This photo taken last week, of Sderot residents going to a hilltop to watch IDF strikes in Gaza, has taken on a life of its own. And no one - not the original photographer/tweeter nor the "analysts" - have understood the scene pictured there.
The New York Times reported:
Explaining that he has also previously witnessed Palestinians cheering news of bombings that killed Israelis, Mr. Sorensen said that in a war, “this is what happens.” Civilians and fighters on both sides, he said, “go through a process of dehumanizing the enemy.”This reminds me of a much older photo that was also widely misinterpreted as a paradigm for Israeli heartlessness.
In 2006, during the Lebanon war, a million Israelis in the north of the country were stuck in bomb shelters for a month as Hezbollah rockets rained down on them. They were frustrated and felt helpless and powerless. Then, someone came up with an idea of having the children, who are the most powerless of all, to write messages on missiles that were going to be shot to Lebanon. The resulting picture caused an even greater uproar:
A popular Arab blog that made the photos go viral created a fake message of what they said (originally) the kids were writing:
Dear Lebanese/Palestinian/Arab/Muslim/Christians – Kids,But that is not what the message said, even though that was what thousands on the Internet who read the article internalized.
Die with love.
The real message on the missile said "To Nasralah, with love, from Israel and Daniele."
The Israeli kids didn't want to kill Lebanese kids. They wanted the rockets that had been terrorizing them for a month to stop, and they hoped that decisive Israeli action against Hezbollah - not Lebanon, but Hezbollah - would accomplish that. That is what these missiles symbolized.
This is what is happening in Sderot.
An entire community has lived, off and on, under siege for over ten years. Previous Israeli operations have given them a reprieve, but every time the rockets returned.
Like the schoolchildren in the north in 2006, the residents of Sderot just want to live normal lives again. Every bomb Israel drops is, to them, a potential step towards that goal. They are most emphatically not cheering the tiny minority of those bombs - perhaps 2% of them - have accidentally killed Gaza kids. They are cheering a feeling of empowerment, the feeling of relief, the hope that this time there might be a chance that IDF actions can stop the incessant rocket fire and their lives will become normal. Each boom that they hear is a symbol of the hope that this goal is a little closer.
To say that they are "dehumanizing the enemy" is flat out wrong. I'm sure that there are a small number who are angry enough to say "Death to Arabs," which is to be condemned, but they do not represent Israeli society or even Sderot society. There are racists in every nation on Earth. Those who take a photo like this and then pretend that they know what is going through the minds of the people in the photo have no clue.
There are some people in the region who cheer rockets that are aimed directly at civilians, though:
There is no hand-wringing over that, no Arabs who feel that their people have lost their moral compass, no triumphant articles in the New York Times about how we can feel morally superior to the Arabs.. No, when Arabs cheer Jews being targeted or indeed being killed, the world yawns.
To the world, this is how Arabs are supposed to behave. But there are a lot of journalists who are uncomfortable with the idea of Israelis being on a higher moral plane than Arabs, so they feel that they must denigrate the Israelis to even the playing field. Hence, the misrepresentation of these photos.
Reporters who desperately want to draw an equivalence between Israelis who cheer missiles aimed at terrorists with Arabs who lustily cheer rockets that are aimed squarely at Jews are not only irresponsible, but they are purposefully demonizing an entire people. There is no comparison - Israelis do not as a rule cheer the deaths of innocent Arabs. Their visceral revulsion to the murder of Mohammed Khdeir proves that. There has never been a similar, across-the-board, Arab reaction to the death of any Jew, ever.
The reporters and Israel haters who try to make such a comparison are at best lazy - and at worst, antisemites. Because the only way that it makes any sense to represent Israelis as cheering bombs that kill kids is to make the assumption - a priori - that Israeli Jews are bloodthirsty monsters.
That is not reporting. That is revealing your own hatred.