A week or so ago I wondered why it was that Israel is so hated. So when the Channel 4 news journalist, Paul Mason provided an answer to just that question I paid attention. It was eye opening to read his piece.
Mason’s thoughts on the subject were provoked by an encounter between himself and an IDF soldier who asked him “why the world hate us?” In a nutshell Mason’s answer to the soldier was that;
a lot of the world does not hate Israel, but that they are seeing every night pictures of Palestinian children killed, and proof of massive civilian casualties, and have concluded – from the UN to the thousands on the streets of London yesterday – that the force used is disproportionate and prima facie in breach of international law.
This isn’t where he ends this is where he begins. Mason finds it so difficult to understand why it is that Israelis are even asking these questions of him that he goes on to offer an explanation of his own as to why it is we Israelis are so surprised about the reactions of the crowds around the world.
He argues that the reason is because we here in Israel don’t really know the extent of the devastation the Israel Defense Force is causing. He uses an article from the Jerusalem Post as an example of this;
Journalism school (2/2): see if you you could work out whether there were any civilian casualties. Jerusalem Post. pic.twitter.com/wSn1svoCBi
— Paul Mason (@paulmasonnews) July 27, 2014
He adds that Israeli television doesn’t broadcast images of Palestinian dead, but only of rubble. But then he argues that the demonstrations against Israel in Europe are essentially because Twitter and other social media are beaming an unprecedented amount of information directly into people’s phones. Thereby circumventing regular, official sources of information and that this has affects the way they view the conflict. Specifically gruesome pictures of the Gazan dead provoke outrage.
But when it comes to Israelis he argues that we are kept insulated from sharing European outrage because we simply aren’t seeing the same images.
They inhabit a Twittersphere and Facebook network that is immured from criticism and debate, and which produced – during the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June, an online anti-Arab racism campaign.
Now when Mason made that statement he was ostensibly referring to the women he spoke to at the counter demonstration to a left wing demonstration for peace in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv.
But he wasn’t. He was making a sweeping statement about all of us in Israel.
It’s this part of Israeli society that is in the majority and the ascendancy: they want the IDF to “finish the job”; their slogan is “let the IDF win” – ie stop pussyfooting around.
What gets me about this is that he ignored the several thousand strong pro peace demonstration going on right in front of him and went straight to the nutters in the counter demonstration. He then presented them as being representative of Israeli society. Which is about the same as portraying a bunch of nutters from the English Defense League as being representative of the average Briton. As an Israeli I find that offensive in the extreme.
It’s true that a huge majority here in Israel is behind the IDF right now. Not because we are crazy football hooligans or settlers. We are behind the IDF because we want them to prevent Hamas from shooting at Israel. It couldn’t be simpler. We know that our standing in the world is low but we think it’s more important to stop the rockets and destroy the terror tunnels than it is to be loved in London or Paris. We feel the pain this is causing Jews around the world but their pain won’t make us stop.
Furthermore Mason’s arguments ignore the fact that people have been demonstrating against Israel in large numbers for decades. They were demonstrating from the second this conflagration erupted, before there were large numbers of civilians killed. In the UK all you have to do is mention “Israel” and you have yourself an instant demonstration. This is as true now as it was before the existence of Twitter.
But there’s also a second half of the soldier’s question which is always left silent. When we ask about the hatred of Israel what we’re really asking is; Why do so many people hate us for defending ourselves when you constantly send your own militaries around the world to kill people with impunity?
No Libyan, Iraqi or Afghan ever fired a missile, dropped a bomb or shot a bullet at any target in London. The British have killed civilians in all of these countries while launching sustained air attacks against military targets. With the exception of Libya they have also killed civilians during extensive ground operations. The British public understands that these casualties have occurred as a result of the British army fighting for a just cause. I understand that. Israelis understand that. But nevertheless in the process of their operations they kill civilians.
No one ever talks about proportionality when they do. People in the UK barely ever heard about foreign civilian or enemy casualties in Iraq but they certainly heard about their own soldiers when they got killed. Graphic images of foreign dead were rarely broadcast and when they were the graphic content was blurred out.
The reason people in Israel can’t understand the reaction of the great British public and the public in other countries isn’t because we don’t know what’s happening in Gaza in our name. It’s because we see how the British, Americans and many European states behave in their foreign military adventures to the sound of a deafening silence from the UN and the world as a whole. Unlike in the USA, UK and elsewhere, we in Israel are actually suffering sustained rocket and terrorist attacks. The reasons for our actions should be obvious.
We are under attack and we are defending ourselves.
The images of casualties in Gaza have the same impact on us that the images of wounded Iraqis had on the British public when the army was located there. Which is to say that we understand it’s tragic but also that it’s necessary. Why you would argue that we should feel anything else is still a mystery to us. When you Europeans and Americans fight it’s because you want to. When we fight it’s because we have to. Before lecturing us about the rules of war and what is acceptable and what is not I suggest you take a good, long look in the mirror.