Identity, Israel, Mishegas, Politics

Nothing you post here will change anyone’s mind

The Forward has a short piece online about the changing nature of Social Media news coverage and its impact on the public perception of Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza.  This article – like every article bemoaning the rapid fire, limited nature of the platform – notes that the speed at which information is disseminated changed the way we experience conflict.  But that isn’t it alone. The fact that both sides have these tools, I have to say I don’t think it is the platforms “fault” for the way we see this conflict.
The New Yorker published the translated Yediot Ahronot piece by Etgar Keret about the degradation of the civil discourse in Israel. In “Israel’s Other War” Keret laments the perversion of the deeply held value of true democratic (and Jewish) societies: that the voice of the minority has value. The phrase “Let the IDF Win” has again become a popular refrain in Israel during this conflict.  Keret notes this phrase has nothing to do with the external enemy but rather the subversive voices on the home-front. Lefties and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are lumped together with Hamas terrorists for simply disagreeing with their elected officials or expressing concern for the dead children in Gaza.
I encourage you all to read this piece but the thesis delineates that Israelis “are faced with the false, anti-democratic equation that argues that aggression, racism, and lack of empathy mean love of the homeland, while any other opinion—especially one that does not encourage the use of power and the loss of soldiers’ lives—is nothing less than an attempt to destroy Israel as we know it.”
But as an American living a charmed life in California I still feel this false choice forced upon me by the Jewish world. The anonymity of the key board and safety of our curated social networks insulate us to a degree that we only see and experience this conflict in the way we want to believe that it is happening.
More than Twitter or the media, no one is accepting the humanity of the other while fighting for its rights. In the most extreme situations we see the Hamas launching rockets at civilians from hospital roof tops and Israeli lynching (or attempting to) Palestinian Jerusalemites.  While they aren’t equivalent examples of savagery, in that Hamas continues to rain fire upon civilians and the Israeli government tries to protect all its civilians, how can you look at what happened to Mohammed Abu Khedair and then accept that in such an environment Rabbi Dov Lior perverts the Torah to say it is acceptable to kill children and non-combatants in Gaza in the name of the Jewish people?
What “we” say in Hebrew is beginning to sound a lot like what “they” say in Arabic.  The either-or mentality discussed by Rabbi Joshua Strom ignores little differences in what is easily the most complicated, entangled, and convoluted situations in the world today.
A very close friend of mine from childhood posted the following:

John Kerry’s quote:
“We are deeply concerned about the consequences of Israel’s appropriate and legitimate effort to defend itself,” Kerry said in Cairo on as he met United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Concerned about the consequences of their appropriate and legitimate effort….PICK A SIDE ALREADY!

While I am not sure how anyone can read this and not understand who’s “side” Secretary Kerry is on, what upsets me the most is that everyone should be worried about what happens next. Even Rabbi Dov Lior should care about the consequences of this military action.  Beyond the abject disregard for human life, shouldn’t ardent Zionists want Israel to be able to live in peace with its neighbors? But today anything outside of the orthodoxy of the state is blasphemy, especially in the social space.
We see more and more of this on all sides of political conflict as thought-leaders move from long-form journalism to MT’ing out of context, favoring speed over accuracy, and relying on corrections that are never seen to take the place of intellectual and journalistic integrity. And it is even worse on social media platforms. There are no consequences to your words behind the screen.
The tribalism of my social networks have lead to me “hiding” people that I often agree with otherwise or want to keep in touch with because I can’t consume any more of lemming-like acceptance of Israel’s actions or horrific anti-Semitism. Even the logic-based adjective-deprived status updates I have seen dominate my often liberal Jewish friends’ feeds as of late tend to continue the cycle of simplicity instead of their desired effect of cutting through the clutter.
The problem is that there is clutter. And that clutter is humanity and history and religion and culture.  That clutter is a difference of opinion that makes that our real society interesting enough to be documented tirelessly within our digital social society.
Without approaching this situation critically, how can we say that we are right? We need to look at the Tweets from Gaza City. We need to listen to the sirens sounding and the explosions of rockets hitting homes. We need to look and understand that a boy mangled on the beach was just a boy.  We need to know who bombed the UN School before we start calling for the heads of Israelis. We need to welcome cease fires regardless of their duration, even if “our” objectives aren’t met at this point. And this has nothing to do with social media but with our social responsibility to be informed about how we engage.
So stop trying to convince me that Hamas is just defending itself by aimlessly launching rockets into Israel. Don’t post another piece about Israel’s efforts to protect civilians as by any count more civilians than combatants have been killed in Gaza during this operation. Facts are often twisted but they remain facts. The shades of gray in which you understand the facts should inform your engagement not some blind allegiance to your personal opinion.
And know that no matter what you post on Facebook, you aren’t going to convince anyone of anything.

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