I expected SMP to receive its share of negative publicity after it published “Ten ways Israel loves Palestine“. The posters, modeled after the “Israel loves Iran” campaign, were seen by some as a bitter and disingenuous attempt to vilify well-intentioned Israelis and to detract from the underground outpouring of solidarity between Iranian and Israeli civilians who refuse to follow their leaders into war. Others even shed a tear, mistaking the post as a disheartening attack against the two Israeli artists behind the original campaign who put their necks out on the line for humanity. But all things considered, these misinterpretations gravely fail to acknowledge what exists between the lines. A message of peace is great; a message of hypocrisy is not.
There is no doubt in my mind that the individuals behind the “Israel loves Iran” campaign—those who created it, those who carried it on, and those who responded with likeminded messages of hope from Iran—are in it for the right reasons. Simply put, to avoid war, especially one that is so globally volatile, is to make the world a rounder place. This is great, of course, but the question remains: where has this humanism been for the last six and a half decades?
A commenter on the popular website Reddit argued that Palestinians and their solidarity activists reject any campaign that doesn’t direct its full attention the Palestinian cause. This, the commenter wrote, means that “anything that portrays something Israeli in a positive light is met with spite and contempt”. In other words, these “Israel loves Palestine” posters serve no other purpose than to attack levelheaded Israelis. But that is entirely false. These posters attack the idea that the occupation of Palestine can just be ignored as if the Israeli government’s only problem is that it keeps pushing for war.
I understand that many Israelis do not want war with Iran. The reasons vary but the point is the same: over 50% of Israelis disagree with the government’s warhawk attitude, according to a recent poll. No matter how likely, war with Iran is still only a hypothetical situation, so what about reality? What about the millions of Palestinians living today as refugees as a result of Israel’s wars and policies? After demolishing homes and displacing hundreds of families yearly, after dropping more explosives on Gaza alone in an eighteen month period (September 2005 to May 2007) than the amount launched from Gaza towards southern Israel in the last decade and a half, after confining dozens of uncharged and untried children to administrative detention, after illegally building a wall around the West Bank, after shooting unarmed protesters in the face, after expanding settlements already outlawed by recognized international law, can we ever expect a true and heartfelt “Israel loves Palestine” campaign?
Israel’s J14 movement is a telling example of how mainstream humanism in Israel, it seems, stops short of Palestine. As the population mobilized for government reform, one of the last items to ever hit the agenda was Israel’s treatment of Palestinians both inside and outside of its borders. And those who did take up the cause were only a small minority of the greater J14 population. As the protests died down, the Israeli government remained adamant about its position towards Palestine, even going ahead and ordering the construction of thousands of new settlement units throughout the West Bank. Their was no campaign of solidarity with the Palestinian people forced to endure further abuses of their human and civil rights.
It would be wrong of me to ignore the fact that there is a substantial number of Israelis who support Palestinian self-sovereignty and who call for an end to the occupation. Most if not all of these individuals wish to avoid war with Iran. But there is also a substantial number of Israelis who wish to avoid war with Iran but refuse to even acknowledge Palestinian existence. Frankly, these individuals carry with them a hypocritical mentality that is the target of these hotly-contested posters. One cannot cry out for justice while turning a blind eye towards the crimes committed right underneath his or her nose.
Each of the ten posters represents a different and undeniable facet of hypocrisy. Like the artists behind the original “Israel loves Iran” campaign, I don’t want to see war between Israel and Iran. But I also refuse to bear witness to the systematic abuse of Palestinian rights, and I think that point needs to be made loud and clear.