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Yalla Peace: Offense is in the eye of the beheld
By RAY HANANIA
05/09/2012 JERUSALEM POST
The new IDF anti-hitchhiking campaign is stomach-turning
n more ways than most Jews might think.
Sometimes I think Israelis and Palestinians spend too much time encouraging people to be prepared for the worst, rather than focusing our energies on concepts and ideas that might safeguard our mutual futures.
We look at each other and instead of seeing the majority of our community that is good, we instead see the dark side, the minority of our community that are extremists and prone to violence.
Take the new IDF campaign to discourage soldiers from hitchhiking, arguing in a powerful message that doing so might expose soldiers to kidnapping by “Palestinian terror groups.” The website features a movie of a kidnapped soldier reading his abductors’ demands to release all of the “freedom fighters” in Israeli prisons. At the end, the soldier says: “Sorry mother.”
The campaign was launched because information obtained through the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) – Israel’s secret police – revealed a Palestinian member of Islamic Jihad released to Gaza as part of the Schalit deal had told relatives in the West Bank how to kidnap soldiers.
Hitchhiking was high on the list, apparently.
The new IDF marketing campaign is sloganed “Don’t catch a ride. The ride might catch you,” and will appear on billboards at train and bus stations and on popular Internet sites, including an IDF website.
The campaign is stomach-turning in more ways than most Jews might think.
It targets violence by Palestinians, which is why the kidnappers are “Palestinian Terrorists.” It’s a stereotype that plays into “popular notions,” which is another way of saying “stereotypes.” Although the truth is hitchhiking has always been discouraged, and not all soldiers are Jews. Some are Druse. So why a new campaign?
Surely Palestinians even in Israel will see the campaign as offensive. So with much sarcasm, I offer some alternative PSA campaigns to help them see why this is so offensive.
HOW ABOUT urging “Israelis” not to take cabs driven by Israeli Palestinians, even though many Israeli Jews will not take “Arab cabs.” Or put up signs at restaurants that read “Jews only.” If you keep Arabs out, they won’t blow them up. How about a campaign to tell Israeli Jews, “We may have to live with non-Jewish Israeli citizens, but that doesn’t mean we have to trust them.”
These are extreme examples, but are intended to make a point from the Arab perspective, who surely view the hitchhiking campaign as another provocation creating animosity.
Animosity is a primary motivation for violence. Not throwing kerosene on a fire is a good way to keep angry fires from getting worse. But animosity is not sarcasm.
Instead of spending money on campaigns promoting more animosity and fear-mongering, as Arabs will surely view the IDF campaign on hitchhiking, why not invest our efforts on genuine peace, advocating two states, one Israel and one Palestine?
Why not a campaign from the Israeli government that reads, “Save Israel, Give up the Settlements.” It could show a scene where a platoon of Israeli soldiers are confronting settlers telling them that they should go home to Israel so the Palestinians can create a state. A Palestinian could be handing a flower to the soldiers.
Maybe another campaign might read more dramatically on billboards and buses, “A Palestine state won’t just make the Palestinians happy. It will make Israel safe, too.”
A third campaign might show a little Palestinian child being led away from their home in east Jerusalem with the child saying “Israel took my daddy’s home. But when I grow up I will fight to get it back.” Underneath could be the slogan, “Embrace real peace. Don’t take my home.”
I have a dozen more sarcastic ideas that might help Israeli Jews to understand why the IDF campaign is so offensive. Maybe they’re no more offensive to Jews than the hitchhiking campaign is to Palestinians.
This campaign would show a picture of Yitzhak Rabin over a caption, “Don’t let his death have been in vain. Embrace peace, again.” Instead of an Israeli soldier sitting between two Palestinian “terrorists,” they could have a picture of Yigal Amir in handcuffs, held by the Israeli police.
Well, they’d have to use Israelis who didn’t agree with Amir’s violent act.
Or, better yet, what if the IDF brought Israelis and Palestinians together to brainstorm positive PSAs to promote peace and discourage violence? We’d probably have to have a marketing campaign to convince the public it might work.
The writer is an award winning Palestinian American columnist and Radio Talk Show host.
This post has already been read 71 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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