Wednesday, July 05, 2006

5-Jul-06: An asymmetrical conflict

It's rare to find a European journalist who looks at, and tells about, this war in terms other than the powerful versus the weak. (Many non-European media people do it this way too, but from personal experience it's a highly European phenomenon.) The powerful of course refers to Israel. The weak, depending on the context, can mean the impoverished Palestinians or the entire Arab world. The key thing here is that, being perceived as strong and superior in almost every measurable way, Israel is always in the wrong.

For many Israelis and for people who understand the case for Israel, this is just silly. It reflects a superficial, knee-jerk approach to a complex set of interlocking issues. But from long and bitter experience with visiting reporters and editors, this silliness is precisely what animates much of the interest (and there is tremendous interest) in the media's coverage of this war. Israel is a highly desired posting for a journalist, and we have hundreds of them here at any given time.

For us, as parents of a child murdered in cold blood on a summer's day in the midst of the nation's capital city, being presented as the strong party while the murdering gang, funded by huge European government grants and by donations flowing from all corners of the oil-soaked Arab world, are presented as weak is - how shall we put this? - not persuasive.

What's less persuasive still, at least to us, is the aggressive use of the word 'peace'. Just say the word 'peace' as in 'peace' activist, 'peace' group, summer of 'peace', 'peace' protest and our blood starts to boil. Not because we're opposed to peace (of course we're not) but because 'peace' in the context of this war is a highly politicized term that almost invariably refers to initiatives condemning Israel, Israelis and Israeli actions. In the Arab-Israel conflict, 'peace' has come to mean the opposite of what it means in the dictionary.

Today, a column by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times touches on peace, squeezes it into the Gaza context, and comes up with some plain talk that, to our way of thinking, makes an important statement:
Israel has evacuated Gaza, and what does Hamas do? It doesn't put all its energy into building a nest for its young there - a decent state and society, with jobs. Instead, it launches hundreds of rockets into Israel. The Palestinians could have a state on the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem tomorrow, if they and the Arab League clearly recognized Israel, normalized relations, and renounced violence. But those driving Palestinian politics seem determined to destroy Israel in its territory - even if it means destroying themselves in their own territory.
Journalists of the sort we mentioned above love referring to the bombers, the shooters, the stabbers and the Qassam firers, as desperate, but that's nonense too, and Friedman is right in saying why. The desperate in this story are those who put up a high fence to keep the barbarians out and their own children safe; who forcibly pack up their own communities and move the people away so that (whether they're right on this or not) conflict with the neighbours can be avoided; who take painful, unilateral steps to accommodate the other side even while holding overwhelmingly most of the military cards and overwhelmingly most of the fire-power.

The desperate in this story are Israeli, especially Israelis like us who have lost a child to this awful war. We're desperate: desperate for peace, for mutual respect, for an end to the conflict.

But the party that puts its energies into blowing up the other side's buses, cafes and schools even when this means blowing up the children of their own people - that party is not desperate. That party is rabid, foaming at the mouth, driven by a hatred that the rest of us cannot fathom.

That's the real asymmetry in this ongoing war. Thank you, Mr. Friedman.

1 comment:

Robert J. said...

It's been a long time since I read friedman and cameaway thinking that I agree with him.