Center for Strategic Communication

by Steven R. Corman

The CSC has just released a new white paper entitled Israeli Nukes versus Palestinian Slingshots: David and Goliath in Indonesia by Ronald Lukens-Bull and Mark Woodward.  Both of them are currently visiting professors in Indonesia.  They report on how the local population of Muslims–many of whom are moderates who oppose more radical interpretations of Islam–interpreted the latest skirmish in the Holy Land.  The executive summary of the paper reads:

Indonesian press reportage of the recent conflict in Gaza claims that the Israelis used “Nuclear Weapons.” To Western readers these reports appear to be wildly inaccurate. But from a local perspective these reports are not fabrications. Rather they employ interpretive strategies rooted in local cultures to bring order to a complex body of information concerning the conflict. They invoke and scientific and pseudo scientific literature concerning degraded uranium and other high tech ordinance alleged to have been used by Israeli forces.

A North Sumatra Post story analyzed here evokes the shared Jewish, Christian and Muslim narrative of the diminutive but virtuous David confronting the gigantic, monstrous Goliath. Other news reports on the same day also emphasized the uneven nature of the conflict. Together the coverage paints a portrait of determined, just resistance to barbaric aggression.

This is an element of the process of demonization of opponents common in conflicts worldwide. The resulting images do not just appear in newspaper accounts. The theme is also reproduced in children’s art, contributing to the perpetuation and globalization of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Analysts should resist the temptation to dismiss such reports as sensational fabrications. Instead they should be viewed as reflections of important opinion-forming processes, grounded in local interpretive schemes. These construct influential narratives surrounding religiously charged issues regardless of whether they are literally “true.”

Read the full paper here.