Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Playing to the crowd
The first thing I saw when I started checking the news this morning was an article on the New York Times website... dead center, right at the top.
Apparently a group of left wing Israeli women had successfully smuggled a bunch of Palestinian women from the 'West Bank' over the Green Line, and had taken them for an outing to the beach.
The article was accompanied by a photo of the women cavorting together in the surf.
Now there are a few ways this kind of story could go;
1. It could be a warm fuzzy human interest story about how people on opposite sides of a bloody conflict have more in common than separates them. The most famous example of the genre is the Christmas cease fire during WWI when British and German troops came up out of their trenches and declared an unofficial truce, during which they exchanged gifts, sang seasonal songs and even played a game of soccer there in the mud between their lines.
2. It could be a one-sided propaganda piece designed to show how terrible the lives of these poor Palestinian women really are as as a result of the Israeli occupation/oppression, and how, through the help of a few 'good Jews' these women; "most [of whom] had never seen the sea before" were able to escape their virtual prison and refresh themselves in the cooling waters of the Mediterranean.
Which way do you think The Times went?
The timing of the beach party story/photo was also telling, coming as it does in the midst of an unusually oppressive heat wave in the Times' readership's core distribution area.
A few things the Times takes great pains to tell the readers:
The defiance was extremely risky due to the evil Israeli government:
"The women were Palestinians from the southern part of the West Bank, which is landlocked, and Israel does not allow them in. They risked criminal prosecution, along with the dozen Israeli women who took them to the beach. And that, in fact, was part of the point: to protest what they and their hosts consider unjust laws."
The Israeli government is analogous to Nazi-era Germany:
“What we are doing here will not change the situation,” said Hanna Rubinstein, who traveled to Tel Aviv from Haifa to take part. “But it is one more activity to oppose the occupation. One day in the future, people will ask, like they did of the Germans: ‘Did you know?’ And I will be able to say, ‘I knew. And I acted.’”
Israel, apparently unique among the Nations, is not allowed to determine who may legally travel to, from and across its territory.
"In a newspaper advertisement, the group of women declared: “We cannot assent to the legality of the Law of Entry into Israel, which allows every Israeli and every Jew to move freely in all regions between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River while depriving Palestinians of this same right."
Not only are Palestinians apparently full citizens being denied their rights, but even the Israeli women are not free.
“They and we, all ordinary citizens, took this step with a clear and resolute mind. In this way we were privileged to experience one of the most beautiful and exciting days of our lives, to meet and befriend our brave Palestinian neighbors, and together with them, to be free women, if only for one day.”
In order to reach the beach, the women were required to strip down and bare themselves in order to fool the wicked soldiers of the occupation forces.
"The beach trip last week followed a pattern: the Palestinian women went in disguise, which meant removing clothes rather than covering up. They sat in the back seats of Israeli cars driven by middle-aged Jewish women and took off headscarves and long gowns. As the cars drove through an Israeli Army checkpoint, everyone just waved."
Not only are these poor women stuck in a dry, landlocked prison, but many of their men folk are actually incarcerated (for no apparent reason) in real Israeli prisons.
"The Palestinian visitors came with complicated histories. In most of their families the men have been locked up at some point. For example, Manal, who had never been to the sea before, is 36, the mother of three and pregnant; five of her brothers are in Israeli prisons, and another was killed when he entered a settler religious academy armed with a knife."
What the article doesn't tell you:
While the 'West Bank' is indeed landlocked, Palestinians should be able to travel to the beautiful Red Sea port of Aqaba via Jordan if bathing in salt water (or just seeing the sea) is an inherent human right alongside life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Why is it Israel's responsibility to provide field trips to the wives and mothers of terrorists (see paragraph above regarding how many of their men folk are in Israeli prisons)?
Israel used to allow relatively free movement to Arabs living in the 'West Bank'. But when they launched not one, but two Intifadas and began murdering thousands of Israeli civilians in shopping malls, cafes and buses, we realized that it might be a good idea to set up checkpoints and limit who can go where.
As an aside, Israeli Arabs can go anywhere in the 'West Bank', while Israeli Jews are legally prohibited from visiting any of the autonomous Palestinian areas; even those places with deep, religious and historical significance for us.
The article also does not mention the plight of Palestinians living in Syria and Lebanon (both of which have hundreds of miles of beautiful beaches) who are quite literally kept locked in refugee camps and not allowed to travel freely, much less go on outings to frolic in the ocean.
Yet, I can't really blame The Time for pandering to their audience. The combination of Jew/Israeli hatred and a good heat wave in the Metro-New York area must have been too hard for the editorial staff of The Times to resist.