Monday, August 04, 2014

Propaganda and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Israel is responsible for the current destruction of Gaza. Israel is also responsible for the current unlawful 8-year blockade of Gaza, the 47-year illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, and the evisceration of the West Bank into de facto bantustans. As of today, Israel has killed 1,831 Palestinians in the current offensive in Gaza with the vast majority being civilians. Israel has bombarded Gaza from the sea, land, and air, destroying critical infrastructure and civilian homes. Israel has destroyed Gaza’s only power plant, smashed its port, bombed its hospitals, mosques, university, and UN-run facilities. After Israel purposely bombed a UN school in Gaza on August 2nd that massacred ten people, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed “moral outrage” and called the attack a “criminal act” that is a “gross violation of international law.” Even the United States has condemned the attacks on the UN in Gaza as “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence of Israeli crimes and with the raison d'être for the current war likely untrue, more Americans believe that Hamas is to blame for this war than Israel. According to a recent Pew poll, almost 4 in 10 Americans say Hamas is responsible for the violence and about half believe that Israel’s response has been about right (35%) or has not gone far enough (15%). Why do the American people believe that Hamas is to blame and support Israel’s criminal attack on Gaza?

The American people have been misled by propaganda. According to Patrick Cockburn, a journalist at the Independent/UK, Israel has mounted a sophisticated public relations campaign to shape and influence public opinion in favor of Israel. Based on the work of a Republican pollster, the Luntz report provides Israeli officials with the language, sound bites, and disinformation needed to influence public opinion. Cockburn summarizes the report by noting, “On every occasion, the presentation of events by Israeli spokesmen is geared to giving Americans and Europeans the impression that Israel wants peace with the Palestinians and is prepared to compromise to achieve this, when all the evidence is that it does not.” Israel does not want peace, but it must—for the sake of appearances—claim that it does.

Israel’s propaganda war is aimed to support the “Big Lie”—
Große Lüge—to manufacture consent for its untenable actions. Chris Hedges, an independent journalist, explains that “the Big Lie feeds the two reactions Israel seeks to elicit—racism among its supporters and terror among its victims.” This racism has manifested itself in calls by some in Israel for genocide against the Palestinian people. The Palestinians in Gaza meanwhile have no safe place left to hide, as Israel has repeatedly bombed UN-run shelters—seven times so far—in the past twenty-seven days. The people of Gaza are besieged, homeless, and living in the dark.

It is tragic that many Americans have been influenced by insidious propaganda to support the wholesale destruction of the Palestinian people. However, thanks to alternative media outlets like DemocracyNow!, social media like twitter, and Al Jazeera, the reality on the ground is being broadcast all over the world. The best way to fight propaganda is with the truth and the truth is increasingly being seen through a variety of mediums.

This truth has led many Latin American nations to vehemently protest Israeli actions. Five Latin American countries have withdrawn their ambassadors in protest—El Salvador, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru—and Bolivia recently declared Israel a “terrorist state.” It is encouraging to see nations from the Global South denouncing Israel. However, most Arab leaders have not come to the defense of the Palestinian people and the deafening silence from the Obama Administration has enabled Israel to continue its criminal actions unhindered.

The current destruction of Gaza is being spun by the Israeli propaganda machine to advance its interests. Lies are made to appear like the truth. The truth is perpetually being distorted by doublespeak and outright lies. Although Israel could have peace tomorrow if it wanted—see, for example, the Arab Peace Plan of 2002—it does not want peace.

Israel wanted this war and it is to blame for this conflict. Israel is attempting to accomplish its dual goals of destroying Hamas and the infrastructure needed to run a state, thereby preempting a future Palestinian state. Israel does not want a Palestinian state and instead prefers a perpetual peace-process.

Israel behaves with propaganda-enhanced impunity unrecognized by many Americans. The American people deserve to know that this conflict is not about Hamas and its meager capabilities (all driven by a state of desperation), but rather about Israel’s wholesale destruction of Gaza. Israel is comfortable with leaving the people of Gaza in an open-air prison and applying apartheid policies to crush the Palestinian people. This is the reality of the situation in Palestine today, not the misinformation spewed by the Israeli propaganda machine. Latin America and much of the Global South understand this. Hopefully one day America will too.