Satire has the power to highlight reality, or to distort it. The Onion’s recent satires on Israel do the latter. But the problem is much worse than one satirical website outrageously distorting the truth on an international issue. The Onion has allowed itself to get swept up in the latest anti-Israel frenzy, making it complicit in the unjustified demonization of Israel and the Jewish people.
Of course, Israel, like any country, is not above criticism. Indeed, Israel is perhaps the most criticized country in the world, and that’s just from its own citizens and supporters. But the growing trend has been not to merely criticize Israel, but to falsely accuse it of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and wanton murder of Palestinians. Moreover, Israel’s very legitimacy as a Jewish state is denied.
This apoplectic pile-on was most evident in the media coverage of last month’s “Great Return March,” which was a well-orchestrated operation designed to churn out anti-Israel video clips for worldwide consumption. Synchronized with nearby civilian protests, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists used the cover of civilians and tire fires to cut through the border fence with Israel. Their stated mission: to kidnap or kill Israelis in nearby towns, or get killed trying. Israel, like any country would, defended its borders and killed these terrorist operatives, nearly all of whom Hamas claimed as its own. Despite Hamas’ openness, including its online posts, plans, maps and instructions available for all to see, the truth about this terrorist operation went unreported.
Instead, headlines around the world blared “massacre,” and “Israel kills protestors,” providing us the clearest proof yet that the media discards inconvenient truths in favor of taking the fashionable position in this contrived morality play.
Enter the Onion, whose jokes have at times shown more insight than the mainstream media’s news. It’s taken on the establishment and made sophisticated points. Most of all, its satire has usually been honestly conceived. But in this case, it joined the mob and pandered to the lowest common denominator.
The Onion published “Trump Fascinated By Israeli Cultural Tradition of Mass Slaughter of Protestors”. The following day, the Onion went with two more faux news items about Gaza which reinforced the lie of wanton Israeli cruelty. The first was “Netanyahu Announces Day Of Mourning For Fence Damaged In Yesterday’s Conflict”.
The second one came less than an hour later. Armed with reckless media reports of an 8 month old Gazan baby at the riots dead from tear gas inhalation, the Onion again pinpointed its villain: “IDF Soldier Recounts Harrowing, Heroic War Story Of Killing 8-Month-Old Child”. Although the baby was later confirmed to have died from a pre-existing heart condition, the larger point is that Palestinian leaders use their society’s most vulnerable – the sick, injured, elderly, young – as expendable in order to portray to the world that Israel is evil. This was lost on the media establishment, and on what many consider a smart satirical news outlet, the Onion.
In the past month, the terrorist attacks from Gaza have continued. Aside from the unrelenting infiltration attempts, Gazans have continued launching rockets, as well as incendiary bombs and kites into Israel, burning thousands of acres of farmland. If observers are misled into believing these are desperate attempts to highlight their suffering, they should be directed to the news that Gazans burned down their own side of the border crossing with Israel, obstructing the routine Israeli shipments into Gaza of food and supplies.
Even more symbolic is Hamas firing rockets intended for Israel, which fell short and hit a Gazan power plant, creating even more Hamas-induced hardship. This is the long-term strategy of both Hamas and Fatah (the Palestinian party that governs the West Bank), to create the maximum amount of Palestinian misery. If this strategy isn’t deserving of commentary via dark satire, I don’t know what is.
Yet the Onion chose to go back to the preferred narrative: the moral depravity of Israel and its supporters. In its latest piece, “Man Insists Facebook Friend Actually Reads ‘Why Palestinians Are Sub-Human’ Article Before Commenting On It,” the Onion posits that those who support Israel must view the Palestinians as “sub-human,” conferring Nazi-like thinking to Israel and its supporters. It’s an insulting irony, but this “Israelis are the new Nazis” formula is not just intellectually and morally perverse, it has real world consequences.
First, it threatens Jewish supporters of Israel by demonizing and criminalizing them. According to last year’s FBI Hate Crimes Report, Jews are the country’s most targeted religious group. To see where this is headed, for example, look at the environment on college campuses today. Jewish supporters of Israel are harassed and demonized. Israel-related events are shut down by mobs of angry protestors calling Jews racists and Nazis.
Second, it perpetuates the devaluing of Palestinian lives. By adopting a drive-thru, manufactured understanding of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the media and other observers avoid having to address the decades-long degradation of Palestinians by their own leaders who engineer their people’s hardship to prove Israeli evil.
This is not a new formula. For 70 years, Palestinian descendants of refugees from the 1948 war are kept by the Palestinians, not the Israelis, in refugee status, living in squalid camps in areas that would anyway form a Palestinian state, if they chose one of several comprehensive peace deals to end the occupation. Both Hamas and Fatah strictly boycott cooperation with Israel on water, energy and other infrastructure, depriving its people of a better quality of life.
Palestinian society glorifies martyrdom and militancy against Israel, not to end the West Bank occupation, or the partial blockade of Gaza, but to end Israel itself. There are Palestinians who disagree with this strategy, who want progress and peace with Israel, but they are silenced or killed.
This isn’t simply the “Israeli view”. This is what Palestinian leaders admit, when not repeating canned lines to credulous reporters. Radical Palestinians believe this struggle against Israel will end only when the Jewish state is destroyed. They believe this singular goal is worth all the suffering and “martyrdom”.
These are the inconvenient truths of the Palestinian cause that are widely ignored, for they point to a very unappealing conclusion: that Palestinian suffering, while real, is caused by the dark and violent agenda of their leadership which allows their people only two options: the destruction of Israel, or perpetual limbo.
The Onion and most western media, in their cavalier abandonment of the whole truth, have abdicated any moral high ground. Their grotesque headlines are less about the Palestinians, than about their own inflated self-righteousness and overblown confidence. They have blood on their hands. People of conscience must hold them accountable.