“The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people
forget that certain other sets of people are human.”
—Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)
In a speech to the UN General Assembly on November 29, 2012, Israel’s UN Ambassador Ron Prosor said: “The Palestinians must recognize the Jewish State and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all. . . As for the rights of Jewish people in this land, I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today, no decision by the U.N. can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
If the question is, “Is the Israeli government and its supporters serious about addressing the issues that cause them their biggest public relations problems,” the answer is no. Instead of changing its behavior, Israel’s response to criticism is a simple one: Deny wrongdoing, play the role of victim, punish those who resist, and attack and destroy the credibility of those who criticize it. There will be no give-and-take, there will be only take, and take, and take again until the Jewish State has it all.
Several years ago, The Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank founded in 2004 by Gidi Grinstein and others, published a 93-page report titled: “Building a Political Firewall against Israel’s Delegitimization”. A primer in designing and carrying out a propaganda campaign (called “public relations” in the report), it is a very revealing document. You will find it either at the following url, or by copying the report’s title and Googling it.
The report focuses on identifying Israel’s critics in “the resistance network” (those people and organizations that are critical of Israel’s policies and behavior), and building a political firewall against them. The report presents a detailed plan for improving Israel’s public relations (propaganda) program and its delivery. The message is a simple one: (1) Deny all charges, seek out, disarm and if necessary, silence the opposition through intimidation and shaming. (2) Work with liberal elites around the world to influence NGOs, governments and other influential bodies to delegitimize Israel’s adversaries. (3) Support scholarly seminars and institutes that discuss criticism of Israel as evidence of growing antisemitism, write opinion pieces that insinuate or blatantly charge that criticism of Israel supports antisemitism, support sympathetic politicians, lobby and, when needed, intimidate.
Following are several examples, beginning with …
The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). YIISA billed itself as “dedicated to the scholarly research of the manifestations of antisemitism globally, as well as other forms of prejudice.” Beginning this past August 23rd, it hosted a three-day conference titled “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity”. The Plenary Session addressed the subject “Radical Islam and Genocidal Antisemitism”. There were five presenters, one of whom was Col. (Ret.) Jonathan Fighel, of The International Institute for Counter Terrorism (ICT), who spoke on the subject “The Jihad Flotilla to Gaza: Provocative – Antisemitic – Not Humanitarian”. Other presenters were Professor Menachem Milson, Hebrew University and Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) who spoke on “Arab and Islamic Antisemitism Today”; Rifat Bali, Research Associate, Alberto Benveniste Center for Sephardic Studies and Culture, Paris: “Conspiracy Theories, Antisemitism and Jews in Turkey Today”; and Professor Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland who spoke on the topic “Nazi Propaganda to the Arab World and Its After-Effects In Postwar Militant Islam”.
There wasn’t a single presentation from an Arab or Palestinian point of view. Incredible? Not if your purpose is propaganda. As Stephen Lendman said in his article on August 31st in The Palestine Chronicle, “What’s needed is debunking the relationship between legitimate Israeli criticism and anti-Semitism and notion of a serious anti-Jewish crisis when none, in fact, exists.”
Articles in well known publications. On Friday, August 20th, an article by Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, appeared in The Japan Times titled “Hostility Against Jews Increasing in Sweden”, it cites recent incidents of violence against Jews and Jewish property and links them with hatred of Israel. “[A]ttempts to draw a distinction between hatred of Jews and hatred of Israel [are] never particularly convincing. Israel is a specifically Jewish project, and to join the campaign of delegitimization against the Jewish state is to join a campaign of delegitimization against much of world Jewry, the vast majority of which either lives in Israel or regards it as a central component of Jewish identity” (emphasis mine). Citing news items, he spins them to blur a distinction between ugly neo-Nazi violence and criticism of Israel, which he labels “hatred of Israel”.
Another article, by Daniel Schwammenthal, an editor with The Wall Street Journal, is “The Mufti of Berlin: Arab-Nazi collaboration is a taboo topic in the West”, published in Wall Street Journal on September 24, 2009. Republished in Pamela Geller’s right-wing blog “Atlas Shrugs,” it included a color photograph of “Hezbollah terrorists” in camouflage uniforms giving Nazi-style salutes. Toward the end of the article, Mr. Schwammenthal writes “Muslim Judeophobia is not – as is commonly claimed — a reaction to the Mideast conflict, but one of its main ‘root causes’ It has been fuelling Arab rejection of a Jewish state long before Israel’s creation.” Another of his articles, published in the online magazine Philocentrism on February 14th 2009, is “Europe Reimports Jew Hatred”, under the heading: “The mythical Arab Street now reaches deep into Paris, London, Berlin and Madrid”.
When Israel and its supporters put out information like this it is called “objective”; when their critics write opinion pieces or report on events, it is called “delegitimization”. The code word for a critic in Israel-speak is “delegitimizer.”
The Reut Institute Report
The Reut Institute’s report advises the Israeli Government to focus on what it calls the resistance network, defined as “A network of countries, organizations, movements, and individuals – which includes … Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and additional Palestinian factions – that reject the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and Israel’s existence, on the basis of Islamic or Arab / Palestinian nationalist ideology.” “These groups,” the report continues, “operate with the political or military logic of ‘resistance’ in order to precipitate Israel’s destruction and replace it with an Arab / Palestinian / Islamic state.” The report then identifies what the Reut Institute calls The Convergence Phenomenon, which it defines as “The coalescence of unaffiliated movements and organizations around an outstanding issue relating to Israel in order to delegitimize Israel.” Delegitimization, a code word for all efforts to question either Israel or Zionism), demonizes Israel, and applies double standards to it relative to other nations who may have even worse human rights records. Demonization refers to any act that presents Israel as being “systematically, purposefully, and extensively cruel and inhumane, thus denying the moral legitimacy of its existence.”
Examples include associating Israeli behavior with Nazism or apartheid “and other accusations of blatant acts of evil.” Even the mention of questionable behavior, to say nothing at all about reprehensible acts, will generate a firestorm of angry denial, sabotage, deflection and attack. Never listen, deny and attack.
A political firewall is another word for denial – blatant, belligerent, well-defended denial. A firewall’s job is to keep out whatever you or I do not want to hear. In everyday language, it’s called “stonewalling”. I dealt with it frequently in my years in the mental health field. Behind denial is fear of being forced to change. When who and what I am is bound up in what I believe, that fear can be terrifying. So I devote my energies to denying, telling people who confront me to back off and attacking them when they don’t.
It is a very unpleasant situation to be in, as anyone who has experienced it well knows. Frequently it works. If I can present myself as fragile and explosive, maybe people will leave me alone. I especially do not want to hear about my behavior hurting others, and will blame it on them whenever the subject comes up. When I read the Reut Institute’s report and read those articles and YIISA’s conference schedule, it is all right there in plain view – blatant denial of the reality as Palestinians and others experience it every day, and have for sixty-two years.
One of the best examples of this denial is Irwin Collar’s article, “Identifying the New Anti-Semitism”, published in Aish.com (http://www.aish.com/jw/s/48892472.html), and originally published by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute in November 2002. “What we are witnessing today”, he begins, “which has been developing incrementally, almost imperceptibly, and sometimes indulgently, for some 30 years now — is a new, virulent, globalizing and even lethal anti-Jewishness reminiscent of the atmospherics of the 1930s, and without parallel or precedent since the end of the Second World War. This new anti-Jewishness overlaps with classical anti-Semitism, but is distinguishable from it. Anchored in the ‘Zionism is Racism’ resolution, but going beyond it, the new anti-Jewishness almost requires a new vocabulary to define it. It can best be defined as the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon, national particularity and peoplehood anywhere, whenever that national particularity and peoplehood happens to be Jewish (my italics). In its more benign form (if it can be called benign), it finds particular expression in the singling out of Israel and the Jewish people for differential and discriminatory treatment in the international arena — where United Nations human rights bodies are used as the mask or protective cover for this anti-Jewishness (e.g. The 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban).”
Denial, married to conspiracy theory, is the ultimate denial tactic. I saw this over 40 years ago at a Veteran’s hospital in Minnesota where a film was shown of a severely inebriated alcoholic veteran during his Intake examination. He mumbled, made no sense, and was a mess. Three weeks later they brought him into the same room and filmed him as he watched the film of his Intake. “Who the Hell is that?” he asked; “My God is he drunk!” “That’s you, Hank.” “Like Hell! That ain’t me! No way!” Then he accused the staff of conspiring against him. In his eyes, he was innocent. Through the lenses of denial, he didn’t even recognize himself.
The Elephant in the Living Room
“Behind every act in Israel’s identity politics stretches, like a long black shadow, the idea of an eternal people and race,” writes Shlomo Sand in his book The Invention of the Jewish People. It is “the elephant in the living room”, the subject Israel protects and doesn’t want anyone to talk about. What is it? It is Israel’s founding political philosophy, Zionism. It is impossible to discuss the issue of Israel’s denial response without talking about Zionism, because Israel itself sees them as inseparable: attack the one and you attack the other.
Zionism, a movement that began in the second half of the 19th century, became a nationalist movement that sought the creation of a specifically Jewish nation for Jews from around the world. After two thousand years, the story line goes, Jews would stop suffering as outsiders in countries where they were persecuted and have their own national homeland. What they would do is go to Palestine, “given” to them by the British government in 1917 (the Balfour Declaration), cleanse it of its Arab population so that they could say that it was “a land without people” for “a people without a land.” Refer again to Ambassador Prosor’s remarks to the UN General Assembly, “As for the rights of Jewish people in this land, I have a simple message for those people gathered in the General Assembly today, no decision by the U.N. can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel.”
For the “others”, the non-Jewish citizens of the Jewish State, they have second class citizenship, with diminished privileges (“The Distinction: Identity Politics in Israel”, Chapter 5 of Shlomo Sand’s groundbreaking book). What this has created is an abusive system based on discrimination and persecution of non-Jews (home invasions, restrictions on building permits, indiscriminate arrests and jailing of adults and children, child abuse, beatings, confiscation of land, “in-your-face” establishment of towns and other settlements in Occupied Territories, and blocking of all attempts by Palestinians to establish peace. I don’t believe that I have ever encountered such deliberate, persistent and blatant torture of a people over so long a period of time. “Ugly” far too bland a word to use for what has happened and continues to happen.
What effect has this had on Israeli society and culture? As I type this on Saturday, July 12 2014, Israel is exploding with hatred of and violence against Palestinians within its borders, and in the Occupied Territories and Gaza. This is not surprising. For years rabid right-wing Rabbis have taught that non-Jews (goyim) are on this earth for the sole purpose of serving the Jews, and killing a non-Jewish baby is acceptable behavior. A few days ago, a 17 year old young man walking to his morning prayers was attacked, beaten, forced to drink gasoline, and burned to death in a lynching.
Happily, this is producing a firestorm of public outcry for something to be done, for action to be taken by the U.S. government and others, to demand a stop to this brutality and a call for radical cultural change for Israel. One of Israel’s leading newspapers, Haaretz on July 9th headlined the following: “Jewish Hate of Arabs Proves: Israel Must Undergo Cultural Revolution. Without a revolution based on humanist values, the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state.” (To read the entire article, go to Haaretz, or click on the following link: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article39025.htm )
“Who were these killers?Abu Khdeir’s murderers are not “Jewish extremists.” They are the descendants and builders of a culture of hate and vengeance that is nurtured and fertilized by the guides of “the Jewish state”: Those for whom every Arab is a bitter enemy, simply because they are Arab; those who were silent at the Beitar Jerusalem games when the team’s fans shouted “death to Arabs” at Arab players; those who call for cleansing the state of its Arab minority, or at least to drive them out of the homes and cities of the Jews.
No less responsible for the murder are those who did not halt, with an iron hand, violence by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian civilians, and who failed to investigate complaints “due to lack of public interest.” The term “Jewish extremists” actually seems more appropriate for the small Jewish minority that is still horrified by these acts of violence and murder. But they too recognize, unfortunately, that they belong to a vengeful, vindictive Jewish tribe whose license to perpetrate horrors is based on the horrors that were done to it.”
The article ends with this: “Prosecuting the murderers is no longer sufficient. There must be a cultural revolution in Israel. Its political leaders and military officers must recognize this injustice and right it. They must begin raising the next generation, at least, on humanist values, and foster a tolerant public discourse. Without these, the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state.”
Finally, someone is talking sense!
The secret to stopping the violence and improving Israel’s security needs is to treat Palestinians the same way as Jews are treated, with dignity and respect. There is no other way.
Perhaps we can, at last, begin.