Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Egyptian rage about the Israeli channel 1 film

As usual, the Israeli media and the Arab media have two completely different descriptions of the same event.

A few days ago, Mohamed Maher said:

there is some news which was spread in all the egyptian newspapers , two days ago.
it says that, the israeli "channel one", released a new documentry film, which says that in the war of 1967 , a troop had a leader called " benjamen aleaazer" (who is an israeli minister right now) killed 250 captured egyptian soldiers which were without any weapon , these soldiers were captured while they were runing away from sinai, after the israeli strike.
many israeli soldiers which were a part of this troop talked in this film, and they admitted the doing of such a crminal action.
"aleaazer" said that they used to fire a large number of bullets on each captured soldier to be sure that he is dead...
the film has also some documentry movie parts , which were taken in 1967, that shows these type of criminal action....

I assume this is a pretty accurate description of how Egytians remember the events.

Israel has a completely different story. Not having seen the film myself, I have to rely on newspaper articles and radio interviews, but it is quite clear that the Israeli version is very far from teh Egyptian view.

For starters, participants in those events totally deny killing unarmed soldiers. According to radio in interviews with people who participated in the operation, this was a combat operation, and was a battle against soldiers who still had their guns. I heard in those interviews that Israeli soldiers who participated in the operation have some moral reservations about the action, because they had an unfair advantage in the battles, and because the battles took place after victory had been declared. The Egyptian soldiers still had their weapons, but the Israeli operations were carried out during the day, when the Egyptian soldiers were in hiding.

Here's a paragraph from an article in Ha'aretz about the film:
In the end, Sayeret Shaked has no cause to glory in the operation, but it is not a matter of killing prisoners, as was claimed by the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram after the film was broadcast. It was a revenge action, an organized hunt of helpless soldiers who had no chance of fleeing from the firepower of the Israeli fighters who were assaulting them from the air. It was not "fair play," but it is doubtful that the action falls into the category of war crimes, as defined by law.

The article also quotes what the Israeli soldiers actually said in the film, including mentions that the Egyptian soldiers were armed at the time.

I also happened to hear a radio interview with a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. He complained that as an ambassador he tried many times to go on Egyptian TV / radio - but was never allowed there. He said that he did manage to get a few newspaper interviews, but that they always distorted his words.

Why is this happenning? Why are the Israeli and Arab versions of the same event always so different? I can think of three possible explanations:

  • Option 1: Arabs are saints. Israelis are evil. Arabs always tell the truth, and Israelis always lie and distort reality.
  • Option 2: Israelis are saints. Arabs are evil. Israelis always tell the truth, and Arabs always lie and distort reality.
  • Option 3: Arabs are human and Israelis are human. Arabs think that they are saints and that Israelis are evil. Israelis think that they are saints and that Arabs are evil. When Israelis speak - Arabs think Israelis are lying to cover up crimes. When Arabs speak - Israelis think this is anti-Israeli propaganda. Neither side is willing to accept that no one here is a saint. No one likes to belong to a group which is not "Just" or "Moral". People defend their own side, and try to prove that the other side is evil. It is so difficult to accept that your own side is also wrong, that people find it much easier to believe that the other side has evil intentions and is twisting the facts. As a result, both sides see the other as evil or crazy, and the words and actions of one side are constantly misunderstood by the other (e.g., the Al-Aqsa events).
Any other explanations anyone?



Savtadotty said...

The question is not whether Israelis or Arabs (in this case, Egyptians) are human, but who controls their State media? And what happens to a citizen who speaks out in disagreement with his/her government's line on a given issue? The lack of freedom of the press and free speech makes me suspicious of most Arab mainstream media, starting with the translator, the reporter, and working on up to the publisher. It would be useful if an Egyptian blogger who understands Hebrew could view the controversial film and comment.

Israeli Blogger said...

@savtadotty: if Egyptians would view the film, they will say things like "you're not showing the real film", or "the film was doctored to remove the criminal evidence".

My conversations with Arabs on this blog have brought me to the conclusion that our view or Arab media is totally wrong.

We usually think of Arab media as state-controlled means of spreading propaganda. I now think that the Arab media portrays the actual beliefs of the Arab public. (If you want some hints to that, take a look at the reader comments on the Ha'aretz article I'm quoting in this post. They were posted by Arabs).

Arabs truly and wholeheartedly believe that we Israelis are monsters.

Yes, Arab reporters who speak out against the government are risking their freedom. But that doesn't mean that those who say things we interpret as "state propaganda" don't believe what they write.

nominally challenged said...

I found your blog through Lisa's blog.
I'm not going to offer any alternative explanations right now. I just wanted to say "wow" - I like your blog, and I think that you show amazing tolerance and willingness to learn new things.
I'm definitely adding you to my rss feed!

Lirun said...

rage is an interesting state.. if people can gain it over someone not indicating when they change lanes then sure a film can achieve it too ;)

Nizo said...

First of all, thanks for commenting on my blog and ברוכים הבאים

If I can humbly comment on this post using a slightly modified comment I posted recently during another very similar discussion.

My father, who is now semi-retired, used to head a major Arab daily in his day (he's now a mere columnist). From my young age, I was exposed to the inner workings of an Arab newspaper and with the daily "shall I publish this or not" conundrum. Judging from my exposure to the medium and interaction with the readers, I got the impression that people aren't as prone to the conspiracy theory rubbish as some think. For example, when an Omani newspaper published that there were no Jews killed in the 9-11 attacks, my father wrote in his paper that it was rubbish and the feedback he got was in line with what he wrote. His paper (which for privacy reasons I won't reveal on the blog) also regularly translates and publishes excerpts from Haaretz and Y.Acharonot and not all of it is Amira Hass or Gideon Levy stuff.

On the other hand, I also agree with Savtadotty's comment on the lack of accomodation of altenative points of views in the Arab world. BUT, these views do exist.

I could write about this until the cows come home, but all I'll say is that some Arab's victim mentality and related feeling of helplessness cloud whatever perception they have of themselves,other Arabs, and non-Arabs others in the region. I'm not saying Israel is the faultless party in the region. Yet, for too many years, Arab leaders have consolidated their power by diverting attention of their people towards perceived threats. It will take a century to undo such "progamming", and it's not limited to the Arab world, there are parallels in the Balkans, Russia, Africa etc...

nominally challenged said...

I have decided to add my two agorot :)

I think we can agree that all of the parties involved are human (I just had to get that point out of the way first).

What seems to me to be significant is not merely who controls whose media (be it editorial committees whose decisions are based on commercial considerations or some sort of government control or military censorship), but rather, the lack of access to material in foreign languages.

I cannot read or understand Arabic. I think that I am a fairly typical Israeli in that sense. In fact, I think that it might even be fair to say that most Israelis have no interest in speaking or reading Arabic (though I, personally, would like to be able to).

Therefore, my access to Arabic sources of news is limited to whatever I can find translated. I am then relying on at least two presumptions - one is that someone saw fit, for whatever reason, to translate a particular piece of news (and that person's agenda might be clear to me, or it might not). The second relates to the accuracy of the translation. I cannot know whether there were more pertinent articles in a newspaper or more relevant items on a news broadcast, in the absence of a translation; and what do I really know about the credentials, or the agenda, of the translator in order to decide whether the translation is even correct?

I think that it is fair to say that, our friend Nizo and a small minority like him excepted, the vast majority of Arabs in the countries neighboring Israel do not speak Hebrew, and have no interest in speaking or reading Hebrew. Their access to news items from our press is as restricted as our access to their news is. And the same presumptions must apply.

I believe that the problem is essentially a linguistic one. It is my view that if we all spoke the same language, wrote with the same metaphors and enjoyed the same rhetoric, we might find, heaven forbid, that we actually liked one another. Or if that is going too far (and well it might be), that at least we could understand one another.

Israeli Blogger said...

@nizo: welcome! It is refreshing news to find out that there are some sparkles of openness in the Arab world.

@nominally: first of all - thanks for the complements! :-)

I agree with you there's an immense value in reading the media of the other side. The Arabs I conversed with on this blog have also suggested that we read their newspapers, and were kind enough to tell me that AlJazeera is a pretty accurate English source of the Arab mindset. (See this post for their notes).

I started checking AlJazeera's web site from time to time - and I recommend the practice.

One important warning before you go there, though: to us, much of what they write sounds like lies and propaganda. If you come unprepared: you will get a stomach ache. I was only able to read the stories (especially the "conspiracy theories" section) by telling myself repeatedly: "THEY ARE EXPRESSING THEIR TRUE EMOTIONS. THEY DON'T REALLY KNOW OUR INTENTIONS, THEY HONESTLY BELIEVE WHAT THEY WRITE, AND IT ALL SEEMS LOGICAL TO THEM. THEY ARE NOT BEING PURPOSELY MALICIOUS".

Andrey said...

It should be noted, that has nothing to do with the famous AlJazeera qatari channel. You should check AlJazeera.NET, it will calm you down.

Israeli Blogger said...

Thanks Andrey!

Lirun said...

well actually - many very respected israelis speak arabic and many others have a keen interest in learning..

please dont forget.. israel is not just a transposition of the polish russian and jewish communities.. there are others here too.. others including jewish people and non jewish people.. who dont necessarily dine gfilte..