If you read nothing else about the war, aka Operation Protective Edge, read this article. Matti Friedman, a former AP correspondent, explains how he and his colleagues got Israel so wrong in this seminal article “An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth“. It also talks about the disproportionate focus on Israel (which I have written about many times previously) and ties in with two further articles below.
I could quote the whole article but I won’t. It’s pretty long, especially for an online article, but every word is important. Here’s a short excerpt. Go and read it all:
The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.
While global mania about Israeli actions has come to be taken for granted, it is actually the result of decisions made by individual human beings in positions of responsibility—in this case, journalists and editors. The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. The key to understanding the strange nature of the response is thus to be found in the practice of journalism, and specifically in a severe malfunction that is occurring in that profession—my profession—here in Israel.
You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.
Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion. Israel is not one of the most important stories in the world, or even in the Middle East; whatever the outcome in this region in the next decade, it will have as much to do with Israel as World War II had to do with Spain. Israel is a speck on the map—a sideshow that happens to carry an unusual emotional charge.
Many in the West clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews, and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality. They may convince themselves that all of this is the Jews’ problem, and indeed the Jews’ fault. But journalists engage in these fantasies at the cost of their credibility and that of their profession. And, as Orwell would tell us, the world entertains fantasies at its peril.
This is just a fraction of the article. Go and Read. It. All.
I had planned to leave this post with just the above article linked. But earlier today I came across the following post (via Twitter) from Richard Mather’s blog Defense of the Israeli People (it looks like an excellent blog to follow). His post, entitled Israelophobia, demonstrates in a nutshell what Matti Friedman was writing about:
I recently came across a rather strange letter from a man called Philip Sandland. The letter was sent to a parochial English newspaper called The Sentinel, which usually deals with minor concerns like the local cricket scores and the quality of care in the local hospital. Here it is:
“MAY I be allowed to say a few words in answer to Margaret Browns letter on June 19? She says that Sunni and Shia Muslims have been fighting for more than 1,000 years. This is only partly true. When strong leaders such as President Assad or Saddam Hussein were in control, peace usually was the norm – minorities like Christians and Druze were left pretty much in peace. I believe that the fly in the ointment is Israel. The West has allowed the Zionist Jews to establish a state in Palestine, which enraged much of the Muslim world, and this is understandably so! How would the average British citizen feel to be thrown out of his rightful home and sent packing? The violent attacks by certain Muslims on Western targets is I believe due to a servile approach by the U.S. and sadly Great Britain to the misdeeds of the Israeli state, which invariably go unchallenged.”
There are many things that I could say about this letter and none of them would be complimentary.
This letter is a typical indication of the level of political discourse in Britain. And it is also typical of a highly unpleasant mental condition called Israelophobia, which is quite simply a political variant of anti-Semitism. Israelophobia, like anti-Semitism in general, is a mental illness, quite possibly a neurosis or morbid fear, although it some cases it takes on the characteristics of psychosis – paranoia, delusions, denial and the loss of contact with reality. I’m only half joking.
Whether it is neurotic or psychotic, Israelophobia can be defined as the hysterical, spiteful, hyperbolic and irrational fear or hatred of Israel. The unhealthy fixation with the State of Israel and Zionism is sometimes referred to as the “new anti-Semitism.” The “new anti-Semites” have merely substituted the word “Jew” with the word “Israel.”
As with all irrational prejudices, Israelophobia is intolerant and obsessional. The fact that Israelophobia attracts people from across the ideological, cultural and political divide is a good indication that it is unreasonable and confused.
In any other circumstance you would be hard pressed to find a situation in which Islamists, neo-Nazis, socialists, liberals, radical Islamists, Quakers and people who believe in shape-shifting aliens agree on anything. But when it comes to Israel and “the Jews,” all these factions share the same demented prejudice. Moreover, the disproportionate focus on Israel by the UN, the media and university campuses clearly indicate that Israelophobia is an obsession. And an obsession is a neurosis.
Sadly, Israel-bashers are completely immune to facts and statistics.
Why? It is because Israelophobes are anti-Semitic. They are not anti-Semitic because of Israel’s perceived wrong-doings. They are Israelophobes because they hate Jews. In short, Israelophobia is a symptom of anti-Semitism and not the other way round. In fact, I would go far as to argue that Israel-bashers do not want a political solution in the Middle East because that would remove their excuse to demonize the Jewish people.
In the end, there is no reasoning with these people because they don’t want to be reasoned with. Such people persistently deny they have a problem by refusing to admit they are anti-Semitic. But denial is just another sign of their madness. If these people weren’t so dangerous, I would pity them.
As above, read it all.
And a final article (there are so many out there, it’s surprising Israel doesn’t get better press) is from Abu Yehuda (previously Fresno Zionism) who writes “We can’t satisfy the world so let’s stop trying“:
Tzipi Livni, Israel’s Justice Minister and the one who more or less carries the flag of the Left in the government, was quoted today saying something like “we need to end this soon, or the world will get tired of the violence and end it in a way that will not be good for Israel” (sorry, I don’t have the exact quote, but this is close).
Why do I mention this? Because it illustrates a certain mindset that we need to leave behind.
The fact is that “the world” will always find some way that Israel doesn’t measure up to the ideal moral standard that it has set up for us, and if we make heroic efforts to do so, then it will move the goalposts.
The problem is that Jew-hatred is a characteristic of the hater, not the Jew. A Jew can’t ameliorate it by changing in any way, which is why trying to do so is so frustrating. What a Jew can and should do in the face of Jew-hatred is defend himself. This is both practically and psychologically beneficial to the Jew, and may even act to reduce Jew-hatred.
What is true of the individual Jew is also true of Israel, the Jew among nations. The IDF can go to even greater extremes to protect civilian residents of Gaza, but it will never go far enough to satisfy “the world,” which is insatiable for Jewish self-abnegation.
Israel’s primary responsibility is to protect its citizens against attack. It does not need to try to gain approval by living up to fanciful standards that no other nation has ever met. Today we need to continue the war in Gaza until Hamas has been completely neutralized as a military force, and effective arrangements can be made to keep it that way.
There’s much more in the article. Again, go and read it all.
None of these articles will make us feel any better but they will help us explain that nothing we do short of national suicide – and maybe not even then – will persuade the Israelophobes (what a brilliant neologism) that we are “good” or worth letting us live. So we have to learn to ignore them and get on with doing what we do best – living, growing, flourishing, building.
But how do we convince our government?