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The Limits of Propaganda and State Terrorism


Israel’s latest criminal outrage, while very far from being its worst, is nevertheless so flagrant that it exceeds the capacity of the most well oiled propaganda machine to hide. Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, urged people to wait for the facts to be uncovered about an Israeli attack that left several activists dead as they attempted to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza. Harper’s plea was a feeble attempt at damage control because the key facts were known at once.

 

Taking the Israeli account at face value, activists resisted as Israeli commandos boarded their ship in international waters. Nine activists were shot dead. The Israelis claim they acted in self defense, which is like an armed robber claiming he broke into a house and shot his victims in self defense. That is the essence of the "PR problem" Israel’s apologists have lamented since the attack. The "PR problem" is aggravated by the fact that the Israelis murdered Turkish citizens rather than Palestinians, whom they are accustomed to killing with near impunity.

 

What was known initially was damning enough. What has come out since the attack will create an even bigger "PR problem" for Israel.

 

A UK Guardian article reported autopsy results on the bodies of the victims:

 

"… a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less than 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, said Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the council of forensic medicine."

 

According to the Guardian, forty-eight other people suffered gunshot wounds. [1]

 

Israel failed to secure complete control over video recordings that were made during the incident. Video smuggled out of Israel shows activists treating the wounded and pleading with the commandos to stop firing. [2]

 

It is instructive to look at how the Canadian press has responded to the incident.

 

At the fanatical extreme are people like National Post columnist George Jonas who called the slain activists "peace terrorists". He argued that Israel must blockade Gaza to prevent rocket attacks. Therefore anyone who tries to break the blockade – even through the delivery of crutches (his example) – is threatening Israeli "security" and is therefore a terrorist. [3]

 

In the same newspaper, David Frum expressed his contempt for the victims with more subtlety. Frum wrote

 

"In human terms, the losses begin with the battered and injured IDF soldiers who boarded the Mavi Marmara. One may wonder if we should not tally as winners the nine militant blockade runners who gained the martyrdom they sought."[4]

 

So according to the Frum, the real victims were the Israeli commandos who were roughed up while the people they murdered were fanatics who got what they wanted.

 

Rex Murphy also used his space in the Post to openly spit on the graves of the activists:

 

"As to the ‘peace activists’ on that sixth ship, the ones who received the Israeli soldiers boarding the ship with bats, pipes, knives and chains — well, the video footage of the moments preceding the boarding and the boarding itself will make most rational people review their understanding of peace and activism…"[5]

 

Propagandists are often wise to be aggressive, but the National Post pundits will likely repel all but the most hateful "supporters of Israel".

 

A more insidious attempt to defend the indefensible was made by Martin Regg Cohn in the Toronto Star. Cohn rebuked Israel for not simply ignoring the activists’ aid flotilla. He characterized Israel’s action as stupid rather than criminal and (like his counterparts in the Post) he spread the myth tha t Israel’s behaviour is driven by security concerns. [6]

 

Palestinians are invariably presumed not to have any security concerns, or any right to self defense, regardless how many are killed by Israel, and regardless that Israel illegally occupies Palestinian land and not the other way around.

 

Rocket fire from Gaza has killed 14 Israelis over seven years. Israel’s military has killed 1000 Palestinians in Gaza since 2008 – in addition to killing 5000 in the Occupied Territories in the period between 2001 to 2008. [7] Yet according to a Lexis Nexis search of English language newspapers, the words "Israel’s right to self defense" appeared in 128 articles over the past two years while the words "Palestinian right to self defense" appeared in only one article. The words "Israel’s security concerns" appeared in 40 articles. The words "Palestinian security concerns" appeared in zero articles.

 

The media has also buried the fact that Israel, not Hamas, broke a cease fire that had virtually eliminated rocket fire from Gaza. [8]

 

In 2003, the UN Special Rapporteur for Food said that 22% of Palestinian children were malnourished and that this was direct result of Israeli policy. [9] This was years before electoral victories by Hamas in 2006 – one of the pretexts Israel has used to intensify the economic and military pounding of Gaza. Moreover, if the situation had been reversed, if Palestinians had been strong enough to impose malnourishment on 22% of Israeli children, it is not difficult to imagine the reaction from corporate pundits in Canada and the US. It would be called an act of war – in fact, a war crime. Israel would not be expected to passively accept the suffering imposed by their neighbours.

 

During its early days, Hamas was funded by Israel. [10] The idea was to create a counterweight to the PLO which was, at the time, considered a serious obstacle to Israel’s expansionist aims. The dire threat posed by the PLO was that it accepted Israel’s right to secure borders. In 1976, a draft UN resolution, supported by the PLO, offered Israel everything it publicly claims to want. Israel, with the backing of the US, was able to defeat the resolution. [11] Today, Hamas is feared rather than funded because it is no longer a marginal group and it is willing to resist the Israeli occupation.

 

In 1948, Israel’s military expelled 700,000 Palestinians and confiscated their property. Since 1967, when Israel seized control of the West bank and Gaza, it has relentlessly moved hundreds of thousands settlers into the territories. It is not security, but the desire to consolidate gains acquired through massive and ongoing theft that drives Israeli policy. [12]

 

The fantasy of Israeli state planners is that, through the use of brute force, Palestinians will be convinced to either flee the occupied territories or suffer passively as Israel steals whatever land and resources it considers valuable. Decades ago, Moshe Dayan, a former Israeli Minister of Defense, suggested to his colleagues that Palestinians be told

 

"We have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads"[13]

 

Israeli leaders have become less intelligent since Moshe Dayan’s day. Despite the corporate media’s best efforts, Israel’s brutality is impossible to conceal even from people who are unfamiliar with the conflict. Consequently, Israel’s apologists have increasingly resorted to the refrain that its crimes are "unfairly singled out" for condemnation. The appropriate reply is that Israeli crimes have been singled out for a tremendous amount of support from Canada and the US. We should put an end that support. [14]

 

SUGGESTED ACTION

 

Send polite, non-abusive emails to the following newspapers. Please copy all letters and replies to [email protected]

 

National Post: http://www.nationalpost.com/contact/letter…r+to+the+editor

 

Toronto Star [email protected])

 

NOTES

 

[1]http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/04/gaza-flotilla-activists-autop sy-results

 

[2 Democracy Now; http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2010/6/10/the_images_they_didnt_want_se… ideo_and_photographs_from_on_board_the_mavi_marmara

 

[3] George Jonas: "Crusade of the peace terrorists"; National Post; June 4, 2010 [4] David Frum; "The Geopolitical Scoreboard"; National Post; June 5, 2010

 

[5] Rex Murphy; "Propaganda Floats"; National Post; June 5, 2010

 

[6] Martin Regg Cohn; "Why Israelis Can’t Stop Fighting"; Toronto Star; June 8, 2010

 

[7] Medialens Alert: "An Eye for an Eyelash: The Gaza Massacre" http://www.medialens.org/alerts/09/090112_an_eye_for.php

 

[8] FAIR: Misleading Media on Israel and Gaza Rockets http://www.fair.org/blog/2010/06/11/misleading-media-on-israel-and-gaza-…

 

[9] Steven Edwards; "Israel Accuses UN Author of Political Bias"; National Post, October 10, 2003

 

[10] Richard Sale; "Israel Gave Major Aid to Hamas"; February 24, 2001; UPI http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2002/06/08/1320881.php

 

[11] See my exchange with Deborah Orr of the UK Independent about this matter for more details: http://www.medialens.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2927&sid=d64fd1da0f9fb538…

 

[12]Steve Shalom; "Background to the Israel-Palestine Crisis; Znet; May, 2002 http://www.zcomm.org/background-to-the-israel-palestine-crisis…

 

[13] Noam Chomsky; "Turning Point?"; Znet; June 7, 2009 http://www.zcomm.org/turning-point-by-noam-chomsky-1

 

[14] See Yves Engler’s recent book "Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid" for details.

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