By Craig McKee
Israel is losing the war.
I don’t mean the one being fought with missiles, bombs and bullets in Gaza. (That’s not a war anyway – it’s a massacre with 1,800 Palestinians killed so far). I mean the propaganda war – the worldwide fight over public opinion.
Thanks to the Internet and social media, people around the world, especially younger people, are coming to understand better than ever what is being done to the Palestinian people in Israel and the occupied territories. This latest slaughter is causing people to seek out more information about the history of the region and the history of this conflict.
Salon.com’s David Palumbo-Liu put it this way: “Israel is in fact risking losing the narrative war altogether, as more and more of the global public is asking questions that probe into that history, prompted by the evidence of Israeli’s current efforts to continue and expand Israeli power and land, efforts that are now increasingly regarded not as survival tactics but as violent colonial ones.”
In Mondoweiss, Rutger University’s Deepa Kumar details the ways that the Palestinian side of the story is seeping into the mainstream media narrative because of the sheer magnitude of the death and destruction in Gaza.
“For the first time, perhaps, Americans are witnessing the suffering of Palestinian people in the establishment press. Even while the framework of “Blame Hamas” dominates mainstream media coverage, the humanity of Palestinian people is cracking through the decades-long, well established façade of pro-Israeli propaganda.”
Extending Israeli sovereignty
While some media are noting the erosion of support for Israel’s propaganda talking points, other pro-Israel media seem to be offering more extreme ideas for “solving the Gaza problem” once and for all.
Martin Sherman, founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote In a Jerusalem Post op-ed piece that while he feels badly about the climbing civilian death toll in Gaza, he has an idea about how to stop it:
“The only durable solution requires dismantling Gaza, humanitarian relocation of the non-belligerent Arab population, and extension of Israeli sovereignty over the region.”
That would be simpler, wouldn’t it? No more “belligerent” Palestinians resisting Israeli massacres and land thefts. Sherman doesn’t think the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank should be “dismantled,” but he thinks Gaza should be. As for the “humanitarian relocation,” one wonders whether that would be anything like the humanitarian relocation of Palestinians from their land in 1948. That time, three-quarters of a million were driven from their homes and turned into refugees.
Sherman continues: “Clearly, the problem of Gaza was created by the belief that land could be transferred to the Palestinian Arabs to provide them a viable opportunity for self-governance. Equally clearly, then, the problem of Gaza cannot be solved by persisting with ideas that created it. …The problem can only be solved by entirely abandoning the concept that Gaza should be governed by Palestinian Arabs.”
So, a decidedly one-state solution from Mr. Sherman.
I’m struck by his idea that Israel has “provided” land for the Palestinians to govern themselves. And I particularly like the reference to the “non-belligerent” Arab population. Is that like, “If you leave your homes and your land quietly, we won’t kill you”? I imagine that those who resist the “extension of Israeli sovereignty” would not be so lucky.
Others are also calling for an end to Gaza as we know it. Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has called for Gaza to be made into a UN controlled zone. This would require the consent of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He cites the British control of Palestine and the international control over Kosovo and East Timor as examples of how this could work.
Lieberman acknowledges that getting the Israeli message out during the current offensive has been a challenge, but he says that ultimately it is getting through.
“We are facing several simultaneous attempts to damage the legitimacy of our self-determination,” Lieberman said. “There is a wave of anti-Semitism that was unleashed in light of this conflict… we have organized many interviews in the media, organized protests. It’s true that on screen they first show civilian casualties, and unfortunately there are civilian casualties, but [they also show] the Israeli narrative, that terror organizations are using the population as a human shield.”
We must not forget the creative proposal by Moshe Feiglin, Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party. Feiglin’s proposed plan, which he posted on Facebook and also sent to Netanyahu in a letter, would see concentration camps created in Gaza. And it would see Gazans shipped to locations around the world. Those who continued fighting the Israeli military, and those who support them, would be “annihilated.”
Speaking of annihilation, we can’t forget the colorful piece with the headline “When genocide is permissible” by a young American blogger named Yochanan Gordon that appeared in the Times of Israel for a short time this week. It was removed the same day because it does not follow the Times guidelines and does not reflect the views of the paper.
While I give them credit for pulling it (and I acknowledge that many strong supporters of Israel would find it offensive), I think its publication, even for a short time, says a lot about how extreme opinions on this subject are becoming. Gordon, who was able to post his article without it having to be seen by an editor, has apparently been removed from the paper’s list of approved bloggers.
But like Sherman, Gordon wasn’t worried about political correctness. He just has his own way of finding a solution to a problem. He says the goal, as articulated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is to achieve a “sustainable quiet for the citizens of Israel.
“If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?”
My sense is that Mr. Gordon doesn’t have a strong appreciation for irony.
On a personal level, my Facebook posts on the Gaza massacre have landed me in hot water with a number of friends who see the human toll as being simply out of Israel’s hands (apparently Hamas is doing all the killing).
Some friends have explained to me this week that I have no business taking sides against Israel in the current massacre. One of these “friends” said I was a “Jew hater” and that the hate I express is just what you’d expect from a conspiracy theorist. He wondered what my grandparents were doing when Jews were being turned away from Canada at the end of World War 2.
“Do you hate Israel that much that you are blinded to their multi-generational struggle? Are they not as human as the Palestinians? Do they not deserve to survive?”
Apparently my “friend” isn’t too good with irony either.
Then he got really personal: “You are a scared little person who was beaten by one or both of his parents physically and verbally. Your behaviour and your choice of words is all the proof I need to convince people, one at a time, just how sad you are.”
Another friend who was standing up for Gaza on Facebook was told by someone that she and I both know to “shut the fuck up” about things she knows nothing about. Another wanted to know why critics of Israel don’t care about the higher numbers of people being killed in Syria, Iraq, and other countries – as if the issue is simply a mathematical one. The implication seems to be that if you are yelling about Gaza and not about Syria then you must have some type of anti-Jewish bias.
I just find this situation gets more and more depressing. I don’t like being attacked for opposing the slaughter of innocent people. And I’m saddened by the idea that some friends think I have no regard for their survival. But every time I start feeling sorry for myself, I just think about the fact that I’m sitting in my apartment writing this article, and no one is trying to blow me up or destroy my home or kill the people I care most about.