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.

Source: The Sunday Times

Tony Allen-Mills, New York
May 24, 2009

The arrest of petty crooks over a plan to target Jews has put the use of sting operations under fire

ON the steps of New York city hall on Friday, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor, praised the police officers and federal agents who helped disrupt an apparent terrorist plot to blow up a synagogue and shoot down military aircraft.

The mayor was flanked by more than 100 homeland security and counter-terrorist specialists, all of whom had a hand in an elaborate sting that netted four alleged Muslim extremists. Their plan, according to FBI agents, was to detonate a “fireball that would make the country gasp”.

The operation was acclaimed by New York officials for its success in averting what David Paterson, the state governor, described as “a heinous crime”.

Yet not every New Yorker was impressed by the latest in a long line of purported anti-terrorist triumphs that have supposedly averted tragedy in New York, Chicago, Toronto and several other North American cities since September 11, 2001.

“This whole operation was a foolish waste of time and money,” claimed Terence Kindlon, a defence lawyer who represented the last terror suspect to be tried in New York state. “It is almost as if the FBI cooked up the plot and found four idiots to install as defendants.”

(more…)

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for
people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
— Noam Chomsky

Here’s an article by Henry Makow, thought-provoking as always.

NATO Spooked by Afghan Laws Upholding Patriarchy

by Henry Makow Ph.D.
April 3, 2009

“women’s rights” has been a fig leaf for imperialism

Apart from drugs, oil and the need for perpetual war, Afghanistan is about bringing the blessings of Western feminism to women there. We are giving them the benefit of promiscuous sex, STD’s, abortion, unemployment, lesbianism, divorce and single motherhood.

However this bonanza is threatened by Hamid Karzai’s new laws which enshrine the Patriarchy. Accordingly, a woman cannot refuse sex for more than four days. Headlines in the West (where sex is mostly confined to random short-term encounters) are screaming “legalized rape!”

The laws also stipulate that women cannot seek work, education or even leave the house without their husband’s permission. The law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers.

Since the Afghan war is little understood, “women’s rights” has been a fig leaf for imperialism. So, Westerners are expressing consternation that Hamid Karzai is actually “worse than the Taliban.”

The gnashing of teeth is particularly acute in Canada which has invested $3 billion and more than 120 lives in the Afghan “mission.” (Another $750,000 is being spent in Canada to brainwash the locals i.e. “projects designed to engage young Muslims and non-Muslims in discussions about discrimination, violence and human rights.”)

(more…)

Fake Faith And Epic Crimes

By John Pilger

04 April, 2009
The New Statesman

These are extraordinary times. With the United States and Britain on the verge of bankruptcy and committing to an endless colonial war, pressure is building for their crimes to be prosecuted at a tribunal similar to that which tried the Nazis at Nuremberg. This defined rapacious invasion as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” International law would be mere farce, said the chief US chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson, “if, in future, we do not apply its principles to ourselves.”

That is now happening. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Britain have long had “universal jurisdiction” statutes, which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute prima facie war criminals. What has changed is an unspoken rule never to use international law against “ourselves,” or “our” allies or clients. In 1998, Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, client and executioner of the West, and sought his extradition from Britain, where he happened to be at the time. Had he been sent for trial he almost certainly would have implicated at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against humanity. Home Secretary Jack Straw let him escape back to Chile.

The Pinochet case was the ignition. On 19 January last, the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley compared the status of George W. Bush with that of Pinochet. “Outside [the United States] there is not the ambiguity about what to do about a war crime,” he said. “So if you try to travel, most people abroad are going to view you not as ‘former President George Bush’ [but] as a current war criminal.” For this reason, Bush’s former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who demanded an invasion of Iraq in 2001 and personally approved torture techniques in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, no longer travels. Rumsfeld has twice been indicted for war crimes in Germany. On 26 January, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said, “We have clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but nevertheless he ordered torture.”

The Spanish high court is currently investigating a former Israeli defence minister and six other top Israeli officials for their role in the killing of civilians, mostly children, in Gaza. Henry Kissinger, who was largely responsible for bombing to death 600,000 peasants in Cambodia in 1969-73, is wanted for questioning in France, Chile and Argentina. Yet, on 8 February, as if demonstrating the continuity of American power, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, said, “I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger.”

Like them, Tony Blair may soon be a fugitive. The International Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, has received a record number of petitions related to Blair’s wars. Spain’s celebrated Judge Baltasar Garzon, who indicted Pinochet and the leaders of the Argentinian military junta, has called for George W. Bush, Blair and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar to be prosecuted for the invasion of Iraq — “one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history: a devastating attack on the rule of law” that had left the UN “in tatters.” He said, “There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation to start without delay.”

This is not to say Blair is about to be collared and marched to The Hague, where Serbs and Sudanese dictators are far more likely to face a political court set up by the West. However, an international agenda is forming and a process has begun which is as much about legitimacy as the letter of the law, and a reminder from history that the powerful lose wars and empires when legitimacy evaporates. This can happen quickly, as in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of apartheid South Africa — the latter a spectre for apartheid Israel.

Today, the unreported “good news” is that a worldwide movement is challenging the once sacrosanct notion that imperial politicians can destroy countless lives in the cause of an ancient piracy, often at remove in distance and culture, and retain their respectability and immunity from justice. In his masterly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde R.L. Stevenson writes in the character of Jekyll: “Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter … I could thus plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and, in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete.”

Blair, too, is safe — but for how long? He and his collaborators face a new determination on the part of tenacious non-government bodies that are amassing “an impressive documentary record as to criminal charges,” according to international law authority Richard Falk, who cites the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul in 2005, which heard evidence from 54 witnesses and published rigorous indictments against Blair, Bush and others. Currently, the Brussels War Crimes Tribunal and the newly established Blair War Crimes Foundation are building a case for Blair’s prosecution under the Nuremberg Principle and the 1949 Geneva Convention. In a separate indictment, former Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court E.W. Thomas wrote: “My pre-disposition was to believe that Mr. Blair was deluded, but sincere in his belief. After considerable reading and much reflection, however, my final conclusion is that Mr. Blair deliberately and repeatedly misled Cabinet, the British Labour Party and the people in a number of respects. It is not possible to hold that he was simply deluded but sincere: a victim of his own self-deception. His deception was deliberate.”

Protected by the fake sinecure of Middle East Envoy for the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia), Blair operates largely from a small fortress in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, where he is an apologist for the US in the Middle East and Israel, a difficult task following the bloodbath in Gaza. To assist his mortgages, he recently received an Israeli “peace prize” worth a million dollars. He, too, is careful where he travels; and it is instructive to watch how he now uses the media. Having concentrated his post-Downing Street apologetics on a BBC series of obsequious interviews with David Aaronovitch, Blair has all but slipped from view in Britain, where polls have long revealed a remarkable loathing for a former prime minister — a sentiment now shared by those in the liberal media elite whose previous promotion of his “project” and crimes is an embarrassment and preferably forgotten.

On 8 February, Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer’s former leading Blair fan, declared that “this shameful period will not be so smoothly and simply buried.” He demanded, “Did Blair never ask what was going on?” This is an excellent question made relevant with a slight word change: “Did the Andrew Rawnsleys never ask what was going on?” In 2001, Rawnsley alerted his readers to Iraq’s “contribution to international terrorism” and Saddam Hussein’s “frightening appetite to possess weapons of mass destruction.” Both assertions were false and echoed official Anglo-American propaganda. In 2003, when the destruction of Iraq was launched, Rawnsley described it as a “point of principle” for Blair who, he later wrote, was “fated to be right.” He lamented, “Yes, too many people died in the war. Too many people always die in war. War is nasty and brutish, but at least this conflict was mercifully short.” In the subsequent six years at least a million people have been killed. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is now a country of widows and orphans. Yes, war is nasty and brutish, but never for the Blairs and the Rawnsleys.

Far from the carping turncoats at home, Blair has lately found a safe media harbour — in Australia, the original murdochracy. His interviewers exude an unction reminiscent of the promoters of the “mystical” Blair in the Guardian of than a decade ago, though they also bring to mind Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times during the 1930s, who wrote of his infamous groveling to the Nazis: “I spend my nights taking out anything which will hurt their susceptibilities and dropping in little things which are intended to sooth them.”

With his words as a citation, the finalists for the Geoffrey Dawson Prize for Journalism (Antipodes) are announced. On 8 February, in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Geraldine Doogue described Blair as “a man who brought religion into power and is now bringing power to religion.” She asked him: “What would the perception be that faith would bring towards a greater stability …[sic]?” A bemused and clearly delighted Blair was allowed to waffle about “values.” Doogue said to him that “it was the bifurcation about right and wrong that what I thought the British found really hard” [sic], to which Blair replied that “in relation to Iraq I tried every other option [to invasion] there was.” It was his classic lie, which passed unchallenged.

However, the clear winner of the Geoffrey Dawson Prize is Ginny Dougary of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Times. Dougary recently accompanied Blair on what she described as his “James Bondish-ish Gulfstream” where she was privy to his “bionic energy levels.” She wrote, “I ask him the childlike question: does he want to save the world?” Blair replied, well, more or less, aw shucks, yes. The murderous assault on Gaza, which was under way during the interview, was mentioned in passing. “That is war, I’m afraid,” said Blair, “and war is horrible.” No counter came that Gaza was not a war but a massacre by any measure. As for the Palestinians, noted Dougary, it was Blair’s task to “prepare them for statehood.” The Palestinians will be surprised to hear that. But enough gravitas; her man “has the glow of the newly-in-love: in love with the world and, for the most part, the feeling is reciprocated.” The evidence she offered for this absurdity was that “women from both sides of politics have confessed to me to having the hots for him.”

These are extraordinary times. Blair, a perpetrator of the epic crime of the 21st century, shares a “prayer breakfast” with President Obama, the yes-we-can-man now launching more war. “We pray,” said Blair, “that in acting we do God’s work and follow God’s will.” To decent people, such pronouncements about Blair’s “faith” represent a contortion of morality and intellect that is a profananation on the basic teachings of Christianity. Those who aided and abetted his great crime and now wish the rest of us to forget their part — or, like Alistair Campbell, his “communications director,” offer their bloody notoriety for the vicarious pleasure of some — might read the first indictment proposed by the Blair War Crimes Foundation: “Deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war, causing in the order of one million deaths, 4 million refugees, countless maiming and traumas.”

These are indeed extraordinary times.

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