Annette van de Kamp-wright
Jewish Press Editor
If you think I’m grouchy and stressed out, you’re right. If you think I am happy, relaxed and utterly adorable, you’d be right too. I can also be snippy, calm, friendly, amused, angry, impulsive, distant, sweet, sad, bossy, defensive and/or flirty. It all depends on the day, doesn’t it? I believe that’s true for most of us. Whatever image we project to others at any given point in time is a very small part of the whole.
Who and what we are is a mosaic, a tapestry of emotions and reactions, beliefs and behaviors, and our personalities are much too complicated to be summarized so easily. And still, we try.
With the knowledge that we have this tendency to simplify others must come the realization we often get it wrong. The boyfriend who seemed so cute ends up stabbing you in the back, the teacher who appeared cold and distant at first ends up being your strongest supporter. That mean girl you instantly despised on the first day of school becomes your best friend. And so on and so forth.
Just as people often aren’t who they seem at first, we can’t watch current events with the assumption we know it all. Yet, there are many people outside of Israel who are more than willing to judge based on partial information. This has always been the problem with Israel’s public image, and it’s getting worse by the day. There are so many misconceptions floating around, it’s become nearly impossible to have a rational discussion with anyone about the current events.
The good news: we all care. Truly, we do.
The bad: we’re really bad at staying informed, and listening to each other. Add to that the popular misconception that Israel is a bully, is purposely killing Palestinian citizens, and that Hamas just wants freedom from “Zionist oppression,” and every attempt to educate the uninformed ends in mudslinging.
I admit; I’m guilty of it myself. I am so sick of people who blame Israel, boycott Israel, talk about the “Zionist war Machine” and use the words genocide and apartheid. Open your eyes, I want to say. Do you really think the problems will end if we could all just agree to blame Israel? If the IDF gave up, laid down its weapons and refused to fight? What if Hamas was allowed to go unchecked? Seriously, what do you think would happen to the Palestinian people?
While the United Nations Human Rights Council readies itself to, again and again, denounce Israel, the UN’s Relief and Works Agency complains about “certain persons” placing rocket launchers in its Gaza schools. While all over the world people protest the actions of Israel, no one pays attention to the refugee camps in Syria, in Lebanon, or in Jordan. Nobody talks about Syria, period. And Iraq? How about the Sudan? Forget it. It’s not the hip thing right now.
Changing popular perception is a tricky, tricky thing. During a CNN broadcast on Sunday, July 20, the uncomfortable and all-too-familiar question was posed: “Will Israel be forced to make concessions?”
It’s uncomfortable, because history has shown us that the answer is always ‘yes.’ That’s how the world turns: Israel makes concessions, Hamas does not. It’s expected. Maybe because deep down, most people do understand that in this conflict, Israel is the rational party. Even if that’s difficult to admit; it’s so much easier to say Israelis should make concessions because they are wrong.
So, where does this leave Israel’s image? Has it affected the world’s opinion of Israel that a cease-fire was proposed, and Hamas flatly refused? Has it affected public opinion that Hamas has dropped quite a few rockets on its own people (by accident, of course)? Has it affected public opinion that the rest of the Arab world has not exactly rushed to Hamas’ defense, or reached out to help Palestinian civilians?
What needs to change about the narrative (and what may help our collective frustration) is this: rather than defending Israel’s actions against the “Palestinian underdog,” we should keep pointing at Hamas as the real perpetrator. Yes, it’s a simplification of an age-old conflict, but we have to start somewhere.
We have to stop apologizing. We have to stop trying to explain ourselves to people who are simply not willing to listen. I can’t think of any other country that has ever been asked to justify defending its very existence against a terrorist organization. It’s madness, and we should stop worrying so much about what the world thinks. What good does it do if world opinion is on our side, but there is no Israel left? I guarantee you there is not a single IDF soldier risking his or her life who would prefer to be popular and dead.
This is not high school, although it sometimes seems like it. Unlike what some may think, it is not a popularity contest, and Israel does not need the rest of the world to hand it a permission slip before defending its existence. I love Israel, and I’m not sorry. No other country in the world would put up with this judgmental nonsense and uninformed hatred. Enough is enough.