History, Media, and Warfare

by Clarke Fountain

The trouble with the news is that it always arrives to us already prepared with perspective on the events it reports. Sometimes that’s helpful. Quite often, darlings of various political groups in the developed world, and every excuse is made for whatever they do. As of mid- October, there have been demonstrations worldwide in support of them with group chants urging Hezbollah and Palestinians to clear Israel “to the sea.” To wipe everyone in Israel out, in other words. Even the mainstream news media sometimes allow viewers to see these demonstrations and even sometimes translate the chants, though without comment as if this is something normal.

If the news is reporting on something abstract or of little immediate interest, these problems with how our news gets to us are of little concern. But, if you’re looking to understand something that requires knowledge of history or the past and that is of immediate impact to you, these factors can be difficult to deal with. I’m talking of course, about the conflicts emerging (again!) between Israel and its neighbors, including Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

A lot of what gets reported as history, particularly the history of Israel and the Palestinians, just isn’t so. When almost every news agency in the world is purveying the same false information, it becomes easy to doubt yourself and your knowledge of what’s real. However, such fashionable truth isn’t truth. It’s fashion. One minute everyone is up in arms about what the agents of Hamas did a few weeks ago, the next minute everyone is accusing Israel of nefarious deeds of one kind or another. Using the same set of non-facts to support these stories, a moderately normal person, who is paying attention, experiences a reality crisis. This is “cognitive dissonance,” meaning what you believe you actually know is contradicted by what you’re hearing from “authoritative sources.” What’s what? Who’s who? Who did what, when? How do we know? Why all this warfare?

One thing hasn’t changed. The goals of Hamas and Hezbollah are to end the state of Israel, and if possible, to eliminate Jewry worldwide. They have said so. It’s in their constitutions. What they do proves it. And the West Bank communities don’t come off without blood on their hands, either. In West Bank territories, the Palestinian so- called state (that’s a fraught issue in itself) gives monetary rewards to people who kill Israelis, or to the families of those who are killed in the process of killing Israelis. They use American and European money to do that, ostensibly given them to help them overcome hardship and provide basic services for their people.

However, the erstwhile Palestinians and their ilk are the darlings of various political groups in the developed world, and every excuse is made for whatever they do. As of mid- October, there have been demonstrations worldwide in support of them with group chants urging Hezbollah and Palestinians to clear Israel “to the sea.” To wipe everyone in Israel out, in other words. Even the mainstream news media sometimes allow viewers to see these demonstrations and even sometimes translate the chants, though without comment as if this is something normal.

Is the Israeli government blameless? Of course not. No government is. But whatever they are guilty of is precisely not what you’re hearing about in the news. Warfare is a dirty business no matter how ethically it is conducted. The Israeli Defense Force has rules of engagement that have not changed in decades, designed to try and protect the innocent. Sure, they also respond in ways that are perhaps brutal, but then you are not surrounded by people who openly and unrepentantly want to exterminate you, so perhaps judging how they respond is not something we can easily do. No other country, no matter how wonderful otherwise, ties its own hands in this way.

Historical context requires taking the time to explore unfashionable truths in order to be put into perspective. Whatever their motive may be for this, it’s up to all of us to educate ourselves, to get the perspective not provided. Many at Beit Tikva know this history, others haven’t gone into it, others aren’t interested, perhaps, in going into it. But if you are interested, I’d suggest asking the Rabbi and the President and Vice President of the congregation (among others) to point you to places where you can learn about it.

There are wars going on all around the world. Awful wars, provoked and unprovoked, but what fills the news? Israel vs. Hamas and Israel vs. Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Israel vs. Hezbollah in Syria, with Israel portrayed as the big bad wolf. Poor little piggie! But I ask you, and ask even entirely secular Jews, what will happen if Israel falls? Will you still be safe? Anti-Jewish prejudice is very strong and is often unopposed (more covertly supported).

There are some otherwise brilliant people who think “the Jews” are to blame for the state of the world today. I call their prejudice anti-Jewish prejudice and not anti-Semitic prejudice, because many Muslims are also Semites and the prejudice I’m talking about is specifically targeted against Jews. It has a long history (there’s that “history” word again). Being prepared with actual facts can help you adapt to the reality around you. It will ease the psychological burden of cognitive dissonance we all deal with.

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