As a much politicized trial is beginning in Turkey over the Mavi Marmara incident, pro-Palestinians movements and global groups opposed to Israel are once again pointing their fingers at what they consider atrocities committed by the Jewish State. These propaganda campaigns are usually based upon three common pillars: the overt demonization of Israeli Defense Forces, the exaggerated victimization of Israel’s antagonists, and the unambiguous distortion of the truth through the use of civilian populations.
The first step of these already well tested tactics lies in the attempt to effectively delegitimize the Israeli Defense Forces. This is not solely done to fulfill a possible objective aimed at undermining Israeli military establishment, it has far reaching ramifications. By portraying the military as part of an aggression these propaganda groups try to discredit the Israeli right to defend its national soil. Such an approach is made possible by two distinctive policies: the distortion of on the ground realities along with the use of media and the civil society to convey an inexact message. For this, the Mavi Marmara incident is instrumental to fully understand the techniques used by these groups. Information relayed by international media allows spectators to see only a victimized picture of the pro-Palestinian militants on board while little attention has been given to the violent nature of their endeavor. Legal experts are bound to debate over the excessive use of force by Israeli Commandos, yet the argument goes beyond that and focuses on the unapologetic dismissal of all action taken by security forces to enforce the naval blockade around Gaza. Videos and audio tapes recording explicitly the will by the people on board to conduct an aggressive operation that would lead Israelis to react with force have been widely disregarded. The question is then why this has been done? In short, weakening Israel goes through direct attacks on its right to defend itself. For this, attempts to break and prove the alleged illegality of the Gaza naval blockade or the defensive fence are the most blatant acts of this strategy.
For such a plan to succeed, the second point of the different propaganda campaign is crucial: the victimization of Israel’s antagonists. It wouldn’t be an easy task portraying Israel as an aggressor if the enemies of the Jewish State wouldn’t be depicted as innocent and self-righteous freedom fighters. This perverted logic has been verified time and again, most recently when the Estelle vessel attempted once more to break the naval blockade over Gaza. Pro-Palestinian activists focus their attention on the so-called humanitarian crisis taking place in Gaza thus accusing the Israeli government and its defense establishment of being the cause of this situation condemning … their inability to deliver what the activists themselves consider essential goods. This reasoning is essentially biased as no blockade would be necessary and no restrictions would be put over Gaza, had not its people repeatedly chosen as a form of government an armed terrorist group vowed to the destruction of the Jewish State. While calls for boycotting Israel and imposing sanctions on it because of its defensive actions are increasingly heard in international media, little is being said about the augmented tempo and boldness of Hamas rocket and mortar barrage aimed indiscriminately at civilian targets. Such a rhetoric has also been widely heard during Operation Cast Lead. On the international balance it appears as if, pro-Palestinian groups and global media alike have chosen to cover only a part of each Israeli response – namely the one where an alleged excess of the use of force may be pointed out – blindly “forgetting” to analyze the reason why Israel is forced to react with military means in order to protect its own citizens.
The third and last pillar to this propaganda strategy is vital in portraying the pro-Palestinian activists as victims: the unequivocal use of civilian population, most often at its own high risks, to push the Israeli security forces to commit a visible mistake which can then in return be used to launch a global campaign of outrages and “sincere” demonstrations. From the Rachel Corrie case to the innumerable use of young Palestinians at the front lines of weekly protests in the West Bank, it is clear that pro-Palestinian activists have found through their quest of visible and exploitable ‘victims’ a clear marketing tool for their wider goal: to discredit Israel’s defensive structure and thus push for the general loss of credibility of the Jewish State on the international scene.
These techniques must be openly denounced as their use further hinders any possibility of an overall solution to the ongoing conflict. It is logic that groups opposed to the existence of Israel or currently at war with it exploit these propaganda tools to support their campaign of violence, nevertheless these biased information must not become common knowledge for international commentators. The risk is that a tacit anti-Israeli feeling may growingly be forged through pro-Palestinian propaganda which in some cases does turn into more open anti-Semitism and a general justification of irrational violence. Pro-Israeli groups and international commentators have the duty to counter these false allegations each and every time it is possible to do so. As dangerous this situation is, it does offer, through honest and transparent information, an opportunity to clearly highlight the shortcomings of such propaganda stunts.
In a democratic society, debate and well founded critiques are to be encouraged while the irrational demonization of an adversary through the use of lies and biased information must be unanimously condemned.