The pro-Israel propaganda machine swings into action

Ran HaCohen describes the propaganda effort in the Israeli press to get Israelis to line up behind the government after the flotilla disaster, just the way the US press gets Americans to line up behind theirs whenever any outrageous act by them is revealed. But this strategy only works with people who will reflexively side with you on a tribal basis whatever the facts, and are merely looking for justifications for doing so. Everyone else will see it for what it is, lies.

But as Patrick Cockburn writes, such efforts carry a serious downside:

The problem is that nobody believes Israeli propaganda as much as Israelis. Pro-Palestinian activists often lament the fluency and mendacity of Israeli spokesmen on the airwaves and the pervasive influence of Israel’s supporters abroad. But, in reality, these PR campaigns are Israel’s greatest weakness, because they distort Israelis’ sense of reality. Defeats and failures are portrayed as victories and successes.

When you feed your supporters lies to make them feel good about themselves and get them to rally to your side, you are merely setting yourself and them up for even greater failure in the future, because you will not learn from the past. After all, if you are always right, why change anything?

America’s reflexively pro-Israel apologists have swung into full gear to make sure that people realize that when it comes to Israel, any criticism of any action constitutes betrayal. One such apologist is Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic who seems to be feel that our sympathies should lie, not with the dead and wounded in the raid, but with the Israeli people because they feel bad about the way they botched things.

There’s real pain in Israel today, pain at the humiliation of the flotilla raid, pain on behalf of the injured soldiers, and pain that the geniuses who run this country could not figure out a way to out-smart a bunch of Turkish Islamists and their useful idiot fellow travelers. And no, there is no particular pain felt for the dead on the boat; the video of those peace-seeking peace activists beating on the paintball commandos with metal bars pretty much canceled out whatever feelings of sympathy Israelis might have otherwise felt.

Yes, I am sure that the shame and humiliation felt by people in Israel because the world sees their government and their military as bunglers is much harder to bear than the grief of the relatives of the dead and wounded. Note the contrasting of the phrase ‘paintball commandos’ with ‘metal bars’, again to suggest that Israel is always the underdog, always fighting pluckily against a vastly more powerful enemy. For the record, you can see a photograph (courtesy of the IDF or Israel Defense Forces) of all the alleged weapons that were found on the ships.

The Irish Times reports that “[Israeli] Ministers said in a statement they regretted the loss of life in the raid, but blamed activists who they said assaulted soldiers who boarded the ship for any fatalities.” So the Israeli government has the audacity to argue that people repelling armed boarders in international waters with whatever lay at hand are to blame for the violence. If the roles had been reversed and heavily armed Palestinians had boarded an Israeli passenger ship, then any resistance put up by the unarmed people, even if ill-advised and futile, would have been hailed as courageous and heroic (like the passengers on flight 93 on 9/11 who tried to take on the hijackers), and there would have been total condemnation of the killers.

It is curious how the ‘paintball guns’ killed and wounded so many people while the ‘metal bars’ yielded not a single death on the Israeli side. I am surprised that the Israeli government did not suggest that maybe those devious and dastardly aid activists killed each other just to make Israel look bad, because Goldberg would have dutifully believed that too.

Even more extreme than Goldberg is Jennifer Rubin writing for Commentary for whom even Obama’s groveling to Israel is seen as insufficient. Rubin is very clear about what she expects from all of us:

There is a single question that every individual, group, and nation must answer. To borrow from the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman: if you are not with Israel, you are against her. And if you do not oppose with every fiber of your being and every instrument at your disposal that which intends the Jewish state harm, you are enabling her destroyers.

Note that what you are supposed to side with is not justice or peace or human rights or other quaint concepts, but Israel. Even when the troops of that country, like pirates, board boats in international waters and murder unarmed aid workers (and please, let’s not hear any more of this nonsense that kitchen knives and wooden sticks constitutes arms when facing heavily armed commandos), you have to agree with whatever Israel says. Rubin might be surprised at the number of American Jews, especially among the young, who by her standard are ‘against Israel’ and ‘enabling her destroyers’.

One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.

Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled.

People like Rubin are living in the past when critics of Israel’s policies in the US could be muted because people feared being labeled anti-Semitic. That accusation has been so cheapened by repeated use against even mild criticism that no one cares anymore if they are labeled as such. It is seen for what it is, a rhetorical intimidation tactic.

Commenting on Rubin’s ultimatum to everyone to get with the program and support Israel or else irrespective of what that country does, satirist Tbogg says, “This must be what it is like to be trapped in an arranged marriage to a serial killer.”

POST SCRIPT: Another aid ship on the way to Gaza

The Irish Times also reports that another aid ship is on the way to Gaza, with some high-profile passengers on board.

The Rachel Corrie, which has five Irish nationals and five Malaysians aboard, is due to arrive in Gazan waters over the coming days, a spokeswoman for the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said. It became separated from the main aid flotilla after being delayed for 48 hours in Malta due to logistical reasons, and is currently off the coast of Libya.

Nobel laureate Maireád Corrigan-Maguire, former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, film maker Fiona Thompson and husband and wife Derek and Jenny Graham are the Irish nationals on board the Rachel Corrie.

Speaking from the ship today, Mr Graham said the vessel was carrying educational materials, construction materials, medical equipment and some toys. “Everything aboard has been inspected in Ireland,” he said. “We would hope to have safe passage through.”

Some of you may remember Rachel Corrie. She is the young American woman who was run over and killed in 2003 by an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer when she was trying to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes by the Israeli government.



  1. Alin Rosca says

    I hope a right of reply will be honored by the
    author of this blog.

    Op-eds about that grand mess called the “Middle East conflict” that focus on one narrow issue and disregard the context, tend to indicate naïveté, ignorance of the big picture, or bias. All attitudes are regrettable.

    Yes, the Israeli government has botched this operation; the Israeli commandos killed ten civilians; the deaths are very regrettable and should have been avoided; quite possibly -- probably indeed -- the use of force was disproportionate. It was a dumb idea to drop a few armed commandos in the middle of an obviously hostile, and armed, crowd. While international reactions differed in intensity depending on cultural and religious passions as well as pre-existing opinions about the actors involved, the general gist has been negative, and rightfully so.

    But this should not obscure the big picture: Gaza is run by Hamas, which uses this lawless territory to launch regular attacks against Israel. Hamas is a terrorist organization, and a proxy of Iran. Hamas came to power after democratic elections: the Gazans chose to hand power to terrorists. The Gazans have the leaders they deserve, and ought to bear the consequences of their choice. Israel’s government did what any other would, and should: defend its population and attempt to seal that terrorist nest so it could not be used for attacks against its territory.

    The pro-Gaza activists were not suddenly attacked by the Israeli commandos while catching tan on a cruise ship sailing around the Mediterranean. They were heading towards Israel and intended to violate Israel’s territorial waters. They knew Gaza was subject to a military blockade. They expected to encounter Israel’s military. That most had bats and clubs indicates they also intended to cause trouble and make a cavalier stand.

    As the entire picture is emerging, the “activists” are starting to admit they initiated the attack upon the descending commandos. Their excuse – that they had the right to repel this act of “piracy” – simply does not fly. One can hardly confuse a government’s armed forces with pirates. A reasonable conduct for activists would have been to submit to the Israeli armed forces, then challenge their acts in court. Instead, they chose to take justice in their own hands. Perhaps in Turkey it is customary to resist arrest if one thinks he ought not to be arrested. In Western countries, one complies with the law enforcement’s instructions and disputes them in court if he believes they were unjustified. One resists law enforcement, or attacks armed militaries, at his own risk.

    The argument that the Israeli actions were not justified because they took place in international waters does not withstand scrutiny: there is such a concept in international law as a preemptive strike. It means the right of a state to prevent an imminent violation of its territory or sovereignty, and has been recognized in the international arena since 1625. The activists were heading straight to Israeli waters. The Israeli government had every right to prevent them from violating its territory, under the international law.

    Israel is a victim of its own success: the success of creating and maintaining a viable state and a democracy, in a sea of hate and enmity, surrounded by hostile neighbors that have repeatedly attacked it. The public opinion tends to side with the vanquished. Some, unfortunately, choose to ignore who actually started the fight; therefore, in their eyes it is Israel’s fault that it won the wars waged against it by its neighbors; it is the Israelis’ fault that they defended themselves successfully against terrorists.

    Israelis are now expected to be sympathetic to their neighbors who regularly attack them with rockets, send terrorists to blow themselves up in buses and cafes, and elected as their representatives a terrorist organization. Israelis are also expected to be sympathetic to misguided foreign activists who support those neighbors.

    The whole world is busy hunting and detaining those who support al Qaeda, but those who support Hamas are supposed to be commended and helped. Why so?

    A foot note regarding Turkey’s role: in a country that identifies and prosecutes individuals for “offending Turkish-ness” and that has an all-powerful secret police, it is naive to think that a whole flotilla of Turkish ships filled with Turkish activists and Turkish supplies could have left from Turkish ports to Gaza without the blessing and tacit encouragement of the Turkish government. Turkey was the not-so-hidden hand behind this provocation, and Israel took the bait. Turkey, which for many centuries was resented as the “Ottoman invader” by the Arabs in the Middle East, is busy re-asserting its influence in its traditional sphere of interest and trying to improve its standing on the “Arab street.” The activists -- both Turks and Westerners -- are naive and expendable peons in this regional great power game.

    Alin Rosca

    Cleveland, Ohio

  2. M Mansfield says

    Ah a true American and a pillar of the halls of American academe! Ignorance really is bliss is it not Rosca? In most parts of the world even third rate law schools like yours teach logic and reasoning. The real offence I take is that you are connected to the good name of the common law. What a shame.

  3. Eric says

    Well, they teach the fallacy of the ad hominem argument, so at least that’s something.

    (C-M ‘2010)

  4. M Mansfield says

    Perhaps you ought to figure out what ad hominem means. Claiming an argument is illogical and unreasoned is not ad hominem. I suggest you try learn English before you venture on to Latin.

  5. M Mansfield says came up with this which looks like it was written just for you. Perhaps you could post it in your so called law school.

    the ad hominem fallacy fallacy

    One of the most widely misused terms on the Net is “ad hominem”. It is most often introduced into a discussion by certain delicate types, delicate of personality and mind, whenever their opponents resort to a bit of sarcasm. As soon as the suspicion of an insult appears, they summon the angels of ad hominem to smite down their foes, before ascending to argument heaven in a blaze of sanctimonious glory. They may not have much up top, but by God, they don’t need it when they’ve got ad hominem on their side. It’s the secret weapon that delivers them from any argument unscathed.

    In reality, ad hominem is unrelated to sarcasm or personal abuse. Argumentum ad hominem is the logical fallacy of attempting to undermine a speaker’s argument by attacking the speaker instead of addressing the argument. The mere presence of a personal attack does not indicate ad hominem: the attack must be used for the purpose of undermining the argument, or otherwise the logical fallacy isn’t there. It is not a logical fallacy to attack someone; the fallacy comes from assuming that a personal attack is also necessarily an attack on that person’s arguments.

    Therefore, if you can’t demonstrate that your opponent is trying to counter your argument by attacking you, you can’t demonstrate that he is resorting to ad hominem. If your opponent’s sarcasm is not an attempt to counter your argument, but merely an attempt to insult you (or amuse the bystanders), then it is not part of an ad hominem argument.

    Actual instances of argumentum ad hominem are relatively rare. Ironically, the fallacy is most often committed by those who accuse their opponents of ad hominem, since they try to dismiss the opposition not by engaging with their arguments, but by claiming that they resort to personal attacks. Those who are quick to squeal “ad hominem” are often guilty of several other logical fallacies, including one of the worst of all: the fallacious belief that introducing an impressive-sounding Latin term somehow gives one the decisive edge in an argument.

    But enough vagueness. The point of this article is to bury the reader under an avalanche of examples of correct and incorrect usage of ad hominem, in the hope that once the avalanche has passed, the term will never be used incorrectly again. I will begin with some invented examples, before dealing with some real-life misuses of the term at the end.

  6. Eric says

    Well, you found an impressive-sounding argument on the Internet, so it must be germaine to the topic at hand.

    You attacked his logic skills, his school, and his country without addressing a single one of his points. Finish up with “and you smell funny,” and you’ve got an ad hominem argument worthy of the finest 6-year olds.

  7. nonesoblind says

    Great article. Here is some reading for those who see Hamas as the work of the devil. None of it from Pro-Palestine sources I should add. But then again I suspect they don’t read.

    Liars, damned liars and Zionists!

  8. Alin Rosca says

    Mr. (or Ms.) Mansfield:

    Other than hurling insults at me (a dishonorable and distasteful practice in a debate) and copy-pasting from somewhere else irrelevant explanations about the meaning of a Latin expression, precisely what is your counter-argument?

    Alin Rosca
    (by the way, I did not hide my identity behind an initial).

  9. says

    I just marvel (and shake my head) at issues and debates like this. Insults aside. Logic aside. Polarization aside. There is a human heart behind each and every character in this story. Each one, from the unfortunate incident of Ms. Corrie, to the Israeli commandos who pulled the triggers on the civilians, all have a story, a home (or not) to go back to. Loved ones and ones they love. And, the most difficult thing is, they all think they’re right.

  10. says

    Just heartbreaking. I echo Dougs sentiment whole-heartidly; it’s difficult to understand, and condone the actions of these people.

  11. says

    You don’t have to go back to far in history to see the impressive power of propaganda and its effectiveness to persuade towards a catastrophic agenda.

  12. Konya says

    I just marvel (and shake my head) at issues and debates like this. Insults aside. Logic aside. Polarization aside. There is a human heart behind each and every character in this story. Each one, from the unfortunate incident of Ms. Corrie, to the Israeli commandos who pulled the triggers on the civilians, all have a story, a home (or not) to go back to. Loved ones and ones they love. And, the most difficult thing is, they all think they’re right.

  13. John Harris says

    Nothing new, bad English skills and very cluttered.
    Is this something you just found out? Is it suppose to be a study? Are you suppose to be somewhat knowledgeable in any definition of the word? I do not think that you understand what you are writing about but maybe is not your fault. You sound naive and my guess is that you are a little immigrant kid from Eastern Europe. I have plenty of history books that describe how Jews were treated in Eastern Europe, don’t try to bring that here, it’s not cool.

  14. says

    Very well written article Mr. Singham. Israel’s current attempts to push their terrorist agenda goes unnoticed by the public, except those that do notice are condemned as anti-semites.

    Sad world, a sad world indeed.

  15. says

    It’s amazing that the Israelis and the Palestinians continue to fight over something that is costing their governments a lot of money, and not to mention, many innocent lives. Their propaganda campaigns just digs the hole deeper and deeper. Very sad indeed.

  16. says

    Religion extremism is a big killer…and not only between jews and muslims, if we want to be honest, any religion manipulated by extremist is dangerous…Any…learn languages to communicate with someone from another culture and never say that your religion is better or the only one…

  17. says

    It is such a shame that the institution of religion so often becomes a divisive factor, rather than one that provides the foundation for living a rich, giving and respectful life. Instead, we get caught up in who’s religion is best, why another is not worthy, and literally kill each other in the name of an institution mean to bring people together. Very sad to say the least.

  18. says

    “This must be what it is like to be trapped in an arranged marriage to a serial killer.” -- That sums it up nicely…
    History simply repeats itself: Israel sank the USS Liberty during the Six Day War in 1967 while the ship was in international waters and got away with it too… (
    As long as the American political system is funded by lobbies/interest groups, USA will be forever “married”…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *