Sunday, April 29, 2012

29-Apr-12: So many foreign "activists" here. Why?

Sushi place on Jerusalem's Emek Refaim: As conflict zones go,
not quite a hardship posting
It's no secret that Israel's side of this ongoing war is told in ways that frequently suffer from excessive political spin and agenda-advancement. We have met hundreds of foreign journalists who have been based here for days or months over the last few years, and while many of them seem to be completely innocent of any historical background, it is striking to see how many have an actively hostile standpoint that comes through in the reports they publish.

There's something similar that can be said for the hordes of political 'activists' from Europe (and elsewhere, but in our experience it's mainly Europeans) who frequently get on-camera when there's a protest event against this or another aspect of Israeli policy. What brings them here?

An unassuming brief memoir penned by Tal Dror, a second-year student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who has been financing his way by working in a bar, throws some intriguing light on how and why we see so many European 'activists' and reporters in Israel. The article from which the following is excerpted was published on the Ynet site a few days ago.
How can a 20 year old Danish boy wake up one morning and tell his parents he's flying to the Middle East? A foreign reporter from Spain, who loves Israeli red wine, told me once how every foreign correspondent dreams of being stationed in Israel. "This is a foreign correspondent's paradise!" she said. "Where else can you go to restaurant in a city such as Tel Aviv, grab a drink, or go dancing on Dizengoff Street, and sleep at a fancy hotel, when the only thing that separates you from your authentic 'battle field' report is a 45 minute drive into Jerusalem or Bil'in and Naalin? ...I asked them once this one clich├ęd question that always comes to mind – "So why Israel of all places? Why not Syria? Egypt? Russia or China?" One of them put on a serious face. "Are you insane?" he asked me. "These are all extremely dangerous places!" ..."So wait," I asked in all seriousness. "You wouldn't have come here if you thought you could get badly hurt?" My Swedish friend grinned. "I don't think so," he said. "I may be a radical, but I'm also a spoiled one!" And they both burst out laughing. That's when I realized that for many of those foreign peace activists, this is all just a game. And in this game we, the Israelis and Palestinians, are the pieces. They come from all corners of the world to a faraway country they have never been to before. They confront soldiers and policemen, blocking roads and holding signs. Moreover – as long as they have their cold beer by the end of the evening, as long as they lay their heads in a comfy and friendly hostel – they will continue to arrive. They take advantage of what we're most proud of: Our freedom, democracy and the tolerance that we're so afraid to lose. They take advantage of the strange system we have developed, the one that lets us disconnect ourselves from reality and continue with our lives even when real fighting takes place so close to us. 
No earth-shattering revelations here it would surprise us to know that Tal Dror's experiences ["The spoiled leftist radical: Op-ed: Provocative foreign activists exploit Israel’s tolerance and comfortable lifestyle"] are  widely known or understood.

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