The turmoil that has beleaguered the Middle East for decades has been described many ways. On the 5th of June, however, the terminology turned vulgar. This enduring conflict was publically characterised as a ‘war between the civilized man and the savage’. Boldly announced with a plea to ‘support Israel/defeat Jihad’, the full page advertisement ran in the New York Post’s special section covering the city’s ‘Celebrate Israel’ parade.
Declaring the Muslim people ‘savage’ is, of course, just a school-yard taunt from Islamaphobe Pamela Geller, who gleefully takes credit for the advertisement. Had her rant been limited to her own blog, we might easily dismiss it. The problem lies in its acceptance into mainstream discourse. The Post may be tabloid journalism, but its paper edition remains the seventh most popular paper in America. And this sort of crude advertisement for a political cause panders to a public comfortable with the mind-set of ‘don’t bore me with the details’.
But the details are critical if we are to consider a conflict that has taken thousands of lives. How can we, for instance, reconcile the concept of ‘civilized’ with the reality of shooting unarmed protesters? The advertisement asks us to accept Israel as ‘civilized’; yet as these very words were first read, Israeli soldiers were shooting into a crowd of Syrian-Palestinians, killing 24 and injuring another 350.