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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

No apology needed for surviving

Remember that scene from 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' where Indiana Jones faces off against a sword-wielding assassin?  There is a moment of silent tension as the assassin masterfully spins his scimitar from hand to hand, and Indy's situation seems dire.  And then suddenly Indy pulls out his pistol and shoots the assassin.

I remember when I saw this scene in the theater that it seemed perfectly natural that the audience would spontaneously erupt into cheers and enthusiastic applause.  After all, this wasn't just the triumph of modern weaponry over crude, outdated technology... it was also the triumph of the film's hero over a nameless, random bad guy. 

But as my focus has shifted from silver screen conflicts to those in the real world, I have become increasingly alarmed that not only does the world seem mixed up about whether, metaphorically speaking, bullets should be allowed to triumph over swords, but also about who exactly are the good guys in our region.

The best example of this apparent confusion was revealed in one of the more heated semantical arguments that raged during the second Lebanon war over Israeli spokes-people's tendency to use the words 'rocket' and 'missile' interchangeably when describing the ketyushas and other flying ordnance being fired into Israel by Hezbollah.

Whenever the word 'missile' was used, the talking heads on Sky News, BBC and CNN would quickly interrupt the speaker to patiently point out that Hezbollah's weapons were 'rockets', not 'missiles' since they lacked a guidance package (as if this semantic distinction somehow made them less offensive... or for that matter, lethal). 

But in retrospect, not only is that overly-pedantic distinction not correct*, but it revealed a deliberate attempt on the part of the Main Stream Media (MSM) to sway the viewer/listener from what I had assumed was the natural tendency we'd all experienced while watching 'Raiders'... specifically, to scream at the screen,  "How stupid do you have to be to start a fight with a sword when the other guy has a gun!".

However, the more I followed the news, the more obvious the reason seemed to be for these continuing pedantic arguments over the imbalance of armament available to the Arabs and Israelis.  You see, in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark', everyone in the theater was rooting for Indiana Jones.  For that brief instant when we'd all forgotten that Indy had a gun and it appeared that he was going to have to face off against the evil assassin's sword with nothing more than his trusty whip, we were stunned silent with moral outrage at the unfairness of the duel.

Now, I'm no student of cinema... but I think that just might have been Steven Spielberg's intent.   

But what if the roles had been reversed and we'd remembered about the gun from the beginning of the scene?  Given the same disadvantage, would the swordsman have enjoyed - even briefly - the same moral backing from the audience that we gave to Indiana Jones?  The answer is no... it simply wouldn't have worked because at the root of the cinematic magic of that scene was our unswerving loyalty to Indy.

It is my humble opinion that at the root of the MSM's obsession with pointing out the technological mismatch in the region is their essential loyalty to Israel's enemies.  What I had failed to realize before was that the MSM (and their core audience) view the Arabs as Indiana Jones, and are therefore understandably outraged at the prospect of their hero facing off against the bad guy armed only with a whip... regardless of who started the fight.

Consider the following:

Stone Throwing:  The MSM constantly claims that Palestinian stone-throwing at Israeli motorists does not warrant a lethal response.  Not only does this posit that stones are not potentially-lethal weapons, but it is in direct conflict with their frequent 'David & Goliath' imagery used to portray the Palestinians as the little underdog.  If memory serves, Goliath didn't make it home with just a cracked windshield... he was killed.

Molotov Cocktails:  Again, there seems to be the assumption among journalists (and by extension, their audience) that since these home-made weapons are cheap and hand-delivered to their targets, that they do not warrant the use of deadly force in response.  A trip to an Israeli hospital's burn ward might go a long way towards dispelling this wrong-headed assumption.

Kassams/Ketyushahs:  Aside from their range and payload, the MSM doesn't really differentiate between these weapons when it comes to their opinion of how Israel should be allowed to respond.  As with rocks and Molotov Cocktails, the conventional wisdom is that it would be unchivalrous for Israel to respond to a relatively crude mode of attack with advanced weaponry.

Simply put; Israel's problems with the world audience don't stem from bad PR.  They are rooted in the fact that the MSM and the world audience view Israel as that sword-wielding assassin, a small plot complication that must be resolved as quickly as possible for the regional story to reach a satisfactory dénouement.

IMHO it is the height of silliness for Israel to place too much hope in positive 'Hasbara' (PR/propaganda).  No amount of positive PR would have made an Indiana Jones fan care a wit about the fate of the assassin with the sword.  He was a two-dimensional, un-named villain with no back-story and no possible reason for redemption.  We never stopped to consider whether he might have had a family that depended on him for sustenance or perhaps if it was a crushing mortgage that had driven him to a life of crime.  We simply wanted him dead so that our hero could advance to meet the next challenge.

Israel would do well to forget about trying to reclaim the hero status it enjoyed in the early days of its existence. 

Those days are gone. 

What remains is the challenge of simply meeting each threat with the only thing we have going for us; superior weaponry.  They pull a whip we pull a sword.  They pull a sword, we pull a gun.  They pull a gun, we pull a cruise missile.

This isn't a movie set... and Israel needn't apologize for surviving.  It may be that the rest of the world is rooting for our enemies to prevail and ride happily into the sunset, but that doesn't mean that we have to lay down and act like some pesky plot complication. 

As an actor on the world stage, Israel has a rich back-story and is worthy of survival.

* Most dictionaries define a missile as "an object or weapon that is fired, thrown, dropped, or otherwise projected at a target; a projectile.".  The few definitions that dealt exclusively with modern weaponry (e.g. "Missile: a rocket carrying a warhead of conventional or nuclear explosives; may be ballistic or directed by remote control"), specifically point out that the presence or lack of a guidance package is irrelevant.

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Posted by David Bogner on May 9, 2007 | Permalink

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Gee, what a novel idea :-x

Posted by: tnspr569 | May 9, 2007 1:02:07 PM

The scene in Raiders came about because Harrison Ford was suffering from a bad case of Montezuma's revenge. He didn't feel like going through the whole fight sequence, so he asked Steven if he could just pull out his gun and shoot the guy.

Naturally, this became the most popular and memorable scene in the movie.

Regarding rocks and lethality. I recall a speech from about 15 years ago where a junior ambassador was also confronted with that nonsense. Someone in the audience was complaining that Israeli soldiers should be imprisoned etc.. for responding with lethal force to "a few stones" that get chucked at them.

Since this wasn't the first time he had experienced this sort of claim, he had come prepared with a fist sized rock that he had under his lectern.

He took out the rock and threw it as hard as he could right above the complainers head. The rock smashed against the wall in a shower of chips and wall.

The target went out of his mind and began lunging forward. While he was restrained, he was shouting "I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"

The speaker asked him, "So how do you feel right now?" Only then did he tell them that he had several years of pitching skills in minor league baseball (which I think he made up).

A most amusing story.

I also recall a number of cases where people dropping rocks off an overpass in America were charged with manslaughter or similar.

Yehuda

Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger | May 9, 2007 1:28:56 PM

I'd forgotten about the "dropping rocks off an overpass" thing in the States.... And yep! That WAS classified a crime. If I remember an infant was killed in one of those incidents....

Sadly, a resident of Efrat was injured leaving town yesterday due to one of these supposedly "harmless" rocks. Mainstream media is reporting her injuries as minor; however, an Efrat resident posted on our local chat list that t'filot were needed for Ester bat Zahora as she is on a ventilator and awaiting surgery for severe brain trauma.....

Sticks and stones people! They WILL break your bones!

Posted by: zahava | May 9, 2007 2:32:03 PM

Wow-what a brilliant analogy. (And I love Indy. Next film's release...2008!)

Posted by: Benji | May 9, 2007 2:52:23 PM

The MSM constantly claims that Palestinian stone-throwing at Israeli motorists does not warrant a lethal response.

The same MSM who covered the ban lieu clashes in Paris and pointed out the senseless brutality by socially underprivileged people? The house occupation in Denmark? The anti-WEF demonstrations (and, in the case of New York, bragged about how strong security forces had geared up against these dangerous autonomes)?


Posted by: Account Deleted | May 9, 2007 3:31:44 PM

Good analogy. Just to give the movie theme some more legs here is a little exchange from The Untouchables:

Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?
Ness: Anything and everything in my power.
Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way because they're not gonna give up the fight until one of you is dead.
Ness: How do you do it then?
Malone: You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?
Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.
Malone: Well, the Lord hates a coward. Do you know what a blood oath is, Mr. Ness?
Ness: Yes.
Malone: Good, 'cause you just took one.

Posted by: Jack | May 9, 2007 5:20:11 PM

Good post Trep, I've recently been able to read your blog again, and you've had some real skull scratchers, Thanks!

Now, maybe it's because I wouldn't align myself with the MSM or the typical world audience member, but heroes aside, I would have reversed the roles... Israel/Indy weighing the situation carefully before drawing a bead on the swordsman. Forget for a moment that the MSM is the movie patron and consider that they may instead be the audience in the marketplace, who were stunned to silence by Indy's move. They could (and can) just as easily have swarmed over Indy for putting down their "hero". (Or did they... now I'll have to watch it again, drat! (heh heh)) A sword is quite deadly, as are stones and burning bottles of gasoline, but I wouldn't count out anyone that can wield a whip like Indy, and the people of Israel have been just as proficient with similiarly innocuous-looking weapons, ALA David pitted against Goliath.

Made more sense in my head, than trying to get it down in print. But I submitted it nonetheless. Suffice it to say, that I'd be more convinced of Indy Israel, than the reverse.

Posted by: Jethro | May 9, 2007 5:34:35 PM

I recently saw that scene again. What struck me was the look of bored disgust on Indiana's face, as if to say, "Oh, brother! Stop wasting my time!" Israel's problem is that they don't act like Indiana Jones. You have the darn gun - use it, move on, & don't waste your time on riffraff.

Also, to take the movie analogy a little further: Harrison Ford has to worry about audience reaction. Indiana Jones doesn't. He just does what he has to do. And, come to think of it, even Harrison Ford isn't playing to a live audience, either. He does his takes and goes to his trailer. Israel needs to stop playing to a live world audience that will always root against them. They need to do what must be done, and worry about "audience reaction" later (like Harrison) or not at all (like Indiana).

Posted by: psachya | May 9, 2007 7:07:31 PM

David:

Fine post.

Let me point out that the MSM's obsession with the so-called David and Goliath narrative is merely a fig-leaf for their basic Jew-hatred disguised as "anti-Zionism."

To prove this let me point out that Iran, building a nuclear bomb, deny one Holocaust even as they threaten another.

However the MSM continually rail against American or Israeli military action against Iran, and urge diplomatic channels and isolation of this radical Islamic state.

No one can say that a nuclear weapon is an insignifigant weapon.

It does not take a great deal of political insight to see this as a basic denial of Israel's right to self-defense and an open invitation to attack Israel when the Islamic bomb is ready.

The NY Time's Thomas Friedman has already written that the West will probably have to learn to live with the Iranian nuclear bomb.

In short: the MSM is, at the core, anti-Jewish (especially the Jews in the MSM), feverishly anti- Israel, and of course, they are habitual appeasers.

As you say, to reach for Hasbarah is foolishness in the extreme. To reach for powerful weapons is a far better path.

Posted by: Robert J. Avrech | May 9, 2007 8:55:28 PM

great analogy!
excellent post.

Posted by: Shosh | May 9, 2007 9:38:09 PM

With respect, you are correct in principle, but miss the point. Your principle of "Israel should respond with the most advanced weaponry necessary/at its disposal to counter threats" is absolutely accurate. Yet I think you misconstrue the press' uproar during the Lebanon War.

Most of the coverage I saw (and the non-Israeli papers I read include CNN, BBC, the Guardian, AP/Reuters, ABCNews, NYTimes, and WSJ) was not arguing that Israel was unjustified in responding to rocket fire, but rather that its response was poorly targeted. Yes, the words 'disproportionate' were on a lot of tongues, but I think they were saying that the results rather than the methods were disproportionate. Perhaps a semantic difference, but let me elaborate:

If Israel had destroyed Hezbollah's rocket/missile/whatever-launching capability using large precision-guided airstrikes, artillery barrages, etc... even land-based assaults, I think the media would have had a more favorable take on the war. Oh, sure, they're mostly not interested in showing support for Israel anyways, but the early days of the war reflected a certain 'wait a see' attitude in the press.

What really turned things against us was the seemingly indiscriminate bombing and shelling by IDF units against Lebanese targets. You and I know that many (if not most) of the targets were identified threats and part of the Hezbollah apparatus, but the rest of the world merely saw ruined buildings in Beirut, bombed-out villages in southern Lebanon, and destroyed cars/trucks that had been misidentified as carrying Hezbollah fighters/weapons.

The media didn't know that most of Hezbollah's long-range capability was destroyed within the first hour of the war, or that Israel had systematically destroyed much of Hezbollah's infrastructure. They didn't hear about successful airstrikes on Hezbollah members moving munitions or launching rockets. Oh, there was a case or three when the IDF Spokesperson's Office released some reconnaissance videos, but we're talking about thousands of airstrikes, untold artillery barrages, etc.

AND... after all of that work (and all of those civilians being killed, which even by Israeli estimates are a bit over 50% of the dead), Israel didn't have anything to show for it. Hundreds of Katyushas were still being shot at Israel daily, the two soldiers were still captive, and 160-some Israelis had died.

If the Israeli offensive had worked, and could be shown to be a relatively reasonable exercise of power against a terrorist organization entrenched in a 'civilian' population... the media would still have been critical, but the vast outcry would have been muted. Yet for all of Israel's show of power, it didn't work. So, the media concludes, 600 Lebanese civilians died because Israel 'overreacted'.

You and I know that this isn't the case. Rather, it was because of the brutal mismanagement of the war by Israel's leaders, and that an intelligently run campaign would not necessarily have resulted in 100% success, but would definitely have caused much more serious harm to Hezbollah and guaranteed far more safety for Israeli citizens in the north. But at the time of the war, this simply was not evident to the "MSM". All they saw was a Goliath who killed everyone around David, but still let David pepper him with stones.

*shrugs* Just my 2 cents.

Ender

Posted by: matlabfreak | May 10, 2007 7:38:57 AM

and sderot is a town not a city

Posted by: zalman | May 10, 2007 1:01:08 PM

Have you had a chance to read David Mamet's 'The Wicked Son'?
Following a quote from, of all people, Edward Gibon, he tersely
states:'The world hates Jews'.- and I do mean period! Sorry, but no one is prepared to accept Jews or the Jewish State as winners.
-Schvach

Posted by: Schvach | May 10, 2007 10:59:52 PM

Any intelligent use of this scene from "Raiders..." gets an immediate link from me. Seeing a Lucas or Spielberg film back in the day (1970's - 80's) was almost a guarantee to get at least one cool reaction from a movie audience en masse.

The natural "follow up" to Schvach's Mamet reference would be Tom Lehrer's infamous song, "National Brotherhood Week."

Posted by: Wrymouth | May 12, 2007 6:40:46 PM

Did someone say, "Indiana Jones"? :-)

My take is in a less serious format than yours, but it looks like we made the same point. Yishar ko'ach, David!

Posted by: ZionistYoungster | May 13, 2007 3:00:59 PM

tnspr569... As I'm finding out... it wasn't so novel. :-)

Yehuda Berlinger... Unfortunately, not enough people get that sort of object lesson. :-)

Benji... Knowing the direction that Hollywood is going I wouldn't be surprised to see the title "Indiana Jones and the Temple belongs to the Palestinians' up there in lights. :-)

a. ... Don't get me started. Notice how the rioters in France are rarely identified as Muslims or even immigrants.

Jack... Great scene, although I like the one in the shooting range where they recruit Andy Garcia.

Jethro... "Skull Scratchers". Now there's a compliment I've never gotten before! :-)

psachya... No argument from me!

Robert J. Avrech... Regarding the likes of Friedman/NYTimes, I am always shocked to see the Jews trying to out-jewbait the goyim.

Shosh... Why thank you!

matlabfreak... The kind of targeting you would like to see exists only in science fiction. Even with the dire failure to achieve its goals, Israel still managed to inflict a very tiny collateral death count on the Lebanese population which Hezbollah was using for cover. Personally, I think this was one of many reasons the war was doomed from the start. If you are going to commit to a full scale war, you have to go in after the targets wherever they may be. If they are amid civilian population centers, that is the enemy's violation of Geneva conventions, not yours.

zalman... What's your point?

Schvach... I wrote my own 'wicked son' analogy. I'd be interested to see how close it came to his.

Wrymouth... Thanks. I really need to start keeping up with the American columnists and talk shows again. I've been completely out of the loop since we moved.

ZionistYoungster... Wow, and you came up wit the idea weeks before I did. I promise I didn't lift the idea from your site. Really!

Posted by: treppenwitz | May 13, 2007 6:20:22 PM

And supposing you had, David... who cares? :-)

Posted by: ZionistYoungster | May 13, 2007 10:46:09 PM

Amen.

Posted by: Sara | May 14, 2007 6:13:14 PM

David: I agree completely! But the point is that the press is (a) deluded about military capabilities and (b) didn't see any improvement in Israel's security situation as a result of the collateral damage. As a result, they concluded it was 'disproportionate'.

Ender

Posted by: matlabfreak | May 15, 2007 5:15:54 AM

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