Three’s a crowd

This is a guest post by AKUS

The world media – well, actually, pretty much the Guardian and sister paper the Observer – are agog with the latest story from Israel.

A female soldier named Eden Abergil posted a picture of herself on Facebook with two handcuffed Arab prisoners. Despite the Guardian’s attempt to play to the Arab street by allowing the tireless Jewish defamer of Israel, Rachel Shabi, to link the images to the infamous Abu Ghraib pictures in two articles, the prisoners were not being subjected to Abu Ghraib style humiliation. They were not the object of evil buffoonery to which Gilad Shalit has been subjected by Hamas. It was a stupid thing for Abergil to take the picture, and even more so to post it on Facebook. Her action was condemned immediately by the IDF.

Of course, this was a huge opportunity for the Guardian to make the leap from one foolish young woman to promoting the idea that there is a veritable photofest taking place among Israelis serving in the army– which is most young Israelis. Abergil’s “crime”, in reality, was that she was not in the slightest repentant about serving in order to protect Israel from murderous Palestinian terrorists.  The Guardian immediately dispatched its crack team of anti-Israeli muckrakers to find nine more examples for a photo gallery, citing “Breaking the Silence” to claim that such pictures are “widespread” (“See more of the Israeli soldiers’ ‘trophy’ photos”) and say something terrible about Israel.

Following Shabi’s lead, the Guardian/Observer’s Harriet Sherwood, eagerly scrounging for news around the fringes of an Israeli society she cannot understand and quite obviously hates, has found (or, more likely, is regurgitating reports from Israeli press or blogs) two Israeli women who served and were horribly shaken by their experiences – Inbar Michelzon and Dana Golan. Sherwood presents them as examples of a sort of brave and no longer silent minority among Israelis for “speaking out”.

What Sherwood seems unable to comprehend or prefers to overlook with a total lack of empathy for the situation in which young Israelis find themselves, is that the experiences related by Abergil, at one end of the spectrum, and Michelzon and Golan at the other end, are part and parcel of a country that is trying to maintain a relatively normal life in an environment where its citizens are daily threatened with rockets, mortars and shameless calls for their extermination. The stories she presents and the arguments about “peace” and “occupation” are hammered out around the kitchen table on a daily basis in every home in Israel – the homes to which she unlikely to ever be invited. After months in Israel, Sherwood has not managed to write a single article that reports a direct, cited, interaction that she has held with Israelis– everything she has written is a digest of second-hand news or reportage from briefings she has attended.

Sherwood is unable to comprehend the unique circumstances in which these three find themselves, unlike anything faced by young woman of similar age in their peaceful Western societies, using professional armies that wage war against enemies half a world away. Pretending that Israel is not at war is quite easy for a reporter on an expense account living in Jerusalem’s hotels, but is something brought home to every family whose members serve for years in regular service, then for weeks each year in reserves. These three women played an active part in ensuring the safety of other Israeli citizens, both Arab and Jew,  that is experienced by many Israelis who are face to face with the reality of Hamas along with  suicide bombers and snipers from Gaza and the West bank. They were not shop-girls in Oxford Street trying to deal with some difficult customers.

If Sherwood would get the three young woman in a room together, rather than reprinting excerpts from the English language Israeli press or English language Israeli blogosphere, I am sure she would find that there is one thing on which the three will agree – they want the fighting to stop, and everyone, on both sides, to just get on with their lives. Then Sherwood could go home, since she is oblivious to the real life that Israelis live while each, in turn, keeps the enemy at bay.

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