Your Turn: Do you understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
AS I OPENED Facebook on a recent morning, an image popped up on my feed. It showed a Palestinian protestor holding a sign reading the following: “YOU take my water, burn my olive trees, destroy my house, take my job, steal my land, imprison my father, kill my mother, bomb my country, starve us all, humiliate us all. BUT I am to blame: I shot a rocket back”. It had 41 likes. 6 shares and was posted fewer than 12 hours before.
How simplistic, ignorant and one-sided. And yet, I don’t know what upsets me more: the fact that these claims are extremely wrong and unfounded, or the fact that the person posting this photo had absolutely no knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This, as far as I have noticed, seems to be the type of “discussion” dominating social networks these days. It is shallow, intentionally misleading and provocative. It is promoted by people who have very little knowledge about the conflict, but who deem themselves knowledgeable enough to make unequivocal statements about the reality I live in.
These are people who said nothing when 160,000 people were murdered by Assad’s forces in Syria, or when the Iraqi death toll mounted to 5,500 innocent civilians killed by ISIS. They did not lift a finger because it simply wasn’t trendy. Now, however, they have been awakened from their long hibernation. They have successfully identified a noteworthy cause: delegitimizing the Jewish state.
I cannot help but wonder how many of my Facebook friends, or people out there in general, have taken the time to understand the core of the issues they so hastily comment on these days. How many people really know what they are talking about when they rush to take a stand?
I wonder how many people around me honestly believe that memes, infographs, status updates, “shares” or “likes” can encompass years’ worth of conflict that even the heftiest textbooks cannot begin to describe.
I wonder how many of those so recklessly using terms such as “genocide,” “apartheid,” and “war crimes” actually know the political history of the conflict, the geography of where the fighting takes place, the demography of the region, or the ethnicity and religious beliefs of its people. I wonder how many of those condemning Israel’s aggression were also those defending Hamas’ rejection of a ceasefire three consecutive times.
I wonder how many of the Middle East “experts” who suddenly emerged on social networks in recent weeks really understand the differences between the various Palestinian fractures, or even knew that there were any. How many of them understand the ideological and theological differences between Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal? I wonder how many of them ever read the Charter of Hamas (even just the introduction), and how many never bothered looking.
I wonder how many of those citing the blockade on Gaza as the reason for the increasing violence ever realized that rocket attacks began years before the blockade was ever imposed, and that Hamas has been escalating the region long before scores of foreign correspondents bothered showing up at my doorstep. I wonder how many know what “blockade” actually means: what is allowed into Gaza, what is prohibited, and what the peaceful ways to end it are.
I wonder how many people know that more than 30 terror tunnels were unearthed in Gaza by Israel in just a couple of days; tunnels over a mile long, leading to Israeli dining rooms and kindergartens. How many bothered reading and learning that the cost of digging such a tunnel is estimated at around $1 million; which, using simple math, means that $30 million aimed at the relief of the people of Gaza was used, instead, to kill Israeli civilians.
I wonder how many of the people who so vigorously justify rocket attacks on my home, who dare undermine my suffering because such rockets are “just fireworks” and I am “lucky” to have a shelter, would have agreed to be as “lucky” as me, to take my place, and have rockets fired at their homes.
I wonder how many of them paid attention to the seemingly “pro-Palestinian” demonstrations that are currently taking place worldwide: to the burning of synagogues in France, to American protestors’ calls to send “Jews back to the ovens,” to the chants in German describing Jews as “cowardly pigs,” to the Turkish rioters intimidating Jews in their neighborhoods, and to the most popular hashtag trending on Twitter these days: “#hitlerwasright.”
I wonder how many of them — these activists, these commentators, these keyboard fighters — really know what they are standing up for. How many of them realize that they are legitimizing and defending an al-Qaeda-like organization, whose leaders praised Osama Bin Laden as a “holy warrior?” How many know that they are not supporting the Palestinian cause in any shape or form, or that under the cloak of liberalism and democracy they shelter extremists who promote dictatorship, murder and hate?
I wonder how many of them have something at stake, something to lose in this conflict, other than their recently changed profile picture. I wonder how many of them care about something other than the hashtags they use, the graphics they upload, or the bold statements they so easily make behind their illuminated screens.
Sadly, I think not many.
Asaf Zilberfarb of Hanover spent four years in the Israeli Defense Force before enrolling as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College.