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How to Sell "Ethical Warfare"

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Claim moral superiority, intimidate enemies and crush dissent - Israel's media management is not just impressive, it's terrifying

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Pete m (67)
Tuesday January 20, 2009, 1:52 pm
Neve Gordon highlights the role of the Israeli media as a tool in promoting Israel’s propaganda claim that its war on Gaza is ethical. “Israeli media have 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.”

One 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 have 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 per cent of Israelis, or about 98 per cent 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 emphasizes 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 its 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.

* Owing 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 per cent 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.

Neve Gordon teaches in the Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, and is the author of Israel's Occupation, University of California Press, 2008. His website is This article was published in the Guardian on 16 January 2009.

Blue Bunting (855)
Tuesday January 20, 2009, 2:22 pm

Olmert's struggle for hearts and minds is in overdrive in cyberspace.

1) Israel recruits 'army of bloggers' to combat anti-Zionist Web sites
"During the war, we looked for a way to contribute to the effort,"
the ministry's director general, Erez Halfon, told Haaretz

2) Beautiful green-eyed soldiers wage PR battle for IDF;
..putting its female face forward as it battles for public opinion in cyberspace.

3) listing anti-Zionist Web sites in USA


Yvonne White (229)
Tuesday January 20, 2009, 5:32 pm
Immitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so Israeli Reich-wingers copied Bu$h Leaguer's play book! That alone should make the world shudder!

Marian E (152)
Wednesday January 21, 2009, 1:35 pm

That picture is in fact the one which ended my belief in the Israeli's when it was first shown many years ago. How anyone could continue to support them has been beyond me for

Thank you for a telling article and replay of the picture which shows the reality behind
their "war".

David Gould (155)
Wednesday January 21, 2009, 4:05 pm
It seems that the Israeli army has used weapons of an extreme form on the citizens of Gaza. Their repeated mantra that they were not targeting civilians rings hollow when set against the sheer numbers of children (near 400 killed) and Women (over 100) and innocent men who had no part to play in the fighting...some were even Peace activists or farmers.

On the other hand Hamas continued to fire token rockets of defiance to great risk to themselves.

Now the second war starts. The war of words; where there will be no victors. Words can be bent and shaped by clever wordsmiths to say anything, to make you feel anything.

Then the final act of this cycle of war begins for the hearts of the people whose leaders urged them on from their own places of safety. This was not leadership by either side. It was the innocent that were left to bear the brunt of the wrath of Israel. It was the innocent that bled in Gaza. We will be shown every graphic detail to make us hate. To force us to make us kill and kill and kill. This is the final tragedy that we who might have had some hope may be turned into the fighters of the future...which is a blind way to proceed...but an understandable one. Believe me I feel it for you. But I know that way only leads to more pain and suffering...having walked the road of suffering I know a little of its syntax and landscapes.

Somewhere from deep within must come the healing power of light...whether from God or just from oneself there has to be light...for without that light there is no hope...and I refuse to give up. On Tuesday the USA took a new step towards a possible better world. We have to have hope. On Tuesday a man was sworn in that promises to work with people of all faiths and none to build a more tolerant world...that light within is there. We have to have hope.

So please from one person that might have had good reason to hate I want to tell you that I refused to hate. When they told me who to hate I said NO. Today a Muslim woman asked me to join a study group to give a different perspective. I will. I have learn to love and that fills me with hope. I have learned that there are more important things than revenge that only destroys the person that practices it. I have learned that people I thought were my enemies are in fact my friends. I am learning each day that love is more important to a Muslim and a Christian than is hate.

Now crimes may well have been committed. Let the legalities be fought over in court...for now we have to find the light and hope that I have read about in both the Qur'an and in the Bible...I know it is there as I have seen it reflected in a thousand please stop for a minute and believe in hope.


Pete m (67)
Wednesday January 21, 2009, 4:23 pm
With the Israelis seemingly so full of hate after their suffering that they look like they'll vote in Likud in the upcoming election, what hope for the Palestinians who have suffered so much more over the decades of occupation?

Yet it is the Palestinians who are expected to 'forgive' and make all the concessions to those who have bombed , tortured and terrorised them all these years.

There has to be justice before there can be any hope of healing the wounds, both physical and psychological.

I just hope that the recent atrocities inflicted on Gaza mark a turning point, and that the disgust felt by decent people everywhere results in enough pressure on our spineless leaders to stand up to the perpetrators.

Enough is enough.

Aletta Kraan (146)
Wednesday January 21, 2009, 4:55 pm
Noted , thanks !!

Amena Andersson (187)
Thursday January 22, 2009, 1:13 pm
"Claim moral superiority, intimidate enemies and crush dissent - Israel's media management is not just impressive, it's terrifying"

Reminds me of another I call home. Hope that changes now.

Gillian M (218)
Friday January 23, 2009, 2:58 pm

We, the undersigned, petition the United Nations, its Security Council and World Government Leaders to join Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to STOP PALESTINIAN CHILD ABUSE whereby the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Terrorist Organizations are indoctrinating its children into virulent anti-Semitism, genocide incitement and training to become suicide/homicide bombers.

Furthermore, we insist that the United Nations, its Security Council and World Government Leaders declare that raising infants and children to become suicidal/homicidal bombers is a violation of fundamental human rights, a breach of the Geneva Convention and a war crime. We ask that the Palestinian leadership and those political, governmental, military and religious organizations and their leaders and supporters of Indoctrination and Training of Children to Bebome Suicide/Homicide Bombers be prosecuted by the International War Crimes Tribunal to the fullest extent of International Law. We ask for World support of this worthy cause.

The International Covenant of Children's Rights condemns the recruitment of children under age 18 in armed conflicts. Yet contrary to this basic tenet, Palestinian children are deliberately being raised in a culture of violence and hate. The instances of proof are many and varied.

Here are but a few examples:

The BBC has videotaped Islamic Jihad-sponsored summer camps where children as young as eight receive paramilitary training. In contravention of normal humane standards, children are taught that after a person becomes a suicide bomber, he reaches the highest level of paradise. Such ingrained hatred leads to the glorification of violence and martyrdom, and the willingness to kill others for the perceived benefit of spiritual immortality. Children of a very young age, and even babies, have been dressed and photographed as suicide bombers by their parents.

- Abu Mazen, a senior official within the Palestinian Authority, admitted that children have been paid approximately $1 for every pipe bomb they throw. According to Abu Mazen, at least 40 children have lost arms when throwing these bombs. (Alzamim [a Kuwiati newspaper] June 20, 2002)
- Incitement to violence is rife throughout the Palestinian Authority school system. School textbooks encourage hatred and extol "martyrdom". Signs are posted on the walls of kindergartens praising their students as "the shaheeds [martyrs] of tomorrow". Elementary school teachers and principals commend students for wanting to "tear their [Zionists'] bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they will ever know."

The vast majority of Palestinian children have been tragically killed during confrontations with the IDF. Exact numbers are unavailable, but educated estimates set the number of killed in this manner at around 200.

How did these children come to be exposed to danger?

Why are Palestinian children allowed to confront a military force?

Why are they present among rioters, snipers, and terrorists?

And how is the press always in "the right place at the right time" to photograph such acts of false heroism?

Unfortunately, these very reasonable questions have not as yet been answered - neither by the Palestinian Authority nor by the families of the victims themselves.

There is also mounting evidence that Palestinian children have been exploited by elements within the Palestinian leadership, in order to manipulate media images, deliberately being sent to the front lines of the conflict.

The petitioners firmly believe that conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere can and must be resolved by diplomatic, political and negotiated means, but that when civilians are attacked by terrorists, there is no recourse but for defensive measures.

For example, there is documented television footage revealing that Palestinian snipers have repeatedly used children as human shields when shooting at the IDF. By contrast, Israeli soldiers have standing orders not to shoot live ammunition at children, but with children running around in a war zone, or are held captive in front of Palestinian "warriors" as human shields, some children are bound to get hurt or killed.

As a further incentive for Palestinians to use their children as 'cannon fodder' - in their suicidal/homicidal war against Israel, cash donations have been provided to the parents of children wounded or killed as "martyrs."

- Iraq's Saddam Hussein increased his financial pledge to Palestinian families of suicide bombers from $10,000 to $25,000. (Associated Press, April 3,2002)
- A quasi-governmental committee in Saudi Arabia last year pledged $5,333 to "each family that has suffered from martyrdom." (The Washington Post, April 9,2002)
- Payment authorisation for ceremonies honouring suicide bombers, as well as money to support families of the suicide bombers, have been found signed by Arafat - the chairman of the Palestinian authority. (The Washington Post, April 3,2002; MSNBC, April 3,2002)

This is coupled to a social approval so powerful that thay are strapping bombs on 11 year olds and when 15-year-old Ahmat Omar Abu Selmia was killed on his way to attack the Israeli community of Dugit, his father celebrated his "martyrdom" at a street festival attended by about 200 men.

How can this be considered acceptable, a society that encourages its children to die?

Intentional Targeting of Israeli Children
Hundreds of Israeli children have been killed or maimed since September 27, 2000. In many cases, these children were merely engaging in everyday activities, such as riding in a bus to school, eating at a restaurant with their parents, playing in a kindergarten or simply queuing to enter a discotheque on the weekend. A more comprehensive list is available in The Prism Groups extensive study on The Children of the Intifada.

What links these incidents is that the targets were picked as "soft" and unprotected. Nothing can justify these acts of violence, which strike at the core of reasonable Western values.

The most vulnerable and valuable segment of any society is its children; every effort should be made to afford them the protection promised in the United Nations' Declaration of the Rights of the Child. The Palestinian educational system is in urgent need of reform in order to break the endless cycle of hatred. The exploitation of Palestinian children on the battlefield must be stopped.

It is vital that all children, both Palestinian and Israeli, grow up free of violence and hate. This is the key to a true and lasting peace in the future.

It is our firm belief that the majority of the present generation of Palestinians are too cynical and/or have too much of an insane homicidal death wish in order to properly raise their children to want a lasting peace with Israel and thus will continue the cycle of genocidal war crimes and its deadly defensive actions against homicidal terrorism by Israel for years to come.

When the present generation of children are raised to sanely and properly respect human life there stands to be much improved chances of peace between Palestinian and Israelis through negotiation and civilized conflict resolution.

We have signed this position and sent it to people of all faiths, ethnic backgrounds and political beliefs with the hopes that the UN and World Leaders will not only vote to divest financial support of Palestinian Aid groups that are a cover for terrorist organizations and immorality and criminality of raising of innocents to kill other innocents.

Pete m (67)
Thursday April 2, 2009, 2:34 pm
''and its deadly defensive actions against homicidal terrorism by Israel for years to come. ''

Yep, that bit has a ring of truth about it... ;-)
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