Once again, Israel finds itself at war. And once again, the injury of the conflict is compounded by the insult of a prejudiced world press and a slanted international response.
So once again, Israelis – joined by their Jewish brethren around the world – gnash their collective teeth at the infuriating injustice of having to defend themselves for defending themselves.
It is indeed infuriating. But there was something else bothering me about this; something apart from the stubborn ignorance of the truth and the selective picking of facts and the jaw-droppingly lopsided comparisons; something I had difficulty putting my finger on.
You see, my faith in humanity compels me to believe that the media bias, or at least most of it, is not the product of rampant anti-Semitism. Perhaps it is just my naiveté, but I believe that this prejudice is a symptom of classic underdog cheering; an understandable human foible that at some point mutated into an entire school of journalism. The underdog can do no wrong. Strong equals wrong. It is the same sentiment that holds the adolescent serial killer blameless because “he’s just a child.”
This journalistic weakness might be excusable – certainly as an alternative to the charge of anti-Semitism – but for this vexing irony: Why now?
We Jews were the undisputed world underdogs for nineteen centuries. We had no land, no army, no government, not even the saving grace of geographic proximity. And during that time we were beaten up by almost every bully in history. You name an empire; we’ve been persecuted by it. Throw a dart at a map of Europe, and we've probably been expelled from that country. And through it all, we enjoyed the unwavering and resounding support of exactly nobody.
Now, after almost two millennia of being trampled by a nearly continuous stampede of the world’s nations, we finally – finally – bulked up a little. We got a small piece of land, a sometimes functional government, and a respectable fighting force. And now the enlightened people of the world wake up and say, “You know who we should really pay attention to? The underdog.”
We could have really used this attitude back then. It would have been so useful to have a Huffington Post homepage story on, say, the conditions in the Warsaw Ghetto, or a BBC Special Report on the communities ravaged by the Crusades, or a New York Times feature on the nearly one million Jews forced to leave the Arab countries in the twentieth century (the other unnamed Middle East refugee crisis).
We get bad press when we are strong. And we get bad press when we are weak.
So we get bad press when we are strong. And we get bad press when we are weak. We get bad press when we do something, and we get bad press when we do nothing. It is hard to escape the conclusion that no matter what, we are going to get bad press. If the State of Israel succeeds in landing the first human being on Mars, the world media would immediately condemn it for “territorial expansionism” and the UN would swiftly call for a Two Planet Solution.
It may be time to consider that if nothing we do changes the world’s opinion of us, then perhaps we should start caring less about the world’s opinion. Not completely, of course; we cannot entirely ignore the injustice and need to make appropriate protestations. But some of us have become so consumed with outrage at the media that at times we appear more upset with the BBC than with Hamas.
The anger we feel these days towards the media and world opinion is driven in part by a feeling of betrayal; after all, we want to believe that the New York Times and the BBC will live up to their vaunted journalistic reputations, particularly when reporting on those things we care deepest about. It is bitterly galling to see facts skewed so badly by those whom we want to trust as impartial guardians of truth.
The urge to feed our anger at this betrayal is understandable, but it is ultimately futile; no media outlet is going to convince us that we are wrong, and it seems outstandingly unlikely that anything we do will change the opinion of any media outlet. It is a stalemate, and getting ourselves riled up about it just serves to distract us from the real dangers.
We need to focus on what we know is right, regardless of what others say; to embody Kipling’s verse, “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you”.
We must defend ourselves. We know this. We need to support our troops so they can succeed in their mission and make the land safe for us and our brethren. This is what matters.
The enemy here is the side firing rockets, not the ones sending tweets.
In this spirit, I have composed a poem of my own:
Sticks and stone,
Meet Iron Dome
They're just exhausting.