Sunday, November 15, 2009

When Leads Mislead

According to Reuters, Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian and wounded two more near the Gaza border on Friday. An Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman stated the soldiers opened fire after suspecting the Palestinians were planting explosives near the security barrier. In turn, Hamas claimed that the wounded teenagers were out on a hunting trip.

The Lebanese English-language newspaper The Daily Star also reported on the same shooting. In fact, the paper printed the syndicated version of the Reuters article verbatim. Well, that is, except for the title.

In the original Reuters version, the title reads, "Israel kills Palestinian in Gaza confrontation." But The Daily Star editors opted for, "Jewish troops shoot Palestinian dead in Gaza confrontation."

Calling Israeli soldiers "Jewish troops" is both misleading and damaging.

It misleads because many non-Jews serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Israeli Druze and Circassian men fall under mandatory conscription laws like any Jewish Israeli. Furthermore, many Bedouin voluntarily join the IDF, often as a means of social mobility. Non-Jewish IDF soldiers have risen to highest ranks of the military, disproportionately volunteer for combat positions, and have fought and died for the state of Israel. Therefore, it's no surprise that IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi has praised minorities in the military, specifically calling the Druze "our generation's Maccabees."

It damages because it perpetuates the widespread conflation of Judaism and Zionism. For one, some of Israel's greatest critics are Jewish while some of its strongest supporters are not. But more importantly, it recasts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a political struggle of competing nationalisms into a religious struggle of irreconcilable faiths. While we can compromise to find a political solution, only God can resolve a dispute between religions.

*Out of curiosity, I also checked Al Jazeera English, which reported "Israeli troops kill Palestinian."

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