Public support for Israeli policy has reached desperate levels. No longer are people praised for practicing good judgment and defending their values and ethics. Rather, all it takes is a little foolishness, a dose of adrenaline, and a nylon flag to become a hero of the State. This is the case of Daniel Pereg and Maya Wind, two Israeli teenagers featured on Israel’s popular Ynet News for their political activity on either side of the Palestine-Israel spectrum.
Following Israel’s raid on a Turkish-based aid flotilla that left nine civilians dead and dozens wounded, entire populations gathered outside of Israeli embassies to express outrage over Israel’s disregard for human life. One such protest took place in Los Angeles, just hours after the deadly attack. Equipped with a 3’ x 5’ Israeli flag, 16-year-old Daniel Pereg marched across the street and faced a lion’s den of pro-Arab protestors, as Ynet puts it.
Like an aging father watching his grown son try his hardest to play the violin, Ynet couldn’t have been more proud. They nicknamed him “Brave Heart” and boldly identified him as a “defining symbol” of Israel’s struggle against global condemnation. Ynet was so excited to write about him that the editors didn’t even bother to proofread:
His moment of famewas completely spontaneous, Peres said, adding he felt teh need to face the pro-Arab protestors while holding up an Israeli flag.
But what exactly did he do that prompted so much praise? All he did was carry a flag and stand in front of a crowd of protestors. If anything, his actions were just as inflammatory as marching a Palestinian flag through a pro-Israeli protest would be. The only thing he succeeded in doing was making a scene.
Then there’s Maya Wind. Also an Israeli teen, Maya opted to take a more calculated approach. Rather than causing public disorder by walking through a mob of pro-Israel enthusiasts, she worked with other activists on her college campus and organized a display that introduced the reality of the Israeli occupation of Palestine to other Columbia University students. Equipped with a cardboard rifle and dressed in military gear, Maya reenacted the role of an IDF soldier manning a standard Israeli checkpoint. Passerby were ‘arrested’ for no reason as their personal belongings were thrown to the ground. Like the gray-haired father who finally understood his grown son just isn’t fit for the violin, Ynet was angry.
They wrote a tabloid article about her. It dramatizes her entire history in an attempt to discredit her motives. It ridicules her for refusing to join the army when she resided in Israel. It mocks her for foolishly “spend[ing] her spare time organizing anti-Israeli displays”. It even includes quotes from ex-Israeli-soldiers-turned-students who find it “infuriating” that she had the audacity to reveal the secrets of Israeli checkpoint protocol. But Maya wasn’t discouraged. “I’m used to not being popular in Israel, so I am not surprised by the reactions.”
If Daniel is brave for what he did, what is Maya? And has public support for Israel decayed to such an extent that any form of patriotism is hailed as heroic by default? The key lies in Ynet’s coverage of both teenagers. If you enjoy cheesy nicknames and condone merit-less glorification, carry an Israeli flag to your local carwash. If you’re willing to bring an end to the gross injustices suffered by Palestinians on a daily basis, expect to be marginalized and demonized.
Edited by: S.Y.