Quite often, an image with a twist of truth fuels misunderstanding to compound hatred. Even good-hearted recipients of these images can become emboldened to act without investigating or critically thinking. This is common when the subject is Israel. People mindlessly retweet a lie or demand to boycott the only democracy in the Middle East.
People with ill-will exploit intellectual laziness in several ways. To create a deliberately false perception of Israel, one such propagandist copied the photo of a random birthday greeting to an adorable girl on the internet, added a split screen with a damaged room and sent it off into the Twittersphere accusing Israelis of killing this girl, who actually still lives in the Untied States. Another propagandist distributed disturbing images of Guatemalan soldiers savagely beating young Guatemalans, yet he presented it as the soldiers were Israelis beating Palestinians. And, another posted a child seeking shelter from the cold in “Gaza,” only the photo was actually of a child in Kabul. And, the Shehab News Agency displayed the reaction of a group of Palestinians when soldiers fired a single warning shot in response to a protester running toward the boarder. Several men in the crowd, fell to the ground, as if each was one who got shot.
It is with the same skepticism I use to view the abundance of such propaganda, that I’ve been viewing footage from the protests in my country, disturbing scenes of suited up police harming unarmed people who’ve been expressing outrage over the cold blooded murder of George Floyd by the hands of the policemen who put him in custody.
I’ve been horrified by the violence and destruction by rioters – the looting of businesses, the vandalism on places of worship, the destruction of property and the assaults on police.
So, I at first doubted reports from the civilian journalists in my midst that protesters were prohibited from leaving cities right before curfew. But, a couple of searches shows that that did indeed happen. In Boston, before the protests turned to looting and rioting, participants were stranded by a closed transportation system, and therefore trapped. In New York, when the curfew had been set at 8:00 protesters tried to leave before 7:30, but were prohibited from doing so. Subways were blocked by barriers guarded by police, ready to punish those who wouldn’t honor the curfew they were making near impossible to honor.
Witnesses captured horrific scenes on video. For example, there is one in which police sprayed the face of an unarmed Black man with his hands up. There is one in which a policeman pushed a young White woman to the ground. One in which they sprayed an unarmed White man and then shot him in the face with a rubber bullet. And one in which they approached the car of a young Black couple stuck in traffic, told the occupants to get out while brutally tasering them. Several officers also walked up to unarmed protesters, grabbed them, sprayed them in the face, and threw at least one to the ground. And they sprayed Americans exercising their First Amendment Right as they were chanting, “We don’t see a riot here, take off your riot gear.” Police shot at residents outside their own homes. And, one pushed a man with a cane to the ground.
And, as if these examples are not reminiscent of the type of government we don’t want, an American law enforcer used his shield to hit an Australian cameraman in his stomach. An officer shot at a reporter with a pepper bullet and another arrested a news crew. Some protesters took it upon themselves to stop potential trouble, though, of course, it wasn’t always that way.
Many peaceful protesters are being swept up in a mischaracterization campaign, clumped with those who had ill will from the start. They deserve to be heard, taken seriously, and understood. People who care most about democracy need to listen and take action, or U.S. citizens will turn to politicians and groups who do not empathize or advocate for victims of tyranny in other countries, but will be waiting, with open arms, to advise the aggrieved of the United States.
Faith Quintero is the author of Loaded Blessings, a family saga that alternates between Inquisition era Spain and modern-day Israel. It’s among the Federalist’s top books of 2019 list and a Montaigne Medal finalist for the Eric Hoffer awards. The Montaigne Medal is an additional distinction, awarded to “the most thought-provoking books.”