On that point: January 16 2009

On a recent trip to London, I had the fortunate, or possibly unfortunate, experience of coming face to face with passionate protesters marching and generally causing havoc due to the current crisis in Gaza.

On a recent trip to London, I had the fortunate, or possibly unfortunate, experience of coming face to face with passionate protesters marching and generally causing havoc due to the current crisis in Gaza. Indeed, many of the Londoners, most of whom were non-Muslim, were for Palestinian liberation and accountability for Israel’s actions. This sentiment seems to be the general consensus around the world. But is it? 

I have to question: Where are the American voices? Especially since, according to the Londoners I talked to and the British news media, the United States is supposed to bear the brunt of Israel’s actions, and convince Israel’s leaders to negotiate and accept a cease-fire.

America hasn’t really taken a stance, and in its silence, it has allowed Israel to conduct asymmetrical warfare against an, albeit armed but floundering, minority population. Sure, President Bush has attempted to claim a cease-fire, only at the expense of allowing Gazans to arm themselves, a death warrant by any other name.

For the most part, American voices, both Jewish and Muslim, seem to be quieted not only because of the U.S. administration’s lack of action and extreme favoritism, but also because we seem to not care about what doesn’t directly affect us.

For some reason, and I doubt it is because of something as trivial as proximity, Europeans—especially Muslim Europeans—have been up in arms to their governments about the conflict, making sure their governments are pressing the United States to control and lead the situation to some sort of compromise. Standing around and watching it unfold isn’t an option.

The one stalwart that is for Israel’s actions is, of course, Israel.

Yesterday’s edition of the The Jerusalem Post noted a 94 percent approval rating of Israeli actions in Gaza, despite the disproportionate amount of Palestinian civilians killed. The survey, taken by Tel Aviv University, also contended that the support would continue, “until all of [Israel’s] objectives were achieved.”

And what are those objectives? What is the ultimate end goal for Israel? Complete annihilation of Hamas leaders? Bombing Gaza isn’t going to make that achievable, because Hamas’ top leaders generally have gone into hiding and most aren’t even in Gaza, but instead rely on safe headquarters in Damascus, Syria.

So those who are paying for Israel’s disgust of Hamas are civilians trapped in Gaza, unable to rely on the support of their elected leaders, unable to leave and unable to stand up against what is going on around them. The only action left for them is to arm themselves and wait for the troops to raid their town and, according to various news sources, including the The New York Times, wait for air strikes on United Nations headquarters that supply the Palestinians food aid and shelter.

Gazans, even those who don’t support Hamas, are in a desperate situation because bombs don’t care what political affiliation one upholds. And, yes, the same can be said about Hamas’ rockets into Israel. Both groups cannot claim to have clean hands. 

It is the lack of opposition or mere discussion that allows for those with far less than altruistic intentions to make headway. The one avenue where voices are being heard is through advertisements by fringe groups that rely on propaganda and fear mongering, making a conflict like Gaza tug at the heartstrings of “regular people,” also call them the average American.

These groups do this not only by relying the latent complicity of the general population, but also by hitting pressure points where it hurts the most: the safety of you and your loved ones.

A prime example is a large advertisement in the Monday, Jan. 12 edition of the The New York Times. The ad is paid for by the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish group founded in 1913, and states, “To stop the defamation of the Jewish people … to secure justice and fair treatment for all,” and then asks the question, “What if Hamas was in your neighborhood?”

The image accompanying the question on the ad is the most effective form of paid fear I have seen post 9-11. It shows the outline of Gaza with rockets in range of New York City. It goes on to say, in smaller print, “Imagine if Hamas terrorists were targeting you and your family. No country would allow such danger on its border, and neither is Israel.”

What the ad doesn’t say is ultimately what it wants its reader to infer—that the death toll of 1,000 Palestinian civilians is completely justified, because it’s happened to Israel and it can happen to you. No wonder people have such a skewed view of the conflict!

Using the most base fear appeals, the security of one’s self and family, is an amazing motivator for taking a stance. This is not what people should reference when making decisions about such delicate matters, yet most do. Media is highly effective like that.

So what can be done? Honestly, it comes back to the tried and true nature of being media literate. Of not consuming ads without asking, why is this here, or what are the motivations?

As far as the conflict itself goes, much is still left to discuss. A friend of mine traveled to Israel a couple years ago on birthright. He was so appalled by Israel’s treatment of Palestinians—denying them food and protection—that he asked an Israeli solider why his country resolves itself to such inaction. The soldier’s response was, “Do you have a better idea?”

Everyone eventually has to take a side, the hope is that those who choose, regardless of the choice, are informed and understand why they choose the side that they take. It’s unfortunate that those who are calling the shots, the Anti-Defamation League, Islamist fringe groups, Israel, the United States, Hamas, the United Nations and everyone else who has a stake in the Gaza conflict, don’t understand that this is a no-win situation.