My Word: Blood Libels
Anybody who doubts that Iran might use nuclear weapons if it means its own population could suffer as a result is ignoring the power of the martyrdom mentality.
Palestinian boys look through morgue window Photo: Reuters/Mohammed Salem
I pity future historians. I pity the truth. And I’m beginning to pity all of us.
Never has so much information been available in wartime; never has it been so
hard to sort out the information from the disinformation and outright lies. And,
since I’m the sort of person who still prints out photos and sticks them in an
album, I wonder how much of this virtual material, even the facts, will survive
in the long term and how easy it will be to put it in context.
the letters written to and from the front that provided almost a hint of romance
to the historical record. An SMS with the words “Don’t worry” doesn’t do much
even to calm the fears of the mother/wife/sibling or friend waiting on the home
front, also under attack, and certainly doesn’t supply many clues for the
researcher of the future.
And then there is what’s known as the social
media. I, too, have kept up with friends and family via Facebook during the past
week or so of Operation Pillar of Defense (which I much prefer to think of by
its Hebrew name, Pillar of Cloud).
As a result, I have also been
inundated by pictures purporting to be of innocent Palestinian victims of
Israel’s latest campaign to stop the rocket attacks on its citizens. I have also
been bombarded with the refutations. Some of the images have been so obviously
stolen or staged that they had me humming the post-Six Day War song: “My
daughter: Are you laughing or crying?” CNN’s Anderson Cooper, for example,
apologized for screening footage of an ostensibly wounded Palestinian man who
made a remarkable recovery as soon as he thought the cameras were no longer
rolling. Elsewhere, footage that was supposed to show the Gaza coastline had the
distinctive colors and style of an Agam painting – the exact same painting that
decorates Tel Aviv’s Dan Hotel, to be precise. This was just another sign that
truth was a casualty in the Hamas propaganda war; it was also an indication of
what could have been had the Palestinians in Gaza decided to develop their
tourism potential rather than terror, as I have noted before.
photos supposedly coming out of Gaza were more shocking, not only for the amount
of blood they showed, or for their audacity, but for what they symbolized. As
The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov, among others, has pointed out, Izzadin Kassam
tweeted a photo of a father weeping over the bloody body of his child, as
doctors looked on. It didn’t take long for Twitter followers to point out that
the photo was taken at the Dar al-Shifa Hospital in Aleppo, Syria, and
originally came from a slideshow on the Guardian website. The lie might have
been quickly exposed but the image itself has been immortalized in screencaps
posted on Facebook and Twitter, another child victim to be used in the war
I couldn’t help but think of Muhammad al-Dura, probably
the best-known Palestinian child martyr. The whole world remembers his story,
how he was killed by gunfire at the start of the second intifada in September
2000. What most of the world doesn’t know (or certainly doesn’t remember) is
that an IDF investigation found he could only have been shot by Palestinian
fire, and a Paris appeals court backed the claim by Philippe Karsenty that
France 2 had broadcast a staged report on the death of the 12-
A particularly poignant picture posted by pro-Palestinian
activists this week showed a baby, dazed and bloodied, being held in the hands
of a rescue worker. Not a victim of an Israeli atrocity in Gaza, or even a
recycled victim from the huge reserve of those affected by the civil war in
Syria, the tiny child was wounded when a missile from Gaza hit a home in the
Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi, resulting in the deaths of three people on
Incidentally, “concerned readers” can stop sending me emails
informing me that the Palestinian missiles are primitive and not loaded with
Frankly, I don’t believe you (or the Palestinian missile
launchers, more to the point).
I am not immune to pictures of child
victims. Friends, colleagues and readers around the world have called on me this
week, as in Operation Cast Lead in 2008, to remember that the children in Gaza
are suffering, too. They’re right. Israeli children (Arabs as well as Jews) are
the victims of Hamas and the children in Gaza are no less so.
And this is
what makes the situation so depressing. The fact is Hamas and its supporters are
looking for blood – and it doesn’t care whether it’s the blood of me and my
countrymen or whether it’s the blood of its own martyrs. And if it doesn’t have
enough blood to rally around, it will import some from Syria or even the Zionist
state (perhaps the nearest it comes to admitting that we also bleed if you blow
I used to wonder how to say “chutzpah” in Arabic; now I think
they need to come up with a word of their own – one that goes beyond Leo
Rosten’s classic definition of a man who has killed his parents and then pleads
for mercy in court on the grounds that he is an orphan.
to spread terror – hence not only the missile fire but also the attacks like the
Tel Aviv bus bombing on November 21. Anything is legitimate. As a Palestinian
Media Watch report pointed out, on November 18 the Hamas-run Al-Aksa TV
broadcast a message “From the Al- Qassam Brigades to the Zionist soldiers: The
Al-Qassam Brigades love death more than you love life.”
The death threats
don’t scare me – they are an obvious means of psychological warfare: What scares
me is the message behind the boasting; that our enemies really might love death
more than the average traumatized Tel Avivian likes life in the cosmopolitan
“city that never sleeps.”
It should be pointed out – again and again, if
necessary – that every single one of the thousands of missiles fired by the
Palestinians on Israel for the past 12 years was by definition illegal. Every
mortar and missile was launched indiscriminately at civilian populations,
starting in the South and spreading further and further to the center of the
country until Tel Aviv was targeted and even Jerusalem.
That the Holy
City could be an address for Palestinian missiles is telling in itself. It
reveals a very different story from the Muslim narrative.
And yes, I do
feel sorry for the Palestinian whose olive groves were hit close to Bethlehem
and Gush Etzion when a missile failed to make it to the Israeli capital. He,
too, is a victim.
I’m not scared of missiles and I’m not scared of terror
attacks. I am scared, however, of the cult of martyrdom. In Arab and Muslim
countries around the globe, children are being raised to revere death and
blood. This should frighten not only Israelis, but the whole civilized world.
Anybody who doubts that Iran might use nuclear weapons if it means its own
population could suffer as a result is ignoring the power of the martyrdom
Even as a cease-fire was announced, and the missiles continued
to fall on the South, I – like most Israelis – realized that the war is not
over. In the oft-quoted words of Golda Meir: “Peace will come when the Arabs
will love their children more than they hate us.”
That’s why the fake
images of martyred children make my blood boil. It’s the only thing that stops
it freezing in my veins.
The writer is editor of The International