by Barry Rubin
What if two groups are in conflict and have a completely different way of looking at the world, thus often misperceiving each other? Many Westerners say nowadays that their societies misunderstand the
But maybe the misunderstanding is in the opposite direction from what they think.
Consider this small example with big implications.
Hurriyet, a Turkish newspaper, ran as its lead article on page one a story about what it called photos the Israelis didn't want the world to see. Many Westerners who read these words would expect to see some kind of atrocity—Israelis murdering or injuring people--that
In other words, a large portion of Western intellectuals, media, academics, opinion-makers and policymakers are portraying the following image:
But that is not what Hurriyet is talking about, nor is it the perception of
It shows Israeli soldiers, beaten and captured by the Jihadis as crying.
Hurriyet claims that
The photos were taken with the cameras of the Jihadist-humanitarians of the
What did the photos show? The newspaper described it thusly: these photos showing the fear on the faces of the soldiers who were attacked by iron and wooden sticks and captured by the activists." After outlining the history of the Israeli unit as including daring deeds, it implied that in the face of the brave Islamic Turkish would-be martyrs they turned into cowards.
Meanwhile, Reuters took the same picture and airbrushed out a combat knife in the hand of one of the hostage-taking militants. The Middle Eastern supporters of the Islamists backed them by showing they were warriors with knives and demeaned the Israelis by showing them as bloodied prisoners. Westeners antagonistic to
Here's what is important to understand:
The Western anti-Israeli narrative views
Israelis: tough; Flotilla activists: weak. It finds the latter more appealing.
But this Islamist and Middle Eastern narrative views
Israelis, weak; Flotilla activists: strong. It finds the latter more appealing.
Note that these two visions are precisely the opposite though both favor the same side.
Why is this important?
It shows that both can't be true.
But most important of all, it shows that the radicals, Islamists, and to some extent Muslim-majority societies in general think precisely the same thing of North Americans and Europeans. Now suppose—just go along with me here for a minute—that the leaders of these countries have a strategy based on the assumption that they need to prove to the other side that they are apologetic, eager to make concessions, determined to avoid confrontation.
Wouldn't that approach have the exact opposite outcome from what they suppose? In other words, if they see you crying they aren't going to feel sorry and sympathetic for you. They will laugh at you and eat you alive.
And that, my friends, is the picture they don't want you to see.
That doesn't mean the victim card isn't also--and simultaneously--played in the
Nobody seems to deal, however, with the clash between the macho, Jihad, heroic image and the pitiful, defenseless, victim image. Implicitly, though, they are heroic warriors when bragging about how they will wipe out their enemies mercilessly, while en route to the battlefield, and during the time they are actually fighting, but quickly become pitiful victims when they lose. Much like Hamas itself.
In the West, however, it is the pitiful, helpless victim theme that dominates the imagery. The West censors out the aggressive ideology and activity that leads to the Israeli response and the Jihadists defeat. The
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.