Atrocity stories are, sadly, a traditional, and highly effective propaganda tactic that exploits sympathy with a real or perceived victim to slander a target group.
Thus, they are often used to stir up hatred and distract our attention from material facts and context that would shift the balance of our judgement. That is, they are a classic technique that exploits Aristotle's observation in his The Rhetoric that
Our judgements when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile . . .
The "intercessors' lack of bladder control" claim in the UK Independent's December 16 anti-evangelical hit piece "America's Religious Right," is a sadly apt case in point. That is bad enough, but, by December 23, this was joined by another story in the same newspaper that managed to abuse the Advent Season again in such a way as to constitute what has to properly be called anti-Semitic [not "merely" anti-Zionist] agit-prop joined to massive disrespect for Christians.
As the excellent watchdog site Honest Reporting summarises and comments:
. . . the Independent, a leading British daily, describes the Virgin Mary as a "Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem", and present-day pregnant Palestinian women as "21st century Marys" who "have been giving birth in startlingly similar conditions to those suffered by Mary 2,000 years ago."
The December 23 article by Johann Hari paints a picture of Israeli malevolence towards pregnant Palestinian women, quoting a Palestinian woman who rails against harsh conditions supposedly caused by Israel:
"What would happen if the Virgin Mary came to Bethlehem today? She would endure what I have endured."
Yet, readers must scroll down halfway through this 1,500-word piece to discover the real cause of Palestinian suffering:
"Following the election of Hamas, the world choked off funding for the Palestinian Authority, which suddenly found itself unable to pay its doctors and nurses. After several months medical staff went on strike, refusing to take anything but emergency cases."
The Independent blames Israel for checkpoint security measures, but fails to provide context with the well-documented Palestinian abuse of ambulances and medical facilities to transport and harbor terrorists. Nor does the Independent mention the 2002 arrest of a Palestinian terrorist recruited to carry out a suicide bombing disguised as a pregnant woman -- a graphic reminder of the depths that terror groups will sink in their efforts to bypass Israeli security . . .
It is worth taking a little deeper look. For, the Independent's account (under their "appeals" heading, which should warn us that this is an advocacy piece, at best) begins:
In two days, a third of humanity will gather to celebrate the birth pains of a Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem - but two millennia later, another mother in another glorified stable in this rubble-strewn, locked-down town is trying not to howl.
Fadia Jemal is a gap-toothed 27-year-old with a weary, watery smile. "What would happen if the Virgin Mary came to Bethlehem today? She would endure what I have endured," she says [and then recounts a five year old account of how she was stopped by an Israeli check-point and reportedly gave birth there, losing one of her twin children as a result] . . .
There are, however, a few balancing and corrective observations that need to be made:
1] In the First Century, the region in which Bethlehem is located was generally known as "Judaea," with Samaria and Galilee as the other two major subregions. The name Syria Palestina (later shortened to Palestinia) was imposed by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 AD, after his defeat of the second Jewish liberation struggle in seventy years -- in an attempt to erase the memory of the Jews by re-naming the area after their worst traditional enemies; the Philistines. [And that is true even if one insists on dredging up, e.g. the C5 BC Greek Historian, Herodotus' unusual, earlier use of a similar term.]
2] Let us note in passing, that at Advent we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, not mainly "the birth-pains of" Miriam of Galilee; his mother. (This apparently trivial point tellingly reveals just how far many journalists will go today, to suppress references to our Lord and Saviour; HT: Joseph Farah.)
3] Further to this, as Matt 1 records, the context of Jesus' birth is distinctively Jewish, Incarnational [cf John 1:1 - 14 and Heb 1:1 - 14!] and messianic:
MT 1:20 . . . an angel of the Lord appeared . . . in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
MT 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."
MT 1:24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
MT 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
MT 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied . . .
4] All of this becomes highly significant when we note that in our day the term Palestinian refugee has come to mean, by usage, an Arab, usually Muslim person who fled the region of Israel at its birth or subsequently; or -- strictly, improperly -- the descendants thereof. Cf here and here (and here too) for correctives and balancing facts on the relevant history of modern Israel. In brief:
--> First, the existence of modern Israel is as the result of endurance in the land by some Jews across the years, who were joined from the mid 1800's by returnees who sought to rebuild the largely ruinate and depopulated land. Their success attracted waves of people, of Jewish, Arab and many other ethnicities.
--> Thus, the League of Nations in the 1920s -- as a part of the post- WW I settlements of the many claims of national groups in the aftermath of the disintegration of the Austrian, Russian and Ottoman Empires -- mandated the establishment of a recognised Jewish homeland, while not prejudicing the existing population.
--> Unfortunately, hostility led by the Mufti of Jerusalem led to war and terrorism, instead of the mutually supportive development of the Arab and Jewish nations in the Middle East envisioned in the 1919 Weizmann-Feisal agreement. (This is why I have often noted that unless you can discuss this agreement in an informed way, you do not know enough to competently and fairly discuss the ME situation.)
--> As one result of this conflict, there was an exchange of Middle East refugee populations, some 400 - 750,000 on the Arab side, 820,00- on the Jewish side. The exchange of property was also favourable to the Arabs. The Jews were largely settled in Israel and have become the core population of the country. Those Arabs who remained in Israel or resettled there under Israeli offers and their descendants -- some 1.5 millions -- have become the freest, healthiest, most prosperous Arabs in the Middle East.
--> The current conflicts, like the 1948 - 9 war, were precipitated by attempts to resolve the conflict through partitioning the land, granting to the Arabs what is the historic Jewish heartland of "the mountains of Judaea" because that is where they are dominant among the population. This underscores the often suppressedbut obvious fact that - sadly -- by and large the core Arab objective remains, not peace alongside their cousins the Jews, but domination and conquest.
--> A similar pattern of events has for decades been playing out in Lebanon, Sudan, Nigeria, Indonesia and elsewhere, on one pretext or another. Similarly, we should look at the current pattern of driving out and displacing the Christian Arabs of Bethlehem [who used to be ~ 80% of the population, but now are ~ 20%] by Islamist militants. We have to see beyond the pretexts to the common pattern and underlying global agenda. (Mr Jimmy Carter's recent book, sadly, is most unhelpful on this -- starting with a slanderous title.)
--> In turn, this pattern is driven by what on a fair comments basis can be described as the the core cultural vision of radical (and, unfortunately, classical) Islam: the world is divided into Dar ul Islam and Dar ul Harb: the regions of submission to Allah, his prophet, law and warriors on the one hand, and the house of war on the other. So, following Mohammed's own example and teachings, Islam was first largely spread by conquest.
--> In Islamist eschatology, Dar ul Islam will subjugate the world, and eventually the whole globe will be under Muslim control. [Cf the Muslim Brotherhood's 100 year world subjugation plan since 1982.] So, in that context, the rise and thriving of an indomitable "dhimmi"-ruled state in areas conquered by Allah's warriors since 638 AD is an affront to Islam, almost blasphemy.
--> Consequently, until/unless this issue is resolved through a liberalising reformation of Islam, there can be no permanent settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, or for that matter, many other similar Islamism-driven conflicts.
5] So, by distorting and suppressing highly material context, the article immediately becomes highly misleading: Mary was NOT an Arab or even a Jewish Refugee, she was a Jewish victim of Roman occupation, forced to go to Bethlehem even while nine-months pregnant, to pay an oppressive tax. Two futile revolts against that oppression, AD 66 - 73/4, and 133 - 135, would only issue in slaughter, enslavement and exile. (It bears noting that the land was never fully depopulated of Jews, and that from the days of David and beyond, Jews have been historically quite willing to share the land with non-Jewish populations. Indeed, David himself -- the greatest Jewish King, but one -- was part-Moabite.]
6] By suppressing this highly relevant context, which utterly undermines the core premise of the article, we see that it is only fair comment to note that the Independent here -- one hopes inadvertently -- slips into not only Anti-Zionist, but also Anti-Semitic rhetoric. [NB: As Martin Luther King tellingly observed, historically and ideologically, these two ideas and agendas are inextricably linked in any case; many hot protests to the contrary notwithstanding.]
7] Nor do the agitprop problems stop there: an improper line is drawn from what an evidently uncorroborated report on an unauthorised, cruel and criminal act by a few soldiers manning a check-point some five years ago, to a hasty generalisation on a current health services challenge that in reality is in the main triggered by a situation precipitated by the Palestinian Arabs and their political leadership; who insist on clinging to violence and terrorism in the teeth of many reasonable opportunities to make peace. [Can any right-thinking person believe that, absent legitimate security concerns, needy Palestinain Arabs would be denied immediate access to Israeli hospitals? Hospitals which, BTW, were chock full of the victims of islamist terrorist bombings at the time of the alleged incident five years ago.]
So distorted is the article, and so unresponsive to material facts and proper standards of journalism, that the Independent's Editors should soberly reflect on an observation Hugh Fitzgerald [of Jihad Watch] makes on the hook incident from which their article hangs:
"What would happen if the Virgin Mary came to Bethlehem today?" -- remark by a local "Palestinian" Arab in [The Independent article] . . . .
Mary, Joseph, and the baby they are about to have are all, of course, Jewish. And if the Virgin Mary (presumably with Joseph) were to arrive in Bethlehem today, and arrived without the IDF around them, in a place now controlled by the kind of Palestinian Muslim Arabs who are there now, they would be killed on the spot . . . .
[I]f you need evidence for that, start with any number of Israeli hitchhikers picked up and murdered, or those two Israeli boys beaten to death in a cave, or those two Israeli reservists who took a wrong turn into Ramallah and were lynched, as those who killed them and gouged out their eyes held up their bloody hands to a crowd below hysterical with its own happiness and hate, or those four little Jewish girls sitting in their car, methodically shot to death, one by one . . .
A sad litany of hate. And, atrocity stories such as the Independent has now repeatedly chosen to plaster over this current Advent Season will not help matters.
One hopes for a more balanced approach in this dawning new year, but in the meanwhile, we would be well advised to make a New Year's resolution:
Resolved: to learn how to de-spin distorted media stories and straighten out twisted thinking,
. . . if we are to properly understand our times and know what we should do. END