Fabricating Icons of Outrage, Stoking the Flames of War

International "peace" and "human rights" activists in Hebron waiting for Jews to something bad. (Photo: Dexter Van Zile.)
International “peace” and “human rights” activists in Hebron waiting for Jews to do something bad so they can catch it on camera. (Photo: Dexter Van Zile.)

The anti-Israel crowd is currently feasting its eyes on a photo of a Jew behaving badly in the Old City of Jerusalem. The photo, sold by Andalou Agency, a Turkish news organization, which has been Tweeted by Max Blumenthal and hundreds of others, shows an angry Orthodox Jew yelling at an innocent-looking Arab woman. She looks mortified and frightened.

The man looks angry and terrifying.

The photo has been re-Tweeted hundreds of times with the misleading caption “Israeli religious fanatics stop Palestinians from praying at Al Aqsa mosque in #Jerusalem…”

There’s just one problem. As bloggers Elder of Ziyon and Israellycool have pointed out, the woman being yelled at is holding a Hebrew prayer book. Videos of the confrontation reveal she grabbed the book from the man’s hand prior to the photo being taken.

She grabbed the Orthodox Jew’s prayer book out of his hand and he responded with anger. Observers might argue that he overreacted to the provocation, but the fact remains, the woman perpetrated an aggressive and provocative act. This was no “micro-aggression.”

It was not the Israeli Jew who was interfering with the woman’s right to pray as Max Blumenthal and others stated on Twitter. It was the other way around. She was messing with someone trying to worship and intentionally provoked an angry response that was captured by a nearby photographer from a Turkish news agency.

As a result of the woman’s successful act of provocation, the photographer’s well-timed click, and a dishonest caption attributed to the photo, thousands of people, many of them who already hate Israel, have been exposed to an image and a narrative that portrays Israeli Jews as unable to leave peacefully in the land with Palestinian Muslims.

The image affirmed what many people already believe about the Jews and their state – that they are an intolerable presence in the Middle East.

This is a textbook example of what Nidra Poller calls a “lethal narrative” – a story told with the intention of encouraging violence against a particular group of people.

The manner in which the Andalou Agency photo was manipulated to promote a lethal narrative raises a larger issue – the willingness of so-called peace and human rights activists to assist in the ongoing cognitive war against Israel perpetrated by Islamists and jihadists throughout the world.

What Blumenthal and the other folks on Twitter did was undermine the very notion of a Jewish state by promoting what David D. Perlmutter calls an “icon of outrage.”

There is a whole industry devoted to creating such icons. Part of this industry is comprised of so-called peace activists from the United States and Europe. They go to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip looking for images of Jews behaving badly. And when they obtain these images, they broadcast them on the internet with the patently obvious intent of demonizing Israel.

I saw this first hand on a Saturday afternoon this past March. I was walking in the Old City of Hebron with a group of more than 100 Jews, many of whom had recently made aliyah from France, where antisemitic violence is on the rise.

As they walked through the Old City, they were jeered at and harassed by the local inhabitants who were outraged by their presence.

It was a tense afternoon.

We were escorted through the Old City by a combination of soldiers and border guards as part of a campaign to assert the right of Jews to walk freely in their historical homeland.

Maybe some day, when Muslims in the Middle East have learned to accept the other in their midst, Jews will be able to walk freely in Hebron without armed escort. But not that day, and not today, thanks in part to the so-called peace activists who were on the scene.

Following these Jews was a contingent of Europeans and North Americans from a number of different groups including the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), and the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine-Israel, an organization created by the World Council of Churches.

And of course, there was local Palestinian who was hired by B’Tselem to document the confrontation.

A photographer from B'Tselem helping to heighten the tension between Jews and Arabs in Hebron.
A photographer from B’Tselem in Hebron. (Photo: Dexter Van Zile)

Instead of working to defuse the tension by encouraging the Arabs and Jews to try and respond peacefully to one another, the activists from aforementioned groups focused their attention exclusively on the Jews in hopes of photographing them while doing something bad.

The Israeli tour guides instructed their charges not to respond to any provocations and to ignore the so-called peacemakers, but every once in a while one of the French Jews would make an obscene gesture at the camera. It was dutifully recorded by the so-called peace and human rights activists.

This happens every weekend in Hebron. And the weekend I was there someone from B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, got the images he was looking for when a group of French Jews made an obscene gesture toward him.

When and if these images are posted on the Internet, the viewers will learn nothing about the violence that drove them from France, the land of their birth, into Israel. There will just be pictures of angry Jews giving the finger to the camera.

No context, no nothing.

Just a few hours after the tour, the staff from the local Christian Peacemaker Team “tweeted” a photo of two smiling, young and cute Arab boys. The text accompanying the photo stated that a “settler” spit on them.

But nothing in the photo indicates the boys were spit on by anybody. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t. In any event, the CPTers in Hebron provided no proof that it did. Nevertheless, most people will accept what the CPTers say as the gospel truth.

These activists were not there to calm the waters. They were not in Hebron to promote a modus vivendi between Jews and Arabs. They were there to heighten the tension, which is already high, and when and if Jews did something bad, they were there to record it.

The goal of these activists is to obtain images that can be used to undermine Israel’s legitimacy. But there is more to it.

They also use these images to raise funds and generate support for their institutions back in the United States and Europe.

It’s a reprehensible practice, but one that is all too effective.

About the Author
Dexter Van Zile is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.