In the opening episode of “Mad Men,” advertising wizard Don Draper is asked to come up with a slogan for the Lucky Strike cigarette brand, that will not only differentiate it from other tobacco companies, but also help allay the fear of consumers about the dangers of smoking.
During the meeting, he asks the company owner how his cigarettes are made, and the latter describes a process that has remained unchanged since the company was founded: “We breed insect-resistant tobacco seeds, plant them in the North Carolina sunshine, grow it, cut it, cure it, toast it.” To everyone’s surprise, at that very moment Draper comes up with the winning slogan: “Lucky Strike – it’s toasted.” When the client notes that competing cigarettes are also toasted, Draper replies: “No. Everybody else’s tobacco is poisonous. Lucky Strike is toasted.”
Recently, the White House hosted an official signing ceremony on the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. This marked the culmination of a series of deceptions that began with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump’s efforts to market the Deal of the Century, which centered on a plan to unilaterally annex 30% of the West Bank, as a “peace agreement.” The next step in this effort is the attempt to sell the normalization with the UAE, which was achieved in exchange for abandoning the said annexation plan, as a “peace agreement” – and an “historic” one at that.
Just like the toasting process in cigarette production, there is not much that is new in the agreement with the UAE. Just like the toasting process was moved upfront to paint Luckies as a positive and tempting product, so is Netanyahu’s move a deception designed to win over the public.
There is no denying that the agreement with the UAE will benefit Israel diplomatically, financially and regionally. Still, it is not a peace agreement. Israel and the UAE do not share a border, have no conflict over resources or territories, and have never fought each other. The agreement with the UAE has great potential and could benefit Israel in many ways, but it in fact is merely a formalization of relations that began to form as early as the 1990s.
“Peace” in Exchange for arms sale and ditching annexation
Netanyahu’s insistence on repeating the “peace for peace” mantra is also part of the deception. First of all, notwithstanding the wish to paint the agreement as cost-free, in practice Netanyahu paid for it by abandoning the annexation plan that was at the center of his election campaign and by removing the veto on a US-UAE arms deal. Secondly, when Netanyahu talks about “peace for peace,” he is actually saying that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be ended without Israel having to give up territories.
Zulat’s new position paper: “FAKE PEACE”, focuses on Netanyahu’s attempts to deceive the public by remarketing political moves that will deepen and entrench the occupation and the Israeli-Palestinian bloody conflict – as “making peace”.
Explaining the marketing move he has just presented to him, Draper tells his client: “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is […] a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.”
The agreement with the UAE serves as a flashing neon billboard telling passersby that they are fine, that the inequality between Israelis and Palestinians is fine, that the 53-year continued violation of Palestinian human rights is fine.
It created the first crack in the solidarity of Arab states with the Palestinians, under which normalization had so far been conditional on ending the occupation. This allowed Netanyahu to take the existing reality and remarket it in order to give it legitimacy, normalcy and a semblance of reasonableness. This is the “peace” that Netanyahu is selling us: eternal occupation, eternal conflict, and eternal bloodshed.