Here we go again – yet another heartbreaking tale of Israeli ruthlessness. The victim this time: a 22-year old American student who “was just protesting at the loss of his land” and was mercilessly shot and wounded.
For Robert Fisk, the highly regarded Middle East correspondent of The Independent, there can be no doubt that the young man and another 100 demonstrators – including two little girls – were hit by Israeli bullets.
But since the young American was wounded during this year’s “Nakba” assault on Israel’s border with Lebanon, he was actually most likely shot by the Lebanese army, which opened fire on the crowds that had been bused to the border area for a rally supported by Hezbollah.
The fact that the Lebanese army opened fire on the protesters was reported in the Israeli media already on May 15; however, when Fisk wrote his “tale from the frontline of Palestinian protest” almost two weeks later, he apparently deemed this fact irrelevant and chose not to mention it.
Fisk’s “tale” provides an excellent example of the kind of media coverage that shapes negative European views of Israel. Wasting no time to set the tone, Fisk introduces his readers already in the first few sentences of his article to a nice young man who is seriously wounded in a hospital because he dared to take part in a supposedly all peaceful demonstration against Israel. Since Fisk suggests that this was just another of those “Arab spring” demonstrations where idealistic young people demand basic rights and freedoms, the message is clear enough: Israel behaves just like the brutal Arab regimes that gun down unarmed protesters who demonstrate for rights that everyone in the West takes for granted.
But because the young man at the center of Fisk’s story is a Palestinian with American citizenship, there is yet another message: the US decries the shooting of peaceful protesters by Arab regimes, but when Israel does supposedly the same, the US remains silent, even if the victim of the shooting has American citizenship. No wonder then that at the end of his article, Fisk accuses President Obama of “cringing to Netanyahu” and of behaving in a “rather craven way.” Add to this the throwaway remark that Netanyahu got “55 ovations in Congress – more than the average Baath party congress in Damascus,” and the message gets even clearer. Unfortunately it’s a message that will appeal to all those who are fond of the old idea that the Jews rule the world.
At the same time it’s important to note that Fisk’s story actually includes several elements that provide a glimpse of a very different “tale” than the one he offers.
The most obvious point is that the young man at the center of Fisk’s story is a 22-year old American citizen who feels entitled to protest “the loss of his land” by joining organized crowds determined to breach Israel’s borders. Moreover, Fisk actually acknowledges that the young man not only has American citizenship, but that he also “has a home in the West Bank” because his family “comes from Beit Jala and Bethlehem,” where he and other members of the family who live abroad are regularly visiting. Interestingly, the family’s name is Masri, a rather common Palestinian family name that, as many Palestinians are well aware, indicates Egyptian ancestry. It would arguably be hard to come up with a better example for the sense of contrived grievance cultivated by so many Palestinians who are simply unwilling to accept the existence of Israel. The world, and definitely Europe, would be a very different place if the many millions of people who were displaced and dispossessed in the same decade as the Palestinians were to behave like the Masri family.
Fisk argues that Munib Masri, the wounded student with American citizenship, “is part of the Arab awakening,” and a family member quoted by Fisk claims that the protesters marching against Israel’s borders overcame their fear and demonstrated because they “wanted dignity. And with dignity comes success.” Fisk adds: “Which is what the people of Tunisia cried. And of Egypt. And of Yemen, and of Bahrain, and of Syria.”
What Fisk conveniently ignores is the fact that the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria demonstrated against the oppressive misrule of their own governments. By contrast, Munib Masri and his fellow protesters demonstrated against something very different: they demonstrated to express their dissatisfaction with the fact that more than six decades ago, a sustained Arab war of aggression failed to prevent the establishment of Israel, even though the Arabs succeeded in killing more than 6000 Jews – roughly one percent of the Jewish community – and in wounding another 15,000 Jews.
The fact that this failed bid to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state resulted in the displacement and dispossession of several hundred thousand Arabs has become known as the Palestinian “Nakba,” or “catastrophe.” It is arguably rather revealing that by now, there are efforts to delegitimize Israel not only through “Nakba” protests, but also through “Naksa” protests, which commemorate the “setback” of yet another failed bid by Arabs to undo the establishment of Israel barely two decades later. It is even more revealing that an advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas recently boasted that the marches of demonstrators on Israel’s borders provided the Palestinians with a powerful new “nuclear weapon” against the Jewish state.
This is perhaps an exaggerated “hope,” but Fisk’s article illustrates that the Palestinians and their supporters have already made much headway when it comes to undermining the self-evident notion that, just like any other state in the world, Israel has the right and indeed the obligation to defend its borders against infiltrators. Even if the infiltrators are not armed, there is plainly no state in the world that is expected to allow people to cross its borders in order to demonstrate that these borders should not be defended and that anyone who so pleases should feel free to breach them.
The disingenuous attempt to equate the organized campaigns to breach Israel’s borders with the demonstrations against the misrule of Arab regimes is ultimately intended to convey a very simple message: everyone who thinks the oppressive Arab regimes have to end should also cheer the demonstrators who want to achieve the end of Israel as a Jewish state by claiming a fictitious “right of return.”
It’s a strategy that shouldn’t be dismissed because we live in a world where every bogus claim against the Jewish state will garner enthusiastic backing all around the world, while not even the American president can dare to demand that the Arab states end decades of discrimination against the refugees created by Arab wars.