Sunday, January 23rd | 22 Shevat 5782

May 24, 2018 10:32 am

The Difference Between History and News

avatar by Douglas Altabef‏


A worker on a crane hangs a US flag next to an Israeli flag, near the site of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem, May 7, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun / File.

From a PR perspective, Israel seemed to have forfeited a great day of celebration, due to the insistence of several media outlets on juxtaposing the ceremony inaugurating the new US Embassy in Jerusalem with rampaging Gaza protesters on the border.

This was yet another in the seemingly endless string of perceived moral equivalencies that have so marked the media’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Not surprisingly, the clear intent by many media outlets was to tar not only Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu, but also Donald Trump. It is a frightening prospect to realize that in the world of “the friend of my enemy is also my enemy,” Israel — by association, affiliation, and emphatic appreciation of Trump — has become another bad guy and enemy to many in the US and the West.

Thus, the split screen was a way to say: “Trump/Bibi/Israel fiddles while Gazans burn.”

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Here, though, we start to confront the very real limits of media influence, or at least to understand the context of media influence. There is no question that the media was able to make a story of the juxtaposition of events. The imagery was irresistible to those trying to denigrate the event in Jerusalem.

However, the media is completely dumbstruck as to the relative significance of the two events. The protests in Gaza were expected, and casualties were pre-ordained, most of all by Hamas.

The imagery was confusing but somehow telegenic. One could read into it what he or she wished to find, and could ascribe blame or causality where one wished to place it.

But, in the grand scheme of things, it is safe to assume that this was a media event and not much more. The poor people of Gaza will continue to be oppressed by Hamas, and Hamas, like the Coyote in the immortal Roadrunner cartoon, will continue to find ways to defeat, bloody, or humiliate Israel — and will inevitably fail.

In the big picture, the protests in Gaza are like the tide going in and going out.

By stark contrast, the embassy inauguration in Jerusalem was not a news event, so much as the marking of a tectonic undertaking, an event that will be noted in the timeline of the history of Israel, and the evolution of the region.

In other words, it was not merely a news event, but one fraught with historic implications.

“History” is perhaps an overused word, and it was being liberally invoked at the ceremony. However, there are exceptions that prove the rules, and the embassy opening was very likely just one of those exceptions.

What drove Hamas crazy, and prompted tantrums from the Palestinian Authority, was that the embassy opening was the creation of an unmistakable fact on the ground.

This is also a great source of anger to Trump haters in America. Trump actually accomplished a deed that his predecessors had also promised, but failed to follow through on. Since the promise was the implementation of legislation passed in 1995, it is not subject to reversal the same way that the Iran deal could be undone by Executive Order.

It is part of the Jewish worldview to have disaster closely related to triumph. Moments after the Tabernacle is dedicated in the desert, the sons of Aaron, the High Priest, are burned to death for bringing an inappropriate offering.

Joy is rarely unadulterated. However, there are short-term qualifiers and then there is the long-term significance of the joy itself.

The split screen makes for compelling viewing, but doesn’t convey real meaning. Sad to say, the events in Gaza will continue, in various formats, until the Gazans either give up their aspirations to expel us or until they expel their leadership.

The significance of the embassy opening will not only endure, but it will be the powerful first domino leading to a series of events that will have a defining beneficial long-term impact on Israel, and on the region.

Mr. Altabef is the chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at [email protected]

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