propaganda


This article by Mark Steel beautifully satirises the Israeli spin attempts at justifying premeditated murder.
The Independent. Courtesy of Norman Finkelstein

It’s time the Israeli government’s PR team made the most of its talents, and became available for hire. Then whenever a nutcase marched into a shopping mall in somewhere like Wisconsin and gunned down a selection of passers-by, they could be on hand to tell the world’s press “The gunman regrets the loss of life but did all he could to avoid violence.” Then various governments would issue statements saying “All we know is a man went berserk with an AK 47, and next to him there’s a pile of corpses, so until we know the facts we can’t pass judgement on what took place.”

To strengthen their case the Israelis have released a photo of the weapons they found on board, (which amount to some knives and tools and wooden sticks) that the naive might think you’d expect to find on any ship, but the more astute will recognise as exactly what you’d carry if you were planning to defeat the Israeli army. It’s an armoury smaller than you’d find in the average toolshed in a garden in Cirencester, which goes to show the Israelis had better destroy Cirencester quickly as an essential act of self-defence.

It’s a shame they weren’t more imaginative, as they could have said “We also discovered a deadly barometer, a ship’s compass, which could not only be frisbeed at someone’s head but even had markings to help the assailant know which direction he was throwing it, and a set of binoculars that could easily be converted into a ray-gun.”

That would be as logical as the statement from the Israeli PM’s spokesman – “We made every possible effort to avoid this incident.” Because the one tiny thing they forgot to do to avoid this incident was not send in armed militia from helicopters in the middle of the night and shoot people. I must be a natural at this sort of technique because I often go all day without climbing off a helicopter and shooting people, and I’m not even making every possible effort. Politicians and commentators worldwide repeat a version of this line. They’re aware a nation has sent its militia to confront people carrying provisions for the desperate, in the process shooting several of them dead, and yet they angrily blame the dead ones. One typical headline yesterday read “Activists got what they wanted – confrontation.” It’s an attitude so deranged it deserves to be registered as a psychosis, something like “Reverse Slaughter Victim Confusion Syndrome”.

Israel and its supporters claim that Viva Palestina, made up of people who collect the donated food, cement and items for providing basic amenities such as toilets, and transport them to Gaza, wanted the violence all along. Because presumably they must have been thinking “Hezbollah couldn’t beat them, but that’s because unlike us they didn’t have a ballcock and several boxes of plum tomatoes”.

One article told us the flotilla was full of “Thugs spoiling for a confrontation”, and then accused them of being “Less about aid and more about PR. Indeed, on board was Swedish novelist Henning Mankell.” So were they thugs or about PR? Did they have a thugs’ section and a PR quarter, or did they all muck in, the novelist diverting the soldiers with his characterisation while the thugs attacked them with a lethal spirit level?

But some defenders of Israel are so blind to what happens in front of them there’s nothing at all they wouldn’t jump to defend. Israel could blow up a cats home and within five minutes they’d be yelling “How do we know the cats weren’t smuggling semtex in their fur for Hamas?”

If this incident had been carried about by Iran, or anyone we were trying to portray as an enemy, so much condemnation would have been spewed out it would have created a vast cloud of outrage that airlines would be unable to fly through.

But as it’s Israel, most governments offer a few diplomatic words that blame no one, but accept the deaths are “regrettable”. They might as well have picked any random word from the dictionary, so the news would tell us “William Hague described the deaths as ‘hexagonal'”, and a statement from the US senate said “It’s all very confusing. In future let’s hope they make every effort to avoid a similar incident.”

Brilliant piece by Joseph Massad, from Palestine Thinktank

The reason for the ongoing “violence” in Israel and Palestine is not on account of Israeli colonialism at all but rather a direct result of mistranslation. Joseph Massad provides an abridged lexicon of Zionist terminology

“Colonialism is peace; anti-colonialism is war.” This is the unalterable equation that successive Israeli governments insist must determine the basis of all current and future relations between Israeli Jews and the Palestinians. Indeed, the deployment of the rhetoric of peace between Palestinians and Israeli Jews since the 1970s has been contingent on whether the Palestinians would acquiesce in this formula or insist on resisting it. The Oslo Accords were in large measure a ratification of this formula by the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Nonetheless, Palestinian resistance, violent and non- violent, to understanding “colonialism as peace” never fully subsided, even as the Palestinian Authority insisted that it become the law of the land.

The deployment of the rhetoric of peace however was more than anything else a deployment of the rhetoric of the “peace process.” In his book about the peace process, William Quandt traces the history of this deployment:

“Sometime in the mid-1970s the term peace process began to be widely used to describe the American-led efforts to bring about a negotiated peace between Israel and its neighbors. The phrase stuck, and ever since it has been synonymous with the gradual, step-by-step approach to resolving one of the world’s most difficult conflicts. In the years since 1967 the emphasis in Washington has shifted from the spelling out of the ingredients of ‘peace’ to the ‘process’ of getting there… The United States has provided both a sense of direction and a mechanism. That, at its best, is what the peace process has been about. At worst, it has been little more than a slogan used to mask the marking of time.”

I disagree partly with Quandt’s conclusion, mostly because the “peace process” since 1993 has been a mask for nothing short of Israeli colonial settlement and attempts by the Palestinian people to resist it and by the Palestinian Authority to coexist with it.

As has become clear even to the staunchest believers in the peace rhetoric, the Oslo Accords have not only been the main mechanism by which Israel subcontracted its occupation of the Palestinian people to the Palestinian Authority but also the main instrument through which Israel maintained its colonial control of Palestinian lands. While the occupied territories had been subjected to a different set of military laws since 1967 that governed the Palestinians and their land, the Oslo Accords began to institute the principle of separation, or in South African lingo, Apartheid. It was Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s former prime minister and the ethnic cleanser of the Palestinian population from the cities of Lydda and Ramleh in 1948, who would express Israel’s separation principle on 23 January 1995: “This path must lead to a separation, though not according to the borders prior to 1967. We want to reach a separation between us and them.” The separation or Apartheid principle will ultimately translate into Israel’s construction of the Apartheid Wall, which has already swallowed up more than 10 per cent of West Bank lands and will swallow more once it is completed. Let me remind you here that the South African Apartheid regime itself was not terribly comfortable with the term Apartheid, which means separateness in Afrikaans, and began to replace it since the 1970s with the term “separate development”.

But this Israeli separation and colonial appropriation of land was again articulated through the rhetoric of peace. Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel has more than tripled its colonial settler population in the West Bank and more than doubled it across the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian lands for colonial purposes and suppresses all Palestinian resistance to its colonial efforts. In 1993, there were approximately 281,000 colonial settlers in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem (124,200 in the West Bank, 4,800 in Gaza, and 152,800 in Jerusalem). At the end of 2009, there were approximately 490,000 colonial settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. As of September 2009, there were 301,200 colonial settlers in the West Bank and 190,000 in East Jerusalem. Israeli leaders have maintained that their colonial settlement did not detract from Israel’s commitment to peace. On the contrary, Israel is clear that it was the Palestinian Authority who is to blame for the cessation of negotiations. Current Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is not only committed to “colonialism as peace”, he, like his predecessors, insists that the Palestinian Authority protests that Israeli colonial settlement must stop for negotiations to begin is nothing short of an imposition of “pre-conditions” for negotiations, which he cannot accept.

This Israeli position is hardly new. Israeli leaders have always insisted that Israeli colonialism is not only compatible with peace, but that the Palestinian leadership’s acquiescence in it will ensure peace, while it was Palestinian resistance to it that causes war and terrorism.

One of the most pressing arguments often made by Israeli leaders since 1948 is how they have always been committed to peace with the Palestinian people and their Arab neighbours only to be rebuffed time and again by them. Israeli leaders from David Ben-Gurion to Netanyahu have insisted that all the wars Israel fought were not of Israel’s choosing but imposed on it by Palestinian and Arab rejection of Israel’s right to colonise. While Israel is ready to fight all wars, they insist, its preference has always been for peace. Golda Meir had declared in 1969: “We have always said that in our war with the Arabs we had a secret weapon — no alternative.” This is not just a question of political propaganda, but also a reflection of Israel’s sincere commitment to “colonialism as peace.”

Political wisdom in Israel has it that Israeli Jews have prayed and worked for peace for the last 62 years only for their peaceful offers to be turned down by their Arab enemies. What Israelis mean by this is that they have prayed that they could continue to colonise Palestinian lands and also have peace at the same time, but instead they have had to deal with war, terrorism, and resistance to their “peaceful” colonial efforts. It is true that finally one Arab, Anwar El-Sadat, met Israel’s extended hand with a peace agreement in 1979, but he was unique in his efforts. It took King Hussein 15 years to follow suit under international pressure. Still even these peaceful agreements have not resulted in normalisation of relations with Arab states or of popular acceptance of Israel by the Arab peoples. The Palestinians while pretending to offer peace to Israel have been proven to be deceptive and not serious about peace at all, as they insist on resisting its colonial efforts. What is Israel to do in this belligerent and “tough” neighbourhood in which it lives? How can it deal with such bellicose people intent on destroying it when all it asks for is peace and security for its colonial settlement?

Just a few weeks ago President Shimon Peres insisted: “I want to say in the name of the state of Israel at large: We do not seek war… We are a nation that yearns for peace, but knows, and will always know, how to defend itself.” Even the much maligned Netanyahu also declared a few weeks ago: “We are a peace seeking nation who prays for peace… our one hand is extended in offering peace to our willing neighbours, while the other wields a sword to protect ourselves against those who seek to destroy us.”

In order to understand Israel’s commitment to peace, we need to understand what it means by that term and its commensurate companion, the term “security”. These are key concepts in the language of Zionism. Many of Israel’s detractors believe Israel is lying when it insists on peace and security. I will argue that these detractors are wrong. Israel is dead serious about its commitment to peace and is honest when it insists that war is something imposed on it by its enemies. The problem is one of translation. Israel’s enemies do not seem to understand the language of Zionism — and by that I do not mean the Hebrew language! I will translate from Zionism to English one more time: Colonialism is Peace, Anti-Colonialism is War. (more…)

Analyst: Al-Qaeda Videotapes Digitally Doctored

IntelCenter and As-Sahab logos added at same time, indicating Pentagon linked “middleman” is directly releasing Al-Qaeda videos

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Thursday, August 2, 2007

An expert computer analyst has presented evidence that so-called “Al-Qaeda” tapes are routinely digitally doctored and has also unwittingly exposed an astounding detail that clearly indicates a Pentagon affiliated organization in the U.S. is directly responsible for releasing the videos.

“Neal Krawetz, a researcher and computer security consultant, gave an interesting presentation today at the BlackHat security conference in Las Vegas about analyzing digital photographs and video images for alterations and enhancements,” reports Wired News.

“Using a program he wrote (and provided on the conference CD-ROM) Krawetz could print out the quantization tables in a JPEG file (that indicate how the image was compressed) and determine the last tool that created the image — that is, the make and model of the camera if the image is original or the version of Photoshop that was used to alter and re-save the image. “

Krawetz’s most telling discovery comes in the form of a detail contained in a 2006 Ayman al-Zawahiri tape. From his analysis he concludes that the As-Sahab logo (the alleged media arm of Al-Qaeda) and the IntelCenter logo (a U.S. based private intelligence organization that “monitors terrorist activity”) were both added to the video at the same time.

This clearly indicates IntelCenter itself is directly creating or at least doctoring the Al-Qaeda tapes before their release. After all, why would Al-Qaeda terrorists be interested in branding their videos with the logo of a U.S. based organization that is run by individuals with close ties to the military-industrial complex?

In our previous groundbreaking investigation, we exposed IntelCenter, the middleman between “Al-Qaeda’s media arm” and the press, and the organization that routinely obtains the tapes, as little more than a Pentagon front group staffed by individuals with close connections to Donald Rumsfeld and the U.S. war machine.

IntelCenter were also behind the release of the recent “new” Bin Laden tape, which in actual fact was old footage filmed in 2001 and had been released, including by IntelCenter itself, on no less than two previous occasions spanning back five years.

IntelCenter is run by Ben Venzke, former director of intelligence at a company called IDEFENSE, which is a Verisign company. IDEFENSE is a web security company that monitors intelligence from middle east conflicts and focuses on cyber threats among other things.

It is also heavily populated with long serving ex-military intelligence officials.

The Director of Threat intelligence, Jim Melnick, served 16 years in the US army and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and worked in psychological operations. From the IDEFENSE website:

Prior to joining iDefense, Mr. Melnick served with distinction for more than 16 years in the U.S. Army and the Defense Intelligence Agency. During this period, Mr. Melnick served in a variety of roles, including psychological operations, international warning issues with emphasis on foreign affairs and information operations and Russian affairs. He also served in active political/military intelligence roles with an emphasis on foreign affairs. Mr. Melnick is currently a U.S. Army Reserve Colonel with Military Intelligence, assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Mr. Melnick has been published in numerous military and foreign affairs journals, and has received numerous military and DIA awards. Mr. Melnick has a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College, a Master of Arts in Russian studies from Harvard University, and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Political Science from Westminster College.

So here we have a company that by its own admission has ties to a senior military psy-op intelligence officer who has worked directly for Donald Rumsfeld. As Intelcenter and Ben Venzke are directly connected to IDEFENSE, this puts Rumsfeld just three steps away from the Al Qaeda propaganda videos.

The business of releasing Al-Qaeda tapes is also very profitable for IntelCenter, they charge well over $4,000 dollars a year for packages aimed at “Intelligence, Military and Federal agencies”.

Add to this the fact that IntelCenter are digitally doctoring the videos and then adding the logo of a purported terrorist group before their release and the ramifications become clear – elements within the U.S. are patently editing if not directly creating “Al-Qaeda” tapes for their own purposes.

Al-Qaeda, or more accurately IntelCenter, always seem to make a point of releasing the videos at the most politically expedient times for the benefit of the Bush administration.

Whether it’s to justify a war, win an election or divert from a scandal, Bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri or their stooges can always be relied upon to come up with the goods and save Bush’s bacon.

As soon as the 6 month wait and see period for the “surge” was up and right when Bush’s last remaining Republican cheerleaders deserted him on Iraq, Bin Laden popped up to remind us all of the necessity of “staying the course” and winning the war on terror by feeding more troops into the meatgrinder.

Both Kerry and Bush attributed the President’s 2004 re-election to Osama Bin Laden’s appearance in a video tape just days before the vote. Veteran newsman Walter Cronkite mused that the whole farce was a Karl Rove orchestrated set-up.

On the eve of the Iraq war during Colin Powell’s infamous presentation to the UN, an audio tape in which bin Laden claimed he was allied with Saddam Hussein surfaced, a gift-wrapped present for the Neo-Cons who had consistently been proven wrong in their assertion that there was a connection between Iraq and 9/11.

Ayman Al-Zawahiri appeared right on cue at the exact same time two years running, days before the State of the Union, to slam Bush as a “butcher” and a “failure.” His timing is impeccable! Right when Bush needs to reinforce the fear of the shadowy enemy each January to mute his critics before the big speech, al-Zawahiri pops up with the goods.

Krawetz’s analysis (view in PDF) further concludes that different objects and green screen backgrounds have been artificially added to certain videos, including that of probable Mossad double agent Adam Pearlman, in order to “lend authority and reverence to the video”.

The smoking gun remains the fact that the two logos, the As-Sahab “terrorist” media arm and the IntelCenter organization, were added at exactly the same time, meaning either that IntelCenter, with its close ties to the U.S. government and psychological operation, has terrorists on the payroll or that IntelCenter itself is doctoring and directly releasing Al-Qaeda propaganda tapes.

Both conclusions are equally disturbing and demand an immediate FBI investigation of IntelCenter and its owners.

Propaganda is used by those who want to communicate in ways that engage the emotions, and downplay rationality, in an attempt to promote a certain message. To effectively present Israel to the public, and to counter anti-Israel messages, it is necessary to understand propaganda devices.

Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus

The World Union of Jewish Students produces a book on how to promote Zionism through manipulations worthy of Goebbels. Here are some extracts.

SEVEN BASIC PROPAGANDA DEVICES

Propaganda is used by those who want to communicate in ways that engage the emotions, and downplay rationality, in an attempt to promote a certain message. To effectively present Israel to the public, and to counter anti-Israel messages, it is necessary to understand propaganda devices.

This article applies a list of seven propaganda devices to the Israeli situation, and by doing so allows an understanding of some of the ways in which public opinion is fought for in the International arena.

Name Calling

Through the careful choice of words, the name calling technique links a person or an idea to a negative symbol. Creating negative connotations by name calling is done to try and get the audience to reject a person or idea on the basis of negative associations, without allowing a real examination of that person or idea. The most obvious example is name calling – “they are a neo-Nazi group” tends to sound pretty negative to most people. More subtly, name calling works by selecting words with subtle negative meanings for some listeners. For example, describing demonstrators as “youths” creates a different impression from calling them “children”.

For the Israel activist, it is important to be aware of the subtly different meanings that well chosen words give.
Call ‘demonstrations’ “riots”, many Palestinian political organizations “terror organizations”, and so on.

Name calling is hard to counter. Don’t allow opponents the opportunity to engage in point scoring.

Glittering Generality

Simply put, the glittering generality is name calling in reverse. Instead of trying to attach negative meanings to ideas or people, glittering generalities use positive phrases, which the audience are attached to, in order to lend a positive image to things. Words such as ‘freedom’, ‘civilization’, ‘motherhood’, ‘liberty’, ‘equality’, ‘science’, and ‘democracy’ have these positive associations for most people. These words mean different things to different people, but are used to gain the approval of an audience, even when they aren’t used in their standard ways. Consider the use of the term ‘freedom fighter’, which is supposed to gain approval for terrorism by using the word ‘freedom’. Or, consider why it is so beneficial to bring home the point that Israel is a democracy.

Enemies of Israel will be keen to cast doubt on Israeli claims to be democratic, to guarantee freedom for all, and so on. In place of these ‘glittering generalities’ favourable to Israel, they will associate Palestinian behaviour, including terrorism, with terms like ‘anti-colonialist’ and ‘freedom’.

Transfer

Transfer involves taking some of the prestige and authority of one concept and applying it to another.
Jewish student groups in the Diaspora can use the flag of their own country side by side with the Israeli flag, where appropriate, to lend support to Israel. In a sports-loving country (such as Australia), students can make people aware of famous Israeli sportsmen and sportswomen, in order to transfer positive feelings (about a football team) to Israel.

Testimonial

Testimonial means enlisting the support of somebody admired or famous to endorse an ideal or campaign. Testimonial can be used reasonably – it makes sense for a footballer to endorse football boots – or manipulated, such as when a footballer is used to support a political campaign they have only a limited understanding of. Whilst everybody is entitled to an opinion, testimonial can lend weight to an argument that it doesn’t deserve: if U2’s Bono condemned Israel for something that it didn’t do, thousands would believe him, even though he was wrong.

Enlisting celebrity support for Israel can help to persuade people that Israel is a great country.

Obviously some celebrities are more useful than others. Students are probably a little too sophisticated to be affected by Britney’s opinion on Israel, but those associated with intelligence like professors, actors, radio hosts, sports managers and so on can be asked to offer testimonial.

A celebrity doesn’t have to fully support Israel to be useful. Quotes can work as testimonial, even when they might be old or out of context.

Most celebrities will care more about their public image than they do about the Middle East. Threats of tainting a celebrity’s image will usually persuade them to back away from controversial political issues.

Plain Folks

The plain folks technique attempts to convince the listener that the speaker is a ‘regular guy’, who is trust-worthy because they are just like ‘you or me’. Often politicians present themselves as being from outside the standard ‘political cliques’ and above political bickering, and then call for tax cuts to help the ‘regular guy’. More often than not these politicians are multi-millionaires financed by large corporations, but the plain folks technique allows them to obscure that fact by presenting their ‘common’ characteristics.

Support for an alleged underdog in a certain situation can often be part of a ‘plain folks’ agenda.

Pro-Israel activists can use the ‘plain folks’ technique by speaking as a ‘person from the street’ whilst supporting Israel. The ‘average guy in the street’ would happily condemn terrorism in all its forms and support ‘Western ideals’. In the context of a debate on the Middle East, this can easily be equated with support for Israel.

Care must be taken when adopting populist positions. There are some ethical boundaries that ought not to be crossed – for example tapping in to general anti-Arab feeling, or Islamaphobia. Remember that Israel can be supported without resorting to mass generalizations or racism.

Fear

When a speaker warns that the consequences of ignoring his message is likely to be war, conflict, personal suffering, and so forth, they are manipulating fear to advance their message. Listeners have deep-seated fears of violence and disorder, which can be tapped into by creating false dichotomies – ‘either listen to me, or these terrible things will happen’. Listeners are too preoccupied by the threat of terrible things to think critically about the speaker’s message.

Fear is easily manipulated in a climate that is already steeped in fear by the threat of global terror.

Fear can be successfully utilized by pointing out the consequences of terror.

Bandwagon

Most people, when in doubt, are happy to do what other people are doing. This is the bandwagon effect. People are happy to be part of the crowd, and subtle manipulators can play on this desire by emphasizing the large size of their support. Although it is reasonable that people are given a chance to find out how many other supporters a speaker or movement has, often it is possible to create the impression of extensive support – through gathering all supporters in one place, or through poorly conducted opinion polls – in an attempt to persuade people who are keen to follow the crowd.

Israel activists can commission opinion polls amongst groups who favour Israel, and use these to give the impression that Israel is the ‘team to support’.

Demonstrations, and even photos that give the impression of large numbers can help to create the impression that Israel is even more popular than it is.

* * * * * * *

Influencing Public Opinion

The first aim of Israel advocacy is to influence public opinion. Public opinion is very important to Israel, and Jewish communities around the world. Firstly, in the field of international relations, foreign policies are heavily influenced by politicians’ perceived electoral interests. If politicians detect public support for Israel, they will be likely to support Israel themselves. Secondly, Israel benefits from public support economically – in terms of willingness to visit Israel and buy Israeli goods.

Influencing Public Leaders

The second aim of Israel advocacy is to influence public leaders. It is possible for citizens to influence public officials and leaders directly. Politicians respond to public pressure. If politicians receive dozens of letters calling upon them to support Israel, they will be more likely to do so. Israel benefits from political support abroad, because it ensures a more sympathetic response to Israeli policies.

Influencing the Leaders and Opinion Formers of the Future

Campuses are the breeding ground for the next generation of politicians and opinion formers. For this reason, the third aim of student Israel advocacy is to influence campus leaders. Student union leaders might end up as government ministers, student journalists might end up as national newspaper editors. Because people often form and refine many of their political ideas at university, it is important for the long run security of Israel to try to influence student leaders and journalists to understand Israel and to be favourable towards her. In the years to come, Jewish communities will be glad this has been done.

Approaches to Israel Advocacy

There are two main approaches to Israel advocacy that allow Jewish students to achieve the aims outlined above. These approaches apply to everything Israel activists are trying to achieve in their advocacy for Israel. These approaches can be called “neutralising negativity” and “pushing positivity”.

Neutralising negativity is about attempting to counter harmful impressions and accusations. This is the side of hasbara that is concerned with the defence of Israel.

“Israel is not bad because….” “This action was justified because…”

This often involves arguing over sequences of events, attempting to reframe debates to focus on different issues, and placing events in a wider context, so that the difficulty of Israel’s situation is understood in a more positive light.

Neutralising Negativity is usually reactive and responsive. Pushing Positivity attempts to demonstrate the good things about Israel’s case. The aim to is make people see Israel in a good light and have sympathy with her.

“Israel is a democracy” “Israel wants peace”

This often involves setting the agenda, focusing on some of the more positive features of Israel, and taking the lead in attacking the Palestinian leadership in an effort to allow people to view Israel favourably in comparison.

BEING PROACTIVE AND PROMOTING ISRAEL

Much of Israel advocacy concerns being reactive and defending Israel against unfair accusations. However it is important that Israel activists are proactive too. Proactivity means taking the initiative and setting the agenda. It means being on the “attack”, trying to create positive impressions of Israel. Audiences who have a favourable general impression of Israel are likely to respond favourably when specific issues arise. It is a mistake to only try to promote Israel when she is being strongly criticised in the press.

Why Be Proactive?

Agenda Setting

The person who sets the agenda will usually win the debate. Reactivity forces Israel activists to be constantly on the defensive (“no, Israel is not all that bad”). However by setting the agenda Israel activists get to determine what to talk about, and can therefore discuss the things they feel help promote the pro-Israel message. Being proactive keeps the right issues in the public eye, and in the way Israel activists want them to be seen. It is much easier to get Palestinian activists defending Arafat against charges of being a corrupt terrorist than it is to explain to disinterested students that Ariel Sharon didn’t kill anybody at Sabra and Chatilla (which of course he didn’t). It is much easier to feed students falafel at a party than to explain why Zionism isn’t racism to a student who doesn’t even know what national self-determination is.

For more on this point see “How to score points while avoiding debate” in Communication Styles: Point Scoring and Genuine Debate

People Believe What they Hear First

Uncritical audiences believe something if they hear it first and hear it often. People tend to believe the first thing they hear about a certain issue, and filter subsequent information they hear based on their current beliefs. Once people believe something, it is hard to convince them that they were wrong in the first place.

COMMUNICATION STYLES: POINT SCORING AND GENUINE DEBATE

There are two major approaches to communication to use during Israel advocacy. These two approaches are used in different situations, and are designed to achieve very different things. These two approaches – ‘point scoring’ and ‘genuine debate’ – require different techniques, and the Israel activist must know how to use each technique at the correct time.

Point Scoring

Point scoring is a method of communication that prioritises making certain points favourable to the speaker, and attacking opponents of the speaker by trying to undermine their positions. Point scoring communication ought to give the appearance of rational debate, whilst avoiding genuine discussion.

The aim of the Israel activist point scorer is to try to make as many comments that are positive about Israel as possible, whilst attacking certain Palestinian positions, and attempting to cultivate a dignified appearance.

Point scoring works because most audience members fail to analyse what they hear. Rather, they register only a key few points, and form a vague impression of whose ‘argument’ was stronger.

How To Score Points Whilst Avoiding Debate

Central to point scoring is the ability to disguise point scoring by giving the impression of genuine debate. Audience members can be alienated by undisguised attacks, so all point scoring needs to be disguised. To disguise point scoring, comments need to seem to be logical, and to follow from what was said before.

What Points To Make

Point scoring needs to be focused. Because the people listening to ‘point scoring’ are only paying partial attention, only two or three points have a chance of ‘sticking’. For this reason, focus point scoring on a few points supporting Israel, and a few points pointing out weaknesses in Palestinian positions. These points should be made again and again, in as many forums as possible. If people hear something often enough they come to believe it. Attempts to make too many different points will result in the audience remembering nothing.

A Field Guide to Hasbara

In the war of words, The Times is Israel’s ally
The paper consistently adopts Israel’s language, giving credence to an inaccurate, simplistic and dangerous cliche.

By Saree Makdisi
SAREE MAKDISI, a professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA, writes frequently about the Middle East.
March 11, 2007

Source: Los Angeles Times

‘AS SOON AS certain topics are raised,” George Orwell once wrote, “the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: Prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.” Such a combination of vagueness and sheer incompetence in language, Orwell warned, leads to political conformity.

No issue better illustrates Orwell’s point than coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the United States. Consider, for example, the editorial in The Times on Feb. 9 demanding that the Palestinians “recognize Israel” and its “right to exist.” This is a common enough sentiment — even a cliche. Yet many observers (most recently the international lawyer John Whitbeck) have pointed out that this proposition, assiduously propagated by Israel’s advocates and uncritically reiterated by American politicians and journalists, is — at best — utterly nonsensical.

First, the formal diplomatic language of “recognition” is traditionally used by one state with respect to another state. It is literally meaningless for a non-state to “recognize” a state. Moreover, in diplomacy, such recognition is supposed to be mutual. In order to earn its own recognition, Israel would have to simultaneously recognize the state of Palestine. This it steadfastly refuses to do (and for some reason, there are no high-minded newspaper editorials demanding that it do so).

Second, which Israel, precisely, are the Palestinians being asked to “recognize?” Israel has stubbornly refused to declare its own borders. So, territorially speaking, “Israel” is an open-ended concept. Are the Palestinians to recognize the Israel that ends at the lines proposed by the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan? Or the one that extends to the 1949 Armistice Line (the de facto border that resulted from the 1948 war)? Or does Israel include the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it has occupied in violation of international law for 40 years — and which maps in its school textbooks show as part of “Israel”?

For that matter, why should the Palestinians recognize an Israel that refuses to accept international law, submit to U.N. resolutions or readmit the Palestinians wrongfully expelled from their homes in 1948 and barred from returning ever since?

If none of these questions are easy to answer, why are such demands being made of the Palestinians? And why is nothing demanded of Israel in turn?

Orwell was right. It is much easier to recycle meaningless phrases than to ask — let alone to answer — difficult questions. But recycling these empty phrases serves a purpose. Endlessly repeating the mantra that the Palestinians don’t recognize Israel helps paint Israel as an innocent victim, politely asking to be recognized but being rebuffed by its cruel enemies.

Actually, it asks even more. Israel wants the Palestinians, half of whom were driven from their homeland so that a Jewish state could be created in 1948, to recognize not merely that it exists (which is undeniable) but that it is “right” that it exists — that it was right for them to have been dispossessed of their homes, their property and their livelihoods so that a Jewish state could be created on their land. The Palestinians are not the world’s first dispossessed people, but they are the first to be asked to legitimize what happened to them.

A just peace will require Israelis and Palestinians to reconcile and recognize each other’s rights. It will not require that Palestinians give their moral seal of approval to the catastrophe that befell them. Meaningless at best, cynical and manipulative at worst, such a demand may suit Israel’s purposes, but it does not serve The Times or its readers.

And yet The Times consistently adopts Israel’s language and, hence, its point of view. For example, a recent article on Israel’s Palestinian minority referred to that minority not as “Palestinian” but as generically “Arab,” Israel’s official term for a population whose full political and human rights it refuses to recognize. To fail to acknowledge the living Palestinian presence inside Israel (and its enduring continuity with the rest of the Palestinian people) is to elide the history at the heart of the conflict — and to deny the legitimacy of Palestinian claims and rights.

This is exactly what Israel wants. Indeed, its demand that its “right to exist” be recognized reflects its own anxiety, not about its existence but about its failure to successfully eliminate the Palestinians’ presence inside their homeland — a failure for which verbal recognition would serve merely a palliative and therapeutic function.

In uncritically adopting Israel’s own fraught terminology — a form of verbal erasure designed to extend the physical destruction of Palestine — The Times is taking sides.

If the paper wants its readers to understand the nature of this conflict, however, it should not go on acting as though only one side has a story to tell.

While I object to the author’s dismissal of Israel’s pre-1967 crimes, this article offers a thoughtful response to the Zionist propaganda mantras.

What’s So Bad About Israel?

By Michael Neumann
July 6, 2002

CounterPunch

It’s hard to say what’s so bad about Israel, and its defenders–having nothing better to use–have seized on this. Some do so soberly, like Harpers publisher John R. MacArthur, who thinks Israel comes off no worse than the Russians in Chechnya, and much better than the Americans in Vietnam (Toronto Globe and Mail, May 13th, 2002). Others do so defiantly. True, Israel has taken the land of harmless people, killed innocent civilians, tortured prisoners, bulldozed houses, destroyed crops, yada yada yada. Who cares? What else is new?

I completely sympathize with this point of view. The appetite for world-class atrocity may be adolescent, but it belongs to an adolescence that many of us never outgrow. The facts are disappointing. Even compared with post-Nazi monsters like Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein, the Israelis have killed very few people; their tortures and oppression are boring. How could these mediocre crimes compete for our attention with whatever else is on TV?

They couldn’t; in fact they are designed not to do so. Yet Israel is a growing evil whose end is not in sight. Its outlines have become clearer as times have changed.

Until sometime after the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel’s sins were unspectacular, at least from a cynic’s perspective. Israel was born from an understandable desire of a persecuted people for security. Jews immigrated to Palestine; acquired land by fair means or foul, provoked violent reactions. There ensued a cycle of violence in which the Jews distinguished themselves in at least one impeccably documented and truly disgusting massacre at Deir Yassin, and probably many more that Jewish forces succeeded in concealing. The new state accorded full rights only to its Jewish inhabitants, and defeated its Arab opponents both in battle and in a propaganda campaign that effectively concealed Israeli racism and aggression. It was said then, as now: what’s so bad about that? The answer is, nothing. Of course the perpetrators of these crimes deserve no state, but only punishment: what else is new? Isn’t this the normal way that states are born?

Israel’s pre-1967 crimes, then, are not a part of its special evil, though they did much to create it. The past was glorified, not exorcised. Both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, indisputably responsible for the worst pre-1967 brutalities, went on to become prime minister: the poison of the early years is still working its way through Middle East politics. But the big change, post-1967, was Israel’s choice of war over peace.

Sometime after 1967, Israel’s existence became secure. It didn’t seem so during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but soon it became clear that Israel would never again be caught with its guard down. Its vigilance has guaranteed, for the foreseeable future, that Arab nations pose no serious threat. As the years pass, Israel’s military advantage only increases, to the point that no country in the world would care to confront it. At the same time, and to an increasing extent, Palestinians have abandoned any real hope of retaking pre-1967 Israeli territory, and are willing to settle for the return of the occupied territories.

In this context, the Israeli settlement policy, quite apart from its terrible effect on Palestinians, is outrageous for what it represents: a careful, deliberate rejection of peace, and a declaration of the fixed intention to dispossess the Palestinians until they have nothing left. And something else has changed. Israel could claim, as a matter of self-interest if not of right, that it needed the pre-1967 territory as a homeland for the Jews. It cannot say this about the settlements, which exist not from any real need for anything, but for three reasons: to give some Israelis a cheap deal on housing, to conform to the messianic expectations of Jewish fundamentalists, and, not least, as a vengeful, relentless, sadistically gradual expression of hatred for the defeated Arab enemy. In short, by the mid-1970s, Israel’s crimes were no longer the normal atrocities of nation-building nor an excessive sort of self-defense. They represented a cold-blooded, calculated, indeed an eagerly embraced choice of war over peace, and an elaborate plan to seek out those who had fled the misery of previous confrontations, to make certain that their suffering would continue.

So Israel stands out among other unpleasant nations in the depth of its commitment to gratuitous violence and nastiness: this you expect to find among skinheads rather than nations. But wait! there’s more! It is not just that times have changed. It also has to do with the position Israel occupies in these new times.

Though we might wish otherwise, the political or historical ‘location’ of a crime can be a big contributor to its moral status. It is terrible that there are vestiges of slavery in Abidjan and Mauritania. We often reproach ourselves for not getting more upset about such goings-on, as if the lives of these far-off non-white people were unimportant. And maybe we should indeed be ashamed of ourselves, but this is not the whole story. There is a difference between the survival of evil in the world’s backwaters and its emergence in the world’s spotlight. If some smug new corporation, armed with political influence and snazzy lawyers, set up a slave market in Times Square, that would represent an even greater evil than the slave market in Abidjan. This is not because humans in New York are more important than humans in Abidjan, but because what happens in New York is more influential and more representative of the way the world is heading. American actions do much to set standards worldwide; the actions of slave-traders in Abidjan do not. (The same sort of contrast applies to the Nazi extermination camps: part of their specialness lies, not in the numbers killed or the bureaucracy that managed the killing, but in the fact that nothing like such killing has ever occurred in a nation so on the ‘cutting edge’ of human development.) Cultural domination has its responsibilities.

What Israel does is at the very center of the world stage, not only as a focus of media attention, but also as representative of Western morality and culture. This could not be plainer from the constant patter about how Israel is a shining example of democracy, resourcefulness, discipline, courage, toughness, determination, and so on. And nothing could be more inappropriate than the complaints that Israel is being ‘held to a higher standard’. It is not being held to one; it aggressively and insolently appropriates it. It plants its flag on some cultural and moral summit. Israel is the ultimate victim-state of the ultimate people–the noblest, the most long-suffering, the most persecuted, the most intelligent, the Chosen Ones. The reason Israel is judged by a higher standard is its blithe certainty, accepted by generations of fawning Westerners, that it exists at a higher standard.

Other countries, of course, have put on similar airs, but at least their crimes could be represented as a surprising deviation from noble principles. When people try to understand how Germans could become Nazis, or the French, torturers in Algeria, or the Americans, murderers at My Lai, it is always possible to ask–what went wrong? How could these societies so betray their civilized roots and high ideals? And sometimes plausible attempts were made to associate this betrayal with some fringe elements of the society–disgruntled veterans, dispossessed younger sons, provincial reactionaries, trailer trash. If these societies had gone wrong, it was a matter of perverted values, suppressed forces, aberrant tendencies, deformed dreams. With Israel, there is no question of such explanations. Its atrocities belong to its mainstream, its traditions, its founding ideology. They are performed by its heroes, not its kooks and losers. Israel has not betrayed anything. On the contrary, its actions express a widely espoused, perhaps dominant version of its ideals. Israel is honored, often as not, for the very same tribal pride and nation-building ambitions that fire up its armies and its settlers. Its crimes are front and center, not only on the world stage, but also on its own stage.

What matters here is not Israel’s arrogance, but its stature. Israel stands right in the spotlight and crushes an entire people. It defies international protests and resolutions as no one else can. Only Israel, not, say, Indonesia or even the US, dares proclaim: “Who are you to preach morality to us? We are morality incarnate!” Indonesia, or Mauritania, or Iraq do not welcome delegations of happy North American schoolchildren, host prestigious academic conferences, go down in textbooks as a textbook miracle. Characters on TV sitcoms do not go off to find themselves in the Abidjan slave markets as they do on Israel’s kibbutzim.

Israel banks on this. Its tactics seem nicely tuned to inflict the most harm with the least damage to its image. They include deliberately messy surgical strikes, halting ambulances, uprooting orchards and olive groves, destroying urban sanitation, curfews, road closures, holding up food until it spoils, allocating five times the water to settlers as to the people whose land was confiscated, and attacks on educational or cultural facilities. Its most effective strategies are minimalist, as when Palestinians have to sit and wait at checkpoints for hours in sweltering cars, risking a bullet if they get out to stretch their legs, waiting to work, to get medical care, to do anything in life that requires movement from one place to another, as likely to be turned back as let through, and certain to suffer humiliation or worse. Israel has pioneered the science of making life unlivable with as little violence as possible. The Palestinians are not merely provoked into reacting; they have no rational choice but to react. If they didn’t, things would just get worse faster, with no hope of relief. Israel is an innovator in the search for a squeaky-clean sadism.

The worse things get for the Palestinians, the more violently they must defend themselves, and the more violently Israel can respond. Whenever possible, Israel sees to it that the Palestinians take each new step in the escalation. The hope is that, at some point, Israel will be able to kill many tens of thousands, all in the name of self-defense.

And subtly but surely, things are changing still further. Israel is starting to let the mask drop, not from its already public intentions, but from its naked strength. It no longer deigns to conceal its sophisticated nuclear arsenal. It begins to supply the world with almost as much military technology as it consumes. And it no longer sees any need to be discreet about its defiance of the United States’ request for moderation: Israel is happy to humiliate the ‘stupid Americans’ outright. As it plunders, starves and kills, Israel does not lurk in the world’s back-alleys. It says, “Look at us. We’re taking these people’s land, not because we need it, but because we feel like it. We’re putting religious nuts all over it because they help cleanse the area of these Arab lice who dare to defy us. We know you don’t like it and we don’t care, because we don’t conform to other people’s standards. We set the standards for others.”

And the standards it sets continue to decline. Israel Shahak and others have documented the rise of fundamentalist Jewish sects that speak of the greater value of Jewish blood, the specialness of Jewish DNA, the duty to kill even innocent civilians who pose a potential danger to Jews, and the need to ‘redeem’ lands lying far beyond the present frontiers of Israeli control. Much of this happens beneath the public surface of Israeli society, but these racial ideologies exert a strong influence on the mainstream. So far, they have easily prevailed over the small, courageous Jewish opposition to Israeli crimes. The Israeli government can afford to let the fanatical race warriors go unchecked, because it knows the world would not dare connect their outrages to any part of Judaism (or Zionism) itself. As for the dissenters, don’t they just show what a wonderfully democratic society Israel has produced?

As Israel sinks lower, it corrupts the world that persists in admiring it. Thus Amnesty International’s military adviser, David Holley, with a sort of honest military bonhomie, tells the world that the Israelis have “a very valid point” when they refuse to allow a UN investigative team into Jenin: “You do need a soldier’s perspective to say, well, this was a close quarter battle in an urban environment, unfortunately soldiers will make mistakes and will throw a hand grenade through the wrong window, will shoot at a twitching curtain, because that is the way war is.”(*) We quite understand: Israel is a respectable country with respectable defense objectives, and mistakes will be made. Soldier to soldier, we see that destroying swarthy ‘gunmen’ who crouch in wretched buildings is a legitimate enterprise, because it serves the higher purpose of clearing away the vermin who resist the implantation of superior Jewish DNA throughout the occupied territories. It is this ability to command respect despite the most public outrages against humanity that makes Israel so exceptionally bad. Not that it needs to be any worse than ‘the others’: that would be more than bad enough. But Israel does not only commit its crimes; it also legitimates them.

That is not a matter of abstract moral argument, but of political acceptance and respectability. As the world slowly tries to emerge from barbarism–for instance, through the human rights movements for which Israel has such contempt– Israel mockingly drags it back by sanctifying the very doctrines of racial vengeance that more civilized forces condemn. Israel brings no new evils into the world. It merely rehabilitates old ones, as an example for others to emulate and admire.

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. He can be reached at: mneumann@trentu.ca

Another brilliant article from Paul Craig Roberts.

Endless Propaganda
The War on Terror is a Hoax

By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
February 4, 2009

www.counterpunch.org

According to US government propaganda, terrorist cells are spread throughout America, making it necessary for the government to spy on all Americans and violate most other constitutional protections.  Among President Bush’s last words as he left office was the warning that America would soon be struck again by Muslim terrorists.

If America were infected with terrorists, we would not need the government to tell us.  We would know it from events.  As there are no events, the US government substitutes warnings in order to keep alive the fear that causes the public to accept pointless wars, the infringement of civil liberty, national ID cards, and inconveniences and harassments when they fly.

The most obvious indication that there are no terrorist cells is that not a single neocon has been assassinated.

I do not approve of assassinations, and am ashamed of my country’s government for engaging in political assassination.  The US and Israel have set a very bad example for al Qaeda to follow.

The US deals with al Qaeda and Taliban by assassinating their leaders, and Israel deals with Hamas by assassinating its leaders.  It is reasonable to assume that al Qaeda would deal with the instigators and leaders of America’s wars in the Middle East in the same way. 

Today every al Qaeda member is aware of the complicity of neoconservatives in the death and devastation inflicted on Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Gaza.  Moreover, neocons are highly visible and are soft targets compared to Hamas and Hezbollah leaders.  Neocons have been identified in the media for years, and as everyone knows, multiple listings of their names are available online. 

Neocons do not have Secret Service protection.  Dreadful to contemplate, but it would be child’s play for al Qaeda to assassinate any and every neocon.  Yet, neocons move around freely, a good indication that the US does not have a terrorist problem.

If, as neocons constantly allege, terrorists can smuggle nuclear weapons or dirty bombs into the US with which to wreak havoc upon our cities, terrorists can acquire weapons with which to assassinate any neocon or former government official.

Yet, the neocons, who are the Americans most hated by Muslims, remain unscathed. 

The “war on terror” is a hoax that fronts for American control of oil pipelines, the profits of the military-security complex, the assault on civil liberty by fomenters of a police state, and Israel’s territorial expansion.

There were no al Qaeda in Iraq until the Americans brought them there by invading and overthrowing Saddam Hussein, who kept al Qaeda out of Iraq.  The Taliban is not a  terrorist organization, but a movement attempting to unify Afghanistan under Muslim law.  The only Americans threatened by the Taliban are the Americans Bush sent to Afghanistan to kill Taliban and to impose a puppet state on the Afghan people.

Hamas is the democratically elected government of Palestine, or what little remains of Palestine after Israel’s illegal annexations.  Hamas is a terrorist organization in the same sense that the Israeli government and the US government are terrorist organizations.  In an effort to bring Hamas under Israeli hegemony, Israel employs terror bombing and assassinations against Palestinians.  Hamas replies to the Israeli terror with homemade and ineffectual rockets.

Hezbollah represents the Shi’ites of southern Lebanon, another area in the Middle East that Israel seeks for its territorial expansion.

The US brands Hamas and Hezbollah “terrorist organizations” for no other reason than the US is on Israel’s side of the conflict.  There is no objective basis for the US Department of State’s “finding” that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations.  It is merely a propagandistic declaration.

Americans and Israelis do not call their bombings of civilians terror. What Americans and Israelis call terror is the response of oppressed people who are stateless because their countries are ruled by puppets loyal to the oppressors.  These people, dispossessed of their own countries, have no State Departments, Defense Departments, seats in the United Nations, or voices in the mainstream media.  They can submit to foreign hegemony or resist by the limited means available to them.

The fact that Israel and the United States carry on endless propaganda to prevent this fundamental truth from being realized indicates that it is Israel and the US that are in the wrong and the Palestinians, Lebanese, Iraqis, and Afghans who are being wronged.

The retired American generals who serve as war propagandists for Fox “News” are forever claiming that Iran arms the Iraqi and Afghan insurgents and Hamas. But where are the arms?  To deal with American tanks, insurgents have to construct homemade explosive devices out of artillery shells.  After six years of conflict the insurgents still have no weapon against the American helicopter gunships.  Contrast this “arming” with the weaponry the US supplied to the Afghans three decades ago when they were fighting to drive out the Soviets.

The films of Israel’s murderous assault on Gaza show large numbers of Gazans fleeing from Israeli bombs or digging out the dead and maimed, and none of these people is armed.  A person would think that by now every Palestinian would be armed, every man, woman, and child.  Yet, all the films of the Israeli attack show an unarmed population.  Hamas has to construct homemade rockets that are little more than a sign of defiance.  If Hamas were armed by Iran, Israel’s assault on Gaza would have cost Israel its helicopter gunships, its tanks, and hundreds of lives of its soldiers.

Hamas is a small organization armed with small caliber rifles incapable of penetrating body armor.  Hamas is unable to stop small bands of Israeli settlers from descending on  West Bank Palestinian villages, driving out the Palestinians, and appropriating their land. 

The great mystery is:  why after 60 years of oppression are the Palestinians still an unarmed people?  Clearly, the Muslim countries are complicit with Israel and the US in keeping the Palestinians unarmed.

The unsupported assertion that Iran supplies sophisticated arms to the Palestinians is like the unsupported assertion that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  These assertions are propagandistic justifications for killing Arab civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure in order to secure US and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

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