Thursday, December 04, 2003

THE POWER OF SYMBOLISM
An article in British paper The Observer noted, "Israel has been described as the top threat to world peace, ahead of North Korea, Afghanistan and Iran, by an unpublished European Commission poll of 7,500 Europeans, sparking an international row. The survey, conducted in October, of 500 people from each of the EU's member nations included a list of 15 countries with the question, 'tell me if in your opinion it presents or not a threat to peace in the world'. Israel was reportedly picked by 59 per cent of those interviewed."

It's not often that a news article can leave me truly speechless, but this one did. You don't have to agree with the policies of the Israeli occupation or the Sharon government, and I detest both. But for 59% of Europeans polled to think that Israel represents a threat to world peace is dumbfounding. And a telling example of the power of symoblism, rhetoric and political exploitation. This is how what's really nothing more than a local territorial dispute far less bloody than dozens of conflicts elsewhere in the world has become THE worldwide cause celebre and conduit for the fury of those thousands of miles away.

No wonder a siege mentality envelops Israeli society. It's one thing to deal with hatred stoked by neighboring autocracies. It's another to learn of such a staggering level idiocy in the self-professed heart of the "enlightened" western world (in contrast to a crude gorilla like the US or provincial backwaters like Australia).

This might not be a manifestation of anti-Semitism but it certainly defies belief. And it shows that ignorance is truly the greatest threat to peace in the world.

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