The Gaza Strip, Staged (Real) Photo Ops, And My Ignorance

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So I haven’t said much about the Israel/Gaza situation for two reasons:
1)  It’s a complex situation with a long history, and I am largely ignorant of much of it.
2)  People have super-intense emotions on either side, and venturing an opinion puts you in the middle of a withering crossfire.
3)  I’m in the least popular opinion (at least among op-eds) that both sides are being dicks.
Which is to say that if I had to tug both Israel and Palestine aside at a party, I’d probably say this:
“Hey, Israel, I know that as a Jewish nation you’re internationally hated and constantly under threat of being nuked. And yes, you’re living next to some people who create terrorists who walk into your nightclubs and bomb you – I know that’s happened.  But you’re a nation that exists largely because America sees you as morally superior and more worth protecting than the other nations we ignore – and you’re eroding that right now by bombing kids on beaches.  Even accounting for the danger you’re under, from my standpoint you look  lot like a bully, taking their space and shoving them back into the sea and giving civilians such a small space that even if Hamas didn’t use civilians as shields they’d still be crammed in like sardines at a shooting range, and that is not cool. The fact that you’ve been persecuted throughout history doesn’t give you a magic pass to do whatever the heck you want, and what you’re doing right now looks a lot like what you’re afraid people will do to you, given the chance.
“If you keep this up, eventually America is going to stop supporting you – and then where will you be?  So yes, they’re going to shoot missiles at you periodically.  But as long as you keep overreacting like we did when we got hit in 9/11, you’re going to look like an even bigger jerk and exacerbate the existing hatred.  And also murder a lot of kids.”
And then:
“Hey, Palestine, I know you’ve been dicked over.  A lot.  By everyone.  But at this point you’ve internalized so many lessons of hatred that you’re reacting to everything with the assumption that ‘fuck it, might as well go to violence’ – and if a genuine peace ever did get offered, I’m pretty sure you’d blitz right past it.  I think way too many of your politics revolve around distrust – and though it’s not like Israel has been particularly trustworthy, eventually all peaceful solutions involve some measure of good faith.  You’ve got zero.  And yes, you can say that you’re justified in that, but it’s like my friends who kept picking fights with the cops – yes, he got beaten up a lot, but he also got into scuffles he could have avoided.  At some point you gotta get out of this bunker mode, or you’re never getting out of the bunker.
“Also, you have this unfortunate issue that when people support you, they start airing their open hatred of the Jews, and that is really not cool.”
But again, that’s just my impression.  I’m not educated on this topic, really.  I present that to you not as part of a cogent argument, but rather in the interests of being open about where I’m coming from.
What I do find fascinating, however, is this essay here on Hamas, which suggests strongly that many of the civilian injury photo ops are staged.  Which is bizarre, when the deaths are real.
The fascinating thing is that he’s not arguing that people weren’t killed or hurt, but rather that Hamas took them aside and did some makeup tricks before taking the photos given to reporters.  And there’s some evidence: side-by-side comparisons of a guy with his face washed, his hair blow-dried, and his hands neatly cleaned.
I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Would it be wrong to stage the photos to make them more media-friendly, assuming that there was an actual horrific death behind it?  What goals would be achieved?  (David Frum, that conservative thinker, believes it’s because unstaged photos would show too much truth about why those civilian killings occurred, but I can’t see how that would happen.)  Or is this some sort of bizarre, self-selecting stupidity like the Republicans picking faked victims of Obamacare to parade around when they have actual victims they could find?
Or are these faked at all?  Certainly, the writer of this essay is dickish (“Look, the guy’s got no tears!  He can’t be really in anguish!”  I didn’t cry at Rebecca’s bedside when she died, man.)
If it’s true, what’s the point?
The answer is that I don’t know, and I’m curious.  Maybe you know.  As mentioned, I’m not super-educated on the topic, and I expressed my opinions on Israel and Palestine above not to try to sway you, but rather to be completely open about how I view the issue, as a full disclosure of “Here’s my biases, refute or unpack them as you see fit.” I’m open to education from either side.
In any case, I’m going to trust to my usual smart and courteous commentors and see if y’all have any opinions on the faked photos – opinions based not on the ZOMG MY SIDE IS SAINTLY THE OTHER SIDE IS BEASTLY LOOK AT THE HORRIBLE CANNIBALS. And, if you can debate politely about the issue without a) getting personal or b) flouncing off angrily when someone makes a point about your side, then please comment with each other.
But if you can’t do that, I’ll swing the banhammer.  Or maybe take this entry down.
I’m taking a chance here.  Validate me.


  1. Melody Byrne
    Jul 24, 2014

    First off, thank you for recognizing that the roots of this conflict are deep and complicated. This is not an issue that anyone can understand without spending the time to learn about the cultural, tribal, religious, and political issues involved.
    As for faking the photos, there IS a reason to clean up and reposition the bodies for photos. If it became clear to the outside world that the vast majority of aid sent to Palestine doesn’t actually get turned into food, shelter, and infrastructure the flow of monetary aid will slow to a trickle. The reality is the people of Palestine suffer under the leadership of Hamas and the only way Hamass can keep power is to continuously blame Israel for their leadership failures and keep money from the outside flowing in. If conditions as they actually are ever got more press than Israel’s actions Hamas would lose power. So they pretend that the Palestinians are better off than they are and that all damage done to the Palestinians is Israel’s doing.

  2. Carmel J.
    Jul 24, 2014

    Even with what history I know of the topic, I am pretty much with you on it all. It seems like a lot of territory was simply carved into countries at the end of WWII without regard to how people were already living there and then we were shocked when they had a different opinion on how it should go down- as if they had been too primitive to have an opinion.
    Add in the Jews, who were everyone’s poster child at the time (rightfully so), give them one of those new countries at a time of religious fervor for them, and you have a recipe for decades of conflict.
    What gets me now is not only the superior imperialist thought behind it all but that so many American Christians are so militaristic in their support for Israel over an interpretation of end times prophecy that not only do the Jews themselves not believe, many Israelis consider their Jewishness an ethnicity more than a religion. The Christians think they are saving The Hebrews of The Bible when they are saving a bunch of agnostics who are frankly taking advantage of the situation to do things we’d invade over if the situation were reversed.
    Not to say the Palestinians haven’t been dickish too, it just doesn’t seem to me like they started it.
    By the way, the book Exodus, though it’s fiction, gives a decent account of the founding of modern Israel and portrays the emotions of both sides (at least in the beginning) well. A lot of my understanding comes from there. Yay for historical fiction making things interesting!

  3. Beckyzoole
    Jul 24, 2014

    Remember these things:
    Hamas’s greatest enemy is Fatah, the party that controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hamas and Fatah are in a struggle over which will eventually lead the Palestinian state. Hamas needs to keep the bare majority it has in Gaza, and also gain support from Palestinians in the West Bank and abroad.
    Hamas is playing to the Palestinian street, to the Palestinian culture. Most Middle Eastern cultures appreciate public melodrama more than most Western cultures do these days — the more raw emotion and gore, the better. Not all cultures are the same, and there is nothing wrong with that.
    But that would be one reason for wounded people to get a splash of red if they don’t look dramatic enough for the cameras, by Hamas standards.

  4. Eli Kaplan
    Jul 24, 2014

    I’m Jewish, and I have family that is living in Israel. And I can not have a conversation with them, because they are bathed in Obama hatred and loathing for Democrats. Yesterday, the FAA shut down flights, and my cousin’s mother in law said immediately that Obama was ‘boycotting Israel’, jumping on bullshit accusations that Ted Cruz leveled at the admnistration. Of course, today the FAA said it was OK to run flights again, and I told the woman, and she didn’t apologize for calling me an “enemy of Israel”. The GOP has inroads into the Jewish community and leverages that into outright Obama hatred that blinds people to what the US actually does. I find it patently offensive that an American political party is getting involved in another sovereign country’s internal politics. (And I’ll get more into that in a second.)
    There’s also the editorial from the Washington Post about a number of Israeli reservist conscientious objectors and how the IDF’s culture, and the resulting way in which veterans are treated, discriminating on the basis of ethnic origin, despite the fact that they’re Jewish. I have a huge problem with that.
    For reference:
    Also, back in 2012, Netenyahu decided to get involved in American politics directly and endorsed Mitt Romney for President. He made several campaign stops with him. Now, I don’t know about you, but if the PM of Canada or the Premier of China stopped for a whistlestop tour and endorsement blitz with a 2016 candidate of either party, I’m pretty sure Americans would have a problem with it. And Olmert, a former Israeli PM himself, called out Netenyahu as crossing the line.
    I recently was reading an editorial by the former senior rabbi of the US’s Reform denomination that said that he was tired of apologizing for Israel, because he said that Israel was a country that followed the rule of law. When someone killed three teens, they arrested him, and are putting him through due process of law. When Palestinians heard the news, Hamas distributed candy to kids and praised the suspect. I don’t think that they would spend time tracking down an Israeli who murdered a Palestinian and go through the due process of law. At this point, I think that’s a convincing enough argument to say that perhaps Hamas needs to be removed as a political power, and that Palestinian control needs to be transferred to a different entity, such as what remains of the Palestinian Authority. At this point, I am willing to tolerate the offensive going on.
    But at some point Israel needs to clean its house, and dump Netenyahu, and deal with the prejudice and discrimination Jews are aiming at other Jews. That kind of thing threatens the whole decency of the entire experiment, just as Jim Crow posed a horrendous cloud hanging over the United States for generations.
    But yeah, this is possibly the topic that so many people can NOT tolerate hearing any dissension from their own beliefs at the moment. And that is a tragedy in itself. As an insider in one camp (and yet not an Israeli, nor exactly a Zionist), I wish I could say something, because I see something rotten going on, and I recently made a transition in my opinion recently. (I was a little more open-minded about Hamas until recently, thinking that more of their leaders might see the utility of peace.) The recent incidents of anti-Semitic activity in London and Paris and Belgium also are really disturbing.

  5. Eli Kaplan
    Jul 24, 2014

    One other thing. I know the story is old, but I think this transcript of a show Bill Moyer did dealing with the evangelical Christian perspective on supporting Israel does a good job of explaining how not all evangelicals are supporting Israel because they want the End Times to come or to gain converts. That’s an undeniable element for some of them, but certainly not for all, and the discussion is quite smart looking at all the different angles about supporting or not supporting Israel. This is what I think should be the standard journalists are aiming for here. Even if Hagee didn’t get as much time as Moyers’ two guests, I feel like they did an honest profile.

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