A Grave Accusation: Being Photographed With Arabs

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Razi Issa and United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas.

A new trend is engulfing the media of our land, so much so that it seems to have been secretly declared a special category of the Sokolov Prize for Journalism: revealing photos of Arabs posed with Arabs that we don’t like.

Accordingly, The Jewish Voice (HaKol HaYehudi) website revealed to us that Linir Abu Hazaz, an adviser to MK Ran Ben Barak, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, was photographed at a course together with Muslim clergymen who had in the past been interrogated on suspicion of incitement, and then last week we were informed by the nonprofit Ad Kan, which was given a stage on “News 13,” that “a high-ranking member of the United Arab List, who was photographed with Abbas and Bennett, took part in a conference in Gaza together with a high-ranking member of Hamas.”

In both cases, the heart of the story is not the details and the facts; rather, it is the emotional effect that the viewers are intended to generate on their own: If (Arab) Individual A. meets (Arab) Individual B., who is associated with the expressions “suspicion of incitement,” “Gaza” or “Hamas,” then obviously Individual A. is a supporter of terror or a terrorist himself.

Let’s take, for example, the details of the Ad Kan investigation, which was broadcast by Ayala Hasson. The item looks like this: Razi Issa, a ranking member of UAL, was documented in a photograph with Mansour Abbas, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid during the coalition talks. This same Issa is the director of an NGO that contributes – dramatic music, please – to widows, orphans and the needy in … Gaza. At this point, we are already supposed to be thinking: “Help! A person transferring contributions to Gaza was photographed together with Bennett and Lapid!”

But what is really the problem here? Is the NGO unlawful? Is it surprising and shocking that Arabs in Israel (as well as Jews) are aiding victims of the fighting in Gaza? Furthermore, this same Issa was himself in Gaza. And he was photographed there together with a high-ranking Hamas member, Razi Hamed.

The information is stored in our heads: An Arab, in Gaza, is photographed with a Hamasnik. He is most certainly a terrorist. But in order to enter Gaza you need a permit, so is it being alleged that he did not receive one? No. And with whom, in the opinion of the shocked individuals, do Israeli security officials themselves, at times, meet? Or those officials who carry on contacts to initiate cease-fires? With the opposition or with representatives of the Hamas government? And to whom is the Qatari money transferred?

Nor are we told that Hamed was the main contact person in the process of Gilad Shalit’s release, and that Israel has carried on contacts with him for years. Okay, so it’s alright for Jews. Hasson hurls her accusation at Issa: “I can understand widows and orphans [thank you very much], but why should a ranking member of Hamas be thanking you?” And why, really, shouldn’t he be thanking an NGO that transfers money to the needy?”

And here is the most seemingly problematic part: Israeli treasury officials met with Abbas in a building in which the offices of the NGO also happen to be located. From that point, a colossal theoretical jump is made: If they were meeting there, then state funds were most definitely transferred to Gaza. The proof? Zip.

And then it all becomes clear. Here we have yet another gross distortion in the battle to torpedo the budget. In the end, Hassan sums it up in so many words: “Two photos, at Kfar Maccabiah and in Gaza, exactly what is the connection between the two of them? Perhaps the more precise question is, who is the connection between them?” The answer: Arabs. And that is supposed to suffice. Instead of bringing evidence and forming a dramatic claim that coalition funds were transferred to Hamas in Gaza, we get photos, dramatic music and names of Arabs.

The good news is that it seems as if increasingly more Israelis are refusing to buy into these manipulations, and are developing a healthy skepticism. Both in the Issa case and in the Abu Hazaz case, there are those for whom the dramatic music is no longer enough to convict, and this is only for the good. The reasons vary: the strange composition of the new government obligates its supporters to think a bit more logically about the propaganda against it, and the colossal hypocrisy of the Likud, whose government itself carried on contacts with Abbas and Hamas. Perhaps these circumstances will eventually lead to an understanding that the Palestinian reality is more complex than gaining a conviction for terrorism solely on the basis of being photographed with Arabs we don’t like.

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