Howard Schneider writes in the Washington Post about the Palestinians' opposite poles, comparing the lives of members of the same Palestinian family, the Barakats, living two starkly different lives in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Apparently, the members of the family living in the West Bank have enjoyed some remarkable economic benefits as of late in contrast to those in Gaza. It would have been nice for someone to ask the question how is it if Palestinian poverty is because of Israeli occupation that Palestinians in Gaza, completely free of Zionist occupiers, is in so much worse shape. The article is a good example of the sort of personal human interest story that, while not anti-Israel in of itself, can be problematic on a large scale. It is not anti-Israel to show sympathy to the plight of Palestinians. For a news agency, though, to offer a constant stream of stories devoted to putting a human face on Palestinians in marked contrast with an unwillingness to do the same for Israelis is to create a bias against Israel.
I find it fascinating the ways in which Schneider is willing to pursue his narrative of moderate west loving Palestinians. He gushes over Odai who is leaving to study film at Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus:
I love Mel Gibson's Braveheart, despite its incredible historical inaccuracies and I do not begrudge Odai for liking the movie too. But the fact that he chooses to see the Palestinian conflict through the lens of Braveheart and not say Ben Kingsley's Oscar-winning portrayal of Gandhi says something contrary to our moderate peace loving narrative.
Braveheart is a wonderful example of manufactured nationalism. There was no nationalism in thirteenth century Scotland; there was no country Scotland in the modern nation-state sense. This was a feudal conflict in which Edward I (Longshanks) of England attempted to pursue a feudal claim against various Scottish noblemen. This had nothing to do with a crude desire to conquer other lands and subjugate other people. Scotland was a traditional ally of France so any attempt to strengthen their position in France required that England secure its northern border. Over the course of this complex conflict, many people changed sides at various points and it had nothing to do with them loving "Scotland" or "freedom" less. I can only imagine what this teaches a teenage member of a manufactured nationality attempting to restore a state that never existed in the first place.
The nineteenth-century style of nationalism of Braveheart equates itself with freedom. Considering the history of the twentieth century, with the horrors of Nazism, I would hope for just a bit skepticism to any such equation. Anyone willing to make such a point blank equation between the nation and freedom can rightfully be suspected of Fascism (the Nazis were also believers in freedom if in a Rousseauian or Hegelian vein) or at least being highly at risk of Fascism. In essence, this is the sort of person in need of being put on an emergency life-support drip of John Locke, John Stuart Mill and the American founding fathers. This is not the sort of person you can trust with a gun or a film camera.
The English in the movie are portrayed as brutal oppressors on par with Nazis. There is not a single positive English character in the entire film. Edward attempts to eliminate the Scottish race by allowing noblemen to take "prima nocta" the bride on her wedding night. I certainly have no great love for the thirteenth century English or for Edward. Edward I expelled the Jews from England in 1290, just before the main events of the movie. That being said, any film that attempted such a hostile reductionist and one-sided treatment against a non-European group would correctly be labeled as racist. I can only imagine what the reaction would be if Palestinians were portrayed like this maybe in a really over the top version of Leon Uris' Exodus.
This brings us to the sort of resistance glorified by Gibson. William Wallace does not negotiate with the English or engage in passive resistance; he bashes their heads in with a mace and chain and decapitates them with his broadsword. Wallace does not just fight the English Scotland. He sacks York and sends Edward the severed head of his nephew. Hardly what I would think of as live and let live sort of behavior.
So what are we to conclude about a Palestinian who views his situation in terms of the movie Braveheart? He sees the world largely through the lens of crude nationalism. His understanding of freedom is more in tune with Fascist totalitarianism than liberal democracy. He believes that Israelis are brutal monsters who wish to enslave his people and rape his women. As such he believes that the best way to deal with Israelis is to kill them, not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well. With moderates such as these who needs fanatics.