Jewish Journal

Riots, filmmaking and the wrong thing to say

by Noga Gur-Arieh

September 24, 2012 | 10:10 am

In the past week, Muslims from all over the world lost it because of a movie. Since I haven't seen it, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and say it is, in fact, more offensive than any artistic protest ever made before. Does this justify violent behavior on such scale? Does this justify murder? Of course not, nothing does. But it happened anyway. Islamists all over the world were so offended, they didn't set in for the civil reaction which is a legit protest and a request to ban this film. Instead they shook up the world, causing damage on an unbelievable scale because of somebody's opinion on Muhammad. Being extreme is never a good thing, and unfortunately with every religion comes an extreme group which causes all the negative opinion on that religion. That extreme group is usually easily offended and is willing to use all means to protect its honor.  Judaism has it and Christianity has it, but the extreme Islamists are by far the worst. First of all, there are more extreme Islamists than extreme Jews or Christians (simply because there are more Islamists in the world, but also in relation to the total number of the religion followers). Secondly, they act more often and tend to shake the world into listening to what they have to say. 

Remember I said before I am willing to pretend this to be the most offensive artistic protest ever made? I changed my mind. Why? Because it is not possible. Us, Jews, encounter offensive movies, opinion columns, an caricatures on a daily basis. We handle with "The Jew" image for centuries. We are forced to encounter dark beliefs that people still trust, even in the 21st century. In fact, those beliefs, as we all sadly remember, caused the nearly destruction of our people in the 40's of the last century. So no, this movie could not have been that offensive. And I'm sure that there were Jews over the years who reacted in a rather extreme way, but if I recall correctly, we mostly sat quiet and "swallowed the bitter pill" rather than going to the streets and giving the world quite a shake. The not-so-funny part is, however, that most of the offensive behavior towards Judaism comes from the extreme Islamists. We reluctantly watch the Israeli flag, with the Star of David and the colors of the Talis, being burned on a daily basis. We also witness countless hurtful caricatured of "the Jew" being drawn by extreme Islamists, and are forced to hear more "death to the Jews" or "death to Israelis" call than calls for peace. This gives them NO RIGHT to kill people because one filmmaker expressed his hurtful opinion, which, if you had the chance to forget, was soon accused (by them) of being a "filthy Jew". Because why not leverage their chance for yet another riot to hurt us even more in the eyes of the world.

Bottom line is the world was on fire, literally, for a week. It wasn't justified by any other than those who lit it, and people were lost their lives over an overemotional reaction.  This led me to my next and probably worst problem with last week's events: The western world's reactions. I browsed online, trying to find a proper reactions from the world leader's to the riots. I found none. The U.S government, which is led by the person with the obligating title: Leader of the Free World, only said the violence was not justified. So basically, Obama nicely asked them to stop what they're doing and threatened he would not give them candy after dinner tomorrow if they won't stop their destructive behavior. No angry reaction, no formal condemnation, not even a frown. I don't know what was the reason for him to react that way. Could have been a personal reason, could be a result of a careful consideration, could be an attempt to get more voters. I don't know, and frankly I don't care. The only thing I can safely say is that this reaction was absurd, and moreover unfair in comparison to how easily Obama condemns Israel for things not even half as bad as this. This reaction is yet another link in the chain of poor foreign policies, which I don't understand. As for the U.N, I must sadly say I knew I wasn't going to find anything official from the Human Rights Council, or even from the General Assembly. After all, this is the same organization that chose to investigate the inconvenience in the Palestinian territories while the government in Syria butchered its civilians. Since I already jumped to accusations, I will point out that it is possible that I missed the U.N condemnation on my Google search and while reading the paper, but I doubt it.

On the same matter, there's also the whole "freedom of speech in any cause" discussion. As an Israeli Jew, who encounters offensive material whenever she logs on, I say that fighting this is a losing game. People have some very hurtful things to say. Some remain "in doors," some is being translated into any form of art. Blocking this would be blocking the freedom of speech, and this is a decision every country should make to itself. China has already made this decision, and its citizens are forced to be detached from the Global world. Islam countries may join China, if they wish. But preventing freedom of speech worldwide would be a step backwards. Because no matter how hurtful it is to read "you stinky Jew" as a comment to a post, a world without freedom of speech is a dark world. I know most offensive comments online are being blocked, and that's more than okay, but since we cannot track every single offensive line, it's better to leave them online than to block the entire net. Sometimes, so I believe, writing such a comment online is a satisfaction for someone who otherwise would act outside of the World Wide Web.


Parts from "Innocence of Muslims" can be found here on Youtube

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My name is Noga Gur-Arieh, and I’m an Israeli Journalist, currently studying for my B.A degree in Media and Political Science, at Tel Aviv University.

I am very socially...

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