Smile at the world and the world will smile back at you
You will be hard pressed to know that Israel has been witnessing its own share of mass protests that have rolled into its 6th week. According to Global Post, the massive protests centred on rental prices and scarce public housing. Police sources said that about 320,000 people took to the streets on Saturday night demanding an end to government collusion with special interests, increased public housing and an era of social injustice. A quarter of a million people blocked off streets of Tel Aviv, with further protests taking place in fifteen Israeli cities. All this has been happening under the watchful eye of the world media but little has been made of it. (Photo: Abdulai Mansaray, author)
I was drawn to this when by chance; I saw a segment on the CNN news, which barely passed for a headline, a woman complaining that despite their efforts to draw the world’s media attention to their plight, no one seemed to take note. Some would have you believe that this was good information management by the authorities. But it goes deeper than that. A spokesman for the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had spent much of the weekend issuing statements diminishing the significance of the protests and damping down figures of expected participants (Global Post).
It is ironical that while protests in neighbouring Syria, Libya and Egypt have gripped the attention and imagination of the world community, Israel’s has passed and continues to pass unnoticed. Further irony is that Israelis are protesting the cost of housing but not the cost of settlements. It is an open secret that the settlements have been one of the barricades to a peaceful two state existence in the Middle East. Because of the expansion of settlements in the disputed region, pointed criticisms have come from the Palestinians, The UN and America. And that in itself has cost Israel both international goodwill and millions of dollars.
I do not profess to be a student of economics, but when demand exceeds supply, the cost of a product rises. For Israelis to protest over the high cost of housing means that more houses need to be built to quench the ever rising demand. Does this mean that more settlements on disputed land are required? Israel spends about $11,000, for security per resident on “occupied” land. It goes without saying that settlements and the absence of peace have a sizeable impact on the economy; which should be part of the debate.
But why has the world failed to take notice of or give these protesters that fair share of airtime? Some would have you believe that it is an indication of the world’s lack of goodwill towards Israel. Israel has in the past defied UN sanctions, decrees and so on. In the recent past, Israel had even refused UN observers into the country, following tit for tat rocket and grenade attack mudsling with the Palestinians (Hamas). Many may have seen this as Israel’s give a damn attitude to world opinion. The news blackout or the world’s lack of appetite for these protests, despite being the modus operandi in the region may just be seen as the international community saying to Israel, that it will “smile back at Israel if it smiles at the world”.
For the world to sit back and not show any interest in what is going on in Israel lives me thinking. But again, there have been no deaths, violence or any forceful means to suppress the voice of the people. Israel is known for its democratic principles; at home. The people have been allowed to express their rights to protest, unlike their neighbours. Is it because of the peaceful and democratic nature of these protests that the world has failed to capture its essence, or is it something else? Or is this an indication that the world’s media is only interested in the negative, violent and destructive aspects of mankind?
Does this mean that the world is so violent that peace is no longer newsworthy? You would hope not but if that is the case, God help us. It is not enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work on it (Eleanor Roosevelt). If only Israel and Palestine can come to an agreement, may be, just maybe, it will mark the death knell of all wars and the world will be a better place. People and nations are forged in the fires of adversity, but hatred can be a feeling which leads to the extinction of values.
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