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Friday, August 19, 2005

Vitriol

I just got back from my synagogue.  It is one of the largest in Efrat and it was packed with men women and children who took time from their busy Friday to stand together and recognize the power of words.  We read Tehillim (Psalms) together in hopes that our meager words might help G-d decide what to do about Elroi Refa'el ben Galia Glynis whose life hangs precariously by a thread.

His father stood before us with tears streaming down his face and asked G-d to please take into account the good things all of us have done in our lives... and to please transfer these 'credits' to his son's account.  He never mentioned a word about anger, or blame, or who had set the tragic events in motion that had led to the wounding of his son.  In fact he begged G-d in a trembling voice to please erase from the minds of the tankists who had accidentally fired the shell that had wounded his son, all thoughts that they might have endangered a precious life. 

I stood in awe that with so much hanging in the balance, Eli Mizrachi was using words to plead with G-d, not only for his son's recovery... but for the mental well-being of the young men who must surely be beside themselves with self-loathing and guilt.

Words.

We treat them so casually... but they are powerful beyond measure.

The title of this post is a word that has fallen mostly out of fashion.  It is the medieval term for Sulfuric Acid (H2S04) as well as a range of other caustic acids and chemicals.  But people haven't really used the term to describe the physical chemical since Victorian times.

However, as an expression, vitriol continued, for a while, to be used to describe any abusive or venomous language used to express blame or censure or bitter deep-seated ill will.  But even that has become less common as more and more people discount the lethality of words.

The real vitriol was sometimes used as a horrible weapon to blind, disfigure, and effectively end a person's ability to carry on a normal life in the company of his/her peers.

The results of tossing around verbal vitriol is only slightly less horrible.  The use of intentionally damaging invective is, to me, every bit as unforgivable an offense as tossing a vial of Sulfuric acid into someone's eyes.

When Imams hurl verbal vitriol from their pulpits about Jews poisoning wells or storming the Temple Mount, they intentionally send their followers into the streets armed with hate so corrosive that it must passed from mouth to mouth lest it consume the person who holds it in his heart.

When the faithful followers repeat it to their friends, and to their children, they plant in each heart a puddle of burning hate for whoever would poison their people and storm their holy places.

When someone knows with the certainty of a burning heart that Jews are poisoners of wells and destroyers of holy places and meets a Jew on the street, it becomes an act of self defense... even a holy mission... to kill such a dangerous person.

Our graveyards are full of innocent people who died as a direct result of vitriolic words poured into too many hearts.

When a blogger calls all people in orange her enemy, and in a fit of frustrate rage attributes to the entire right wing the worst imaginable attributes.  She passes the vial of vitriol to every receptive heart that reads her words.

I have spent a couple of weeks writing directly and indirectly about words and their power.  But many bloggers continue to throw around the most irresponsible and destructive words imaginable.  And they hide behind the "I see your point but I stand by  my words" because everyone with a computer and a blog is entitled to express their opinions, right?  Right???

Over the past few days the rumor started circulating in the Jewish/Israeli blogosphere that the extremists in Gush Katif had started throwing acid in the faces of soldiers and police who had been sent to remove them.

I was horrified and outraged when I read this.  I had already lost patience with the outsiders who, after squandering a 30 year opportunity to move to Gaza, finally decided that their life wasn't exciting enough and decided to go where the action was.  So I immediately started searching the news sites.  Nothing.  When I found no mention of the acid attack(s), I called Soroka hospital and the Army Spokesman's office to ask for confirmation and nobody had heard anything about it.

Yes, these extremists were destroying property... using force and violence completely beyond the pale to resist being removed... and they were even throwing paint, and water and turpentine.  Make no mistake... raising a hand against a soldier or policeman who is carrying out legal orders... throwing objects, and even a case of trying to unseat a policeman or soldier from a ladder, were all inexcusably reckless and dangerous.

But they were not premeditated, potentially lethal attacks!  Nobody was intentionally trying to wound or (G-d forbid) kill anyone!

Then yesterday Ynet and the Jerusalem Post picked up on the rumors of the acid attack(s).  From hour to hour the reporting went back and forth between a single attack and a series of attacks... yet no specifics were given and no victim(s) were named. 

For something this serious it was unimaginable that Army spokespeople wouldn't be making statements and hospitals issuing status reports.  I knew in my heart that this was a case of the vitriol spreading and doing it's deadly work.

Finally this morning the Jerusalem post confirmed my fears when it published a story saying that it had not been acid, but that paint and paint thinner had been used.

This is not for a moment to excuse the use of any material or force to resist the troops sent to carry out the unimaginably difficult task of disengagement.  But to maliciously start... and irresponsibly spread... the lie of settlers using acid to attack soldiers was potentially as dangerous as a real acid attack.

Let me explain...

If you are a soldier and you receive reports through the media and from friends who read blogs, stating that instead of relatively passive resistance to your efforts you will now face a disfiguring or even lethal attack... you are much more likely to contemplate the use excessive force.

All it would take is for one such soldier to see a settler about to throw a a bucket of paint, or thinner, or even water... and he might think his life is in danger... and he might shoot to defend him or herself

And then a fire would be lit that few could extinguish.

Word would spread that soldiers were shooting the settlers and a settler might shoot back.

Word would spread among the soldiers that the settlers were shooting and they would receive orders to return fire.  Before anyone could stop the tragedy from being played out there could easily be countless dead and wounded lying in the streets of Gush Katif... all because someone hated the settlers so much that they wanted to believe them capable of such an attack... and so they willingly passed the vitriol from hand to hand until it was accepted as fact.

I have remove several people from my blogroll/ favorites list because of their irresponsible and hateful use of words.  I will never read another word they read... even if the word is 'apology'.

I'm done with them.

The same goes for anyone whose comments I've seen seeded around the blogosphere like little vials of acid, defending, excusing and even encouraging such vitriol.  I'm done with them as well.  I won't read them, and I consider their words to be completely suspect now.

Calling everyone in orange your 'enemy' is vitriolic no matter what the context, or what modifiers come later.  An enemy is someone you fight and who wants to do you harm... and is deserving of being attacked.

Calling the misguided, and disruptive (even criminal) extremists who infiltrated Gaza out of some belated and suspect love for Gush Katif, 'insurgents' is vitriolic and suggests that these people intend to wage an armed struggle against the government and the soldiers which the government sends to carry out expulsion orders.  Insurgents are a clear and present danger to the country and deserve no quarter.

Starting, and even repeating a rumor of an acid attack simply because you believe someone capable of such an attack is also vitriolic... and could potentially have lead to tragic confrontations between frightened soldiers and equally frightened settlers.

Because of vitriol... because of WORDS... people could have died.  What then?  Would a retraction by the Jerusalem Post bring them back?  Would a heartfelt apology or justification on a blog bring them back?  Would any number of words ever bring back those precious lives?????????

I have already written to both Ynet and the Jerusalem post demanding that they investigate how such claims could have been printed without confirmation from IDF spokespeople and medical personnel.  My guess is that they will find that the rumors (perhaps originating in the blogosphere) became so widespread and pervasive that an irresponsible editor decided to just run with the story.  After all, with the world's media on their turf it wouldn't due to get scooped!

What will it take before people recognize the terrible power that words posses.  Would that editor wait outside the largest Mosque in Ramallah for the crowds who have just received their weekly dose of vitriol?  I think not... but that would be a fitting way to let him/her experience first hand the lethality of vitriol.

I'm sorry there is no Photo Friday today... but in this case I felt it was worth pointing out that words are sometimes worth a thousand pictures.

Shabbat Shalom

* Source: Here

Posted by David Bogner on August 19, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

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Very well said, David. Thanks.

Posted by: Rahel | Aug 19, 2005 4:39:33 PM

This is a recurrent conversation that I have been having with people online and off. Most recently I have had discussions regarding the woman who wants to meet with President Bush and why I think that she is a problem.

It is not a matter of not supporting free speech but being concerned about the speech that is used and when she compares members of the administration to Hitler and Stalin I think that there is a problem.

Within the Jewish community when I see people refer to another group as being 'nazis' I expect there to be a real and legitimate reason, not just because they think that it is good for shock value.

I am in complete agreement with you about the prevalence of posts and posturing that completely disregards and devalues words and the potential problems they present.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 19, 2005 4:44:03 PM

Strong work. Being an inquisitive soul I tried to get your Google cached page to compare your blogroll and see which blogs have been dropped, but there was no cached page. Oh, well.

Not to overly politicize this, but I'm willing to bet you lunch I know on which side of the political aisle the offenders sit. I'm sure there haven't been conservatives spreading evil rumors about the soldiers...

Shabbat shalom.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Aug 19, 2005 4:44:41 PM

Rahel... Thank you. I consider you a member of the choir, so to speak.

Jack and this speaks to what Doctor Bean said also)... I have been trying to get some of my neighbors to stop tossing around words like 'Nazi' (to describe the police and soldiers) and concentrations camps (to describe the hotels and caravans that are currently housing the displace people). Unfortunately, vitriol crosses all political and religious lines... and like a gun, it doesn't care who it hurts/kills.

Doctor Bean... While the examples I used here were left-leaning blogs and commenters... I probably have as many (if not more) examples of dangerous rhetoric used by those on the right. Like I told Jack, this careless disregard for the power of words crosses all political and religious boundaries.

Posted by: David | Aug 19, 2005 5:04:46 PM

I saw the report you refer to in Yediot's site this morning, I think also in Haaretz (!?), the story has totaly disappeared from their sites now 15.00 (English time).

I have Elroie in my mind and will ask others to pray for a 'refua shelema for him'

shabbat shalom

Posted by: savta yaffa | Aug 19, 2005 5:09:17 PM

Actually, I was watching Fox News yesterday during the evacuation of the synagogue at Kfar Darom, and one of the IDF officers told the interviewer that paint AND ACID had been thrown.

Darn, I wish I could remember his name. I think he's the head of the Southern Command- white-haired, with a beard. In any case, I heard him say it.

Posted by: a | Aug 19, 2005 5:18:44 PM

About words... let me suggest everyone read the beautiful poem Mirty posted in her blog (Mirty's place) yesterday. So touching and so meaningful.

Posted by: Sandra | Aug 19, 2005 5:50:32 PM

Very powerful and very commendable. I agree. Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: Essie | Aug 19, 2005 5:51:08 PM

Thoughtful and incisive post, David - thank you.

Words are what set humankind apart from the other animals. May they serve to elevate humanity, not debase it.

Posted by: Elisson | Aug 19, 2005 5:56:49 PM

Savta Yaffa... Exactly my point. The story may get yanked that doesn't rove the information from the minds of the people who read it. Even a retraction only goes a little ways towards repairing the damage.

a.... The fact that a senior officer said it gives the media a source. I'm no journalism major, but wouldn't a responsible journalist want names... the condition of those injured... what hospitals they were taken to, etc. It seems someone was very eager to run with this story. The media frenzy for new angles and scoops must have contributed to the problem.

Sandra... No need to remind me. I always read Mirty. :-)

Essie... Thanks. Shabbat Shalom.

Elisson... Amen to that.

Posted by: David | Aug 19, 2005 5:57:09 PM

I hope you have a peaceful Shabbat. You're right, and I take your words to heart.

Posted by: Mirty | Aug 19, 2005 6:36:14 PM

David, this was one of the best posts of read on your blog. You've articulated many of the same thoughts I've been having since I've started blogging several years ago, in far more effective manner than I could have ever done.

Your 1652 words were definitely worth far more than a few Photo Friday pictures.

Posted by: Geoff | Aug 19, 2005 6:38:09 PM

I am so glad you are saying these things. There is an urgent need for more understanding on this subject and you explain it so powerfully and lucidly.

Posted by: Alice | Aug 19, 2005 6:56:12 PM

Thanks for this post, it says much of what we all need to keep in mind. Words we write can have a powerufl impact; charity, accuracy, and good judgement are essential. And your words remind me that our individual freedom to write and speak as we please also comes with some considerable personal, individual responsibility.

Posted by: Steve Bogner | Aug 19, 2005 7:03:56 PM

I agree with what the others have said. Your words here painted a vivid picture for me.

Extremism is encouraged by media like the blogosphere. Nobody wants to read middle of the road, or slightly to the right, but common sense messages. We pander to the extremes. And we use our words as codes to trigger old associations with current events.

We need to act responsibly. And above all, we need to remember that left or right, we are all one people and need each other.

Posted by: psychotoddler | Aug 19, 2005 8:25:09 PM

This is the post that has touched me the most, and I must thank you for having written it. I have found no words re the diseangagment and I doubt I will.

When I was still doing active work w Amnesty International I remember one of the t-shirts we sold said "I may not agree with what you say but I will fight so you can say it." And this always bothered me bcs it can only be true to a certain degree. I fail to understand why extremist groups are allowed to demonstrate and even have poice protection. Tis a democracy, aye - nu? This is one of the reasons why I despise PC so much, it is not only daft, it is dangerous! The absolute need to accomodate opens slippery venues and endanger us all. Everyone having the freedom to say whatever is not necessarily a good thing. I have my views on the disengagement but regardless of where we stand, everyone suffers, everyone pays a price:the children who are evicted from their houses and see desperate adults, the desperate adults who are tonr from their houses, the soldiers who have to physically remove them, the ones sitting in their houses incredulously watching the news bcs it does look like a terrible, terrible script. We all suffer. I've always known words can kill and I find some views unconscionable. They often begin with "Yes BUT." People who use the BUT are beneath my contempt. Sometimes, it is too bad we live in democracy. They shouldbe forcedto some sort of community service so some good comes out of he filth they spew. We all suffer, and we all pay for it.

I've told you this often, David, and it remains true: your voice is often what I wish mine could have been when I find myself mute. And sometimes words are a blessing. Todah lechah, be'emet.

Posted by: Lioness | Aug 19, 2005 8:26:00 PM

no no, 1 and a half pictures (thanks geoff) would not have done justice. thank you mr b.

i dont get the comparison to call the soldiers nazis. because they're just "following orders" like the nazis? fine, but the nazis killed 6 million of us, and the soldiers arent...

*sigh*

(if you dont mind, im going to link this post to my blog)

Posted by: Tonny | Aug 19, 2005 9:07:38 PM

I HATE the big BUT.

The big BUT got us into this mess.

"Terrorism is bad BUT the Palestinians are justified..."

Posted by: psychotoddler | Aug 19, 2005 11:56:23 PM

I am afraid that I can't say much about what is going on there, except that here in the states the situation was reported as people throwing acid and the soldiers trying to combat this with blasts of high preassure water.
This is a very strong and moving post and I thank you for it. This is something I would do well to remember...not just in my blog. My tongue is one of my worst enemies.

Posted by: JC | Aug 20, 2005 1:39:54 AM

Wow. Great post.

Posted by: OrthoMom | Aug 20, 2005 2:28:46 AM

On FoxNews here in LA the reporter was interviewing a senior Israeli military spokesperson, and he said there was no "acid," just some kind of gasoline. The next day, on a different station, a reporter interviewed a different Israeli police spokesperson, who said that acid was thrown. The second spokesperson's English was poor, and I believed the FoxNews guy, but I wonder how many others believed the other guy?

Sometimes it appears we are our own worst enemy.

Posted by: savtadotty | Aug 20, 2005 4:32:36 AM

Beautiful post, thank you. All my prayers for Elroi Rafael.

Shabbat Shalom.

Posted by: raeefa | Aug 20, 2005 8:41:19 AM

The acid rumour was pretty wide spread.

I only realized it wasn't true after reading this post.

"War...Truth...first...casualty" and all that.

Posted by: A | Aug 20, 2005 10:12:55 AM

Mabat showed a *long* clip (that I saw Friday night) of soldiers frantically ripping off their uniforms and screaming, with other soldiers shouting "bring water! bring water!" and pouring it in their eyes. It might still be on mabat.iba.org.il

If it wasn't acid, then what was it? It wasn't just paint.

Posted by: Tamouz | Aug 20, 2005 6:50:26 PM

Mirty... Shavuah Tov... and ditto.

Geoff... That is very sweet of you to say (and just a little scary that you did a word count!). :-) Thank you.

Alice... People who write in the blogosphere and those who comment here have come to treat the medium as if they were among friends in a safe, closed environment. In such a setting we all say things we wouldn't share with 'strangers'. I won't go into whether we should even be taking those liberties... but we certainly can't go on assuming that our words have no effect on the world around us. I don't even care if the words turn out to be correct, which in this case, (thank G-d) they did not. There are some things that are potentially too inflammatory to toss out carelessly.

Steve... Not just a huge responsibility, but also sometimes a big cost. This acid story could really have led to a massacre!

Psychotoddler... I couldn't have said it better. There is something in most of us that begs to be outraged. with such a huge pool of media covering the disengagement it was inevitable that someone would run a story without checking the facts simply because it was a scoop. Also, the big 'but' is what many of these commenters are doing when they try to defend their vitriol. They come up with such nonsense like : "I know I said 'X', but what I really meant was 'Y'... and if you look at what I wrote in paragraph 17a you'll see that I modified my position to what I really meant." Forget the fact that few readers get that far.

Lioness... This all boils down to the 'shouting fire in a crowded theater' issue of free speech. Such things are not protected because of the potential violence/injury they could cause. Too many of our fellow bloggers and commenters don't realize that their words travel far and wide... and many of the people getting the information they are publishing are sitting in what amount to crowded theaters.

Tonny... In my experience any post that mentions or links to mine is automatically improved (I stole this line from my blogfather). :-) Seriously, As Psychotoddler pointed out... people are looking to make mental associations with their words that will cause the most outrage. What they end up doing is diluting the power of words like Nazi.

JC... As I said, the mainstream media picked up on the reports and ran with it. The retractions were not nearly as prominent.

OrthoMom... Thanks. I actually wrote most of it when the first rumors were circulating in the blogosphere earlier in the week, and when Jpost finally printed a retractions I felt I had to say something here.

Savta Dotty... It turns out that the senior officer was mistaken. There really is no limit to how high vitriol can go.

raeefa... Thank you.

A... There are still a lot of people out there that never heard the retraction. I want to reiterate that throwing paint and thinner and anything else that is a potential irritant is so far beyond the pale that no normal person would attempt to defend it. But these things are not going to disfigure or kill someone.

Tamouz... If you think someone is throwing acid at you your reaction will probably match the perceived threat. Paint thinner is also quite painful when it hits mucous membranes. No excuse for this kind of attack on our country's soldiers and police.

Posted by: David | Aug 20, 2005 8:54:56 PM

Irrespective of content, I really love the way you respond to each and every commenter, your last post left me breathless!!!!

Posted by: Lisoosh | Aug 20, 2005 9:19:23 PM

Lisoosh... I hope you don't hate the content! But thanks. :-)

Posted by: David | Aug 20, 2005 9:28:36 PM

David-

As is so often the case, you've put up an eloquent and thought-provoking posting. I've wrestled with a response to this one for two days now, so forgive some possibly rambling observations from the "6,000-miles-away-in-North-Jersey-Gentile-Peanut-Gallery" here.

Concerning the "acid" attacks. Friday's NY Times made reference to "caustic liquid which the police say contained weapon-cleaning fluid" and a "blue acidic liquid." But they stop short of saying "acid." The Bergen Record attributed a comment, ("He said several troops were wounded by acid") to Maj. General Dan Harel. But as you've stated, one would imagine that hospitals would have details of injuries. And most of the accounts I've read have cited only "light" injuries to police/IDF personnel.

Unless- considering that Ariel Sharon is seen as a "father" to the settlers' movement- all concerned are minimizing what they can to avoid the perception of Israeli Jews doing other Israeli Jews real physical harm. But my gut tells me no, that's not the case. One settler (source: Record) along with three others took an M-16 to a rooftop and made threatening noises, but he was talked down...

All in all, it's being presented here as an extraordinarily difficult process that is going faster and more smoothly (not a great choice of words, I know) than most considered possible. With great restraint by the IDF/police forces, who are carrying it out virtually unarmed.

Thoughts on vitriol. For the settlers, it's the main weapon they have. And to this mind, it reaches the near-surreal. Young girls screaming "This is a pogrom, and you are Cossacks." Or "Why are you behaving like like Nazis?" And "The last time Jews were evicted from a synagogue was the Holocaust."

Again, forgive me for this reaction. It's based not on family or religious background but a fairly thorough reading of history. But I'd like to tell those folks the obvious: "No, it's none of that. If they were Cossacks or Nazis, they would not be crying with you as they moved you out. And you would not have lived five seconds after screaming that at them..."

Vitriol. It takes many forms, lives in many places, and serves many purposes. The Bush crowd here know very, very well how to use it. Indeed, I'd like to know the source of one of your respondent's claims that Cindy Sheehan likened some of the Bush bunch to "Stalin" or "Hitler." Sounds like a Fox News thing to me- Fox being a virtual mouthpiece for the right wing who will engage in any shameless defamation of those opposing the Bush policies without regard to the actual facts in context.

Vitriol. It's use contaminates all of us. I've found myself- a logical, "just-the-the-facts-ma'am" sort- looking at the way those of my belief system are referred to and honestly thinking that it's very possible that the Bush bunch had Senator Paul Wellstone assassinated. Trust me- I can make a VERY strong "if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck" case for it... Logical? Or more a reaction to Ann Coulter's crowing that I'm a "traitor?"

Vitriol. Israel knows it's effect too well. We are three months away from the 10th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination. And maybe Benjamin Netanyahu needs to be reminded that he WAS at a demonstration where a Nazi-clad dummy of Rabin was hanged in effigy. Just as we are reminded that the settler who gunned down four Palestinians was quoted as saying "Sharon should be killed."

I'll end by saying that I may still have somewhere a video made of the "Nightline Town Meeting" televised after the Rabin murder. It's worth digging up and watching again. I'll let you know...

Be well. Forgive the long ramble, and always know that my thoughts are with you and the other musician friends who I've been rewarded in sharing a bandstand with and who have made the choice to move to Israel...

Mike Spengler

Posted by: Mike Spengler | Aug 20, 2005 9:41:56 PM

Mike... Not only do I not mind the long comment, but you are one of those people to whom I always pay attention.. no matter how long it takes. I've made no secret in our many bandstand discussions that you and I are not always in perfect agreement (to say the least). But the few minor nit-picky objections I might make to your comment here are not even worth mentioning. Each of the cases you sited were vitriol at its worst... and each had the potential to lead to injury or loss of life further down the road. You have correctly pointed out a few that actually had this result. Once you use words to take away the value of another human being's life, it becomes a much simpler thing to take away the life itself.

Posted by: David | Aug 20, 2005 9:52:28 PM

Excellent post! Words are extremely powerful. I find it interesting that the fields of quantum physics and NLP (neuro linguistic programming) have recently realized the power of words. Words have the power to create a physical reality in oneself and others. The Jews of course have known this for a long time.

Posted by: Jew Speak | Aug 20, 2005 10:03:14 PM

I condemned the "acid" attack on my podcast, after I read about it on Ynetnews. Right after I finished the podcast, I read that it may have been paint thinner. The same thing happened with a report about an attempt to blow up a gas "depot"..then I read it had been a gas "canister." So I quickly added a few minutes of clarification.

The media seem to have a real agenda..

Posted by: Dave | Aug 20, 2005 11:37:43 PM

Indeed, I'd like to know the source of one of your respondent's claims that Cindy Sheehan likened some of the Bush bunch to "Stalin" or "Hitler.

I'll respond to that. I wrote a whole post on Sheehan here that covers that. She actually compared Rumsfeld to Stalin/Hitler in a speech she made to a church in Venice, California.

There are so many easy and legitimate criticisms to be made about Bush and his administration that it boggles my mind that she could blow it this badly, but then again I am not surprised. I'll shill for another one of my posts here because I think that it is relevant to the topic of David's post. There are people using words/expressions without any regard for whether they are appropriate because they do not think about what they are doing. There is no consideration just hope that by throwing out the most shocking term they can come up with others will agree with them.

Part of the reason I have such a problem with Sheehan and members of her crowd is because of this. And David if you'll forgive me who going on about this when I look at her associates and see things like this I am appalled. It is unacceptable to engage in this kind of ridiculous, over-the-top, imbalanced rhetoric because it is dangerous.

I wholeheartedly agree with David that accusations of acid being thrown are liable to lead to severe injuries for someone or many people and I hope and pray that the rhetoric gets toned down a notch for everyone's sake.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 21, 2005 2:31:09 AM

Dave-

Regarding the gas "depot/canister," depending on where you read that it was a "depot" it may have been a translation issue, not a bias issue.

The container that was targeted for explosion was one through which two apartment buildings get their cooking gas. See this link:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1124417948722

Therefore, I can see how perhaps the Hebrew word for this container could literally be translated as "depot," as in "a place from which the gas then goes to lots of different places." Obviously this is misleading, since any native English-speaker would assume it refers to something like a gas *station.*

On the other hand, "canister" is also misleading, since it brings to mind a tiny container that would hardly hurt anyone unless they were standing right next to it when it blew. That, too, is untrue: There was a potential for hundreds of people to be hurt or killed.

Sometimes, in fact, the "media" is just reporting what happened, and don't have an agenda, believe it or not. Sometimes they just make mistakes.

What would YOU call a container of gas big enough to damage two buildings but not as lethal as a gas station? I'm thinking of what word I'd choose, and can't think of anything.

Posted by: Sarah | Aug 21, 2005 6:58:11 AM

Well I'm sorry we've been dropped. I shall continue to read your blog though and I feel your pain. If any words written by myself or my blog partner have offended you I apologise. As I've said before I no longer carry the blue and white pro disengagment colours on my car because I empathise with peoples pain. All people.

Posted by: Expategghead | Aug 21, 2005 8:33:46 AM

Sarah,

Point taken, and, as I stated on my podcast, I still strongly oppose the actions of these protestors. Paint thinner and a gas canister can still severely harm/kill people.

I still think the media, in general, have an agenda though..and it's not on the side of "orange."

Posted by: Dave | Aug 21, 2005 8:57:20 AM

Jew Speak... Yes, as a people we have always known the power of words... but as individuals we seem to constantly try to devalue them. I wish I could figure out why.

Dave... While the media has always staked out specific allegiances to various positions along the political spectrum, I honestly think the recent spate if irresponsible/hysterical reporting has been more about having to feed the 24/7 news cycle as well as the desire to scoop the foreign competition. Haaretz, which on a good day is enough to make me want to scream, has seemingly been reporting in a vacuum during the disengagement. They predicted terrible violence from the settlers and then deliberately ignored the vast majority of Gaza resident who left relatively peacefully. In fact, the more it seemed their predictions of wide-spread violence were not coming true, the more they latched on to the few nut cases who did make trouble as though this were the rule and not the exception! Imagine if a European news outlet did a big story on Israel and Israelis but only presented profiles and interviews with a few drug dealers from South Tel Aviv and a soldier or two who had been convicted of extreme wrong-doing in the line of duty... The facts presented wouldn't be wrong, but they also wouldn't be representative of Israel and Israelis. As to the bit about Gas Canister vs. gas depot... I think Sarah makes some excellent points with which I can't really argue.

Jack... Thanks for the timely information. Without getting involved in the nitty-gritty of American politics, I think it is safe to say that during the last election both sides were guilty of using some very irresponsible language to vilify their opponents. Everyone wants their issues to be seen as complex and detailed... but they seem content to package their opponent's issues into generalizations and sound bites. I do this too, so I can't really criticize too loudly.

Sarah... I agree with you 100%. Even a little 'amgazit' canister like the ones people use to make coffee on camping trips can be fashioned into a very lethal anti-personnel explosive device with very little effort. It doesn't matter whether you call it a gas depot or a gas canister... there is no possible way to explain away such a potentially lethal bit of sabotage.

Expategghead... Yours was one of the very first blogs I put on my blogroll and I can honestly say I have never missed a single word that you and Cathy have written. As with any blog, not everything you two write about is of interest to me (and I'm certain that most people would say the same of what appears here), but I have expanded my horizons immeasurably by looking at the world through your eyes. However, Cathy crossed a clear red line with the use of the word 'insurgents'. If I had never read her writing before I might have chalked it up to a poor grasp of language or a careless rhetoric. But I know Cathy to be a very bright, well spoken/written person and have never known her to misuse language. The fact that she defended her choice of words and confirmed that 'insurgent' was the one she had intended to use speaks volumes about her intention to raise the level of rhetoric. Adrian, you don't owe me (or anyone) an apology. For that matter, Cathy doesn't owe me an apology, nor was I looking for one. I am unhappy to lose access to your honest and interesting commentary... but I don't want to spend time on a site where one of the contributors is so detached from reality that she thinks a bunch of misguided, or even criminal teenagers are worthy of the term 'insurgents'. Let her go to South Thailand or the Philippines to see the real meaning of the word. I've spent plenty of time in both places and can tell you that a real insurgency has one goal; the forceful overthrow of a regime and armed opposition to a regime's forces. These teenagers on the rooftops of Kfar Darom are no more insurgents for their criminal behavior than Cathy is an anarchist for feeling above the traffic laws of the UK. I am physically sick from the irresponsible way words are used here in the blogosphere and have decided that the only way I can remain is to simply not read people who encourage and endorse such inflammatory statements. As I said, you and I have been on different sides of many discussions, but you have always proven yourself capable of discussing ideas without invective or unhelpful rhetoric. I have learned a lot from you these past two years and am sorry to lose so valuable a source of insight. If Cathy ever comes to the realization that she made a very poor choice of words, please let me know.

Posted by: David | Aug 21, 2005 9:20:56 AM

I understand. One day we will meet again over a beer. I was crying last night for other reasons but I will always regret words that cannot easily be taken back. I dropped a excellent blog a couple of years ago because I was outraged at one post. I sort of miss him and here.

Posted by: Expategghead | Aug 21, 2005 10:26:09 AM

Dear David, I understand you very well. I cut two good friendships, childhood friends, because unforgivable anti-Israeli words. I didn't even explain why, I simply never reacted to any letter again.

I hope I didn't hurt you in any way. I try to be careful but you know, sometimes a bit cynicism is just meant to ease one's heart. Usually I use my cynicism against myself, but if I used it as a hurtful weapon, I'm really sorry.

I admit I myself feel hurt by words the settlers of Gush Katif said. Their claim to be the only ones with ideals and values, their claim to be the only ones to have sacrificed for the land (forgetting the many soldiers who fell while guarding them - many of them "left wings"), and many very arrogant and offensive utterings are nearly unforgivable, too. They don't want to live alongside us, their youth is the best, their communities are the best, nothing else is not good enough for them, there is no acceptable reason for the disengagement, they are being treated like dirt etc.

Some of these things are very, very painful to hear and really insulting. It is an insult to see young children shouting at police officers and soldiers the way they do. It is shocking. And I don't talk about the shabachim, I talk about 9 year olds standing next to their parents who don't make them shut up. There seem to be no limits at all. Again, maybe hand-picked cases. But very, very insulting to the wife of a kibbutznik officer who spent years in the pikud ha darom.

I'm not a shallow materialist. I find myself thinking, if you want to see values, you can come to our kibbutz on the Yom ha Zikaron ceremony and you will find idealism, love for the country, willingness to sacrifice and loyalty.

I don't even want to mention the terrible use made of the Holocaust. This is playing into the hands of Holocaust deniers. Spitting on the flag, doing symbolic things that I saw until now done only by Arabs, never by Jews.

Of course people say these things in hours of pain, but also out of deep conviction. You can say the TV picks out the things that will make one's blood curl, and don't broadcast the more reasonable statements - very well possible.

So I feel that some of the anti-pullout rhetoric is very vitriolic, too. I don't mean to smooth over the words that have hurt you, just the opposite. All of us have to be more careful with our words.

The atmosphere is so tense, I didn't think I would take it so badly. I admit I didn't really think the disengagement would happen, I couldn't imagine it, and I didn't expect to feel so terrible about it. To think that poor man Hatuel has to leave the house where his family lived is heartbreaking, I cry about him the whole time. So we are all very, very sensitive, and take every word to heart.

I hope we will all get through this time and find love and forgiveness in our hearts. I hope the settlers from Gush Katif will find a new beginning in life, will make friends with the rest of us, and that maybe one day we will understand what happened to us all.

Again, if I said anything terrible, simply delete my post. I've never been on your blogroll (or on anyone else's here for that matter, I feel like a totally isolated blogger these days...) so I don't know whether you would have kicked me out, too.

Posted by: Lila | Aug 21, 2005 12:06:21 PM

David, thanks for raising these issues about the alleged acid attack(s) and, again, insisting on less toxic speech. Also, for being clear about the use of paint thinner etc as unacceptable. See trackbacks for my post on this. Kol tuv,

Kaspit

Posted by: kaspit | Aug 22, 2005 12:47:52 AM

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