Israeli Columnist in London Probes Why UK is Fascinated With Hamas as Underdog, its One-Sided Media and ‘Death to All Juice’
Israeli columnist Dror Feuer jumped at the chance for a long-weekend in London as a break from war in Israel last week, but returned with astute observations about British adoration of Hamas as the underdog, a “one-sided media” that doesn’t even pretend to show the other side, and stories of Jews enduring tongue-in-cheek taunts, including an internet meme of ‘Death to All Juice.’
In his column published on Thursday in Globes, Feuer wrote that his trip “all began terribly,” when his easyJet flight to Luton was trapped on the runway in Tel Aviv for five hours, before being cancelled, because of the “situation.”
On the plane he met many young British Jews. “All of them spoke of a strong anti-Israel sentiment in the media, academia, and on the social networks, and of their frustration in facing such gross one-sidedness; one that is unwilling to listen,” he wrote. “In their daily lives, they all made a point of saying, there is no sense of fear or violence in the streets. London is not Paris. It is much more inclusive and tolerant. Yet, still, it’s not pleasant.”
“They showed me the ‘Death to all Juice’ Internet initiative (look it up). It sounds innocuous enough in Hebrew, but in London, this humor becomes much less comfortable. Almost everyone spoke of latent anti-Semitism, which was the root from which the current protest had sprung.”
“They spoke of demonstrations at some of the more radical universities, such as the London School of Economics (LSE) and University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), in which students set up roadblocks, dress up as Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, and inspect everyone who comes in – that sort of thing.”
When Feuer arrived in London, the universities were quiet after a huge demonstration that he was sore to have missed, with up to 10,000 Britons railing against Israel, but at the school’s grounds were leaflets and flyers against Israel. “They were 100% right, the friends from the grounded airplane,” he said.
Feuer, who has been a journalist for nearly 20 years, returned to his friend’s flat and was appalled when he watched the British news: “The vast majority of British media, the BBC in particular, but also SkyNews and print news, make for an extremely depressing experience. Almost enough to make your head explode. I would describe the sampling as ‘one sided,’ but then even the term ‘one sided’ implies that somewhere there are, in fact, two sides, and that someone chose one of them. But it didn’t even look that way to me. There was only one side.”
Coverage of Israel is only of the destruction in Gaza: “Only the IDF destroys, bombs, demolishes; there is almost no mention of rockets in Israel. Occasionally they mention the Iron Dome, but when they show a house in Israel that was hit by a rocket, they make sure to balance it: ‘Relative to what is going in Gaza,’ the correspondent emphasizes, ‘this is nothing.’ And in another instance that made me want to smash the TV, they showed Israeli soldiers’s funerals. I’m sitting there in tears, but the newscaster says something like: ‘Though there is no comparing the number of dead, also the Israelis can be sad.'”
“The empathy is reserved for only one side,” he said. “The tunnels are ‘impressive.’ The Hamas ‘fighters,’ ‘didn’t stand a chance,’ etc.”
He said that no matter how hard Israeli leaders try, the British media provides no respite: “When they interview Israeli spokespeople, it seems as though they are mocking them… Of course the Israeli spokespeople try to claim that Hamas is waging a public relations war – again that Israeli notion that everything can be explained, as though there is no reality. I saw Tzipi Livni on the BBC, and I was embarrassed.”
The core of it is the underdog, he said. “And, I can understand sympathizing with the underdog – it is, at the end of the day, a positive human tendency. But what about a tiny bit of fairness – or, at the very least, a pretense of fairness?”
“Questions that begged to be asked, were not,” he said. “Like, for example, a BBC team enters a Hamas tunnel, and is amazed by the engineering feat, but doesn’t ask how it is that there is money for this while the citizens have no water in their taps or electricity in their sockets. Because everything is Israel’s fault. Or, a question like: is Hamas good or bad for its people? Or, what’s the point of launching an unwinnable war at the expense of hundreds, or thousands of lives?”
As media watchers have noted, coverage of the war in Gaza has featured only the civilians, never a photograph of Hamas in action: “And, altogether, I didn’t see almost any Hamas spokespeople – only poor, injured residents, really – and, if there were, they only made proclamations, they were never asked any questions. On the other hand, the Israeli spokespeople are questioned, almost rudely. And so it should be, I don’t disagree, but only one side is asked questions. Hamas wasn’t even asked what it wants. Maybe because the answer is known well, and it is uncomfortable to hear. They talk about Iron Dome and praise it, and no one thinks to ask why only one side is protecting its citizens.”
He wandered the streets of London and interviewed Israeli ex-pats and was surprised when the told him it was actually now better than before.
“And the strangest thing – bordering on unbelievable – is that everyone told me, when I shared my impressions, that the ‘situation’ now is much better and more balanced than it was in previous ‘situations.’ For example, what was in the past ‘the Israeli attack,’ became ‘the conflict in Gaza.’ For example, there is occasionally a report from Israel. Sometimes, even a positive one. True, the overall mood is critical, to put it mildly, but there is a change for the better. I had no choice but to believe them.”
Even Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the UK, agreed “that now is better, compared with previous conflicts; there is more support for Israel, worldwide.”
“There is more maturity,” Taub told Feuer, “certainly among the important people.” Taub told him about the “quiet advocacy work that took place when things were quiet, and, of course, the prism that changes along with events in the Middle East, the revolutions in the Arab world, the rise of ISIS and the Jihadists, and more.”
“We talk about the difference between the UK’s formal position, in support of Israel, and the media and the protests on the street. Overall, it calms me, this not-so-bad situation: the attempt to boycott Israel has failed miserably. However, though the boycott may have failed, Israel has failed miserably in another area that its adversaries have won – what the ambassador calls the ‘chill factor’: people who support Israel are, let’s say, ‘not eager’ to express their opinions publicly, unlike its critics, who have no problem being vocal.”
“The ambassador actually understands very well that the ideal of balanced media is unrealistic, and that what needs to be done is not to discredit Hamas and to pin the responsibility for the deaths of Gazans on them, but to come around from another angle: What do you stand for, people of Britain? Democracy or dictatorship? An oppressive and murderous regime or for a country that cares for its residents?”
Before Feuer left on Tuesday, the saturation coverage of Gaza on television had subsided for “something more important,” the first birthday of Britain’s Prince George.
“The dead children in Gaza were cleared to make way for the little prince,” Feuer wrote. “‘Ohhhhhh,’ says the newscaster, ‘he is so adorable.’ It’s true, the kid really is cute. What good fortune, George. You are lucky in life; believe me.”