It has been interesting watching the so-called "pro-Israel lobby" work the media over the course of Israel’s latest demonstration of its military superiority in Gaza.
One journalist recently wrote in the Guardian that the Israeli Government is actively recruiting people to peddle their talking points in the media. That’s not a big surprise. It’s certainly part of the reason why I keep reading the same idiotic things over and over again in media from across the world: England, Australia, America, and also from Israel.
Robert Fisk recently noted the same strange uniformity in the rhetoric of persuasion coming from Israel apologists in different places, including Canada and Ireland. In many of the local newspapers he found an identical formula to the one that I’m sure you’ve heard too, in The Age, in The Australian, in The Sydney Morning Herald, on the ABC etc. It goes as follows: "Imagine if you were living in (insert suburb in your own city), and that people who lived in nearby (insert adjacent suburb) had been trying to kill you by firing thousands of rockets at you for years". In this hypothetical world, surely you’d clamour for your government to take action to protect you from such vicious lunatics, right?
And so the spin goes. I’ve discussed the relevant facts elsewhere, but even from the narrowest perspective of the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, Israel and Hamas had a ceasefire, which Israel violated. Hamas offered new terms for a new ceasefire — Israel wouldn’t be able to kill Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza, and also Israel wouldn’t be able to continue its crushing blockade of Gaza. Israel weighed this up, and decided it would be more fitting to bomb and invade Gaza.
So that’s the foundation of the lobby’s chorus — but what happens when Israeli Government propagandists anywhere want to add extra verses, just to show how much they love the Holy State? Let’s start with Greg Sheridan, who pretends to be a journalist at a Murdoch paper. Sheridan begins his article by suggesting Hamas poses an "existential threat" to Israel. I’m not making that up. Go check the link. I’ve read the article a few times, but I’ve yet to figure out how Hamas will destroy Israel. Perhaps we’ll find out in his next column.
Now, even though Israel’s army and nuclear weapons make it a little unlikely that Hamas poses an "existential threat" to Israel, Sheridan can have fun inventing whatever facts sound pleasing. Not so long ago, he reported that 1500 Israelis were being killed every year in Israel, before admitting in the Australian Jewish News that he got it wrong. Well, apparently his credibility remains undamaged, and we’ll see what kind of nonsense he can fabricate out of thin air next.
Then there’s the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC)’s Colin Rubinstein. He’s also writing in The Australian, which apparently welcomes pretty much anyone, if they’ll recite the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) talking points. Rubinstein notes that Israel refused to negotiate with Hamas, unless it renounced violence, recognised Israel’s "right to exist", and "[agreed]to be bound by agreements previously signed by the Palestinian Authority". Rubinstein says that these are "simple terms for any party even remotely interested in peace".
Okay, let’s try throwing in a crazy idea — that Palestinians are as human as Jews. Then I guess these "simple terms" would apply to Israel too, right? Doesn’t that mean that Palestine has a right to exist? So it might be thought to follow that every continued second of occupation of the West Bank and Gaza shows that Israel is not "even remotely interested in peace"? And when did Israel renounce violence? Or its continued confiscation of Palestinian land in the West Bank for settlements?
But let’s return to the bizarre world of Colin Rubinstein. He tells us Hamas "launched a violent coup", and "took control of Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah party". Now, there are some people who may be unfamiliar with the Israeli and US role in fostering an attempted coup by Fatah against Hamas, which Hamas successfully pre-empted. What is striking about Rubinstein’s piece is that he asserts that it was actually Hamas who launched a coup against Fatah, despite having himself mentioned a few paragraphs earlier that Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006. It’s hard to construct an analogy to show how incredible this is. The closest I can think of is saying that Allende launched a violent coup against Pinochet in 1973.
Interestingly, Rubinstein goes on to note what Israel’s Government admits — that the ceasefire was basically effective, and that Israel violated it, killing what Rubinstein calls "gunmen" in the process. Rubinstein, of course, has no problems with Israel’s violation, because even during a ceasefire Israel has the God-given right to kill Palestinians whenever it thinks that’s in its interests, and Rubinstein (of course) believes what the MFA tells him about the raid. Rubinstein then proceeds to swoon at how lovely Mubarak’s views on the conflict are. If only every government in the region could live in police states that defied their populations to embrace Israeli massacres.
As you should be able to guess by now, I’ve long been impressed by the moral and intellectual standards of The Australian. But beyond the everyday, we recently had the mind-boggling racism of Martin Peretz. He solemnly informs us that "the Palestinians are unprepared for statehood, as many of the countries in Africa have been unprepared for statehood." Yes, you’ve read that right. Peretz misses the good old days of colonialism, and just doesn’t think people who lack white skin are fully qualified for things like voting. He even explains this further: peace might not result from an independent Palestinian state. Well, this is a good point, if we accept that Jews have a right to self-determination and peace, but Palestinians don’t have a right to either.
As it turns out, you can say basically anything in the Mudoch media. The important thing is simply that you hold the correct view. Take Niv Horesh’s extraordinary piece. Horesh presumably reads Haaretz — he mentions how left-wing it is, and how it criticises Israel’s government all the time. He then goes on to claim how Israel is one of the few countries in the world where protestors can protest their involvement in a war while it happens. The odd thing is that he says this in an article where he mentioned reading Haaretz, yet somehow missed, for example, its editorial complaining that the Israeli internal security agency Shin Bet was preventing Palestinians from protesting. How can he celebrate anarchist banners in a demonstration against the war, and neglect to mention, according to the Israeli paper he cited, that 21 anarchists were arrested after daring to lie on the street in fake blood? How much pride can he have in the openness of Israeli democracy, at a time when it has expelled the UN special rapporteur, and won’t let foreign journalists into Gaza? Isn’t he embarrassed that Israel’s official excuse for barring foreign witnesses to the Gaza onslaught is "security reasons"? This excuse is more lame than "my dog ate your permission slips". Shouldn’t journalists be allowed to judge these risks for themselves? And besides, isn’t Israel claiming that it’s only killing Hamas terrorists anyway?
The answer is that you simply don’t need to trouble yourself over questions like these if you’re writing for Murdoch.
One of the things Marx was wrong about was his claim that history repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce. In fact, the ethical knots that apologists for Israeli war crimes tie themselves up in are always farcical, but we shouldn’t be distracted from the tragedy that is the life of every Palestinian civilian, and the fact that the murder of any one of them gains the immediate, unconditional support of idiots across the world.
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