Is Israel Winning the 'Media War' over Gaza?
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, January 11, 2009
"We are all Hamas," screamed a scrawny Mauritanian,
repeatedly, as he determinedly drew his face closer to a TV camera.
Behind him, thousands more tunefully chanted similar words, chants that
were heard in different Arabic dialects, in fact in many different
languages all across the globe.
Yet, Israel, somehow is
claiming victory in the media war, which it calculatedly unleashed weeks
before its most violent attack on Gaza yet. Thousands have been
reportedly killed and wounded in the first two weeks, starting Dec. 27,
in the tiny stretch of land (roughly 140 square miles), yet densely
populated Gaza Strip of 1.5 million people.
"Whenever Israel is
bombing, it is hard to explain our position to the world," said Avi
Pazner, former Israeli ambassador to Italy and France, and "one of the
officials drafted in to present Israel's case to the world media,"
according to the Jewish Chronicle. "But at least this time everything
was ready and in place."
"Fewer military officers; more women;
tightly controlled messages; and ministers kept on a short leash. This
was Israel's new media game plan in Operation Cast Lead," the newspaper
It's always difficult to fathom Israel's giddiness and
sense of triumph as defenseless civilians are pulverized by mostly
U.S.-supplied warplanes and bombs. Even if one chooses to empathize with
Israel's dodgy claim, parroted endlessly by the George W. Bush
administration, that the Israeli army is in a state of self-defense, one
can never fully grasp the wisdom of its military tactics.
"Fatalities in Gaza are already over 400 and injuries close to 2,000 so
far as is known. Total Palestinian civilian casualties are 400 times
greater than the casualties incurred by Israelis," wrote three-time
presidential candidate Ralph Nader in an open letter to Bush, five days
into the Israeli onslaught. Nearly one week after the devastating
airstrikes, Israel unleashed a ground offensive which is pushing the
causality figures to unprecedented heights, made mostly of civilian
victims, which by January 9, reached 795 dead and over 3,000 wounded.
Much of Israel's war machine is financed, manufactured and
supplied by the United States. U.S. financial and military generosity
has served as the backbone of all of Israel's wars against its
neighbors, including the Palestinians. In Israel's war against Lebanon
in the summer of 2006, lest it runs out, the U.S. rushed 'emergency'
military supplies, including cluster bombs to the Israeli army, allowing
the latter to ensure the demise of its arch enemy: thousands of dead and
wounded Lebanese civilians.
In the ongoing war against Gaza,
neither the U.S.' "dedication to the security of Israel," nor Israel's
dedication to inflicting maximum harm on civilians have been in any way
altered. While Bush brazenly chastised Hamas and the Palestinians for
the death wrought on them by Israel, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama
had nothing to say.
"The scale of bloodshed in Gaza over five
days is the same as if almost 2,000 Israelis had been killed and 9,000
wounded in the same period. Imagine the consequences for Israel in such
an event," wrote author and former BBC correspondent Deepak Tripathi.
Would Obama find the staggering number worthy of cutting short his
Hawaii vacation, even for a brief comment, if the tables were turned?
Candidate of change, he said.
But Israel is winning the media
war, reports Israel; a peculiar claim by any standards. If the reference
is made to a "victory' that helped win over mainstream U.S. media, one
has to wonder if the corporate media has ever expressed any sympathy for
Hamas, or any resisting Palestinian faction, be it secular, socialist or
The opposite has always been true. Any violent
Palestinian response to the Israeli occupation and its inherit violence
has been dubbed "terrorist" for decades, even if Palestinians were
targeting Israeli soldiers or paramilitary settlers. Aside from allowing
a 'moderate' Palestinian commentator an occasional limited space to
write a watered down op-ed, now and then – which serves as a feel-good
moment that demonstrates the 'objectivity' of U.S. media - the
pro-Israel mantra has defined every major American newspaper in every
city in every state. That requires a separate discussion, but the
persistent question remains: what is Israel winning exactly?
More Israeli women are stating Israel's case to the media, according to
reports. The strategy is both sexist and underhanded. Following the
Lebanon war, Israeli bikini models flooded U.S. men magazines exhibiting
their barely covered bodies. Former Miss Israel, model Gal Gadot
defended her nude photos, promoted partly by the Israeli consulate in
New York as her attempt to help "improve Israel's war-torn image,"
reported the New York Post in June, 2007. Now as Israeli bombs are
lightening the sky of Gaza, similar tactics are underway, in Maxim and
Kadima leader and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
took its message to YouTube, conveying the same redundant but "tightly
controlled" misinformation, that attempts to explain why imprisoning,
starving, then senselessly bombing 1.5 million Palestinian Muslims and
Christians is good for world peace, for democracy, for security, for the
future of the region and the world.
But the fact is, Israel
never won the media war in the United States for, frankly, there was
never one to begin with. Yet somehow, millions of people around the
world managed to read through the filters, the propaganda, the
perplexing logic, the Maxim cover pages, and took to the streets in a
collective act of passion and dismay, without billion-dollar media
crafters "tightly controlling" their every move, scripting their chants
or directing their hoarse voices: We are all Palestinians and "with our
souls, with our blood, we will die for you Gaza."
Israel won exactly, aside from the haunting images of Palestinian
youngsters in UN schools, homes and hospitals, mutilated, some silent
and others screaming? This is no victory, but a brief illusion of one.
As for the long-term repercussions, that is a whole new story. Israeli
bombs over Lebanon in 1982 gave rise to Hezbollah, and its war of 2006
turned a small, resisting militant movement into a major powerbroker
that will certainly help shape the future of Lebanon. Israel is now
doing the same in Gaza. A victory, indeed.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net)
is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been
published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world.
His latest book is, "The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a
People's Struggle" (Pluto Press, London).
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