Dear friends, I subscribe to the adage ‘a picture tells a thousand words’, I fully understand the impact that strong imagery can make. However, words are also very important, never more so than now when seemingly everyone in the world from professors to school dropouts, from well-travelled individuals to those who have never left their own country, seem to be writing about Israel and Gaza on facebook, twitter, and on placards in every major city on the planet. Let’s be clear: innocent Israelis are suffering, at least they have a Government that will protect them. Innocent Palestinians are suffering horrendously, they do not have a government that will protect them. Every single loss of innocent life is an absolutely gut-wrenching tragedy.
Calculated rhetoric is used in many ways – to support, to oppose, to demonise, to suggest. Some terms are being repeatedly used in the context of this conflict, and I believe they’re being used either out of naivety (at best) or with nefarious and dubious intent (at worst). In the words of the writer Howard Jacobson… “Rhetoric is precisely what has warped report and analysis these past months. I watched demonstrators approach members of the public with their petitions. “Do you want an end to the slaughter in Gaza?” What were those approached expected to reply? – “No, I want it to continue unabated.” ”
So I’ve decided to pick three terms widely used exclusively in the condemnation of Israel, and give an alternative context to how they can be used. Of course, we know that words can have more than one meaning, nobody is denying this, but here goes:
Common Use: “Israel are committing genocide against the Palestinians.”
Genocide is what Hamas have said publicly that they would like to commit to the Israeli nation and the Jewish people. The Charter states: “The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” This is not something somebody supposedly said once, this is the OFFICIAL Hamas Charter. There are literally countless other quotes, videos, clips and speeches one could post up here, including Al-Aqsa TV’s Sesame Street type children’s programme ‘Pioneers of Tomorrow’ which educates three years olds to kill Jews. To clarify, there are three year olds who want to kill me. Hamas don’t hide their intentions, yet somehow they have the rest of the world scrambling to justify them. Colonel Richard Kemp, who knows more about military strategy than I do, said during Operation Cast Lead in 2009 “I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare where any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of civilians than the Israeli Defence Forces is doing today in Gaza.” This time around, in 2014, the Israelis have introduced text messaging and phone calls into their repertoire of genocide-avoidance. If Israel are as powerful as many people claim, and the Palestinians are as helpless as many people claim, and Israel are attempting to commit genocide as many people claim, surely they could do it in a day with absolutely no losses of Israeli life? Friends I do not doubt that innocent people have been killed, but to claim that Israel are conducting genocide is a morally inverted shot in the back of the head to any community who has truly suffered this fate, from Nazi Germany to Rwanda and Darfur. If you shout that Israel is committing genocide, you’re also disrespecting Muslims who’ve suffered at the hands of genocide, and guess what… your claims will not make Israel any less resolute to protect it’s citizens, or to exist.
COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT (phr.)
Common Use: “Israel commits collective punishment on Palestinians.”
If innocent civilians die in a conflict zone, it is a tragedy, but not necessarily due to collective punishment. There is another type of collective punishment which occurs whenever tensions flare up in the Middle East. This is the collective punishment dealt out by the rest of the world against Jewish people in every country. There is a distinction to be made between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, or as we can more accurately call these terms ‘hating Jews’ and ‘hating Israel’. From the cafe in Belgium which has placed a sign up banning Jews from coming in, to the Swastika daubed on a family home in north London, to the many sick and racist acts being enacted upon Jews in France every day – this is a massive problem and it is the world saying “We, collectively, will punish you, collectively.” As a British Jew I am genuinely frightened, recent messages from Jewish friends have included lines such as “We must do what we can to help in these dark times” and “I hope we catch up in much better times soon.” These are words not dissimilar to those of my ancestors, escaping one of many Eastern European countries, whispering a tearful goodbye to their next door neighbours as they flee for safer lands, hoping to see them alive again someday. This is truly worrying, people are collectively punishing Jews around the world, regardless of their views, for what they see as over-zealous Israeli Government policy.
Common Use: “Israel’s response is totally Disproportionate”
I repeat, it is horrible that innocent Palestinians have been killed in this conflict, but Israel should not have to make apologies for there not being more dead Jews in the Middle East. That Israel has not been ‘disproportionate’ at all is an argument for another post at another time, but here’s the real meaning of the word disproportionate in the context of what we’ve witnessed this month. The international protests against Israel are ludicrously disproportionate. Assad in Syria has murdered 170,000 people as of mid-July. On the weekend of July 19th and 20th, 700 innocent people had been killed in Syria, including many Palestinians. The Washington bureau chief of Al-Hayat, Joyce Karam, noticed the weekend death toll in Syria and tweeted, in reference to anti-Israel protests in Pakistan, “Syria is essentially Gaza x320 death toll, x30 number of refugees, but no protest in Pakistan.” She said “Only reason I can think of is Muslim killing Muslim or Arab killing Arab seems more acceptable than Israel killing Arabs.” Proportionally, there should be 170 times more protests against Syria than against Israel, how many have there been across the globe? The mass scale of protest, leading to sheer hatred and uninformed marchers carrying placards with slogans such as ‘Hitler Was Right’ is by far and away the most disproportionate element of this entire conflict. Why did they not march for innocent people in Syria or kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria?
Friends, we cannot deny that there is human suffering on both sides. The situation in Gaza is absolutely horrendous and after 66 years Israel’s right to exist has still not been accepted by any more than two Arab countries. But let’s use the correct words to try and gain understanding, find middle ground and move the situation forwards for the good of everyone, instead of using spiteful and inaccurate rhetoric to demonise one side of a complex issue.