What's wrong with Arab analogies against Israel?
Arab media depicts Israel as a demon. Here's why I, an Egyptian citizen, disagree
Yesterday, Egyptian news outlet Al-Ahram published a cartoon in which a child angel asks another: You too killed by an Israeli fighter jet? The other victim replies: No, by an Egyptian train (referring to the tragic accident that happened four days ago when a train clashed with a school bus, killing 50 children). What's wrong with the analogy?
As a researcher in cognitive linguistics and critical discourse analysis, I can say that bad analogies are so dangerous, since they can constrain and direct our policies. The above analogy, for example, highlights Israel as a killer of the innocent and ignores the fact that Hamas fires innocent Israeli civilians with Katyusha rockets. Importantly, depicting Israel as a demon implies that there can be no peace with it. If so, I wonder how Egypt plays the role of a peace broker between Israel and Palestine.
Another cartoon appeared in the Jordanian newspaper Al-Rayi. In it, Israel is seen as a serial killer who is fond of collecting skulls. Again, this metaphor hides the fact that Israel has innocent civilians, women and children who know nothing about killing. Furthermore, it suppresses the facts that Israel wants to have peace with its neighbors, as evident by its 32-year-old peace treaty with Egypt.
A third striking metaphor is in the Saudi economic newspaper Al-Iqtisadiah. In it, the Israeli flagpole is on the corpse of an Arab, sinking in his blood. This metaphor highlights that the Jewish state must be demolished, if Arabs want to live, hiding the fact that Israel too has a right to exist.
The photos of innocent Palestinian victims broke my heart and left me for some days unable to think or write. But so do those of Israeli victims and viewing Israel as a demon is both dangerous and patently factual incorrect.
Finally, I recall some important words said once by the deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a TV interview: 'We Egyptians went into wars with Israel, but in the end we sat down together at the roundtable and solved our problems. Importantly, only negotiations can bring peace to the region, as can be read in the book of history.''
On this account, we must stop demonizing Israel. Crucially, the analogy I invite Arabs to construe can be rendered as Israel as a sister. The Palestinian people suffer, but so do the Israelis. Both sides need and want peace.
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