febrero 19, 2024

The poster wars

There is another war going on along the one Israel is fighting in Gaza against Hamas. It is a war, fortunately, without the loss of human lives that unfortunately is taking place in Gaza. But this war is revealing the mindset of a certain public opinion in several countries around the world. Videos circulate on social media of people walking through the streets destroying posters with photos of women, men, babies, girls, boys, grandmothers, young women, both Israelis and other nationalities, kidnapped by Hamas. The poster rippers behave with such fury that it seems that they are in a crusade for the “mental hygiene” of the world, which should not confront the reality according to which Palestinian terrorists took more than 240 hostages to use them as currency of exchange and blackmailing after the massacre of October 7 (fortunately some of them have been freed now, including Israeli and non-Israeli hostages). 

The poster campaign was created by two Israeli artists who were in New York for a three-month creative residency when war broke out. The initiative took flight and multiplied in several cities and several languages. It became a global movement, just as the war launched by the poster rippers is global. The scenes of dedicated anti-poster militants come from different cities in the United States and Europe. I saw posters torn down in the streets of Montevideo and Buenos Aires, on a recent trip I took to the south. Why do they do it? Although they do not give explanations when they are recorded at work, there is in the faces of these crusaders of the anti-Zionism (anti-Jews?) a conviction that they are doing what is right (I also saw posters explaining/justifying the massacre committed by Palestinian Islamists on October 7, like this pamphlet at the University of the Republic in Montevideo).

I can think of two explanations for so much anger against the papers stuck on walls and posts. One of them has to do with what they consider the fight against “Israeli propaganda”, a duty that they have imposed on themselves to erase everything that indicates that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are criminal organizations. They are the same ones who question that on October 7, Palestinian organizations perpetrated a pogrom against Jews and those who lived with them in kibbutzim, in Sderot and at the music festival, murdering, torturing and raping. They are those who argue whether or not it was really the 40 or so beheaded babies (the cynical calculation of horror), or those who say that there is no evidence that Palestinian terrorists have sexually assaulted young Jewish women. How are you going to believe Israel and the Jews? they ask as they go around the world destroying posters with the faces of the kidnapped people.

Who cares about Israeli hostages?

There is another explanation that is even more sinister. Israelis kidnapped? Who cares about 240 Israeli kidnapped if there are hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons? This is how they trivialize everything. Twelve hundred dead in Israeli territory on October 7? Already in Gaza there have been more than 12,000, according, of course, to figures from the very “credible” Hamas Ministry of Health. Jewish suffering? Nobody cares, because Gaza is the largest concentration camp in the world (one can doubt this statement by seeing the hospitals within the strip, hospitals being used as operations centres by Hamas, look well-built and equipped). But Israel is destroying Gaza, they will say. They prefer to forget that Hamas and Islamic Jihad dedicated themselves to building a network of tunnels under buildings, schools, hospitals, and that they used a good part of the resources they received from Qatar, Iran and other countries to manufacture rockets, obtain weapons and maintain a constant bombardment of Israeli cities and towns.

According to the arithmetic of poster rippers, the lives of Israelis and Jews are worth less than any other. According to them, the life of a “settler” (they use the same language by Hamas to refer to those murdered and kidnapped on Oct. 7) deserves to be obliterated if it is to end the oppression of the Palestinian people. Have they murdered civilians? They will say that many of them are reserve soldiers of the Israeli army, that the boys and girls will grow up and do their military service, and that the mothers and grandmothers gave birth to such “colonizing Zionists.”

One aspect that draws attention to this global crusade against paper posters is that it is taking place in the real world (on the streets, against printed materials), and not only on virtual social media and the Internet. It is as if print paper conveys powerfully what images on digital platforms cannot. What are poster destroyers afraid of? Why do people walking along avenues, university campuses and pedestrian streets should not see the faces of the Hamas terrorists’ hostages? Because these hostages are no longer a simple numerical abstraction (240)? It bothers them that those are the faces mothers, grandmothers, children and babies? Or are they the living proof that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are death cults that have little regard for human lives, even those of the Palestinians themselves, whom they use as shields in their holy war?

The good thing about this poster war is that the masks of progressivism are falling. We have seen their faces thanks to those who have been in charge of documenting the dedicated paper destroyers on video. They are quite diverse: women, men, young and not so young, students, doctors and other professionals. The war in Gaza freed them from the hypocrisy of maintaining the friendly face of one who accepts everyone, very pro-diversity and inclusion. All well and good until it comes to Israel and the Jews. This war gave them the perfect excuse to use their sharp nails to tearing down posters in the streets, with such passion that each little piece of destroyed paper exudes the hatred that motivates them.

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Isaac Nahón Serfaty

Doctor en Comunicación. Profesor en la Universidad de Ottawa, Canadá

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