Manufacturing Consent in Israel - Neve Gordon "How to sell an ethical war"

How to sell 'ethical warfare'Claim moral superiority, intimidate enemies and crush dissent – Israel's media management is not just impressive, it's terrifyingComments (…)
Neve Gordon, Friday 16 January 2009 20.30 GMT Article historyOne of my students was arrested yesterday and spent the night in a prison cell. R's offence was protesting the Israeli assault on Gaza. He joins over 700 other Israelis who have been detained since the beginning of Israel's ruthless war on Gaza: an estimated 230 of whom are still behind bars. Within the Israeli context, this strategy of quelling protest and stifling resistance is unprecedented, and it is quite disturbing that the international media has failed to comment on it.

Simultaneously, the Israeli media has been toeing the government line to such a degree that no criticism of the war has been voiced on any of the three local television stations. Indeed, the situation has become so absurd that reporters and anchors are currently less critical of the war than the military spokespeople. In the absence of any critical analysis, it is not so surprising that 78% of Israelis, or about 98% of all Jewish Israelis, support the war.

But eliding critical voices is not the only way that public support has been secured. Support has also been manufactured through ostensibly logical argumentation. One of the ways the media, military and government have been convincing Israelis to rally behind the assault is by claiming that Israel is carrying out a moral military campaign against Hamas. The logic, as Eyal Weizman has cogently observed in his groundbreaking book Hollow Land, is one of restraint.

The Israeli media continuously emphasises Israel's restraint by underscoring the gap between what the military forces could do to the Palestinians and what they actually do. Here are a few examples of the refrains Israelis hear daily while listening to the news:

• Israel could bomb houses from the air without warning, but it has military personnel contact – by phone no less – the residents 10 minutes in advance of an attack to alert them that their house is about to be destroyed. The military, so the subtext goes, could demolish houses without such forewarnings, but it does not do so because it values human life.

• Israel deploys teaser bombs – ones that do not actually ruin houses – a few minutes before it fires lethal missiles; again, to show that it could kill more Palestinians but chooses not to do so.

• Israel knows that Hamas leaders are hiding in al-Shifa hospital. The intimation is that it does not raze the medical centre to the ground even though it has the capacity to do so.

• Due to the humanitarian crisis the Israeli military stops its attacks for a few hours each day and allows humanitarian convoys to enter the Gaza Strip. Again, the unspoken claim is that it could have barred these convoys from entering.

The message Israel conveys through these refrains has two different meanings depending on the target audience.

To the Palestinians, the message is one that carries a clear threat: Israel's restraint could end and there is always the possibility of further escalation. Regardless of how lethal Israel's military attacks are now, the idea is to intimidate the Palestinian population by underscoring that the violence can always become more deadly and brutal. This guarantees that violence, both when it is and when it is not deployed, remains an ever-looming threat.

The message to the Israelis is a moral one. The subtext is that the Israeli military could indiscriminately unleash its vast arsenal of violence, but chooses not to, because its forces, unlike Hamas, respect human life.

This latter claim appears to have considerable resonance among Israelis, and, yet, it is based on a moral fallacy. The fact that one could be more brutal but chooses to use restraint does not in any way entail that one is moral. The fact that the Israeli military could have razed the entire Gaza Strip, but instead destroyed only 15% of the buildings does not make its actions moral. The fact that the Israeli military could have killed thousands of Palestinian children during this campaign, and, due to restraint, killed "only" 300, does not make Operation Cast Lead ethical.

Ultimately, the moral claims the Israeli government uses to support its actions during this war are empty. They actually reveal Israel's unwillingness to confront the original source of the current violence, which is not Hamas, but rather the occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem. My student, R, and the other Israeli protesters seem to have understood this truism; in order to stop them from voicing it, Israel has stomped on their civil liberties by arresting them.

From Basil: "The first casualty of war is truth".

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Arab media manipulation and exploitation is well-oiled machine - even before Al Jezeera etc...

War, lies and credulity

Thursday, 15th January 2009

The grotesquely misnamed Human Rights Watch, among others, has been throwing around claims that Israel has been making illegal use of phosphorus shells in Gaza. Phosphorus is permitted to illuminate the scene of battle but not for use against human targets. Israel has repeatedly denied that it is making illegal use of phosphorus. Now Peter Herby, the head of the mines-arms unit of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has told the Associated Press:

‘But it's not very unusual to use phosphorus to create smoke or illuminate a target. We have no evidence to suggest it's being used in any other way’. In response, the IDF said Tuesday that it ‘wishes to reiterate that it uses weapons in compliance with international law, while strictly observing that they be used in accordance with the type of combat and its characteristics.’ Herby said that using phosphorus to illuminate a target or create smoke is legitimate under international law, and that there was no evidence the Jewish state was intentionally using phosphorus in a questionable way, such as burning down buildings or knowingly putting civilians at risk.

But as various reports have noted, one of the shells Hamas fired on Tuesday from Gaza did contain white phosphorus. And that sure as hell wasn’t to illuminate the field of battle. It was solely aimed at killing and maiming civilians. So where’s the outrage at this banned use of white phosphorus by Hamas from all the people who have been falsely accusing Israel of this behaviour?

Not from the Independent newspaper, for sure. Its fashionable new columnist appears to be the Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Hanieyeh (He Is: Are You?). Haniyeh takes the opportunity to repeat the claim that 1000 Gazans have been killed by the Israelis of whom nearly half are women and children. He also claims that when Israel shelled the UNRWA school (he omits to say that this was return fire in response to Hamas firing rockets from a yard adjacent to the school) forty-six children and women were killed.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has been parroting those civilian casualty figures which have been widely accepted in the west. But according to the head of the IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), Col. Moshe Levi,the CLA had compiled a list with the names of 900 of the Palestinians killed during the fighting.

He said that 150 names were of women, children and elderly and that the maximum number of civilians killed so far was 250... Levi also dismissed OCHA's claim that 43 Palestinians were killed in an IDF attack on a Hamas terror cell that was firing mortars at Israeli forces from within an UNRWA school in Jabalya. Levi said that the CLA knew of 21 Palestinians killed in the attack, including a number of Hamas operatives.

In war, accurate figures are of course very hard to come by. In general, the Israelis tell the truth. They may not tell the whole truth; and on occasion they provide information which is later shown to be wrong. But in general, experience shows that their default position is honesty. By contrast, Hamas have been shown time and again to tell bare-faced lies, fabricating not just casualty figures but staging 'Pallywood'-style 'atrocities' to hoodwink the media -- not to mention their Nazi-style libels about the Jewish people. Yet the media choose to believe Hamas and disbelieve the Israelis. Why?

One final question: when Foreign Secretary David Miliband, UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon and a zillion others in the west lament the 1000 in Gaza whom the Israelis have killed, are they lamenting the killing of the 75 per cent-plus of that total who were Hamas terrorists, whose purpose in life was to annihilate Israel and exterminate Jews? Are they lamenting the killing today of the key senior Hamas leader Said Siyam, said to have been a radical close to Iran? Would they have preferred that all these individuals remained alive to continue pursuing their genocidal project? Are they saying that no-one should be killed in war and that therefore there should never be war? And if so, when will we hear Miliband similarly lament all those Taleban who have been and are still being killed by British forces in Afghanistan, along with al Qaeda in Iraq?
"Ultimately, the moral claims the Israeli government uses to support its actions during this war are empty. They actually reveal Israel's unwillingness to confront the original source of the current violence, which is not Hamas, but rather the occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem."

I would say that it is beyond simply the occupation that occured in 1967 which expanded Israel to control the remaining 22% of historic Palestine. The basic injustice (of which the occupation and violence are both symptoms) is the same malady taht afflicted South Africa for nearly 100 years: racism and discrimination. The notions of chosenness and the need to maintain control by a minority over a majority through ethnic cleansing, "maximum geography with minimum demography" etc are the real problem. The etiology is called apartheid and the solution is to end it and live together in equality (restoring to the natives what was stolen from them).



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