Pro-Palestinian agitators outside of Israel have now had three failures in a row – round two of the Gaza flotilla, the March on Jerusalem, and the “flytilla.” All three cases featured plenty of advance hype, dire predictions from Israel supporters, and an outcome that fizzled, to put it charitably.
It’s wrong to suggest that these cases “prove” anything conclusively – even if the world of communications weren’t so fluid (especially in this Internet-driven age), the volatility of the Middle East has taught us, many times, not to put today’s reality in the bank. But there is an encouraging glimmer here. It may be that the Palestinian “narrative” is running out of steam, and can only be maintained in an increasingly narrow echo chamber. Boredom – or at least, Narrative Fatigue – may be setting in.
There are several factors coming together at the same time, all of which serve to weaken the Palestinian narrative and play into the hands of Israel and its supporters:
1. The ongoing global economic struggle is focusing people’s attention on other, and much more serious, issues.
2. There are high profile, immediate and dire human rights crises – most notably, in Syria – that make the Palestinian problem (even if you accept the underlying premises of the Palestinian narrative) less urgent.
3. The people who are most likely to accept the Palestinian narrative and advocate for demonstrations against Israel, are struggling with their own credibility on other issues. I am speaking, of course, of the hard left. It is not necessary to get into a debate about whether their political or social positions are “right” or “wrong” – it’s enough to note that those positions are weaker, today, given the struggles of the statist model. What’s more, the double standards of the pro-Palestinian agitators are in full view – that they could see Gaza as a burning human rights issue and not Syria, makes their position instantly absurd.
4. The Arab Spring has focused attention on deep social and economic problems in the Arab world – problems that have can be seen to have nothing to do with the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The line of argument that everything would be “fixed’ if only the Israel-Palestine problem were fixed, is now seen as the idiocy it always was
5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Palestinians have somehow orchestrated their own affairs so as to give maximum visibility to what is inflexible and unattractive (the refusal to negotiate, the Hamas-Fatah feud, the corruption and instability of the PA) and minimum visibility to what is reasonable and positive (economic progress on the West Bank).
As a result of all of these forces, a certain amount of fatigue – perhaps even boredom – may be starting to set in. The world “audience” sees the same strident people (whose credibility on other issues is weakening), the same overblown lines of argument, the same hysterical slogans, at the very same time as much more serious problems are in plain view elsewhere.
None of this means that Israel can be different as to communications strategy. There are still serious gaps, particularly in terms of underplaying audiences who may be very valuable.
But “ho-hum” isn’t a bad response to ongoing agitation by people who seem to be running out of steam.