You can’t ‘spin’ death

The IDF spokesman is now under fire. Questions are being asked as to why Israel couldn’t win the PR battle while the valiant IDF was busy shooting Palestinians on the Gaza border. The situation is so bad that even government deputy ministers like Michael Oren are wading in.

But can you remember a time when Israel did win the PR war?

Conventional wisdom suggests that before 1967 Israel was the darling of Europe. It wasn’t. Things were so bad that no one even wanted to sell weapons to Israel and few desired diplomatic relations. The United Nations has always been legislating against Israel.

I’m 38 years old. When I was growing up in the 1980s, Jews around the world wondered why Israeli PR couldn’t figure out a way to spin the Intifada. Then they wondered why the IDF couldn’t spin the demolition of people’s homes, or the building of a wall, or any of a thousand other things.

The truth is there’s a limit to what PR or spin can achieve.

Israeli PR, both from the state and from hasbara groups, is incredibly slick, quick on the uptake of stories and… pales in comparison to footage of an unarmed Palestinian gunned down while running away from Gaza border border. Or a dead journalist, shot while clearly visible as such.

You can’t spin an 8-month-old baby dying. Even though it later turns out that she had a congenital heart defect.

You can’t spin “more than 60 dead in one day.”

That doesn’t mean the information didn’t get out there. Social media feeds were inundated with the video of a Hamas Politburo member none of us had ever heard of (how many even knew they had a politburo?) seeming to admit that 50 out of 60-odd dead were their people.

We were shown the leaflets given out by Hamas, encouraging people to bring weapons with them, giving targets on the map across the border, and on and on.

The point is that it didn’t really matter. The damage, the death, was done.

But instead of any kind of serious, constructive self criticism, the kind that might allow the army to kill fewer people next time we get this from Deputy Minister Michael Oren:

Hamas can’t cut through the fence, so it wants to get people killed in order to delegitimize Israel. And the press plays into that, the press enables Hamas to win,” Oren said in an interview Friday.

No. The press are reporting the news. The news is that the IDF killed more than 60 people at the Gaza border in a single day.

If we want to spin this story better, then we need to kill fewer people.

About the Author
Marc Goldberg is the author of Beyond the Green Line, a story his service in the IDF fighting through the al Aqsa Intifada
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