Monday, January 12, 2009

Fighting the Good Fight?

In the last week or two I have spent hours reading news. Don't get me wrong, in the weeks and months before that I also spent huge amounts of time scrolling through various newspapers, news aggregators and portals, blogs, and so on. However with oodles of free time since December 29 there has been even more time frittered away with newspapers in hand, internet pages open, and radio news blaring.

In this time I have accrued a certain dislike for news article comments. Every site seems to have them... the Seattle Times, the New York Times, YouTube of course, the Huffington Post... everyone. Now the nerdy, "plugged-in" portion of my personality finds this great - I can respond to anything I want! On the other hand, it becomes this sickening addiction where you end up reading all kinds of horrible things, like "Israelis are the new Nazis," "anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism," and so on. I mean, all kinds of ignorant, hateful, racist, or just plain uninformed garbage. It gets really overwhelming, honestly. And depressing.

In that vein, I received a particularly nasty comment on my Facebook site the other day from an acquaintance who lives in the Midwest. Here is the bulk of it:

...Just because Palestinians don't have an army, or any way to defend themselves doesn't mean they don't deserve to die.... Palestinians teach their children and women how to kill themselves in order to kill as many Jews as possible. They are trying to create a second holocaust and they must be stopped. To say that Israel broke the cease-fire is to live a life of complete ignorance. We withdrew from Gaza in 2005, uprooting 1000s of Jewish families and leaving behind hundreds of synagogues which have since been destroyed in an attempt for peace. After the withdrawal, LONG before November 2008 Palestine continued firing rockets into southern Israeli cities. They have created child martyrs, used Mosques to store rockets and have used NO discretion whatsoever when firing rockets into schools, public areas, parks, and synagogues, killing men, women, children, and even their own Palestinians.

Aside from the obvious contradictions (they wouldn't have had to "withdraw" from Gaza if they hadn't illegally seized it in 1967; firing into public areas, places of worship, schools, and killing women and children are all things which have also been done in immense scale by the IOF; etc), the most sickening part of this message was the first sentence: "Just because [Palestinians] have [no] way to defend themselves doesn't mean they don't deserve to die." So, the argument here seems to be that all Palestinians conduct themselves in the manner listed above, and as such all deserve to be killed.

Now, even if it were true that all Palestinians commit the crimes listed above (which it is unquestionably not), it seems to me that that is an extremely bizarre sentiment coming from someone tossing around words like "holocaust." Furthermore - and more importantly - by condoning violence against civilian populations, one opens the door to all kinds of moral problems. If indeed entire populations, including women and children who are non-combatants and therefore innocents, are permitted to be exterminated based on the crimes of a small minority, then where does that leave Israel? Its moral high ground surely cannot be wiping out the Palestinian people simply for the crime of being born Palestinian. And to indict an entire population for being of a particular race, ethnicity, or religion... well, need I state the obvious?

On a larger scale of course than any personal harassment I may receive, there is the Giyus group. Essentially this allows you to download a piece of software (Megaphone) which informs you of articles on the web about Israel. Then, armed with this information, you spam the website with pro-Israel propaganda. On a similar note I found this article online today about Israel's foreign ministry's involvement in a similar scheme: Hasbara Spam Alert. It seems that picking fights with strangers over the internet is the new battlefield of public media.

So the question becomes, how does one respond, if at all? I personally chose not to respond to the person who "facebooked" me, knowing full well that internet arguments tend to look like this:

Maybe I should have said something. Maybe I should calmly cite a bunch of facts and dates. On the other hand, he has obviously already made up his mind that I'm the one living a life of "complete ignorance," so why burst his bubble?

In any case, with all this reading of news and its apparently never ending ensuing commentary, I have to say that I really don't know what the best thing to do is. At this point I'm picking my battles, trying to educate when possible (though mostly trying to stay out of the cantankerous crossfire), and hoping that sometime soon, someone wiser than me will have some advice. Because I'll tell you, when up against what seems to be an insurmountable wall, I'm feeling a little ill-equipped.


JonSayer said...

First let me point out that I am commenting on article about how bad comments are. The irony touches me in special ways.

Second, let me complement you on the use of a lolcat in a serious post.

Third, let me get to the meat of what I am commenting about.

I've been reading a lot about this conflict too. But I've also looked backwards, educating myself about the history behind this whole thing. I've come to a grim conclusion.

This conflict will never end. Ever.

Why? Because there are too many people on either side who aren't willing to compromise. Orthodox, Zionist Jews wave the Torah around and say the entire Holy Land belongs to them. Hamas wave the title deeds to their grandfather's farms and swear to reclaim them.

Conflict and instability reinforces extremism, not moderation. Extremism causes conflict, creating a never ending cycle of violence. Moderates may tire of conflict, but extremists thrive on it. It gives them meaning and a purpose.

Maggie said...

There are definitely moments when I agree with you. I sincerely hope though that sooner or later extremism will start to lose its grip, somehow. Of course it would have to happen simultaneously from both sides (...), but one ca only hope.

Also thank you. I strive to fill my life with lolcats, even when inappropriate (they never are).