How the Israel/Palestinian conflict shows unattractive mysteries of human behavior

Take a look at this picture:

She looks like a happy nice little girl.
Take a look at this picture:

She has grown up to a handsome young woman, who attended Evergreen State College (one of those colleges where students emerge more leftist than when they came in), and she has become an idealist.
rachel-corrie-flag-burner1
Above is the final picture. Rachel Corrie is burning an American flag in Gaza, a mini-state on Israel’s border ruled by Hamas.

Rachel later died facing an Israeli bulldozer. The driver of the bulldozer, a Russian immigrant, knew that the ISM protesters were trying to interfere with the demolishing of Arab houses, but he claims he did not see Rachel. Also, the house that was being demolished was above a smuggling tunnel. You can look at Wikipedia for more info.

Rachel was later celebrated in a play “My Name is Rachel Corrie” that played in London and New York.

Intuitively, since I support Israel myself, I would see her as a misguided idealist who met a tragic accident. But there is something odd about the trajectory Rachel took, as can be seen from the last photo. How do you get from Photo A to Photo C?

Jack Engelhard
Jack Engelhard

And there is this statement from a Philadelphia journalist, Jack Engelhard, of his experience:
On this fact-finding tour of Israel, I represented a major news organization from Philadelphia. The others came from all over.
Some were big time journalists. Some small time. I listened to their hostile chatter as Shlomo, our driver and guide, took us around this glorious country.
Not so glorious for the boys and girls on the bus. There was impatience and murmuring. They shouted him down when, nearing the Western Wall, he began about the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967. To them the enemy was Israel. They demanded he skip Yad Vashem.
They scoffed and cackled when Israeli music was piped in. “Shut it off,” they hollered.
So that’s how it is, I thought. So that’s how it is.
Finally Shlomo had taken enough. He stopped the bus and walked out for a smoke. I approached him. He was crying, this high-ranking officer of the IDF.
“What’s wrong?” I asked as if I didn’t know.
“They didn’t come here to learn about us. They came only for the Arabs.”

This conflicts with my intuition too. Are not journalists representative of a wide range of opinions, with a commitment to objectivity? What is Engelhard witnessing here?

Pro-Israel folks often puzzle over what they see as a double standard. For instance, Marilyn Penn writes:

Boko Haram has announced its establishment of a caliphate and continues in its slaughter of thousands of Nigerians and its kidnapping of young women for use as sex slaves. Not a word of protest from American campuses.

The death toll in Syria is currently 70,000 murdered with over 2.2 million refugees, half of whom are children, who have fled to detainee camps in any neighboring country that will harbor them. American students are unfazed.

ISIL has announced its caliphate and has captured increasing territory in Syria and Iraq while attaining professional mastery in filming the barbaric beheadings and conflagrations which are now a staple of American T.V. news. They have successfully combined the dark ages with the most up to date cyber-access. College kids have no comment.

What has engaged these morally dormant minds? Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and the pseudo-accusation of its apartheid – the excuse for the Boycott/Divest/Sanction Movement, energized by Arab money, leftist propaganda and radical student groups that openly endorse Hamas, the terrorist organization that calls for the murder of Jews worldwide. In the latest YouTube to show the degradation of acceptable standards of behavior at the University of California campuses, we can see the demonstration at U.C. Davis by Palestinian students shouting Allahu Akbar after a Jewish protest of the Student Body vote to boycott Israel. They were joined by the support of graduate students represented by the UAW Local 2865, the first labor union in the U.S. to make such a move..

In my (the blogger’s) naive intuitive view, I ask why do these idealistic young people not see what Marilyn sees?

Then there is this:

Matt Friedman
Matt Friedman

Matt Friedman, also a reporter, says of his colleagues:
The dogma posits that the occupation is not a conflict like any other, but that it is the very symbol of conflict: that the minute state inhabited by a persecuted minority in the Middle East is in fact a symbol of the ills of the West – colonialism, nationalism, militarism, and racism. In the recent riots in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, a sign hoisted by marchers linked the unrest between African-Americans and the police to Israeli rule over Palestinians.
… boycotts of Israel, and only of Israel, which are one of the cult’s most important practices, have significant support in the press, including among editors who were my superiors. Sympathy for Israel’s predicament is highly unpopular in the relevant social circles, and is something to be avoided by anyone wishing to be invited to the right dinner parties, or to be promoted. The cult and its belief system are in control of the narrative, just as the popular kids in a school and those who decide what clothes or music are acceptable.

My naive intuition gets floored by the next item:

In January, a student group at DePaul University, Feminist Front, produced a short video in which they proclaimed their support for a petition being circulated by DePaul Divests that asked the university to “uphold its Vincentian values by divesting from [companies that profit from] the Israeli occupation of Palestine.” Members of the Feminist Front, who, if they were living in Hamas-controlled Gaza would be subjugated into silence and persecuted for their alternative sexual orientation, have also decided that divestment is “a feminist issue” and “a queer issue.” Why? Because, they contend, “Israeli forces target queer folks with blackmail . . ,” and because Israeli “methods of occupation historically target women, through violence, kidnapping, and rape.”

Richard L. Cravatts, the author of the article Queers for Palestine that mentions DePaul University, says that

Self-identified progressive students on campus are also enthralled by pursuing “social justice” on the part of the Palestinians precisely because Third-world victimism parallels the identity politics of the same student groups who fuel the promiscuous BDS resolutions being proposed on campuses around the country.

Thus, African-American student groups frequently rally in support of divestment when they are attracted to the narrative in which Israel is positioned as a racist, apartheid regime that suppresses an indigenous colored people and deprives them of human rights.

That is his explanation. If he is right, some of us interpret events in the world not based on reason, but based on whether we are “attracted to a narrative” which resonates with our own desire to see ourselves as victimized.  Truth is not as important as feelings.

This raises the question, not only of whether we are as rational as we think we are, but of how rational we want to be?

Tuvia Tenenbom was brought up in a very religious environment in Israel, rebelled, and emigrated to Germany and the US.  Then he went undercover.  He went to Israel, pretending to be a Christian German, and talked with Arabs in areas where no Jews would dare go.  He also talked to peace activists, settlers, and Europeans, some in “idealistic” organizations.  He said that vast amounts of Western money were being spent catchTheJew2on the Palestinians in the West Bank, and their handsome houses and cities showed this, but then he took a trip into neighboring Jordan, a country that also has many Palestinians, and saw cases of extreme poverty.  He wrote a book about this undercover trip, called Catch The Jew.  The reason for the title was that he found that the Europeans participating in the left-wing NGOs were coming to Israel to not only to help the Palestinians, but to frame the Israelis.

And again, this is counter-intuitive. Surely if are a young idealist and you care about Palestinians, you help them wherever they are, in Jordan, in Lebanon (where basic citizenship rights were denied them), in Syria, where one headline (in the Times of Israel) says Assad is starving Palestinians to death in a Syrian camp, and nobody cares. There are a huge number of refugees from Syria in Jordan right now. How about helping them? Or helping the many Christians displaced by Jihad?

And what happens to the Palestinians when the European money dries up? Where are the exports, the industry, the agriculture that will sustain them?

We could also ask:
Shouldn’t the constant propaganda against the Jews be stopped? Do people like Rachel Corrie, or the many NGO’s and their idealists ever confront the Arabs about their conspiracy theories and lies about the Jews?
And:
If Israel disappeared tomorrow, to be replaced by a Muslim state, would the world promptly forget about the Palestinians?

Israel is a place with more foreign reporters per person than any other country in the world. But one can say for Tuvia, that unlike many of them, he believes in testing the truth. And when he does, he comes up with surprises.

So to sum up, Israel is a very small place, but the reaction to it lays bare, like no other, unattractive mysteries of human behavior.

Sources:
http://quadrant.org.au/opinion/qed/2015/01/hacks-guide-covering-israel/ (Matt Friedman)
Queers against Israel: The Logic of the Pro- Palestinian Coalition on Campus by Dr. Richard Cravatts
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/16476#.VO80X_nF-T8 (Jack Engelhard)

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