(“Palestinians can be killed without outrage”)
Israel’s propaganda effort to turn the occupied Palestinians into terrorists is not just a local Israeli phenomenon, but is being actively assisted in America by the US State Department, politicians such as Hillary Clinton (especially through her falsified condemnation of Palestinian textbooks as terrorist manuals), and right wing Zionist organizations like AIPAC, the Zionist Organization of America, and the American Jewish Committee. However, this propaganda effort would not even have begun to take hold without the complicity of America’s mainstream media.
Hamas, which developed to fight Israel’s military occupation during the First Intifada, is now classified by the US as a terrorist organization. It, not Israel, is the terrorist; the occupiers are merely defending themselves. How did this twist of reality come about?
In a word, through one of the most successful propaganda campaigns ever conceived.
The story of Israel’s propaganda effort to transform the Palestinians into terrorists is the theme of the documentary, Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land (Part I and Part II). Seen by over a million Americans, it provides a striking comparison of U.S. and international media coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, zeroing in on how structural distortions in U.S. coverage have reinforced false perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This pivotal documentary exposes how the foreign policy interests of American political elites–oil, and a need to have a secure military base in the region, among others–work in combination with Israeli public relations strategies to exercise a powerful influence over how news from the region is reported.
What Peace, Propaganda, & The Promised Land depicts is the transformation of a people, the Palestinians, from the victims of a long military occupation while their lands were (and are) being colonized, into perpetrators of heinous crimes in the name of terrorism, largely facilitated by the spate of suicide bombings that occurred during the Second Intifada. (I briefly mention that before a single suicide bomber entered Israel, Israeli forces had killed hundreds of Palestinians, including 86 children below the age of 18. Alison Weir, in her documentary, Off the Charts, documented 27 of them, most of whom were shot in the head, the youngest only a few months old.)
Here are some excerpts:
Robert Jensen, Professor of Journalism, University of Texas-Austin: “In contrast to the international press, in American media, there is a reversal of cause and effect in that the occupation is framed as a response to the suicide bombings. All of the Palestinian actions are attacks and Israel actions retaliation, is meaningful. Retaliation suggests a defensive stance against violence initiated by someone else. It places a responsibility for the violence on the party provoking the retaliation. In other words, Palestinian violence like suicide bombings is seen as cause and the origin of the conflict. Since the September 11 attack on the US, Israel’s PR strategy has been to frame all Palestinian actions, violent or not, as terrorism. To the extent that they can do that they have repackaged the illegal occupation as part of the war on terrorism.”
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Founder & Executive Director, Tikkun Magazine: “When you have a population that is being occupied, when their fundamental human rights are systematically being denied, when they are not allowed to move from city to city and place to place, without a huge amount of harassment, when they are being subject to torture, when people are essentially in desperate conditions, it is not a surprise that they are going to be very, very angry. There is no understand by the public media, or the American media, what creates this circumstance. Israel occupies, people strike at Israel against that occupation. They use means I think are wrong means, namely, the terror, and then Israel imposes punishment on the entire people, which creates a climate which makes it easier to recruit.”
Major Stav Adivi, reserves, Israeli Defense Forces, Israel: “we have to understand that these (suicide bombings) are the effects of the occupation.”
News headlines: “This is Israel’s war on terrorism. F16s hit a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip this morning….The case the Israelis are trying to make: this is no different than what the US is doing in Afganistan (air attacks on the West Bank)…Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared on television tonight, that he was determined to root out what he called `the terrorist infrastructure.'”
So rose the myth of the Palestinian terrorist, who just happens to be fighting a 40-year long military occupation/colonization of their lands, which the UN has called illegal. In the guise of fighting terrorism, Israel’s colonization of occupied Palestinian land now appears to be a defensive move to stop terrorism, rather than the offensive one it is. In fact, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza pretty much remains hidden in the news media. As the documentary shows, U.S. journalists, for reasons ranging from intimidation to a lack of thorough investigation, have become complicit in carrying out Israel’s PR campaign.
One effect of this propaganda is that Palestinian lives have now become less valuable.
Ben White, a British journalist specializing in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, speaking about the rocketing of Sderot by Palestinian militants, noted:
Once again, we are learning that when it comes to the conflict in Palestine/Israel, some lives are worth more than others. Earlier today, dozens of Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip fell on Sderot, the Israeli town that has borne the brunt of Palestinian rocket fire over the last few years. This time, an Israeli man, “father-of-four” Roni Yechiah, was killed in a car park by shrapnel. Others have suffered injuries.
Even as I write this, however, there is news that in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli military, in separate attacks, has killed a 6 month old baby and three Palestinian children age 10, 12 and 14. No names yet. In the case of the three children, the Israeli army claims that it was aiming at militants, and a spokesperson said it was “strange” that there should be children around the alleged vicinity of rocket launchers. But it is not the first `strange’ occurrence recently in Gaza. On Saturday, three Palestinians in their early 20s, Mohammad Talal al-Za’anin, Ibrahim Ahmad Abu Jarad, and Mohammad Hasan Hussein, were killed as they prepared a picnic in a field near Beit Hanoun. The Israeli missile hit their hut, 1.2km from the border fence, killing and dismembering them instantly. `Strangely’, the Israeli army claimed it had targeted militants firing rockets. Then on Tuesday, Palestinian farmer Hassan Abu Sabatt was tilling his land near Qarara village, when Israeli soldiers shot him dead. Once again, the IDF said it had killed an armed militant – a spokeswoman said he’d been spotted planting a bomb.
Of course, Western media outlets either unquestioningly reprint official IDF press releases, or `balance’ the two contradictory accounts.
Let’s be clear. The residents of Sderot are unquestionably living through a nightmare. Indeed, some thought it worthwhile to organize a concert in Los Angeles this week in solidarity with the town. Hollywood stars were in attendance, and according to Yedioth Ahronoth online, the three presidential candidates all sent messages of support.
John McCain, bizarrely, believes that Palestinian violence “is not condemned by world nations”. Hillary Clinton commented on Sderot’s courage and sacrifice, while Barack Obama said that as a father, he “could only imagine the terror that these rockets cause”. The deaths of Mohammad the university student or Hassan the farmer, however, went unnoticed and unlamented. Presumably, if asked bluntly, Obama, McCain and Clinton would all profusely stress that they believe a Palestinian life is equal to that of an Israeli’s. But there will be no A-list concert for Palestinians living under daily terror – indeed, such an event is inconceivable because there is simply no understanding of Israel as a practitioner of terror.
Turning its back on Israel’s PR campaign, which reframes Israel as the victim rather than the colonial perpetrator of all the death and destruction that has befallen Palestinians and Israelis alike for 60 years, a report commissioned by the United Nations recently put straight the reality.
Palestinian terrorism is the “inevitable consequence” of Israeli occupation and laws that resemble South African apartheid…
The report by John Dugard…, a South African lawyer who campaigned against apartheid in the 1980s, says “common sense dictates that a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by al-Qaida, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation.”
While Palestinian terrorist acts are to be deplored, “they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation…”
So why were the Palestinians shown above killed without outrage? Now you know.
Yonatan Mendel who is employed by Walla, Israel’s most popular website, asked a Palestinian spokesman about the rocketing of Sderot:
Interviewing Abu-Qusay, the spokesman of Al-Aqsa Brigades in Gaza, in June 2007, I asked him about the rationale for firing Qassam missiles at the Israeli town of Sderot. ‘The army might respond,’ I said, not realising that I was already biased. ‘But we are responding here,’ Abu-Qusay said. ‘We are not terrorists, we do not want to kill . . . we are resisting Israel’s continual incursions into the West Bank, its attacks, its siege on our waters and its closure on our lands.’ Abu-Qusay’s words were translated into Hebrew, but Israel continued to enter the West Bank every night and Israelis did not find any harm in it. After all it was only a response.
Yonatan Mendel’s diary is also about propaganda: Palestinians terrorize and Israel responds. Written by an insider, it is worth a diary all its own.