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January 13, 2009

What If Hamas Was In EVERYONE’S Neighborhood?

(click for full size)


We already know Hamas has a highly effective visual narrative for waging war. So now, friends of Israel have come up with one too.

…And, if you head over to the ADL website, you can actually print out your own customized map situating Gaza, and incoming Hamas rockets, alongside any one of 19 favorite U.S. cities.

Kidding aside, however (otherwise, I’m just going to drown in tears), I’m truly curious about the effectiveness of this visual strategy. In particular, I’m wondering about the ad’s cognitive impact in New York where, beyond the large Jewish population, it took only two similar objects with a pair of wings to drive home a far bigger idea.

(image: Anti-Defamation League. from NYT ad, January 12, 2009)

  • Lightkeeper

    As Dennis Kucinich said on Democracy Now! yesterday, friends tell each other when they are doing something wrong. The ADL, by any objective standard, is no friend of Israel. It is concerned more with maintaining a complete consensus of American voices in supporting Israel at all costs (see Gaza, ongoing), and seems more interested in making sure the billions in aid continue to be funnelled to Israel no matter how egregiously it commits acts of war (or, according to the UN, war crimes).
    My initial question would be, does the ADL’s analogy also include a complete blockade of the city from where these rockets are being fired? Does it include a complete embargo of this city’s land, air and sea? Does it include the withholding of medical supplies, the withholding of fuel and gas, the withholding of civil servant salaries etcetera et cetera etcetera? I could go on but I think I’ve made my point.
    Perhaps the larger point is that Israel seems sure that it can get rid of Hamas’ *means* of launching missiles, but it does not seem all that interested in eliminating the *motives* for Hamas’ existence in the first place (see above, et al). Doesn’t this strike one as extremely short-sighted? So you get rid of one terrorist organization…do you really think another one will not take its place – unless, of course, you change the objective conditions on the ground? I don’t think Israel is even acting like Goliath right now. I think Samson (the last Judge – ha! The irony!) is a much better Biblical analogy.
    BTW Bag, are you actually suggesting Hamas was in the editorial board room at The Economist when they decided to run that picture?

  • Genevieve

    You can superimpose an overlay of the land mass of Gaza over any one of those 19 “favorite” US cities. Be sure to note that the inhabitants of said cities, have nowhere to go. They must stay within those borders at all times. Don’t forget to add F-16s, tanks, drones, etc.

  • jtfromBC

    I’ve cruised the ADL site and note that Karen AbuZayd, UNRWA Commissioner General hasn’t been identified or attacked as an anti-semite yet for suggesting that Israel broke the truce.
    This short video clip isn’t on the IDF Youtube site either.

  • jtfromBC

    Lightkeeper, here’s your answer
    “Israel was provoked,….

  • jeff

    i separately made a similar map with gaza imposed over my city when the conflict started, but for the purpose of visualizing how small gaza is – to me, it drove home how tiny and claustrophobic gaza must be. however, that’s not clear from this, since gaza takes up a large portion of the map, and the fact that it’s cut off suggests that it’s much larger, though it really isn’t.

  • Karen

    I worry about the backlash that could be caused by stunts like this. It’s as if empathy is yours for the taking when and if you come up with a clever ad campaign.

  • Ursula L

    The meaning of the image flipped in my mind when I first saw it. I interpreted it not as a visualization of Hamas’s bombs in Israel, but of Israel’s bombs into Gaza. Probably because the images I’ve seen of damage in Gaza have been much worse, and more memorable, than the images of damage in that part of Israel. (Buildings reduced to rubble, a visual which triggers memories of my stepmother’s stories of being in Dresden when it was firebombed, vs. buildings with holes in them.)
    It also shows just how small Gaza is. It even made the situation in Gaza seem worse than it is – positioning it next to NYC made me visualize it with a similar population density, and imagine destruction of the level that has happened in Gaza happening in NYC. Particularly since many of the pictures taken at the Israel/Gaza border show a stark difference in population density, with open areas on the Israel side and dense buildings on the Gaza side.
    It seems like a visual tactic that was created with the mindset of a decade or two ago, when it was harder to get visuals out of a war zone, and the mental images people had could be and were limited to those offered by Israel. Easier access to visuals from Gaza, thanks to digital photography and the internet, makes it easier for this type of comparison to backfire.

  • yg

    rightwingers have been making this argument: what if canada flew missiles into the US? would we stand back and do nothing?
    this analogy is flawed because the US doesn’t steal canada’s water, hasn’t bombed canada’s sanitation infrastructure, hasn’t denied them from farming, hasn’t blocked food and medical aid, hasn’t blocked canadians from traveling, hasn’t blocked their youth from being educated etc. how would the US act if a foreign power had been done to us? would we sit on our hands and do nothing? would we put up with such interference on our sovereignty?
    We already know Hamas has a highly effective visual narrative for waging war.
    i heard a woman caller on cspan railing about how hamas is using their dead for propaganda and exploiting western media.
    i wanted to ask her is it only the dead from the holocaust who should be revered and sanctified? is it only jewish deaths that matter? if that’s the case, then all other genocide can be ignored.

  • richard dent

    The question was about the effectiveness of the visual narrative. Compared to the pictures in Israel, where the damage has been relatively slight, and the fear is hard to visualize, I think this map is effective.
    Whether or not it is a fair narrative is another matter.

  • yg

    The question was about the effectiveness of the visual narrative. Compared to the pictures in Israel, where the damage has been relatively slight, and the fear is hard to visualize, I think this map is effective. Whether or not it is a fair narrative is another matter.
    is fairness (or commitment to truth) unimportant to you? the aftermath of 9/11 stirred up a lot of anti-muslim fear and hatred. bush exploited that when he conflated iraq with 9/11. how is this map any different?
    lies are effective only when they go unchallenged.

  • richard dent

    To yg:
    Fairness and a commitment to truth is very important to me. But I have not found a lot of genuine dialogue when trying to get into the substance of where the fairness is. If one is anything but entirely critical of Israel’s actions, one runs the risk of being dismissed as a “right winger” or a misguided “not true friend” of Israel.
    There is some distortion on each side, but often each side thinks its errors or exaggerations are so minor as to be inconsequential.
    Here is a fact: Gaza is larger than Manhattan with a far smaller population. But does that mean the conditions of density are comparable? I don’t think so.
    But the issue of proximity of someone firing unguided missiles into Manhattan is comparable, in my opinion. Does that mean that Israel is justified in everything it is doing? No. But in my opinion there is some truth in the comparison of proximity, and the attempt to create a visual narrative of the fear and threat Israel faces.

  • mcc

    I’m trying to figure out exactly how running ads / creating posters like this is within the scope of the ADL’s mission. What I always thought that organization’s purpose was, and what the mission statement on their website says, is:

    The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Now the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency, ADL fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.


  • mse

    Hamas, rocket, Hamas, rockets…. the talking points of the Israeli media campaign repeated ad infinitum without reference to context or history.

  • Lightkeeper

    Richard Dent: You expect people to show the utmost sympathy/empathy for Sderot/Israel, but I have never seen a single comment from you where you so much as utter a single word expressing remorse for all the innocent people losing their lives in Gaza. Is this because you believe that they deserve what Israel is doing to them because they are Palestinian? That tribal warfare should make a big comeback, since you know, if they elected Hamas, who cares how many of them die?
    This is why it is hard for me to write with sympathy/empathy for Sderot (despite how much it may bother me inside). This is also why this issue more than any other makes people’s blood boil. It seems neither side can see the other as human.

  • lytom

    ADL has average annual budget over 60 million dollars. That money ADL uses to silence voices it considers standing against their lobbying tactics and goals.
    ADL National Director Abraham Foxman expressed it this way:…”The Holocaust is something different. It is a singular event. It is not simply one example of genocide but a near successful attempt on the life of God’s chosen children and, thus, on God himself.”
    So “others” in Gaza and in other places of occupied Palestine, and not only there, have to take the back seat.

  • richard dent

    I have expressed sympathy for the plight of the civilians in Gaza, and am happy to do so again. I don’t expect the “utmost” sympathy for Sderot/Israel, but some recognition that they face a threat and actual harm is helpful.
    I think you are right (if I understand you correctly) to say that it is hard to express one’s inside feelings if one does not see the same from the “other” side. And you are right that we/they need to see each other as human or this will never end well for anyone.
    I also think that it isn’t as simple as two sides. I have previously stated I favor Israel leaving virtually all of the West Bank, and certainly stopping, immediately, the settlement expansion. While I don’t think the settlements are what’s driving people like Hamas (who want no Israel at all), I do understand how Israel’s conduct undermines its stated position of wanting a two state solution, with a reasonable and realistic state for the Palestinians.

  • The Tim Channel

    It’s effective because that’s what the science of marketing has devolved to. It is part of the aura of this blog. Pros and regular pajama media people speculating on how to best use imagery to manipulate.
    Am I wrong to think of this area the Jews now control as an equivalent to the Warsaw Ghettos the Jews once faced?

  • richard dent

    As to seeing each other as human, check out the You Tube link of a recent demonstration in London.

  • Lightkeeper

    Yes, those comments really demonstrate the humanity on both sides. Is that what you meant? The people in the video are behaving like any idiotic mob would. I don’t think most Palestinians are like this. Most Palestinians simply want what most Israelis want – to live in peace, to raise their children in peace, to die in peace. Isn’t that what we all want?
    I appreciate your response however, and I’m glad at least you can acknowledge that Israel’s actions in the West Bank don’t make it look like a “true partner” for peace.

  • Lightkeeper

    Nor do its actions in the Gaza Strip, for that matter.

  • Lightkeeper

    The Tim Channel: Everything that is happening in Gaza right now is Hamas’ fault. Can’t you get that through your head?

  • Michael (The BAG)

    I’m particularly appreciative of the comments hewing closely to the politics of the image/map, including Jeff’s point about relative scale and Ursula’s point about comparative population densities. Sure would be great to drive more of the intellectual and ideological argument here through the specific analogies of the ad.

  • jtfromBC

    As long as Hamas spokesmen talk of winning, oblivious of the catastrophic numbers of persons (950 dead + 4,500 injured )and “Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile said on Tuesday the IDF offensive was SERVING THE INTEREST OF THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE, as well as that of Israel.” ( then this killing frenzy and madness remains incomprehensible to me but obviously not to Hamas or Tzipi Livni.

  • matt

    btw… that is the bronx! yankee stadium is closeby!

  • jtfromBC

    2) WW II map of the Normandy Invasion
    3) Five stars as highly effective and for utilization in 19 cities
    4) Gaza is nothing but white sand, how can this be ?
    5) My response is laughter, but tears are understandable

  • Sergei Andropov

    I find this to be extremely ineffective, because it immediately reminded me of this 1938 or ‘39 map depicting the deadly threat Germany faced from Czechoslovakia’s long-range bombers (of which it had exactly zero).

  • Ursula L

    I find this to be extremely ineffective, because it immediately reminded me of this 1938 or ‘39 map depicting the deadly threat Germany faced from Czechoslovakia’s long-range bombers (of which it had exactly zero).
    Knowing the similarity with German WWII propaganda reduces the effectiveness, but it is worth remembering that at the time, the propaganda was very effective, and similar methods are likely to be effective on people who don’t have the historical knowledge to see the similarity and be turned off by it.

  • Sage

    I have long wondered why Israel does not use anti missile or anti rocket technology to deflect or destroy incoming rockets. I understand that we use this technology on ships at sea. Why would it not work on rockets over land…especially when most of them are directed to one area (Sderot)?
    I am not technologically informed on this matter and would appreciate insight from someone in the know. If this is feasible and not used, it suggests to me that Israeli leadership finds it beneficial to allow the rocket issue to fester giving them a cause for military action. I hate to think that is so but my suspicions are there.

  • Ursula L

    Sage – while I am by no means an expert on this, (in fact, I’m just speculating with logic, here) I’ve noticed that the missles Hamas uses are very small (you can see part of one here: ) They’re also traveling a fairly short distance, which means they aren’t in the air for long.
    A big target is easier to hit than a small one, and something with a long trajectory will be easier to spot and track than something that is only briefly in flight.
    Plus, it makes a difference if you know in advance where the rockets will be shot from. The Hamas rockets seem to be portable, so that they can quickly choose a location, set up, fire a rocket, and leave. So it is difficult to anticipate where to look for a rocket’s take-off.
    And a rocket that is hit still has to come down somewhere. As does the missle that hits it. Unless they can hit the rocket while it is still over Gaza, an anti-missel defense may just mean a bigger explosion and more damage than letting the rocket hit on its own.
    So I suspect that there is a combination of the Hamas rockets being too small and short-range to easily track and hit, plus low enough power that the damage caused when hitting them could be as great or greater than leaving them to run on their own course.

  • Sergei Andropov

    “I have long wondered why Israel does not use anti missile or anti rocket technology to deflect or destroy incoming rockets. ”
    That would be Project Nautilus, a joint Israeli-American research project to develop a ground based laser capable of destroying incoming missiles. The prototype was extremely successful, and the entire Israel-Gaza border could be covered by only four of them, for a cost of only $600 million — $120 million if the units were to be mass produced. However, while such a system would be a godsend to Israel, it would not be able to protect the entire United States, so we lost interest.

  • lytom

    Let’s put it this way:
    What if more than 300 children in NY or NJ were killed, how would you feel?
    What if United Nations building in NYC was bombed by phosphorous bombs?
    What if few hospitals or schools in NYC were bombed?
    What would ADL say? It was “a horrible mistake?”

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