Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Facebook fable

Boy, you can get into trouble on the internet. I therefore tell the following tale with fear and trembling.

First off, what's been happening in Japan has been horrific. In my pre-mummy life, dimly remembered as it is, I was an ESL teacher and a fair few of my students were Japanese. Their faces flashed before me as I sat horror-struck in front of my computer watching events unfold and trying to remember which ones were from northern Japan.

The real conundrum, for me, began with letters to the editor and various Facebook postings pointing out how much more powerful the earthquake that hit Japan was than that which rocked Haiti. Then came links to articles pointing out that if you donated to various help associations, the money might well be diverted to other causes because Japan hadn't actually requested financial assistance. The underlying suggestion seemed to be that this was sneaky of said organizations.

Now, I feel that Japan is in great distress, just as Haiti is (still) in great distress. Japan, however, is a First World nation. This doesn't mean that they are not in dire peril, or that they in any way deserve to suffer. My guess though, is that in a year and half's time, a large portion of their population will not be living in tents, nor dying of cholera. Nor, do I think, will their women and children be vulnerable to sexual assault on a nightly basis. Which appears to be the situation in Haiti right now, with no real let-up in sight.

So, I decided, after some thought, to state in my Facebook status, simply that I making woefully inadequate donations to two organizations I trust: Unicef and Doctors Without Borders and marking them "Wherever the need is greatest".

Clearly, I should have just shut up and made the donations. A couple of friends marked the status with "Like" and then I heard from a long-time and treasured friend, who is a practising Jew and has, over the past few months, become rather more vocal on pro-Israeli issues. The latest upset has been on the subject of the massacre of the Fogel family on the West Bank. My friend and many members of her community were posting items decrying what they felt was the suppression of the story by the world press.

The problem with my Facebook status was apparently my support of Doctors Without Borders. Doctor Without Borders certainly has borders, she briskly informed me, saying they had a record of shutting out Israeli surgeons. A quick google brought up a letter from MSF/DWB about the incident, which occurred last summer in connection with a tanker explosion in the eastern Congo. I responded, cautiously, that I knew little about this controversy but included the link. Within minutes, she had sent me a link to an article from an Israeli journalist. I think I would have just left it at that, but a few minutes later, she sent another link to another article in a different publication. By the same journalist. In fact, it was essentially the same article with added details about MSF/DWB surgeons objecting to Israeli music in the operating room.

Oh dear. This friend is a valued one. I have been a guest in her home, and most importantly, she has been a gracious and kind supporter of younger daughter. Feeling a little sick, I deleted the whole post. When I told the Resident Fan Boy about it, he went into his anti-Facebook rant, complete with pacing. I distanced myself from him for a couple of days too. Eventually, the friendly messages from Vancouver resumed. Eventually, I spoke to my husband again. I will continue to support both Unicef and Doctors Without Borders, but in a New Testament fashion. In secret. I can't afford to lose friends.


Vol-E said...

I guess everybody's got a soapbox that they drag out from time to time, but in some cases, the soapbox is so tiny (i.e. narrow) that the person standing on it becomes preoccupied with maintaining their position and not falling off. Their focus narrows to the contact between their feet and the box. They fail to see other people nearby on their soapboxes (some of which are more generous, with graduating levels and steps up and down, and room to make adjustments), and the entirety of the common ground on which all the boxes stand. Because of the tension and discomfort, such people are rarely happy.

Persephone said...

I think that was the shock, Vol-E; I've known her for years and she's not a soap-boxy nor a blinkered sort of person. She is, as I've mentioned, a very generous and compassionate person (and a very happy one, I believe). These Middle East tensions are billowing out like shock waves, I guess. She did serve briefly in the Israeli army in her youth, which would colour her world-view. I don't pretend to be an expert; I just want fairness, is all.

Rob said...

I disagree: friends who would desert you for donating money to charity to help disaster victims, whatever the charity, are not friends you should take trouble to keep. It's not as though you were donating the money to an Islamic charity and marking it "By the way, if there aren't too many needful Muslims right now, spend it on Semtex and RPGs for killing Jews".

As for suppression of the story of the Itamar murders, one of our MPs recently wrote an article complaining that the BBC had "suppressed" it, in the course of which she mentioned that she'd found the story in two different places on the BBC news site. A strange kind of suppression.

It is a sad fact that some people, convinced that the world is full of antisemites, see it everywhere they look. Take the matter of the anaesthesiologist and the Israeli music: the surgeons admitted that their anaesthesiologists in Israel didn't like their choice of music, but that it helped them relax. Yet somehow that's brought in by the journalist as evidence against MSF. It's entirely possible that the Dutch volunteers didn't like the Israeli surgeons, not because they were Jews, but because they were a**holes - or some of them at least. Again, some of the Israelis themselves seemed not to think the bad feelings were occupation-related.

Those who shriek "antisemitism" whenever their co-workers fail to massage their egos sufficiently (and surgeons, wherever they are from, have BIG egos) do not deserve to be taken seriously. And neither does your FB friend.


Persephone said...

She's a wee bit more than a Facebook friend, Rob, see my comment to Vol-E. We've known each other for more than twenty years. This is not an argument over which I wish to lose her friendship. If I'm going to choose my battles, I'll choose an area in which I am more knowledgeable. Given my range of expertise, this should, theoretically, lead to a much more peaceful life for me....