Dead People Can’t Take Selfies

‘Bomb Shelter Selfies’ and other Israeli human interest stories mask the one-sided nature of violence in the region.

In one of the worst opening lines ever, Allison Kaplan Sommer writes at Haaretz: “When the going gets tough, the tough take selfies.”

She continues: “That’s the attitude that Sara Eisen, a resident of [the Israeli town of] Beit Shemesh decided to adopt when she started a Facebook group called ‘Bomb Shelter Selfies.’”

The need for this valiant effort arose when “rockets began to rain on Israel” from the Gaza Strip earlier this week. Of course, the Israelis love to allege that rockets are raining on them. But weather reports for their neighbors are inevitably much worse.

To pick one from the timeline of largely one-sided slaughter by Israel — euphemized as “conflict” in international media — the Israeli army launched “Operation Summer Rains” on the Gaza Strip in June of 2006, one year after it had supposedly un-occupied the coastal enclave. More than 400 Palestinians, including eighty-five children, were killed, while only five Israeli soldiers lost their lives.

That same summer, Israel decided that Lebanon, too, had gone too long without harassment. In 34 Days: Israel, Hezbollah, and the War in Lebanon, Israeli journalists Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff explain that, although Israel’s initial “grand plan” for a war with its northern neighbor was titled “Elevated Waters,” it was downgraded to “Elevated Rain” and then “Elevated Dew.” Regardless of whatever the hell elevated rain or dew even means, the resulting meteorological confusion killed 1,200 people in Lebanon; most were civilians.

Israel has now returned to rain more summer on the Gaza Strip (this time, the process has been dubbed “Operation Protective Edge”). As of this morning, the score was ninety-eight dead Palestinians, zero dead Israelis.

Enter “Bomb Shelter Selfies” — according to Eisen, a means of “showing the world that we weren’t letting this get to us.” The project’s original name, “Bomb Shelter Bombshells,” was nixed by her husband.

Kaplan Sommer details the “stressful and often surreal situation in which Israelis find themselves,” such as being unsure of whether or not to bring one’s bicycle into the air raid shelter. The stress is so great, apparently, that Israelis have been “using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp to make the situation more bearable and to keep their spirits up.”

With every bout of violence, human interest stories are disseminated so that the international audience can fully appreciate the fortitude of Israelis in managing to survive — and even order sushi delivery! — while their military engages in massacres. Israel’s monopoly on victimhood means it’s one big selfie, 24-7.

To be sure, the trauma of having to listen to air raid sirens announce what generally turns out to be the non-arrival of a rocket far outweighs, say, having your apartment building exploded with three generations of your family inside.

As for whether Palestinians might appropriate Israel’s therapeutic wartime remedies, unfortunately dead people can’t take selfies.