Every now and then, one reveals more than one intended. And gets caught in the act.
Earlier today, there was a bit of a kerfluffle when Israel’s embassy in Ireland posted the following on its Facebook account:
A thought for Christmas…If Jesus and mother Mary were alive today, they would, as Jews without security, probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians. Just a thought....
It was removed from the page in a couple of hours, and replaced with this:
To whom it may concern: An image of Jesus and Mary with a derogatory comment about Palestinians was posted without the consent of the administrator of the Facebook page. We have removed the post in question immediately. Apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Merry Christmas!
Last month I wrote about what Israel doesn’t get about Twitter, but I might as well have called the post “What Israel Doesn’t Get and Has Never Gotten About Communicating With the Outside World,” because the Twitter mishaps and Facebook comedy of errors are not isolated events. They reflect attitudes and policies that have characterized official Israel for as long as I’ve known official Israel (since 1982), and those attitudes and policies are, simply put, part of Israel’s problem.
Nearly every facet of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank (Bethlehem included) speaks to the fact that Israel sees Palestinians as suspect simply because they’re Palestinian—that indeed, random lynchings are to be expected, because that’s what Palestinian culture looks like.
Moreover, nearly every facet of Israel’s foreign policy appears predicated on a kind of us-against-the-world-ism that casts the rest of the global community as a set of stock characters, the behavior of each predictable and entirely unrelated to anything Israel might actually do.
America is “a thing you can move very easily,” for instance, and Palestinians hate and want to kill us because that’s just what Palestinians are like. That’s who they are. (Iranians, too). It doesn’t matter if Israel builds settlements or incarcerates children or surrounds Palestinian homes and farmlands with a 25 foot concrete wall—they just hate us. Haters gonna hate.
All of which explains why any event in the world can be seen though the eyes of Jewish suffering. Jesus and Mary? Not really that important unto themselves, but boy do they serve to make a point about Jews who’ve been killed by Palestinians. Friday’s tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut? An opportunity to completely de-contextualize the decades-long war between Israel and the Palestinian people via sympathy note. The current geo-political stand-off between Israel, Iran, and the US? It’s all about the Holocaust, baby.
The problem with this, of course, is that people insist on being actual people, no matter what we think of them. Though Israel has tried to force the Palestinians into a mold for 64 years, the Palestinians have continued to insist on behaving as autonomous actors—and it’s really hard to get anything done when one is negotiating (or not) with a caricature rather than reality.
It is a good thing that someone in Israel’s Irish embassy caught the folly of whoever’s running their Facebook page (though they might want to take a look at the Twitter account, too), and I suppose that the apology, while rather anemic, is nice. Also, too: Merry Christmas!
But as long as we’re indulging in historical thought experiments, it bears noting that Jesus actually was killed, after all, and by folks who thought they could control his people through violence, and stripping them of their heritage.
How’d that work out for the Romans?