Humans, death and nuance
— Ben White (@benabyad) June 30, 2014
This tweet was retweeted into my timeline. I took offence but didn’t engage with the author or the retweeter because no mind was ever changed on Twitter. What once was a service to tell people what you were having lunch has become a service to further confirmation bias and justify outrage.
I took offence because three teenage boys were kidnapped and murdered and I don’t believe an expression of sympathy should ever be used for political points.
I took offence because there is, deep within this tweet (so deep that the author could easily argue plausible deniability), a sense of antisemitism. There is the suggestion that Israel gets different treatment not because of its strategic position as a diplomatic ally in a troubled region or because of the scientific and technological advances it has given the world, but because it is controlled by Jews.
I live in a secular world where I continue to face the argument that criticising Israel or declaring oneself to be “anti-zionist” is not the same as being an anti-semite. Semantically this argument is correct. People should have the right to disagree with the zionist philosophy and they should have the right to question the actions of any government. I wish the world were as straight-forward as that.
I feel no affinity to Israel as a country. I have family there and they are lovely people. Many people I grew up with moved there. I visited Israel when I was 15 years old and, while I understood its importance in my heritage, I didn’t love it in the way that I love Melbourne or New York.
Yet when I see a tweet like the one above, I am offended because it brings with it a hatred of Jews that smells vaguely of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a text that breeds hatred of Jews through the false argument that as a people we control governments, media, banks, etcetera.
As simple evidence we only need to see the replies that the tweet received:
— Adrian Cassidy (@butcharoo81) June 30, 2014
— Ivan IslamicState (@IvanBeers) June 30, 2014
There are more.
The ease with which we can broadcast our opinion or rebroadcast someone else’s has removed the time required to think about what we are actually saying and the impact that may have.
What happened to three teenagers in Israel is a tragedy for their families, their friends and the people in the area who may discover acts of terrorism around the corner. Our society differentiates between terrorist and military acts. The USA’s society does too. There are also laws around what governments can and cannot do within the bounds of military acts and there is protocol on how other countries’ governments should react when one country’s military acts outside of those laws.
It is very rare for USA’s President Obama to name other nations’ dead civilians in any situation, but he has expressed condolences to Palestinian people after actions by the Israeli military:
We also express our deepest condolences for the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza yesterday. We stress the importance of calm and urge all parties to do everything in their power to prevent further violence and civilian casualties.
The teenagers found murdered in Israel also held American citizenship, so it’s possible he saw a cultural difference there.
But it doesn’t matter. This blog post isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. The way people think about death, politics and discourse has not changed for hundreds of years. We keep hoping for a better future but do humans actually have the capacity to make it happen? Probably not as long as we keep avoiding debate by hiding behind a 140 character limit.