Stuart Littlewood deconstructs the Israeli propaganda that has been flooding the airwaves following Israel’s murder of humanitarian activists aboard the Gaza-bound international aid flotilla, most notably from the orifice of the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman, Australian-born Mark Regev, and debunks the propaganda manual used by Israeli officials and stooges to hoodwink Westerners.
What were Israel’s excuses for hijacking the Free Gaza ships in international waters and imprisoning their passengers after gunning down nine of them and wounding several more?
- There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and
- Israel already allows sufficient humanitarian aid into Gaza so the flotilla was “an armada of hate and violence", said Israel’s deputy foreign minister.
But according to John Ging, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) director of operations in Gaza, “It’s a struggle to survive [with] the infrastructure and water and sanitation in a state of collapse and all that goes with that... People are at their wits’ end to understand when all of this will come to an end.”
- If the Free Gaza ships delivered the humanitarian cargo to the Israeli port of Ashdod, Israel would ensure it was delivered to Gaza after checking it for arms.
That’s very unlikely. The report “Failing Gaza: No rebuilding, no recovery, no more excuses” by a group of 16 European non-governmental organizations, published in December 2009, showed that the Israelis allow only a feeble trickle and what is permitted changes from day to day.
- Israel could not allow the ships into Gaza without searching them for arms that might be of use to Hamas.
There are peaceful alternatives for checking cargoes. Besides, it’s time Israel implemented The Agreement on Movement and Access it signed in November 2005, under which it promised to allow its crossings into Gaza to “operate continuously” so that people and goods could move freely.
The agreement also provides for
- the reduction of obstacles to movement within the West Bank
- bus and truck convoys between the West Bank and Gaza
- the building of a new seaport in Gaza
- reopening of the airport in Gaza
There would then be no need for ships bringing humanitarian aid.
The European Council on 8 December 2009 stated: “The EU again reiterates its calls for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza. In this context, the council calls for the full implementation of The Agreement on Movement and Access.”
Israel has ignored countless verbal appeals. The EU is in position to twist its arm because it has granted Israel privileged access to European markets under the EU-Israel Association Agreement and the plug can be pulled. These trading advantages are conditional on Israel showing respect for human rights and democratic principles. Compliance is an essential element, not an option.
- Israel’s interference with the mercy ships was an act of self-defence against the threat posed by Hamas firing rockets and mortars out of Gaza.
This isn’t about rockets. A ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, was negotiated with Hamas in June 2008. Hamas honoured the agreement, firing no rockets and restraining other resistance groups. Israel broke the ceasefire on 4 November by suddenly making a military incursion into Gaza and killing seven members of Hamas. Operation Cast Lead followed, supposedly to stop the rockets. The deaths of over 1,400 people and the maiming of thousands more were unnecessary. All Israel needed to do was observe the ceasefire. It chose not to.
And whatever Israel may say, the blockade inflicts “collective punishment” on the people of Gaza, which is a violation of international law and Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
- Hamas wants to destroy Israel.
Not true. Hamas has said it will accept Israel within its internationally-recognized 1967 borders, which is the same position the United Nations has adopted.
- Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu now says "dozens of thugs" from what he called "an extremist, terrorism-supporting" organization were on-board the flotilla.
No evidence has been produced so far.
- Israel is a vibrant democracy.
Actually, Israel is a racist ethnocracy, which discriminates in countless vile ways against its Arab minority.
As usual, Israel's chief propagandist, Mark Regev, was on hand to give the tragedy the benefit of his spin.
- "We did everything we could to avoid violence... They [the aid workers] chose the path of confrontation… Our boarding party was attacked with live fire…”
No such weapons were found.
- "Violence was initiated by these activists..."
No, violence was initiated by armed troops storming the peace ships in the dead of night.
- "We didn't attack them, they attacked us... We tried to do, in accordance with international law, a peaceful intervention as they were entering a blockaded area..."
International law does not permit armed intervention in international waters, and the blockaded area has no legal basis.
- "There are no shortages in Gaza..."
That is not what the UN and countless NGOs and charities say.
Meanwhile, in London, Israel’s ambassador, Ron Prosor, was saying:
- “The people on board the ships behaved appallingly… they really did everything in order to provoke and confront…”
What is confrontational about sailing lawfully and peacefully on a humanitarian mission?
- “We disengaged completely out of Gaza…”
No, Israel remains in occupation of Gaza's airspace and coastal waters and in control of all entrances and exits except on the Egyptian border. It has Gaza bottled up.
As always, newspaper and television editors, reporters and presenters were happy to retell the Israeli version of events, the distortion and the plain lies, along with the exaggerated language such as “extremists” and “militants” to describe aid workers, without bothering to examine or question the material in any way.
More pearls of wisdom from Regev
Mark Regev, the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman, is a rich source of propaganda nonsense, for example…
- "It’s not just Israel who refuses to speak to Hamas. It’s the whole international community… Most of the democratic world refuses to have a relationship with Hamas because Hamas has refused to meet the most minimal benchmarks of international behaviour."
Isn’t that a little cheeky, Mr Regev, coming from a regime widely condemned for war crimes, piracy and mega-lawlessness?
- "It was the former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, that put four benchmarks on the table. And he said, speaking for the international community…That if Hamas reforms itself… If Hamas recognizes my country’s right to live in freedom… If Hamas renounces terrorism against innocent civilians… If Hamas supports international agreements that are being signed and agreed to concerning the peace process… then the door is open. But unfortunately – tragically – Hamas has failed to meet even one of those four benchmarks. And that’s why today Hamas is isolated internationally. Even the United Nations refuses to speak to Hamas.
Which of those benchmarks has Israel met, Mr Regev?
If you’re getting the impression that Israel is going all-out to demonize Hamas you’d be right, as we’ll see later.
- "Iran’spPresident openly talks about wiping Israel off the map. The Iranian nuclear programme is a threat, not just to my country, but to the entire region. And it’s incumbent upon us all to do what needs to be done to keep from proliferating.”
Why is Israel the only state in the region not to have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Mr Regev? Are we all supposed to believe that Israel's 200 (or is it 400?) nuclear warheads pose no threat to the region? Would you also tell us why Israel hasn’t signed the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, and hasn’t ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty or the Chemical Weapons Convention? What proof do you have of Iran's nuclear weapons plans?
And why do you deliberately misquote Mr Ahmadinejad? For the record, the Iranian president said, quoting the late Ayatollah Khomeini: "The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time."
Israel’s Crapaganda Handbook
The Israeli administration’s scriptwriters use a propaganda training manual that teaches the art of lying and how to sugar-coat their poison so that gullible audiences will easily swallow it. Everything Israel dislikes, and everything that thwarts their lust for domination, is now labeled “Iranian-backed”… They would have us believe that everyone in the West – and that includes you and me and the dog – is in mortal danger from Iran and must therefore huddle together in a collective act of aggression orchestrated by Tel Aviv and Washington.
Situations are defined in language that suits only Israel’s case and ensures that Israel’s narrative, which has little or nothing to do with truth, is the one that is carried by the media.
Take, for example, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to the UN in 2009. Referring to the critical Goldstone report on Israel’s blitzkrieg against Gaza, he said:
Israel justly defended itself against terror. This biased and unjust report is a clear-cut test for all governments. Will you stand with Israel or will you stand with the terrorists?
The false choice is a propaganda favourite. Why would anyone wish to stand alongside either? The fact is, Israel reneged on a ceasefire agreement just before it launched its murderous onslaught, which it had been planning for months.
In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza… We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base 50 miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare. You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent.
Israel, camped on the Gazans’ doorstep and still occupying Gaza’s airspace and coastal waters, lobs high explosives into the tiny enclave’s 1.5 million starving and defenceless civilians, and there’s no escape because all exits are sealed.
…If Israel is again asked to take more risks for peace, we must know today that you will stand with us tomorrow. Only if we have the confidence that we can defend ourselves can we take further risks for peace.
What exactly are these “risks for peace” Israel has so bravely taken? In 62 years what peace dividends has Israel delivered?
The 116-page manual is designed to help the worldwide Zionist movement win the propaganda war, keep their ill-gotten territorial gains and persuade international audiences to accept that their crimes are necessary and in line with “shared values” between Israel and the West.
It was written by The Israel Project, which describes itself as “devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace”. The organization claims to provide journalists, leaders and opinion-formers with “accurate information about Israel”.
What it really does is undermine with clever words and discredited techniques the inalienable rights pledged by the UN to all peoples, including the Palestinians.
The manual teaches the sort of propaganda bollox that Israel’s scribblers and drivellers use to try to justify the slaughter, the ethnic cleansing, the land-grabbing, the cruelty and their blatant disregard for international law and UN resolutions, and make it all smell sweet with a liberal sprinkling of persuasive words. It is designed to hoodwink hard-bitten media types into believing that we actually share values with the racist regime in Israel and that its abominable behaviour is therefore deserving of support.
Priority: isolate Hamas
How does it do that?The manual’s strategy from the start is to demonize the democratically-elected Hamas and rob the resistance movement and the Palestinian population of their human rights. It is packed with advice such as this:
- “Clearly differentiate between the Palestinian people and Hamas… Hamas is a terrorist organization – Americans get that already. But if it sounds like you are attacking the Palestinian people (even though they elected Hamas) rather than their leadership, you will lose public support.”
- "The big picture approach is this: You must isolate Hamas as:
- A critical cause of the delay in achieving a two-state solution
- The biggest source of harm to the Palestinian people, and
- The reason why Israel must defend its people from living in terror.
- Read from the Hamas Charter. Now, here’s how to attack Hamas: indict them with their own indoctrination materials. Yes, people know Hamas is a terrorist organization – but they don’t know just how terrifying Hamas can be. The absolute best way to heighten their awareness is to read from the Hamas Charter itself. Don’t just “quote” from it. Read it. Out loud. Again and again. Hand it out to everyone."
That’s a very good point. Hamas is mad not to have rewritten its charter. Israel’s barbarous behaviour makes Hamas look good, but all that will count for nothing if the charter remains unchanged.
- "Israel’s right to defensible borders: The big picture is that they [specifically the Americans, but equally the British and other Europeans] believe that Hamas’s leadership of Gaza has made Israel and the region less safe… they are willing to grant Israel more leeway in resisting calls to give more land for more peace."
Here we see the motive for demonizing Hamas: Israel wants more leeway to continue its land-grabs and colonization. The idea that they are “giving land for peace” is utterly absurd – they are required to return land they have seized at gunpoint.
- “If… If… If…Then. Put the burden on Hamas to make the first move for peace by using If’s. If Hamas reforms… If Hamas recognize our right to exist… If Hamas renounces terrorism… If Hamas supports international peace agreements… then we are willing to make peace today.”
Just substitute Israel for Hamas. It reads much better.
- “Peace can only be made with adversaries who want to make peace with you. Terrorist organizations like Iran-backed Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are, by definition, opposed to peaceful coexistence, and determined to prevent reconciliation. I ask you, how do you negotiate with those who want you dead?”
Hamas and Hezbollah are only regarded as terrorists by the White House and Tel Aviv, and by US-Israeli stooges elsewhere.
The definition Bush used to blacklist those it suited him to accuse of committing, threatening to commit or supporting terrorism goes as follows…
“The term “terrorism” means an activity that –
(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and
(ii) appears to be intended –
(a) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(b) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(c) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.
This of course fits the US and Israel perfectly.
- "There is never, ever, any justification for the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children. Never ... civilized people do not target innocent women and children for death.”
So where does that leave Israel, which recently killed 320 children in Gaza and 773 civilians including 109 women? From 2000 up to the start of Operation Cast Lead in December 2008 Israel had slaughtered 4,790 Palestinians in their homeland, including 952 children, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. In the same period Palestinians killed 490 Israelis in Israel including 84 children. So Israel’s kill-rate is nearly 10 to 1, and rising since the blitzkrieg on Gaza.
Israelis are also expert at making families homeless. Since 1967, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), Israel has demolished in total 24,145 homes in the occupied territories, including 4,247 (a UN figure) destroyed during Operation Cast Lead.
Israel talks a lot about its right to defend itself. Here is the rationale:
- “Americans fundamentally believe that a democracy has a right to protect its people and its borders… There is one and only one argument that will work for Israel:
(1) As a democracy, Israel has the right and the responsibility to defend its borders and protect its people.
(2) Terrorist groups, including Iran-backed Hezbollah and Hamas, continue to pose a direct threat to Israeli security and have repeatedly taken innocent Israeli lives.
(3) Israel is America’s one and only true ally in the region. In these particularly unstable and dangerous times, Israel should not be forced to go it alone.
(4) With America’s financial assistance, Israel can defend its borders, protect its people, and provide invaluable assistance to the American effort against the war against terrorism.”
But it seems that Americans don’t believe in democracy enough to allow Palestinian democracy to flourish.
- “When the terror ends, Israel will no longer need to have challenging checkpoints to inspect goods and people. When the terror ends we will no longer need a security fence.”
No rockets are coming out of the West Bank, so why is the wall still there – and still being built? Why are the occupation troops still there? Why are hundreds of checkpoints still there? Why is Israel still stealing land, demolishing Palestinian homes and building settlements there?
- "Remind people – again and again – that Israel wants peace. Reason One: If Americans see no hope for peace… they will not want their government to spend tax dollars or their president’s clout on helping Israel. Reason Two: The speaker that is perceived as being most for peace will win the debate... peace should be at the core of whatever message you wish to convey."
Israelis do NOT want peace and never have. They failed to honour previous peace accords. Every action is directed at provoking security crises and keeping the conflict boiling until they have stolen enough land and established enough '”acts on the ground” – Jews-only settlements, highways, disconnected Palestinian bantustans – to enable them to re-draw the map to suit their expansionist agenda and make the occupation permanent.
- "Draw direct parallels between Israel and America – including the need to defend against terrorism... The more you focus on the similarities between Israel and America, the more likely you are to win the support of those who are neutral. Indeed, Israel … faces many of the same challenges as America in protecting their citizens."
Israel’s strategy is dependent on the false idea that they are victims of terror and Western nations need to rally round Israel for mutual protection.
- "The language of Israel is the language of America: 'democracy’, 'freedom’, 'security' and 'peace'. These four words are at the core of the American political, economic, social and cultural systems, and they should be repeated as often as possible because they resonate with virtually every American… Remind your audience that Israel wants peace and then repeat the messages of democracy, freedom and peace over and over again.... we need to repeat the message, on average, ten times to be effective… But don’t confuse messages with facts.... "
Right, never let facts get in the way of a good message! The only word that matters to Israel is security (at everyone else’s expense, of course). How can democracy be a shared value when Israel is a nasty ethnocracy? How can freedom be a shared value when the world is still waiting for Israel to end the occupation and allow the Palestinians their freedom.
- “How can the current Palestinian leadership honestly say it will pursue peace when previous leaders rejected an offer to create a Palestinian state just a few short years ago and now refuse to live up to their responsibilities as outlined in the Road Map?”
This refers to Ehud Barak's so-called "generous offer”, a favourite myth. It wasn't enough that the Palestinians, at the time of the Oslo Agreements in 1993, were willing to concede 78 per cent of the land that was originally theirs, accept the remaining 22 per cent and recognize Israel within “Green Line” borders (i.e. the 1949 Armistice Line), Barak wanted to include 69 Israeli settlements within the Palestinians’ 22 per cent. He also demanded that the Palestinian territories be placed under "temporary Israeli control", meaning Israeli military and administrative control indefinitely. The “generous offer also gave Israel control over all the border crossings of the new Palestinian state. What nation in the world would accept that?
- “Why is the world so silent about the written, vocal, stated aims of Hamas?”
Why is the world silent about the written, stated aims of the racist regime and its political parties? Read their manifestos.
- “The situation in the Middle East may be complicated, but all parties should adopt a simple approach: peace first, political boundaries second.”
Why should Palestinians renounce resistance while Israel’s jackboot is still on their throat? The international community should first insist on Israel’s compliance with international law and the many UN resolutions it has defied. The boundaries are already defined by these. Whatever issues then remain to be decided, Palestinians should not have to negotiate with a gun to their heads.
- "Bottom line: What will happen if we fail to get the world to care about the fact that Israeli parents in southern Israel need to literally dodge rockets when they drive their children to kindergarten in the morning?”
Only one in 500 makeshift Qassam rockets causes a fatality. The devastation and carnage resulting from the barrage of Israel’s state-of-the-art rocketry targeted on Gaza is a very different story.
- “Humanize Rockets: Paint a vivid picture of what life is like in Israeli communities that are vulnerable to attack. Yes, cite the number of rocket attacks that have occurred. But immediately follow that up with what it is like to make the nightly trek to the bomb shelter.”
Israel claims 12,000 rockets were fired from Gaza in the eight years up to the start of Operation Cast Lead. Would they care to tell the world how many bombs, rockets and shells (including the illegal and prohibited variety) Israel’s F-16s, tanks, armed drones and navy gunboats poured into the densely-packed humanity that is Gaza in the same period? Probably not.
And Israelis are careful not to mention that the township of Sderot, targeted by Gaza’s rockets and a major propaganda asset for Regev and company, is built on the ruins of an ethnically cleansed Palestinian village whose inhabitants were forced to flee by Jewish terrorists.
- “Living together, side by side. This is the best way to describe the ultimate vision of a two-state solution without using the phrase.”
Sounds cute and fluffy, but who would want to live alongside bigots and extremists who have made your life hell for 62 years?
- "When talking about a Palestinian partner, it is essential to distinguish between Hamas and everyone else. Only the most anti-Israel, pro- Palestinian American expects Israel to negotiate with Hamas, so you have to be clear that you are seeking a 'moderate Palestinian partner'."
What gives anyone, American or Israeli, the right to ignore a nation’s democratically elected representatives? And where are the moderate Israeli partners?
- "The fight is over ideology, not land; terror, not territory. Thus, you must avoid using Israel’s religious claims to land as a reason why Israel should not give up land. Such claims only make Israel look extremist to people who are not religious Christians or Jews.”
If the fight isn’t about land, why has Israel been stealing it? And why won’t they give it back when told to by the UN?
- "Think pro-Palestinian…I particularly want to reach out to Palestinian mothers who have lost their children. No parent should have to bury their child.”
Reach for the sick-bag. Israel won’t even allow cement into Gaza to build the graves.
- "And so I say to my Palestinian colleagues … you can stop the bloodshed. You can stop the suicide bombings and rocket attacks. If you really want to, you can put an end to this cycle of violence. If you won’t do it for our children, do it for your children.”
This is recommended as “an effective sound bite” for pro-Israel activists.
- "I want to see a future where the Palestinians govern themselves. Israel does not want to govern a single Palestinian. Not one. We want them to govern themselves. We want them to have complete self-determination."
Pure tosh! That’s not what Israel’s political parties are pledging. For decades Israel has dismissed the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. It is desperate to snuff out Palestine's fledgling democracy and destroy its chosen government.
What’s to become of the Holy City?
- "The toughest issue to communicate will be the final resolution of Jerusalem. Americans overwhelmingly want Israel to be in charge of the religious holy sites and are frankly afraid of the consequences should Israel turn over control to the Palestinians.”
Israel is in control right now and prevents Muslims and Christians from outside the city from visiting the holy places. Israel has proved it can’t be trusted. In any case, the UN's partition plan decreed that Jerusalem should become a “corpus separatum" – an international city – under international management.
And here’s a final example of the twisted mentality of those who wrote the manual:
- “The force undermining peace is Iran and their proxies Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. You must not call Hamas just Hamas. Call them what they are: Iran-backed Hamas. Indeed, when they [the West] know that Iran is behind Hamas and Hezbollah, they are much more supportive of Israel.”
By the same token should we call the racist regime what it is – US-backed Israel or US proxy Israel? Take your pick.
In addition to their expertise in disinformation the Israelis are adept at concealing or destroying the evidence of their crimes. We saw it again with the confiscation of the flotilla passengers’ cameras, phones, laptops and other personal effects. If they ever get them back they’ll be corrupted. Israel also makes it difficult for even VIPs to enter Gaza – they don’t want outsiders inspecting their major crime scene. Anything to obstruct justice and make it difficult to bring their thugs to book.
Israel’s dirty tricks will be to no avail in the end. They are beginning to lose the propaganda war. That was inevitable. In the long run you cannot succeed with a communications programme based on lies and deception. Even the best public relations is only as good as the “product” or brand, and “Brand Israel’s” reputation was never great. It has now fallen off a cliff. The truth is spreading despite big efforts by mainstream media to block or disguise it.
The thing we must cling to is the obligation that binds all decent people to respect and promote human rights. The following words, written nearly 62 years ago, explain why good will eventually triumph over the selfish and evil outpourings of the Israeli crapaganda machine.
Now, Therefore the General Assembly proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.
Thanks to Dr David Morrison for sending me the Sadaka Briefing Papers that inspired this article. See: http://www.sadaka.ie/Files/Israels_bogus_excuses_for_piracy.pdf and http://www.sadaka.ie/Files/The_blockade_of_Gaza_must_be_lifted_completely.pdf