Opinions on Israel shaped by hostile media who ignore history

Gaza; Israel map

Map from CIA World Factbook

Here is a headline from the Top Stories section at Google News:

“In Gaza, at Least 10 Die at UN School Used as Civilian Shelter”.

The same headline appears if you click over to The New York Times, with a style change from UN to U.N. How many readers will see the headline and rush off to blog or comment on Israel’s latest “atrocity”?

Here is the lead paragraph:

“GAZA CITY — A series of explosions at a school run by the United Nations sheltering hundreds of Palestinians who had fled their homes for safety from Israeli military assaults killed at least 10 people on Thursday afternoon and wounded many more. The cause was not immediately clear.”

The local UN director, quite naturally, blamed the Israelis.

The UN is no friend to Israel, or, for that matter, to the United States. The UN did back down from those claims, and exactly what happened is still unknown.

Some Israeli officials blamed “errant Palestinian munitions.” Rockets had been discovered at UN schools. The UN admitted returning the rockets to Hamas.

You have to read the whole lengthy article, something many Internet readers will not do, to understand the confusion and complexity in play.

Meanwhile social media is full of anti-Israel hate speech, and it is obvious how easy it is to persuade people who have no idea about the history of the area or why there is such misery in Gaza or among the people labeled Palestinians. Some posters assail “zionists” in an effort to simply avoid using the word “Jews.”

Media ignore the lessons of 9-11-2001 routinely, and they follow suit in ignoring Israel’s history as well.

When modern-day Israel came into being, there were refugees on both sides. Paul Johnson, in an essay in the book Inside Israel, wrote:

“[T]here were the Jews encouraged or forced to flee from Arab states where, in some cases, Jewish communities had existed for 2,500 years. In 1945 there were over 500,000 Jews living in the Arab world. Between the outbreak of war on May 15, 1948, and the end of 1967, the vast majority had to take refuge in Israel: 252,642 from Morocco, 13,118 from Algeria, 46,255 from Tunisia, 34,265 from Libya, 37,867 from Egypt, 4,000 from Lebanon, 4,500 from Syria, 3,912 from Aden, 124,647 from Iraq, and 46,447 from Yemen.”

Thus, nearly as many Jews found themselves refugees as Arabs.

There was however, a critical difference in how these refugees were treated.

Johnson continued [underscore added]:

The Arab governments, with the assistance of the U.N., kept the Arab refugees in camps, pending a reconquest of Palestine which never came. Hence, as a result of natural increase, there were more Arab refugees in the late 1980s than there had been forty years before.”

Those Arab refugees became a perpetual pawn in power brokers’ efforts. Johnson recounted comments from Cairo Radio:

“The refugees are the cornerstone in the Arab struggle against Israel. The refugees are the armaments of the Arab and Arab nationalism.”

In another essay, David K. Shipler also noted something key to understanding conflict in the region:

“And as Israeli peace activists lament, the Arab side has lacked a parallel peace movement. War, it seems, is integral to the conduct of human affairs. To speak or to act against it requires the courage of an Anwar Sadat, who then pays the price of his life, or the subtlety of a King Hussein, who survives as long as he takes only half steps.”

At present legacy media in the U.S. have tilted sympathy largely to those who oppose Israel. Few media acknowledge a goal repeated by various leaders in Mideast countries where Muslims control government.

That goal is the extermination of Israel, yet messaging shaped around the current conflict omits that goal and the complex history that preceded it. That history included the annihilation of millions of Jews and other “undesirables”—Jews, gays, the Romani who are often called gypsies.

In the U.S., then as now, anti-war protests came from the left. Jesse Kindig, writing at a history site hosted by the University of Washington, said:

“Made up of a coalition of liberals, pacifists, communists, and socialists, students in the 1930s sought to identify with the mass labor struggles of the decade, oppose racial discrimination in the US and fascism abroad, and advocated for domestic relief programs. The largest student demonstrations of the period were explicitly anti-war and anti-fascist, and aimed at avoiding another world war.”

The avoidance of war is a no-brainer, of course. Unless someone threatens to “exterminate” you and others like you. That is a lesson Israel cannot forget. Her survival depends on remembering it. The U.S. might consider past lessons as well.

Print Source: Inside Israel; Edited by John Miller and Aaron Kenedi; Marlowe & Company; New York, 2002.

Map: CIA World Factbook

(Commentary by Kay B. Day/July 24, 2014)

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About Kay Day

Kay B. Day is a freelance writer who has published in national and international magazines and websites. The author of 3 books, her work is anthologized in textbooks and collections. She has won awards for poetry, nonfiction and fiction. Day is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Authors Guild.
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