In his grotesque demand that Real Madrid “apologize” for hosting Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, Yair Lapid decided that the meeting in Madrid “testifies to the ignorance that prevails about those who want to destroy the State of Israel.”
Let us put aside the question of the destructive capabilities of a 17-year-old girl without rights, and the artificial paranoia of a 55-year-old Israeli politician. In a competition over the ignorance about what is happening under the occupation, it may be said that Tamimi’s hosts in Madrid know much more about it than the leader of the political center from Ramat Aviv Gimel, who, it can be assumed, has never set foot in Nabi Saleh, home of the Tamimi family. Informed by the army, Shin Bet and Israeli media, avoiding meetings with Palestinians and visits to the territories as do most Israeli politicians, Lapid doesn’t have a clue about the life and people in this village dedicated to struggle, or in any other Palestinian place located half an hour from his home.
Lapid is not unusual in his ignorance. The average reader of Western European newspapers knows more about what is happening under the occupation than most Israelis do. The naked, simple truth is exposed in the international press, while it is well hidden from the eyes of Israelis and wrapped up for them in fear-mongering and lies. In Western Europe, readers are not brainwashed with stories about a 17-year-old “terrorist,” a “family of murderers,” a “terrorist village,” the destruction of Israel, diplomatic terrorism or kite terrorism. There they tell how life looks under the occupation and what motivates the opposition to it.
Real Madrid sees Tamimi as a heroine, a symbol who deserves respect and solidarity for her legitimate opposition to the occupier, an occupier who invades and oppresses her village with brutal force. Is there any other fair way to describe life in Nabi Saleh? Except for Haaretz and two or three journalists covering the territories in other news media, and who are still trying to balance the picture presented by Israel with a picture of the truth, and who run into opposition from their editors, the information coming out of the territories is distorted and deceptive. Everyone is a terrorist. They get up in the morning – terrorists. Go to sleep – terrorists. Born to kill Jews.
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The context of the occupation has no place in the Israeli media. Descriptions of routine, day to day life under occupation have no audience. No one is interested in depictions of the horrors and crimes. The IDF and Shin Bet are the sole sources of information for almost everything that happens in the Balata refugee camp.
This brainwashing that has escalated greatly since the second intifada no longer allows for fair descriptions of the reality of life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel is prepared only for distorted information and propaganda that borders on incitement. Attempts to describe the nightmarish life in Gaza, for example, are much rarer in the Israeli press than in the international press – and they, too, arouse anger and derision. Israelis are firm in their insistence on not knowing and in curling up inside their ignorance.
Israel has forbidden Israeli journalists from entering the Gaza Strip for the last 12 years, and no one opens their mouth. The cities of the West Bank, too, its towns and refugee camps, receive more visits from foreign journalists than from Israeli ones. The result: terrible ignorance along with prejudice, stereotyping, fear, hatred, arrogance and contempt for anything having to do with the Palestinians. In the absence of any direct contact with them, the influence of incitement on the Israeli worldview is decisive.
One may still believe, at the risk of being terribly naïve, that if Lapid the ex-journalist, not the politician, were to visit Nabi Saleh once, to absorb with an open, not inflamed, mind the hostile takeover of the village’s lands and the portrait of apartheid that is Nabi Saleh and the nearby settlement of Halamish, he would applaud Real Madrid for its inspiring welcome to the daughter of the village who dared to stand up to the occupier and overcame him.
And maybe the fact that Tamimi is everything Lapid never was and never will be – a brave fighter willing to pay a heavy personal price, one born and raised under the occupation and now a symbol of the just resistance to it, instead of an indulged golden boy who never had to struggle for anything and was not endowed with any sort of bravery – is what’s driving him crazy, and with him the herd of Israelis following along blindly.