The Israelis and Palestinians are at it again, so be ready. You are likely to be asked what side you are on, and by the way, what rhetoric do you use to justify your supposedly rational position?
For Palestinian supporters, the answer has always been o’ so straightforward. Israel is the region’s evil bully, and anything – yes, anything – is legitimate if it brings down little Satan. For their side, you simply fight evil with evil. After all, who (besides Israelis) would be dumb enough to fight evil with benevolence?
For supporters of Israel, the issue is more complex. They are beside themselves wondering what part of reality the world doesn’t get. The facts seem so clear – Israel’s adversaries perform the most heinous acts known to man and then not only claim victimhood, but create victimhood, and then watch a doting world line up behind their suffering. The Israelis fight evil with new heights of pragmatic morality, and yet the world sees only evil. What is everyone missing?
Unfortunately, the Palestinian side simply understands the world more clearly. They never expected a war of truth, and understand that this is a war of human psychology – a war in which emotion tramples truth and in which victimhood trumps all, even when self-inflicted. They deserve credit for becoming the world’s most accomplished victims and creators of imagery to match.
Yes, it’s the images, stupid. And Israelis could learn a thing or two from their neighbors with whom they one day hope to live side-by-side in a lasting peace.
A simple example outside of the line of fire: Jamaica is essentially a failed state. Crime is rampant with urban murder rates at the highest recorded on earth. Poverty, illiteracy, corruption, and drug use are off the charts. And yet what does the world know of this spectacularly beautiful but ever so challenged island state in the Caribbean? “Cool Runnings.” Yes, it’s a country of fun-loving people with an endearing culture and woefully unfair, beautiful accent. Right? After all, that’s what we saw in the movie.
Israel, on the other hand, is one of the most successful states on the globe, overcoming adversity unparalleled in human history and remaining a liberal democracy despite it all. But what the world knows of Israel is from CNN and the BBC – not exactly images of what some would call the windsurfing capital of the world.
So what must the pro-Israel camp do to even the playing field?
It may sound trite, but it needs to quell the mildewed fact factories and start telling vibrant stories, making movies, putting forth officials the world actually wants to see and hear, and using backdrops that show Israel’s beauty. It needs to develop spokespeople of color, of female gender, of gender diversity, of young and old, and even of national diversity (how about an Indian or Ethiopian female immigrant spokesperson to confuse the antagonists?). Such spokespeople need to be cautious of force-feeding the world with Jewish history, Jewish rights, and all of the Jewish Nobel prizes and startups that seem so worthy of admiration, but instead focus on stories (not facts) of Jewish color, enlightenment, and engagement in positive world issues.
It’s remarkable that of all the world’s wrenching feature movies, many of which unambiguously show the dark view of Israel’s struggles, not one has been bold enough to show its moral obsession in the face of unrelenting threat, cynicism, and mind-bending hatred. Spielberg is ever so comfortable in the Holocaust, but is nowhere to be found in its descendants. Edward Zwick directed the beautiful World War II movie “Defiance,” but did not find worthy the epic Israeli rescue of Ethiopians or the equally unfathomable Israeli medical treatment of Syrians injured in the true massacres of Homs and Khaldiyeh.
Yes, the pro-Israel side could use a little reboot. The fact-war has not gone well for some time now, and as Albert Einstein is attributed with saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It’s time to turn from the lofty debate and towards emotion and imagery. It’s time to look for impression rather than just expression. If we think we’re so clever, how come the other side is outsmarting us on our most important front?