The Propagandist’s Porpoise

“The propagandist’s purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human” – Aldous Huxley

On Wednesday August 19th, the Palestinian daily al-Quds published that Israel had recruited a dolphin to kill Quassam Brigade Naval Commandos. The next day, Iran’s Fars news agency published that, contrary to the original report, the Hamas divers had “seized a robot dolphin equipped with espionage equipment, including video-recording cameras…small arrows and bullets to enable it to target humans, including Hamas special forces.” No physical evidence of these claims has been presented, and the incident seems to have been ignored by rational observers, potentially following a brief chuckle at its absurdity. Personally, I’m trying to figure out whether this is an unwritten episode of The Simpsons or South Park.

Around the time of my Bar Mitzvah, I was lucky enough to swim with dolphins. Based on my experience, I would say that they are lovely creatures and that for some reason – likely related to Cetacean intelligence – humans are able to have a deep empathetic relationship with them. Personally, I take umbrage at the vicious calumnies launched against this member of the delphine race and humbly request that Hamas and its patron state publically apologize for any psychological distress that this situation has caused the dolphin and/or its family.

If that last sentence seemed absurd to you, you should read up on Israel-related animal conspiracy theories. In 2010, when Egypt had a problem with shark attacks near the tourist resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Captain Mustafa Ismail, introduced as a famous diver, appeared on Egypt Today to advance his theory that a GPS tracking device found on one of the sharks was, in fact, a shark control device planted by the Mossad to deliberately harm Egypt’s tourism industry. People who use their brains for thinking debunked this theory in due time, but this was neither the first nor the last time that an animal was accused of spying for or otherwise representing Israel. The list also includes various predator birds, swine, and rats. One of these animals is not like the rest.

Hamas is so obsessed with its core mission to destroy Israel and propel Mohammad Deif to conquer Jerusalem and rescue the Temple Mount from…the Islamic Waqf…that it can’t even get its propaganda right. Obviously you’re not supposed to link Israel to an animal that people actually feel sympathy for and care about. What happens if people start to question the absurdities and inconsistencies in the propaganda and stop accepting the obvious conclusion that everything is Israel’s fault? It would be chaos! Fortunately we have Iran’s regime-linked Fars news, bastion of peaceful and measured discourse that it is, to remind us that it’s not a dolphin, it’s a robot. Yet if it swims like a dolphin, eeks like a dolphin, and nuzzles my face adorably like a dolphin, it’s not a robot, and the existence of a dolphin in the Mediterranean is not evidence of an Israeli plot to subjugate its Gazan neighbor.

It seems clear to me that Israel attracts a disproportionate share of attention from the UN, human rights groups, and opinionated individuals who are in no way personally affected by what happens in Israel. There are obviously things to criticize about Netanyahu and Israel’s policies, but guess what? Israeli citizens are extremely critical and take advantage of the rights they enjoy under a democratically elected government to discuss all of these problems and more. Maybe the global obsession with Israel’s policies is driven by the fact that the Jewish religion enshrines a lofty moral code that is not always met by the state that shelters half of the world’s Jewish population. Maybe it is related to Roger Waters’ latest gig as frontman for the Boycott Bully Band. Frankly, I don’t care. Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha are coming, and that’s an opportunity for all of us to pause and take account of where we stand as individuals and in relation to the world around us. After that, perhaps we can address the dolphin in the room.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.” -Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

About the Author
Ben Bernstein holds a certificate of completion from the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and a Bachelors in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. He lives on the Upper West Side, where he was born and bred.
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