One of the typical characteristics of escalation of hostilities between Israel and Palestine is the corresponding media war, which seems to surpass the real fighting in intensity and hostility. I have always been bewildered by the unleashing of (sometimes very ugly) emotions when it comes to Israel/ Palestine.
My first memory of witnessing an eruption of emotion with regards to the issue dates back to 2008, my first year in university, when I stumbled into an Israel-Palestine debate… I found myself sitting next to a very, very angry girl who screamed at the top of her lungs (along some other people) at two Israeli guys, who were calmly presenting the Israeli view on the conflict as they have been asked to do by the chairman of the debate. Back then I was shocked at the outpouring of so much hate and although there is no justification for such behaviour, I couldn’t help but ask the girl why she was doing this. I received no answer. The girl was too inmensed in her rage to notice anything or anyone around her. What it showed me is that it’s impossible to listen and understand when you’re busy feeding your hate and anger.
The current media war between supporters of Israel on the one side and Palestine supporters on the other reminds me a lot of what I observed that day in 2008. I see the same hate, the same bitterness and the same seemingly unbridgeable divide: People throw facts, statistics, maps and even insults at each other as if these things were ammunition in a war. What people fail to understand is that each virtual bullet they shoot does not kill the opponent but only strengthens his hatred and resolution. For people on the sidelines the whole thing seems like madness and any rational person would want to stay out of it. So, if there are no gains for those fighting, why do people do it?
There can be many personal reasons, like religious, national, family and ideological indoctrination. But there seems to be a general factor for the ongoing fighting in the media: It’s a proxy war initiated, propagated and even financially sponsored by those who want to sustain, not solve the conflict on the ground. Why they would want that? 1) Because they benefit financially and politically from it and 2) Because they know that they can’t win the real conflict. Indeed, the Israel-Palestine conflict cannot be solved militarily (otherwise we would long have had a winner and peace by now). There is one land for two peoples and any feasible solution must be political (as a Bosnian I know what it means when peoples fight about land but in the end you have to share, if you want peace).
If you care about Israel/ Palestine and if you want peace, you should not let yourself be dragged into the media war by people who work against your interests. The online and media bashing only hardens front lines and enables hard liners to distract from peace negotiations and maintain the status quo for their own benefit. Instead, we should boycott the Israel/ Palestine media war. It will force all sides in the conflict to finally accept realities on the ground and start negotiating with each other instead of escaping into virtual battlegrounds. It will let peace mediators do their job without fear of details of their efforts leaking and negotiations being spoilt by media commentators. We will not be the foot soldiers of war-mongers. We cannot and we will not wage their war because, unlike them, we fight for peace.
(This does not mean that we can’t take an interest in the issue and form an opinion (I’m not advocating for neutrality or apathy); on the contrary, we should. But we shouldn’t spill any more bile and fight a vicious Propaganda war that cannot be won and that distracts from solving the real conflict. We should see the conflict more rationally, strategically and in proportion to other conflicts: The fact that Assad has killed over 200,000 people (including thousands of Palestinians) in Syria yet 200 civilian casualties in Gaza overwhelmingly dominate the discussion in the media shows us that some time something went seriously wrong. It’s time to set it right.)