Monday, August 24, 2009

The Air Force Base

After the Pinchas speech, we trundled onto the bus and left for and Israeli Air Force base.  Pictures were not allowed unfortunately.  It is one of the largest air bases in Israel, I believe, and we met with four pilots and officers who fought in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.  They were extremely proud of their jobs and derived great satisfaction from serving their country.  All had signed on for more than the 3 year minimum for men or 2 year minimum for women so they were a non-representational sample.

They spoke in general terms about their jobs but eventually latched onto a recurring theme in Israeli discourse: media bias.  All believed that the IDF took great care to avoid civilian casualties and even aborted certain missions if the risk of civilian casualties was too high.  They repeatedly accused mainstream world media outlets of bias since these outlets did not, in their view, fairly represent these efforts.  The emphasis on gross casualty numbers over the causes of those casualties, such as Hamas using human shields, skewed reports toward Hamas and did not reflect the overall reality, they argued.

There is truth to this assertion and I will explore the legal aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict in a later post regarding Daniel Taub, a legal adviser to the Israeli government.  However, there is little sympathy for Israel in this regard and constant complaint about media bias does nothing to change public sentiment.  Israel can no longer realistically claim the victim role when they have a huge military and economic advantage over Hamas, Fatah, and the PLO.  So even if the claim is true and the media is biased against Israel, repeating it does not help Israel's cause.

This also speaks to a certain breed of exceptionalism that permeates Israeli society.  They are, as they often repeat, a Jewish state, the only Jewish state in the world.  Thus, they are unique.  Like American exceptionalists, they often claim that scenarios and solutions found elsewhere do not apply to Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

They may be correct but as we have found in the US healthcare debate, bits and pieces of solutions used elsewhere can be adapted and applied if there is the political will to do so.  Israeli exceptionalism may also contribute to Israeli PR's inability to resonate outside of Israel and the most invested segments of diaspora Jewish society.  It is very hard to understand and connect with the other when one believes oneself to be wholly unique.

That's enough for now; I'll get to Sderot later tonight or tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. The trouble with exceptionalism is that it enables one to see only in a mirror. This does not permit dialogue. This conflict will not be resolved, certainly in Israel's favor, unless it realizes that the contours of conflict are not traditional. They embrace the media and public opinion shaped by perceptions more than bombs at the disposal of each party. It is new age asymmetry.