When I got blamed for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
I've heard the pen is mightier than the sword, but I didn't know they were referring to my black ball-point.
It should be fairly obvious from my name. I am neither Arab, Jew, Israeli nor Palestinian. I don't have a dog in this decades-long conflict in the Holy Land. And because of this, I often get asked by curious acquaintances or interviewees :
Why do you write on Israel and the Palestinian territories? Do people in your part of the world care?
If I look around at this point, I will usually notice that I am the only East Asian face present.
Most of the time, the question is asked out of sheer curiosity, by people who want to know if their small spot in the world makes the news over on the other side. Increasingly though, it's become the opening salvo in an attack on the way the media cover the news in Israel.
It first happened on a crowded beach in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
I was informed by an eloquent Jew that it was journalists like me, who insisted on reporting on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, that were perpetuating the conflict.
(And I thought I had heard everything.)
According to his reasoning, if we journalists just shut up about the occupation, everyone could then get on with it, and there would not be so much bad press about Israel.
Write about the good things about Israel instead, he chided. Like its high-tech industries and innovations, for example.
“We made the desert bloom!”
(Yes, they did. And I guess, we should also tell the Libyan people to just give it a rest, since Gaddafi makes really entertaining speeches on TV. Like Israel, he is not all bad, and unlike Israel, he's actually funny.)
There by the lapping waters of the blue Mediterranean, I was told: If I am enjoying the lovely beaches and the exciting city life of Tel Aviv, I really had no business writing mean things about Israel.
In other words, don't bite the hand that hosts you.
Point taken. I never went swimming there after.
A couple more exchanges like these happened and very recently, I got yet another irate Israeli telling me I had no business writing what I do.
“You are not even Jewish or Arab. Why do you care?”
Fast and furious he came at me, and sealed it with the classic: Why don't you do something about China occupying Tibet?
I am not one to wax lyrical about how journalists are the watchdog of society, guarding against corruption and abuse et cetera. Journalism is a job. The job is to inform people of what is going on - even if it is halfway around the world - with as much objectivity and fairness as is humanly possible.
Sometimes you write nasty things about other people in other places, because that is what they are doing, as is the case of Israel.
Racial discrimination against its Arab citizens. Violent treatment of Palestinian demonstrators by the security forces of a country that calls itself a democracy. And yes, there 's also the occupation of Palestinian land which is used to build illegal settlements for Jews.
These are the reasons why there is increasing animosity towards Israel. At the United Nations last month, it was only the Americans that refused to pass a resolution condemning the settlements.
On the international stage, Israel is now being compared to apartheid-South Africa, and there have been calls to boycott Israel and to punish it with sanctions.
No, it's not all anti-Semitism. And we do not go out of our way to put Israel in a negative light; it has shown it can do a pretty good job of that on its own.
As much as I can see how it doesn't feel good to be so loathed, please don't shoot the messenger.
I reckon that if you do not like the message, you should really blame whoever created it.
asia! IN A SNAP
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