The Hippasus Blog

Israeli assault on Gaza… Israel’s propaganda machine exposed

Posted in Uncategorized by pifactory on January 6, 2009

AS CIVILIZED people around the world recoil in horror at the latest events in Gaza, I can offer no especial insights from where I sit… but I can try to point to some reports that are attempting a reasoned analysis based on independent and thoughtful observation and not merely repeating press releases (which are at least public) or the more insidious off-the-record background briefings.

“It is a war on two fronts,” writes Chris McGreal from Jerusalem for the London-based The Observer.

“Israel also understood that a parallel operation would be required to persuade the rest of the world of the justice of its cause, even as the bodies of Palestinian women and children filled the mortuaries, and to ensure that its war was seen not in terms of occupation but of the west’s struggle against terror and confrontation with Iran.

“After the debacle of its 2006 invasion of Lebanon — not only a military disaster for Israel, but also a political and diplomatic one — the government in Jerusalem spent months (Hippasus emphasis) laying the groundwork at home and abroad for the assault on Gaza with quiet but energetic lobbying of foreign administrations and diplomats, particularly in Europe and parts of the Arab world.

“A new information directorate was established to influence the media, with some success. And when the attack began just over a week ago, a tide of diplomats, lobby groups, bloggers and other supporters of Israel were unleashed to hammer home a handful of carefully crafted core messages intended to ensure that Israel was seen as the victim.

“Dan Gillerman, Israel’s ambassador to the UN until a few months ago, was brought in by the Foreign Ministry to help lead the diplomatic and PR campaign. He said that the diplomatic and political groundwork has been under way for months.

“‘This was something that was planned long ahead,’ he said. ‘I was recruited by the foreign minister to coordinate Israel’s efforts and I have never seen all parts of a very complex machinery — whether it is the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the prime minister’s office, the police or the army — work in such co-ordination, being effective in sending out the message.’

“In briefings in Jerusalem and London, Brussels and New York, the same core messages were repeated: that Israel had no choice but to attack in response to the barrage of Hamas rockets; (see Hippasus blog on how Israel broke the ceasefire to set up an invasion — Hippasus) that the coming attack would be on “the infrastructure of terror” in Gaza and the targets principally Hamas fighters; that civilians would die, but it was because Hamas hides its fighters and weapons factories among ordinary people.”

And those have been the consistently repeated messages we have been hearing again and again over the past days.

“Hand in hand went a strategy to remove the issue of occupation from discussion,” adds McGreal. “Gaza was freed in 2005 when the Jewish settlers and army were pulled out, the Israelis said. It could have flourished as the basis of a Palestinian state, but its inhabitants chose conflict.”

The Independent, again in the UK, adds: “There will now be a war over the story of this war,” in a report from Johann Hari headlined The true story behind this war is not the one Israel is telling:

“The Israeli government says, ‘We withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and in return we got Hamas and Qassam rockets being rained on our cities. Sixteen civilians have been murdered. How many more are we supposed to sacrifice?’ It is a plausible narrative, and there are shards of truth in it, but it is also filled with holes.

“The Israeli government did indeed withdraw from the Gaza Strip in 2005 — in order to be able to intensify control of the West Bank. Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser, Dov Weisglass, was unequivocal about this, explaining: ‘The disengagement [from Gaza] is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians… this whole package that is called the Palestinian state has been removed from our agenda indefinitely.’

“Ordinary Palestinians were horrified by this, and by the fetid corruption of their own Fatah leaders, so they voted for Hamas. It certainly wouldn’t have been my choice — an Islamist party is antithetical to all my convictions — but we have to be honest. It was a free and democratic election, and it was not a rejection of a two-state solution. The most detailed polling of Palestinians, by the University of Maryland, found that 72 per cent want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, while fewer than 20 per cent want to reclaim the whole of historic Palestine. So, partly in response to this pressure, Hamas offered Israel a long, long ceasefire and a de facto acceptance of two states, if only Israel would return to its legal borders.

“Rather than seize this opportunity and test Hamas’s sincerity, the Israeli government reacted by punishing the entire civilian population. It announced that it was blockading the Gaza Strip in order to “pressure” its people to reverse the democratic process. The Israelis surrounded the Strip and refused to let anyone or anything out. They let in a small trickle of food, fuel and medicine — but not enough for survival. Weisglass quipped that the Gazans were being ‘put on a diet’.

“According to Oxfam, only 137 trucks of food were allowed into Gaza last month to feed 1.5 million people. The United Nations says poverty has reached an ‘unprecedented level.’ When I was last in besieged Gaza, I saw hospitals turning away the sick because their machinery and medicine was running out. I met hungry children stumbling around the streets, scavenging for food.

“It was in this context — under a collective punishment designed to topple a democracy — that some forces within Gaza did something immoral: they fired Qassam rockets indiscriminately at Israeli cities. These rockets have killed 16 Israeli citizens. This is abhorrent: targeting civilians is always murder. But it is hypocritical for the Israeli government to claim now to speak out for the safety of civilians when it has been terrorising civilians as a matter of state policy.”

Hari (writing on Monday 29 December) adds: “Before it falls down the memory hole, we should remember that last week, Hamas offered a ceasefire in return for basic and achievable compromises. Don’t take my word for it. According to the Israeli press, Yuval Diskin, the current head of the Israeli security service Shin Bet, ‘told the Israeli cabinet [on 23 December] that Hamas is interested in continuing the truce, but wants to improve its terms.’ Diskin explained that Hamas was requesting two things: an end to the blockade, and an Israeli ceasefire on the West Bank. The cabinet — high with election fever and eager to appear tough — rejected these terms.”

Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald also reported Israeli intelligence officials in a piece by Paul McGeough. Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad operative turned commentator says: “The economic siege of Gaza has not produced any of the desired political results,” he said. “It has not manipulated the Palestinians into hating Hamas, but has probably been counter-productive. It is just useless collective punishment.”

McGeough continues: “If Israel was to act against Hamas, it needed to move in these last days of the Bush presidency because, despite his words in Sderot (In July Obama spoke in Sderot, a target for rocket attacks — Hippasus) Israel worries that the incoming American president might be less supportive than his predecessor. But does Jerusalem have the nerve to keep it up through Obama’s inauguration and the first critical days of an American campaign to reposition itself in the world? On this, the signals are mixed.

“Israeli diplomats speculate that their international window for action in Gaza will begin to close as early as Monday (5 January — Hippasus) when Western officialdom starts to return from the holiday break. A push by Paris for a 48-hour ceasefire offered the hope of some respite for Gaza’s 1.5 million people and its chances of implementation are better with the passing of the Bush-Blair trans-Atlantic axis.

“Working against the proposal, however, are Israel’s need for military gains and the competing ambitions of three politicians vying for the prime ministership in Israel’s February 10 election: the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, and the Opposition Leader and front-runner in the leadership race, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Noting all of that, Palestinians are themselves hopelessly divided between the Islamist Hamas movement in Gaza, and the corrupted remnants of Yasser Arafat’s secular Fatah movement which, under the hapless Mahmoud Abbas, is propped up by Israel and the US as a government in the West Bank. Abbas is using the crisis to mount his own rhetorical attacks on Hamas. But the more overt and covert support that Abbas gets, the more his movement is diminished in the eyes of Palestinians.

“Ghassan Khatib, one of Abbas’s former ministerial colleagues in the Palestinian Authority, this week cast doubt on Abbas’s efforts to advance himself on the back of Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinians. Despite the material and human cost they are made to pay, Khatib told The Christian Science Monitor: “Politically speaking, [collective punishment] strengthens Hamas.”

The above are edits from the original articles. Readers are advised to click on the links and read all three articles to get more information than quoted here, and to understand the contest of each piece.

Chris McGreal in The Observer

Johann Hari in The Independent

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