Friday, February 29, 2008

Another side of the culture of death

One of the more obvious differences between how Palestinian Arabs act and how Westerners act is in how they treat, and think about, their own dead people.

When Roni Yechiyeh was murdered on Wednesday, the closest one could find to a picture of his body was this one, made by an Israeli photographer for Reuters:

Shoes lie beside the body of an Israeli killed after a rocket attack in the southern town of Sderot February 27, 2008.

The picture is meant to evoke sadness and loss. To show his face would be demeaning and painful to his family. With few exceptions, this is how Israeli victims are shown to the world by Israelis themselves.

On the other hand, the Arab press- and Arab photographers for the wire services - revel in showing bloody dead bodies. When a baby dies, his picture gets plastered on front pages (like this one in Ma'an today, I'm not going to reproduce it here.) There is no indication that the families of the victims are upset by this - it is as if a child being killed is cause for celebration, because it can be used as ammunition against Israel in the war of public relations.

The glee at which PalArab deaths are embraced can be seen from this rally, which in a normal culture would be characterized as child abuse:

A man carries a Palestinian boy during a protest against Israeli air strikes which killed Palestinian youth in Gaza February 29, 2008. An Israeli missile attack on Thursday killed four Palestinian youngsters playing football in the Gaza Strip, local medical workers said. The banner reads 'Help us Egyptian people'.REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA)

What the caption pointedly fails to describe is the red paint on the children's faces and clothing. This rally is meant to have Palestinian Arab children literally play dead, and causes them to associate death with a fun outing at another rally meant for Western consumption. Death is thrilling and pictures of death are titillating - the Palestinian Arab equivalent to pornography.

In short, Palestinian Arabs celebrate both Jewish and Arab civilian deaths, while Israelis mourn them. Death, which is described countless times by Palestinian Arabs themselves as reasons for celebration, is also a major propaganda victory.

And those PR victories, milked for all they are worth and more, give them all the more reason to celebrate.