It’s not a unique experience, but growing up in post-9/11 US had a profound effect on the formation on a lot of my world view. Having been in Texas in 2003 and the lead up to and throughout the US invasion of Iraq, I’m not really a stranger to cognitive dissonance, emotionally fueled arguments the fly int he face of logic and casual racist nationalism. But I still manage to be shocked each time I witness any of these things (and they usually aren’t alone).
I covered a Jewish community event Sunday evening the explicit purpose of which was to show support for Israel in its Operation Protective Edge. Several of the speakers at this event offered pretty nuanced testimonies about their conflicted loyalties to Israel, comparing it to a family that you don’t always agree with but still love and support. Others gave the kind of speeches that took me back to 2003, when I would get dragged along to my mom’s church and hear people beat their chests and act as if ‘freedom-hating, anti-American terrorists’ had developed in an a-historical vacuum.
An Israeli woman spoke about how she remembers visiting Gaza in the 80s, insisting everything was peaceful between the Israelis and Palestinians before the first intifada. It was as if she didn’t connect the military occupation, the demolition of homes to build settlements, or the large-scale detention of Palestinian youths to the build-up before the intifada. She also denied that there was before protective edge an occupation of Gaza, when in fact the Israeli government has been blockading the strip and restricting almost all economic and personal border-crossing since 2005. The people can’t even fish in their territorial waters, a traditionally large part of the Gazan economy.
Another speaker, a local pastor no less, very loudly proclaimed that the Israeli Defense Force is doing the Palestinians a favor by ridding them of Hamas, who he said (right out of the Israeli PR department handbook) do not value the lives of the civilians in Gaza. I’m certainly no fan of Hamas. But I don’t get what people who insist that Hamas doesn’t care about civilian life think the point of Hamas is. The pastor went on to recycle the same ‘human shield’ rhetoric that essentially blames Palestinians for their own deaths and denies any Israeli role in pushing Palestinians into such a precarious position that they would vote for Hamas.
For better or worse, I was unable to stay for the entire event because I had to file a story by 9. I pondered how to frame this story while I drove back to the newsroom. Having a recording of the speeches I’d heard, it certainly would have been possible to parse every logical fallacy, historical inaccuracy and instance of blatant racism and victim-blaming. But there isn’t really anything to gained by using a small paper in mid-Missouri to essentially mock perfectly well meaning people who have an emotional and personal attachment to a place that is the center of an ongoing conflict. Had there been a pro-Hamas rally, I could certainly have done a similar parsing. But these types of articles, in small papers, don’t really serve to change anyone’s mind.
So I let the people’s quotes speak for themselves and framed the article as a community coming together to support each other just as much as Israel.