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Friday, March 16, 2007

The value of perspective

A couple of months ago when a Jewish woman in Hevron was filmed berating and cursing at an Arab woman it was a hot topic of discussion among the Jewish blogosphere.  Predictably, those on the secular left were appalled and wrote extensively about how terrible it was that a religious person could act this way [funny how those who are most vocal about Jewish law are rarely those who follow it] and how it was not only demeaning to this poor Arab woman, but it was representative of all that was bad about Jewish settlers.

One blogger, who is also a professional journalist, went to to Hevron to cover the story and wrote

"A horrible shame. No words to describe what you can see there... I felt so much tension that I came home emotionaly destroyed. There are checkpoints in each corner. Palestinian kids walk around under the eyes of Christian international volunteers. Jewish settlers sometimes provoke them in front of us in clear and good English to be sure everyone understands. "

The deliberate lack of perspective presented in such a report beggars belief.  When a commenter tried to point out that the blogger seems to reserve her outrage for the religious and settlers, she refused to respond directly and fell back on her standard 'it's my blog and I can write what I like' answer. 

For that reason I have given up commenting on that particular blog.  However I was pleased to see another commenter eloquently write:

"Words can be uncivilized, but NOT NEARLY as uncivilized as the recurring Arab gunfire targeting Jews (and especially targeting Jewish children) in Hebron for decades. There is a broader context than your post acknowledges for the tension in Hebron, dating back even earlier than when the Arab massacred (i.e., *MURDERED*, not insulted) the Jewish population of Hebron within the lifetimes of many of Hebron's current Jewish residents. "

I sat back to see what kind of answer that would receive.  Instead of the blogger responding, another commenter (from whom I expected more balance) asked the critical commenter "Is one to understand from your comment that the behaviour of the Jewish settlers who curse at their Palestinian neighbours, throw stones at them and vandalize their property is therefore acceptable? " 

WTF?  A commenter asks why it is that the blogger seems to be ignoring the context within which the events she is describing took place (i.e. nearly constant attacks, both verbal or physical against Jews)and this is somehow taken to mean that one condones bad behavior by Jews?!  ARGH! [bangs head against wall]

There are nearly daily reports of Palestinians stoning Jews in that area (and many others)... throwing Molotov cocktails at cars and even shooting at people whose only crime is being Jewish.  This in a community that was literally wiped out in murderous Arab rioting less than 80 years ago... and this journalist/blogger doesn't feel any of that is cogent to the ongoing problems between the Jews and Arabs in the area? 

Was it a terrible thing that this woman cursed at an Arab?  Yes.  Was it a disgrace to all Jews that she did so on camera?  Of course.  Do Jews behave this way (and often worse) in Tel Aviv towards their neighbors every single day?  Yes, sometimes they do... but somehow, that isn't newsworthy to a blogger with an agenda.

I have been privately seething about that episode and the way some bloggers covered it for some time now... and this morning it came to a head when I read of another report - a real tragedy this time - from the same area:

During yesterday's freak snowfall, a minivan lost control on the icy roads and slammed nearly head-on into a bus near Hevron.  The driver of the minivan and his wife were killed and one of their children was critically injured.  They left behind eight orphans including the injured girl (Gitit Bat Simcha for those who want to offer prayers for her recovery) and that really should have been enough to set the nation to mourning.

But as if this tragedy weren't enough by itself, I read with horror that "Ambulances rushing to the scene came under attack by local Palestinian Authority Arabs, who hurled rocks and bricks at the rescue vehicles, as well as at those motorists stuck in the ensuing traffic." [source]

Where is the outrage?  This was a blameless car accident in inclement weather where two parents are killed and a child is critically injured and nobody seems to have a problem with a Magen David Adom ambulance coming under attack by an Arab mob as it tries to rescue and evacuate the survivors?!!

I scoured Haaretz for a report of the accident and came up empty.  Even the Jerusalem post seemed to have found trouble squeezing it into their busy coverage of, well, nothing much.  There was a brief mention of it in both Maariv and Yediot, but without any mention of the attack on the ambulance (although that might have been buried on page 8 or 9 where the story was continued).

Instead, I had to read about this on Arutz Sheva, arguably the worst written/edited news source in country.  But for all their problems (bad, high school level writing, quirky choice of topics and unabashed political bias), Arutz7 is at least willing to report on stories that hold no interest to the left.

I am sick to death of certain tragedies not being newsworthy... of attacks against development towns and religious settlers being something the country 'just has to learn to accept'. 

As terrible as it is to write down, a part of me actually can't wait for the PA to develop rockets that can reach Tel Aviv so that blatant Arab attempts to injure and kill Jews can once again be an Israeli problem that must be faced instead of just an inconvenience that the poor, the religious and the settlers have to 'suck it up' and accept.


Posted by David Bogner on March 16, 2007 | Permalink


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Here is the link to more obscene settler violence that was caught on film.

That it is of a bunch of different 4-8 years old children is irrelevant. That they are settlers (and we don't get to see the preceding events) is all that matters to the newspaper and organizations disseminating videos of these evil acts.

Posted by: JoeSettler | Mar 16, 2007 4:11:31 PM

Unfortunately, people who are nasty will be nasty on and offline.
Roads were terrible yesterday. I was miraculously unhurt in an accident when the car lost control in the icy slush, B"H.
details on me-ander
Shabbat Shalom

Posted by: myrightword | Mar 16, 2007 5:04:56 PM

I dunno, Trep, I think you're wrong on this one.

I read Ha'aretz, JPost, and Yediot, and at least one of them mentioned the stoning of the ambulances... and that's based on my very cursory reading (if I've read the story in one paper, I generally don't read it in the other two unless I suspect they'll be different). *shrugs*

Facts aside, I think your point is reasonable, but a bit skewed. Sure, many of those who are opposed to our presence in Chevron gladly jumped onto the bandwagon of calling this woman despicable and the like... but, to be honest, they're right. Such behavior should not be tolerated anywhere, regardless of the circumstances.

Oh, sure, you can point out hypocrisy and argue that it's only newsworthy because she's a settler, but that doesn't detract from their main point. Hypocrisy is often used in modern discourse to point at someone and say, "Aha! You are a hypocrite, and therefore your arguments have no value."

Furthermore, one can suggest that it is newsworthy (and not a spat between neighbors in Tel Aviv) specifically *because* she is a religious settler: man bites dog, eh? Then there are the additional political considerations to her outburst, beyond mere decency, and the obvious Palestinian perception that such behavior is being tolerated/protected by the IDF.

Now, I am NOT suggesting that what she did was in a vacuum, or that the poor Palestinians in Chevron are being downtrodden by a nasty tirade. But legitimate disgust with her methods, given her supposed religious principles and position as a de facto emissary of Israel to the Palestinian people of Chevron... that's quite reasonable.

Similarly, Arabs stoning vehicles or ambulances isn't 'news'. Oh, it will be included in an article about something ELSE (which is was, at least in one of three major Israeli papers), but won't be reported by itself, unless it causes damage. Do you honestly thing Yediot Acharonot has the time or inclination to report on every time an Israeli APC/Jeep has a stone thrown at it? Making the target a civilian vehicle is of course worse, but no less expected. Not reporting on the incident is not saying it isn't wrong, but rather saying it isn't new.

*shrugs* Obviously, anyone who takes the actions of one woman in Chevron and extrapolates them to all settlers or forms policy on that basis is wrong... but so is the person who forms opinions about all of the 'secular left' and all of the major newspapers on the basis of one bit of reporting.

As always, this criticism is meant in a constructive way, to encourage thoughtful discourse; any place where I may have defaulted into ad hominem attacks or insulted you are truly unintentional. *bows*


Posted by: matlabfreak | Mar 16, 2007 6:07:09 PM

Okay, here's at least two articles:

"Witnesses said that while rescue teams were trying to care for the crash victims, Palestinians threw rocks at the emergency personnel." (Sixth paragraph)

In the subheader: "Head-on collision near Hebron kills parents of eight, Palestinians stone rescue services"

In the article: "While the MDA crew was working to evacuate the victims, Palestinians stoned the ambulances and police vehicles at the scene."
(fourth paragraph)

These were published a day ago. *shrugs* Seems to me they're on the ball.

Posted by: matlabfreak | Mar 16, 2007 6:23:35 PM

An example of Loshen Hora? Can I be appalled and still understand a settlers frustation? Yes, what I don't understand is why it doesn't happen more often. If anything, Israelis seem to be the model of restraint.

Posted by: David Bailey | Mar 16, 2007 7:38:56 PM

I honestly don't understand why that incident was such a big deal. People fight all the time... and I, for one, don't even know what the fight was about. Maybe there was a legitimate reason for the settler woman to be outraged. I don't think the media is doing anyone any service by focusing on such incidents.

Posted by: Irina | Mar 16, 2007 8:39:58 PM

the incident was such a big deal because it was inflated and managed for propaganda purposes and accompanied by lots of phony outrage

the same people who counsel tolerance and say the issue is complex when a bomb goes off on a bus, go into fits over one woman yelling at another

like everything else the left and the media churn up, it's froth

and when the rockets reach tel aviv, they'll still blame the settlers and the IDF

if you want proof, consider all the anti-war rallies in new york city post 9/11

Posted by: sultan knish | Mar 16, 2007 11:42:30 PM

The only reason why these groups of violent Palestinians do what they do is because they have indirect mandate by their respective “Governments” or leaders and even from their prophet ‘upstairs’, they face no repercussions whatsoever! Compare and contrast! Everytime the IDF or a Jewish settler is on the wrong, the Government will take the shots, apologize and even prosecute those implicated, and its not just in Israel, I see aggravation from the Muslim (It had to come out!) community here over a couple of terror suspects arrested without trial and ask… should the Muslim brotherhood be given special treatment under say an act that renders them Violent and easily intimidated by kafir? Do they have any idea how many prisoners from other faiths are being held under the same circumstance yet those involved choose to take less aggressive approaches to have their issues redressed?

*It sure does feel lonely to read this blog on Satudays :-)

Posted by: Rami | Mar 17, 2007 11:26:23 AM

What troubles me most is how complicit so many Israelis seem to be in this current rise of antisemitism. And yes, I do understand that being opposed to Jewish settlement is different than being antisemitic - but they differ only as a car differs from the engine that propels it. The driving force behind opposition to the settlements is the desire to drive all Jews from all of Israel, not just from its post-1967 borders. I simply don't understand how so many Israelis can fail to see that vilifying the settlers only aids those who wish all Jews dead.

Posted by: Bob | Mar 18, 2007 4:28:16 AM

Disturbing, but all too true. It's also disturbing that we're so used to such bias and labelling.

Posted by: tnspr569 | Mar 18, 2007 8:52:32 AM

ah trepp...my problem isn't that no one cares...i don't expect 'them' to care...my problem is that some of us don't care...and that is so dangerous it makes me tsitter...great post...and the world shloffs while the mamzers grow stronger...sigh...stay safe and a sweet shavuah tov

Posted by: marallyn | Mar 18, 2007 9:53:52 AM

I don't usually read hebrew papers. But I think I remember seeing it on the front page of Ha'aretz on the Friday print edition.

Also, do you really think that if someone points out something wrong, and you answer "look at the broader context" then you aren't trying to defend the actions?

Posted by: Seraphya | Mar 18, 2007 10:36:07 AM

Joe Settler... Settler violence is inexcusable.

myrightword... Glad to hear you were unhurt.

matlabfreak... You are correct. After looking deeper into the news coverage several articles did mention the attack on the ambulance crew (albeit buried deep in the article). I guess what bothers me is that ambulances are supposed to be sacrosanct yet nobody seems to be particularly bothered that such attacks are fairly commonplace.

David Bailey... The victims of the Holocaust were also models of restraint. I have no interest in wearing that particular mantle.

Irina... I in no way defend the actions of that woman in Hebron. She brought shame on all Jews/Israelis with her actions. That she might have been provoked or even justified is neither here nor there. What is lacking is the proper perspective. Seeing a report of an ambulance crew coming under attack is enough to leave me 'emotionally destroyed'. Seeing a private citizen acting badly in front of a camera is simply embarrassing.

sultan knish... Good points all.

Rami... Ironically, I hold Israelis to a higher standard and therefore refuse to allow our forces to stoop to the level of the Palestinians. What I refuse to do is to entertain one standard of conduct for religious settlers and another for those living inside Tel aviv's 'bubble'.

Bob... You'll have a lot of trouble selling that on Shenkin street.

tnspr569... Like slowly turning up the heat on a pot of water containing a frog.

marallyn... How true.

Seraphya... the bit about the ambulance was buried on the inside pages. As to your second point... no, I do not feel that asking someone to place the events in a legitimate historical context is the same as defending the actions. It simply places them in a reasonable framework. When viewed in a vacuum the Jewish woman from Hevron's actions were horrible. When viewed in the framework of decades of murderous attacks against Jews in the area her actions become merely regrettable. See the difference?

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 18, 2007 11:17:02 AM

Trep: Did you look at the video clips?

The videotaped settler "violence" consists of an autistic boy banging on a gate while twirling around until his father picked him up and took him away. Another was right after a Jewish and Arab little boy had a fist fight. And so on...

Posted by: JoeSettler | Mar 18, 2007 11:51:11 AM

Hi, this is the real MyRightWord. Seems my wife's comment up above, Mar. 16, 5:04:56PM, was entered with my details. My accident experience was last year, on the Adam-Hizma road, when the Egges bus lost control on wet tarmac and slid about 30 meters smack into the rock wall on the side. The door was jammed shut and it took some soldiers 10 minutes to pry part of it open so we could climb out.

Now, as for Yifat Alkobi, besides the fact that she was now found guilty of throwing rocks (Hebrew) some 5 years ago, our struggle for Jewish Hebron and against Arab terror doesn't have to be accomplished by unnecessary behavior. I don't want Jewish women to act like Yifat. I want Jewish men to defend themselves with any means at their disposable including ultimate force but we don't need what we saw on our screens to be seen, which means not censorship but a better code of behavior.

And Mother's milk needed

Posted by: Yisrael Medad | Mar 18, 2007 11:22:11 PM

You are correct. After looking deeper into the news coverage several articles did mention the attack on the ambulance crew (albeit buried deep in the article). I guess what bothers me is that ambulances are supposed to be sacrosanct yet nobody seems to be particularly bothered that such attacks are fairly commonplace.

First off, isn't it reasonable that the mention of stoning the ambulances was later in the article? The article is about a horrific traffic accident that orphaned 8 kids, not about big bad Palestinians stoning ambulances. Again, one is News, the other is just details to the News.

As for ambulances being sacrosanct... while I agree with you in principle, it's again a bit more complex in real life.

Let's be honest with ourselves: the IDF interferes with Red Crescent ambulances all the time, though it's true they generally don't resort to physical violence. Before you say anything, I'm in wholehearted agreement that they are often used for less-than-humanitarian uses on occasion, and the IDF restricts their movement for reasonable concerns (though the famous video of the rockets in Gaza was probably not such a case). Nonetheless, it suggests ambulances are not really sacrosanct, but just another pawn in the game. Sure, I'm appalled by Palestinians stoning Israeli ambulances just as much as the next guy - and I think they have much less reasonable arguments for such interference than the IDF does. Nonetheless, it's not some earth-shattering news that ambulances are interfered with in Israel.

It was reported on, yes... but what more do you want? An expose on Palestinian disregard for Israeli lives? *yawns* Seen that one before.


Posted by: matlabfreak | Mar 19, 2007 4:53:35 AM

Joe Settler... I must have misplaced my irony icon. ;-)

Yisrael Medad... I would amend that to say that anyone (man or woman) has the right to defend themselves. But that being said we definitely need a better code of behavior. The world will never judge us on the same basis as the Arabs so we have to be better behaved.

matlabfreak... I normally enjoy your comments, even when I don't agree with them. This is an exception to that rule. In fact I find this one so troubling that it deserves a point-by-point response:

1. "The article is about a horrific traffic accident that orphaned 8 kids, not about big bad Palestinians stoning ambulances. Again, one is News, the other is just details to the News."

A big part of my problem is exaclty that misconception. In my mind a freak accident caused by natural events (a storm) may be tragic but the deliberate attack on an ambulance crew while they tried to extricate a critically wounded victim of that accident should have been the real story. One is human (albeit morbid)interest and the other is genuine news.

2. "As for ambulances being sacrosanct... while I agree with you in principle, it's again a bit more complex in real life."

No its not. And every single time someone like yourself says such a dangerous thing in a public forum it erodes the very sacrosanct nature of the ambulance (and hospitals and civilians, etc. etc. etc.).

3. "Let's be honest with ourselves: the IDF interferes with Red Crescent ambulances all the time, though it's true they generally don't resort to physical violence.

There is no saying "before you say anything..." after a statement like that. To say that the IDF "Generally" doesn't resort to physical violence against Palestinian ambulances is a horribly misleading statement. I defy you to demonstrate one instance of the IDF firing on, stoning or in any other way attacking an ambulance without some armed provocation from the ambulance having proceeded the event. Just one. It is true that they are routinely stopped and searched at check points, but that is a result of the palestinians themselves using them on a fairly consistent basis for cynical, non-humanitarian purposes (transporting bombs, bombers and wanted terrorists). There is a huge gulf between searching an ambulance and attacking one!

4. "I think they have much less reasonable arguments for such interference [with ambulances]than the IDF does. Nonetheless, it's not some earth-shattering news that ambulances are interfered with in Israel."

Your attitude is exactly why the world refuses to take seriously Israeli protests at Palestinian disregard for all established conventions and international treaties on human rights and the sacrosanct nature of medical teams, vehicles and facilities. Please note that the Palestinians protest loudly every single time Israel comes close to crossing any of these read lines and the world takes note. That Israel has stopped protesting is why the world yawns along with you at such blatant violations. The people who use ambulances for cynical purposes and attack the ambulances of their enemies are animals in my opinion and should be shot down like the animals that they are. But the world doesn't see them that way and insists on entertaining their protests and complaints as if they are actually human. Fine... but if they want to lodge complaints as humans then let them be judged as humans. They can't be allowed to have it both ways.

I am sick to death of the double standard... but I am even more sick of our own willingness to accept it.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Mar 19, 2007 9:27:46 AM

A fair response. Let me in turn give you my thoughts:

From a journalistic perspective, I still think you're wrong (I am not, however, a professional journalist, so any who are reading this are free to correct me). News needs to be, well, new. As I mentioned previously, a 'dog bites man' story (ie, Palestinians stone a vehicle) isn't news; oh, it'll be put on the little scrolling news ticker on some sites, particularly if any damage is incurred... but it won't merit an article. On the other hand, a traffic accident that orphans 8 children is news. Random fatal traffic accidents normally don't merit more coverage than a stoning, but when it has the added emotional impact of this one, it will be considered 'news', and get an article - albeit a fairly small one.

Is it 'news' that Palestinians do this sort of thing on a nearly daily basis (though not daily with ambulances, as they don't have the opportunity)? No - at least not to Israelis. Is it news that Israelis die in traffic accidents on a nearly daily basis? No. Is it news, though, when something extraordinary occurs, as in this particular accident? Sure, at least a little bit. So they write a little article, and include the relevant details, including the stoning. Ynet even went so far as to include the stoning in the subheader of the article. Seems reasonable.

As for your second point, I'd like to agree with you, but I can't. I *want* ambulances and 'aid workers' and ICRC/etc. organizations to be inviolable. I *want* the world to respect such conventions that have been laid down in the last century or two regarding warfare. But much as I want it to, nearly every group on the planet bends the rules, at least a little bit. Maybe not on ambulances, but on something else.

This DOES NOT imply that such behavior is even remotely acceptable... it just suggests that there exists a gap between what we thing the world should be like and how it is. My point isn't legitimizing such actions, but arguing that it isn't some earth-shattering revelation. Were you surprised by the reports? I certainly wasn't.

As for your third point:

The ICRC disagrees with you. I'll admit that there is no good way to get independently verifiable information on the various incidents in which ambulances have come under IDF fire, but there are certainly a number of well-documented cases where it happened. They *claim* that the ambulance movement had been coordinated with the IDF beforehand, and the shooting was unprovoked. I don't know the realities of the situation, but there are certainly a number of cases out there where the IDF's perfect record is in a great deal of doubt. For example:


(Yes, it's B'tselem, but they're referencing ICRC and press reports, not their 'independent' research of dubious validity.)

Similarly, somewhere on the order of 40 Palestinians have died while their ambulances were being held up by the IDF. I think 40 deaths warrants just as much attention as some stones thrown at some MDA vehicles.

Now, I am NOT saying that the IDF is to blame for all of these deaths, or that IDF actions wrt to Red Crescent/UNRWA ambulances are unjustified given the security situation. I'm just saying that no one's record is perfect, and ambulances *should* be sacrosanct, but simply aren't.

Summed up point: MOST IDF actions involve merely stopping and searching ambulances, but they HAVE shot at them, beaten ambulance drivers, etc. It's isolated incidents, and I'm sure that at least some of them have good reasons, but they still exist.

As for your last point:

I never implied that I accepted such behavior on the part of Palestinians. I just think that it's not newsworthy. Don't you think that even the large chunk of the world that is reflexively anti-Israel already knows in detail about Palestinian disregard for civilized conventions? It's not like suicide bombings, or Qassam attacks, or kidnappings are swept under the rug by the media. It's just that when a relatively minor breach (only in comparison of course) occurs, it's not likely to excite much of anyone.

I'm not defending Palestinian actions, or criticizing Israeli ones; I'm just pointing out that some things are not novel. There is no explicit or implicit double standard being applied here. You argued that 'nobody seems bothered that such attacks [on ambulances] seem commonplace'. What makes you say that? The lack of media coverage? *shrugs* I don't think that's a sign that no one is bothered, but perhaps a sign that no one is surprised.

Is it wrong? Completely. So what? It's not news.

Again, I want to reiterate that my comments are made solely in the interest of discussion, and not to cause insult or anger. E-tone is always awfully hard to get across well. I honestly think we agree on most of the important points, but we part ways on whether the reporting of this incident was acceptable. *bows*

Posted by: matlabfreak | Mar 19, 2007 11:21:33 AM

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