Friday, July 3, 2009

If Neda had died in Bil'in

The death of Neda Soltan in Tehran, Iran, during the repression of a protest rally is a shocker:



So is the death of Bassem Ibrahim Abu Rahmah in Bil'in, the West Bank, in similar circumstances:



So why have you heard so much about Neda and nothing at all about Bassem? I'll make an attempt at explanation towards the end of this post, but drawing a parallelism between the murders of these two young people seems to be in order first.

Of course, I'm by no means the first blogger to note the symmetry between both incidents, and their asymmetrical treatment by the media (see here, here). But I'd like to focus here on what the reactions would be if Neda had been killed by Israeli soldiers in Bil'in, comparing them, when appropriate, with the reactions to Neda's death in Teheran.

1) Initially, it would be claimed that the video of her death is fake (the "Pallywood" argument). The claim would only be dropped when enough Jews showed up confirming her death.

2) She would be described as having been throwing rocks, and it would be stated that those rocks in fact endangered the Israeli soldiers' lives. This defense was put up by Zionists on the few specialized blogs that reported on Bassem's death:

If as reported, they were throwing stones and trying to destroy the fence (collective responsibility works both ways), I can’t get upset that the guy died.

This is striking because the video of Bassem's death, which clearly shows no rock being thrown by the demonstrators, had been pasted on the very same blog where the response above was posted, and because there had been no mention of rock-throwing, other than by Zionist commenters on blogs.

3) It would be asserted that her death in Bil'in was intentionally caused by other Palestinians (Alan Dershowitz's theory that the Palestinians want to maximize civilian casualties on both sides). No one would dare suggest, however, that the Teheran demonstrators killed Neda to produce a martyr for their cause (even if they were as Muslim as [most, anyway] Palestinians, and you know, taqqiya, taqqiya).

4) In the case of Neda's fictional death in Bil'in, it would be stressed that the demonstration in which she died was unauthorized. In the case of her real death in Teheran, on the other hand, it would be considered outrageous to even make an issue of the legal status of the protest she joined.

5) In her Bil'in death, her motives for joining the demonstration would be scrutinized in depth and questioned. Why was she there? Her house was not about to be demolished, she had no relative in jail, she even was overweight. In discussing her Teheran death, however, her belonging to a well-to-do family that owns a travel agency, and the fact that her main problem just before joining the rally was that her car's air conditioning didn't work properly, were not brought up to disingenuously wonder what obscure reasons she might have to oppose a regime that treated her so well.

6) After all of that failed, Israel's announcement that her death in Bil'in will be investigated would be taken very seriously. By contrast, Iran's announcement that her Teheran death would be investigated was quickly dismissed. (And rightly so, some will claim, because democracies produce reliable investigations, and tyrannies don't. But Israel is democratic to Jews and Jewish to Arabs, and it has been exposed as a notorious liar as regards the killing of unarmed Arabs.)

7) Finally, Israel's "finding" that the bullet that killed her in Bil'in had bounced against a traffic-light pole before hitting her would be taken at its word. While Iran's "finding" that the bullet that killed her in Teheran was from a type of weapon not used by Iran's security forces was met with the derision both "findings" deserve.

This is the point where a psychologist would come in handy to explain where these different treatments of information stem from. In the absence of one, I'll put forward a theory both shrinks and ordinary people are welcome to comment on.

Israel enjoys a "credibility capital" that is due not to its record as regards truth-telling and respect for innocent lives, but to the behavior of Diaspora Jews. Few violent criminals are found among the latter (or among French Armenians, Korean Americans, Japanese Argentinians and other financially secure and educated minorities). Therefore, the reasoning goes, Israeli Jews are unlikely, too, to kill defenseless prisoners and such. Little thought is given to the existence of an Israeli Jewish underclass that is simply not there in the Diaspora, and that may lack the restraints that are supposed to come with education.

So when a damning video arises, this presents CNN with a problem: Jews are seen doing what we know they don't do. The solution to this logical dilemma? Not airing it in prime time, or at all just in case. And getting an Israeli to deny it all if a talking head does get around to mentioning the incident.

4 comments:

andrew r said...

As Michael Neumann put it, "Is being Jewish so wise, so sacred, so humanitarian, so warm and cuddly, that a Jewish state couldn't really do that much harm, or deserve more than a good scolding?"

edwin said...

I would disagree with why Israel gets a pass.

My feeling is that there is a huge amount of guilt (rightly so) and a huge amount of pity outside of the Jewish community.

My impression is that we have been waiting for people who lived through WWII to grow old and die - both within the Jewish community and the non Jewish community. The current move against the state of Israel is because there are enough people who now feel that WWII is something distant, and don't personally feel any guilt for what happened to the Jews - or, if Jewish are not consumed by the holocaust. The emotional distance has allowed people to see what their parents were unable to see.

ronnie k. said...

Regarding your point 3), I wouldn't exclude for the time being that an US-backed "agent provocateur" shot Neda dead. We'll probably have to wait until all the dust settles, but at the end I hope that we will eventually know the truth.
Remember when a number of anti-Chavez protesters were murdered in Caracas in 2002; now it is a well-established fact that they were shot by the very same reactionary forces that were propping them, in order to wreack havoc and gain international sympathy.

Medicine said...

Few violent criminals are found among the latter.