I have been following with some interest a discussion here on the marginal world of Kishkushim comments generated by Uri’s article, posted last week. Uri's article analyzed the failure of IDF public relations and, in this context, referred briefly to the "release to the foreign media of photographs of Israeli children 'decorating' IDF artillery shells."
The debate began with a critical response by Seth Kimmel, our man in
Seth reached the conclusion above through a tangent – the apparently meaning-laden phrase “new
Seth also managed to link this episode of kids writing on “American-made, rush-shipped” bombs to the tragic events in Qana, to which he turned next in his comments. After condemning Rice for refusing to demand an immediate cease-fire (condemnation which I find misplaced as such a step would prove disastrous for the security of Israeli citizens), he warns that the consequences of words and images “are anything but symbolic.” But the image (photograph) of the Israeli kids did not in any way represent or shape the political or military agendas that led to the deaths in Qana. This is the case in part because no agenda that includes the deaths of innocent civilians exists on the Israeli side. But more importantly, because such a link has no basis outside the demagoguery of Syrian newspapers. The reference to the provenance of the artillery shells (“American, rush-shipped”) is also a spurious connection, as the armaments in question were not the precision-guided bombs that the
Thus, I have to agree with John that Seth exaggerated the significance of this entire episode. I think the causes of this exaggeration, however, are not so much political as methodological. As a cultural historian, I, too, have become very invested in the importance that cultural artifacts play as not just as expressions but as determinants of developments in the political, military, and economic spheres. In my undergraduate days, I also attended a number of literature seminars where professors insisted on the importance of language as more than a mere vessel for ideas or positions. Today I wonder how sound these sacred premises are. It seems to me that people who have devoted their professional (and often personal) lives to the interpretation of jarring words and images sometimes have an interest in over-rating their importance.