Saturday, January 1, 2011

Something terrible's happened? Blame the Israelis



By GARY BAUMGARTEN

I got the first news of the deadly Alexandria, Egypt suicide bombing at a Coptic Christian church from am Egyptian friend on Paltalk.

"Did you hear about the bombing here?" he asked.

"The Israelis were behind it."

It's not that my friend meant to spread libel about Israel. It's just that he believed it - based on the reporting by his local news media.

Of course, anyone who has any understanding of Egyptian religious strife would know that the Jews have no reason to attack the Christians there. But there are Muslim fundamentalists who do - and have.

It struck me how quick people are to believe horrific things said about Israel.

Not that Israel doesn't deserve criticism when it does things wrong. Of course it does. All nations do.

But if the Israelis are so bad, then why is it necessary to embellish the criticism. The facts, it would seem, would be enough to build a case.

Perhaps it's because Israeli detractors don't want facts to get in the way of a good defamation campaign.

There are people to this day who contend, without any facts to back their argument, that the Mossad was behind the 9/11 attacks. I'm not exactly sure how they think Israel gained anything from the attacks. If was to propel the United States to enter a war against Saddam Hussein - then the strategy surely backfired. Because removing Saddam took away a counterbalance to Israel's real enemy in the neighborhood - Iran. But suggesting the Jews were behind 9/11 satisfies their craving for defamation.

There were even those who publicly suggested that the tsunami that devastated Indonesia and 13 other countries in 2004, killing over 230,000 people, was the work of the Israelis. (Israeli aid was rejected following the tragedy.)

Then, we have the tragic death of a Palestinian protester who died today after being tear gassed while breaching the security wall separating the West Bank from Israel during a weekly demonstration. A doctor says she succumbed to asphyxiation - though he doesn't specifically say it was the tear gas that caused it.

This triggered an outcry from Palestinian activists, some who say the woman was "poisoned" by Israel. Of course, if she were poisoned then, presumably, so were the others who were tear gassed. Somehow all of them survived.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel's "partner" in the peace talks that aren't taking place, issued a statement from Brazil saying this was another example of Israel's "crimes" against the Palestinians. Never before in history to my knowledge has it been suggested that using tear gas to disburse a crowd was a crime. Tear gas is well known and widely used by police departments and security forces around the world as a non-lethal means of breaking up unruly crowds. Others might give the order to shoot when a crowd tries to breach a border. Not the Israelis. They reacted in a more human manner - and are accused of criminal activity.

Actually, all this misrepresentation of the facts hurts the Palestinian cause. Because, when reasonable people assess allegations such as these, they quickly reject them as illogical. Leaving the impression that every criticism the Palestinians - and others - have of Israel is baseless.

Still, there are too many who buy into rhetoric that does little to help solve the problems of the Middle East. Rather it serves to divide people even more, and make the possibility of peace even more elusive.

Perhaps, that's the desired intent. If so, the libel against Israel will continue. And peace will never be achieved.

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Gary Baumgarten is News and Programming Director at the Paltalk News Network.



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