about Israel and the Middle East and the latter monitors the news for bias, inaccuracy or other breach of journalistic standards in coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

What sources do you turn to?

This first appeared on the Phoenix Jewish News blog