Thursday, August 13, 2009

Xenophobia in Israeli and USA Media

freidenker24 wrote a post last month where he discusses a recent news story in Israel. In "Israel, the land of Multi-Tribalism" he talks about what he sees as some very problematic portrayals in the media over there.
Not recently, it has come to my peeved attention that Israeli news headlines are made and broken with the employment of a single gimmick: Xenophobia sells.

A deranged woman starves her infant boy to the point of severe malnutrition. She’s mentally ill, and caused her young child terrible anguish, but tragedy and mischief are not enough to keep the Israeli public buying newspapers, apparently. No. The Israeli public wouldn’t be as good a consumer as its masters do dearly wish it to be without some good, well-crafted random-primed hatred.***

It’s the fact that the mother is an ultra-orthodox Jew that sells the newspapers, right?

I mean, gods blind me, I almost forgot there’s some poor infant slowly and painfully recovering in his hospital bed somewhere with all this tribal hate-mongering around.
This is a tragic situation. Like, Freidenker24, I don't give a rat's ass about what religion the mother is/was associated with. It's just a tragedy. I would add that it's not just a tragedy for the little child who was involved; the mother might deserve some sympathy, too. My view is not because I'd ever believe it's acceptable to abuse a child. It just that, if this woman is/was mentally ill, then (in my opinion) there is a certain amount of fault that we should lay at the feet of Israeli society, in general. That's not to say that other nations do any better, because as a person with disabilities I can tell you that I don't see the U.S.A. behaving any better. I think that society has a certain amount of responsibility to care for those who can not care for themselves.

Freidenker24 explains how xenophobia is often used to "sell" a story to the Israeli public. He goes on to comment on what he sees as the basis for this tactic and why it can be so effective in that society.
Hatred is the glue that binds the many tribes living in modern Canaan together, the main catalysis for keeping the vast majority of malign idiots at bay: make us hate the myriad sub-sectors of the Israeli polytribe, and we’ll forget all about the fact that an entire elite class has sprung which makes a living by screwing everybody else. It’s the politicians that are truly non-racist: they screw everyone over, regardless of race, sub-tribe and/or hue.
Sound familiar? It's happening here, too. Look at the views expressed every night by Lou Dobbs and O'Reilly and others in the media who should really know better.

I'm not very fond of some of the tenets of ultra-orthodox Judaism. However, I think those that identify with that label deserve to be seen as individuals, not some monolithic group that should be blamed whenever an ultra-orthodox Jew engages in anti-social behavior. The same is true with regards to those who have been recent targets of America's special brand of xenophobia: Latinos and Arabs.

I would be richer than Bill Gates if I had a dollar for every time someone on the news said "anchor babies", "illegal aliens", or the words "Arab" and "terrorists" used in the same sentence. Like ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel, Arab-Americans are often accused of trying to take over the entire nation and convert us all into their brand of religion. Like ultra-orthodox Jews, I've seen numerous people complaining that fecund Latinos are having lots of kids so that they can get rich off of other people's tax dollars through government welfare programs. I know there are plenty of differences between xenophobia in Israel and the USA, but I found these few similarities quite interesting, too.


Freidenker85 said...

Well, obviously a freethinking and unattached (that is, non-Israeli) individual like you would simply be disgusted by the "starving mother saga" (as the Israeli media calls it).

I'm saying that because I get the impression that you thought I felt differently about the case. There is something to learn about the UO society from this case, but I was bemoaning the fact that it's all been overshadowed with people yelling at each other for being in the wrong tribe.

As for the mother - in that case, you do have to consider the Haredi society, not the Israeli society as a whole. (I'll use this term for Ultra-orthodox from now on, it's the Hebrew word)

I'm not saying this because of racism, I'm saying this because I am familiar with the Haredi society, and they tend to be not only xenophobic but extremely ethnocentric. I don't think anyone should hate them as a group, but the fact that they perpetuate their isolation is not a matter of racism, it's just the truth. I'm stating that because among self-isolation, the Haredi have a track of leniency in cases such as this. It's either that they don't see situations such as this worthy of secular Zionists' attention, which is more likely, or that they really don't give a damn about things such as this (which is utter nonsense, of course).

The Haredi have some kind of Omerta when it comes to cooperating with the "unclean Jews". I'm the first person to suggest that they step out of their own island. In my opinion, letting our societies merge would do a lot to remove the hatred between the two sub-tribes.

Sorry about the lengthy response

Daisy Deadhead said...

unattached (that is, non-Israeli)

You should say "non-Israeli" if that is what you mean. The LAST WORD I would ever use to describe Bint is "unattached"...the whole reason she engages with such issues is because she is very attached to concepts like justice and fairness.


Lucie said...

Bint Al-Hamshah, as always your posts make me think, as does Freidenker85's response. The two problems are the family/individual suffering and the larger societal problem of racism. I don't know if they can be solved separately; I don't know if they can be solved at the same time.
I am trying to see members of subgroups as individuals who deserve respect. This includes conservative born-again Christian sexist racist men. It's a struggle.

Freidenker85 said...

With all due respect, it takes a lifetime of living in this shithole (Israel, and yes, it IS a shithole) to be thoroughly "attached", and that's what I meant. Obviously the author of this blog holds great deference to justice and fairness, but you can't assume to know how blind people feel just because you're very empathetic. You have to be blind. I've been living with deaf people all my life, I don't presume to know what it feels like being deaf, and you probably can't find hearing people with more knowledge of and sympathy for the deaf (being a child of deaf parents, that is).

bint alshamsa said...


Yes, I do understand and agree with you that, no matter how much one may care about someone or some place else, it isn't the same as actually being in that situation. I was especially interested in how you saw this, in part, because of your experience as the child of parents who are deaf. I often wonder whether/how my daughter's view of the world will be affected by having grown up in a family with parents who are disabled. I want to write more about what you've said, but I may have to wait until tomorrow when I'm not quite so exhausted. :)

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libhom said...

The reason why this got so much coverage was that ultra-orthodox Jews were rioting to try to keep authorities from protecting the child. The mother needs help as does the child, and a lot of Jewish religious extremists are using violence to try to keep that from happening.