American Jews Ehud Barak Gaza Strip Hamas Israel

More challenges for the Gaza assault’s spin machine

Yesterday, I reported on the frenetic efforts of Israel’s p.r. volunteers to defend what most of the world views as an over-reaction to Hamas’ provocations. Now there are even more troubles ahead, because the would-be spinmeisters are getting different messages about the goals of “Operation Cast Lead.” I bet you a hundred dollars that, right now, some version of the following conversation is taking place between an American Jewish leader and an Israeli consulate official:

Q: I don’t understand what you’re trying accomplish. I need help. How do I explain this? The talking points you gave me are two days old.

A: We are trying to protect the people of Israel from rocket attacks. No nation in the world should be expected to put up with….

Q: I get that. Most people understand that. You don’t want rockets in southern Israel. Americans can relate to that. But what is this specific operation going to accomplish? What’s the end game?

A: We are striking at Hamas’ infrastructure to bring an end to the rocket firings on Israel, and to stop terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip.

Q: Sounds good. That’s what it says on the President’s Conference website, too. But you bombed the Hamas radio station. You bombed a jail and a police station. You bombed Islamic University. Are they part of the infrastructure that is firing rockets? Those people weren’t ordering the rocket attacks, or helping, were they?

A: It is hard to separate the Hamas’ military wing from its political one.

Q: But how did killing those particular people, and the women and kids who may have been nearby when the bombs fell, protect Sderot and Ashkelon from rocket attacks? Just tell me. I want to help.

A: We appreciate that very much.

Q: Back to the end game. I heard that Haim Ramon said on Israeli TV that the goal of the operation was to topple Hamas, not just destroy the military infrastructure and stop the rockets. And there is an AP story by Karen Laub that says Israel is keeping its objectives vague. She wrote: “Barak and his coalition ally, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, have been evasive about whether Israel would try to topple Hamas. Livni has spoken only of creating a “new reality” along the Gaza-Israeli border.”

And just now I read that Barak said you have launched “an all-out war on Hamas and its kind” and you are fighting a “war to the bitter end.” That doesn’t sound like a man with a limited goal. It sounds like he wants to wipe them all out. I’m supposed to say that on Channel 4 tonight? Is that the goal? A war to the bitter end? Or do I say we want regime change?

A: Please don’t say either one…Especially not`regime change.’

Q: And today, as if I weren’t confused enough, in the New York Times I read about ANOTHER reason! Ethan Bronner says one goal is to make sure the Arab world is frightened of you once again, to restore your deterrent power. What’s going on here?! What do I say on Channel 4 tonight?

A: I can tell you a secret?

Q: Sure.

A: I have no idea. I’m always the last person to hear about these things. Philip Weiss hears about them before I do.

Q: And what about the charge that all of this is meant to help Barak’s political career, to get him back in the limelight as a leader…

A: Please! There were hundreds of rockets falling on Israeli territory, Israel wanted to renew the ceasefire and…

Q: So you’re saying politics has nothing to do with this? I’m supposed to tell people the Israeli elections have no relationship to all of that “collateral damage” in the Gaza hospitals?

A: (Sighs) I don’t know. I thought Boston would be a nice posting. My son loves the Celtics….

34 thoughts on “More challenges for the Gaza assault’s spin machine

  1. Brilliant. Who said that idiocy or insanity are to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result each time? By this definition Israel is classic case study: 2.5 years later, nothing has been learned. Tragic that another Kafr Qana is going to happen in a day or two (I hate to be the one who says “I told you so” and really hope to be proven wrong and eat my hat)

  2. And, who exposes the idiocy on the part of Hamas?

    Is there a humorous dissenting community that expresses itself without serious risk?

  3. Richard, I somehow care more about the idiocy (and immorality) in my family. Besides, every indication is that if anybody will “win” or “lose less” from the latest idiocy, it’ll be Hamas, just as Hezballah was 2.5 years ago. Again, I’ll be glad to eat my hat.

  4. Richard, you care about the smaller problem. The big problem is that real people are dying right now – without niceties. If we’re so sensitive we cannot take a look in the mirror and see a monster without mentioning some other bad guys in the same breath, az okh und vey, as they say in Yiddish.
    I sure would cultivate hatred if one of my loved ones was hurt, whatever the stupid excuse.

  5. Peter D.

    Your mistake is assuming that Richard Witty places equal emphasis on the 350+ real people who have died in the past two days and the 8 Israelis who have died from rocket attacks in the past eight years.

    Perhaps when the number doubles to 700 he will deem it worth the fingernail of an Israeli?


  6. Peter D,
    Its the real problem THIS week. Last week, the real problem was Hamas shelling.

    If you want to solve problems, it takes looking at them fully.

    Maybe it was the mosquito that caused the malaria. Maybe it was the virus (is malaria a virus?) that the mosquito carried. Maybe malaria is not a problem at all.

  7. There was an article this morning in Haaretz, describing the current status as parallel to the US war on Iraq, that the easy part for Israel has occurred (destruction from a distance), and now that Israeli soldiers might be at some risk, they are less likely to be as acquiescent to the strategy.

    Israelis were ANGRY that many Israeli soldiers died in Lebanon, for little apparent gain.

    The US timing of anger towards the Vietnam War parallels. Dissent became mass only when American affluent teenagers were asked to risk being killed. The objection to kill-ing came later.

    Even throughout the length of anti-Vietnam dissent, only a minority of dissenters objected to American aggression. Parents were concerned for their children, rationally and objected. Teenagers were afraid, rationally.

  8. Paul,
    I guess you didn’t read my earlier comments in which I described the Israeli rules of engagement as a rationalization for state terror.

    How unusual.

  9. I really have to applaud Dan Fleshler for his last two posts. I can imagine that it must be difficult for a defender of Israel to expose the manipulative nature of Zionist public relations discourse at this critical juncture.

    Still I have to make one criticism, which is that insisting that “Hamas provocations” were somehow responsible for this attack is both lazy journalism and wishful thinking. It is an act of faith in the very spin machine that Fleshler appears to be challenging.

    First, there is no evidence that Hamas is actually the one firing the rockets. Islamic Jihad, Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades, independent actors, and unidentifiable groups could all be responsible. Hamas could be as well. But note how there is an enormous over-simplification being carried out in all media reports now claiming that Hamas is behind all of it. In fact, other groups have claimed responsibility in the past, while Hamas most recently has denied any.

    Second, the Egypt-brokered ceasefire was violated on its second day by Israel. That does not excuse Hamas from violating it as well, if indeed they did, but why was the Israeli violation not seen as a “provocation”? Because there are two standards at play, obviously. Israel only preempts, they never provoke.

    Third, Israel had just days prior to the attacks allowed for humanitarian aid supplies to enter Gaza. Was that also “provoked” by Hamas? Both CNN and BBC reported on the border opening, and both networks in what is surely a coincidence (wink wink) ended their segments by mentioning that rocket fire had continued despite the opening. Neither network had a reporter on the ground in Sderot, or anywhere nearby, and the much more reliable Haaretz mentions only one rocket falling during the past week. In other words, part of the public relations offensive appears to have been allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza just before the attacks.

    Finally, when you consider the recent Israeli history of exploiting pretexts for pre-planned wars (Lebanon 2006, for example), the story that Hamas provoked this response just doesn’t hold up. Especially now that we see that the bombing has essentially targeted the entire population of Gaza, and there is no actual strategy to even deal with the supposed casus belli.

    So I challenge Mr. Fleshler to seek a more plausible conclusion. Why did Israel wait until this moment to do this, and what did it really hope to accomplish? I don’t have the answer but I can see that blaming Hamas is the easiest way to avoid getting at one.

  10. MM,

    Just have time for one response and can’t engage in a conversation now, I’m afraid:

    I simply don’t believe that what you seem to be proposing can be true. At a certain point, one has to choose the information one believes in, and I see no reason why not to believe the extensive reports that hold Hamas responsible for deliberately increasing rocket fire into southern Israel. I am surprised at your insistence on saying it might be otherwise. I have heard people from many different camps –including defenders of Hamas– say that the reason for the upsurge in rocket attacks was to pressure Israel to accept the terms Hamas wanted in a ceasefire, which included opening up the borders and allowing more consistent humanitarian aid. I don’t view that as an adequate defense, but at least it is plausible and, if true, shows that Hamas is looking for a relationship that does not involve open conflict with Israel. So, sorry to disappoint you, MM, I can’t jump into the space you occupy.

    Even if your speculation were true, Hamas could stop rocket fire from Islamic Jihad –either by clamping down or achieving a rapprochement that includes an agreement to stop rocket fire– if it chose to. That’s essentially what happened during the ceasefire (the agreement), as I understand it Moreover, even if the firing of large numbers of rockets at Israel after the ceasefire was not done by Hamas or with its encouragement, Hamas should still be treated as the party responsible. No one else rules the Gaza Strip. That does not justify what Israel has done and is doing, which appalls me.

    As to why Israel reacted now, well, surely it had a lot to do with internal political pressures from a populace that demanded action against the rockets. You dismiss those rockets as insignificant, but Israelis do not.

    What is Israel really trying to accomplish? I hope my posts demonstrated that I haven’t the faintest idea.

  11. Thanks, Dan. I approach you in good faith and I think your response (and your recent posts) demonstrate likewise.

    I cannot blame you for not being more skeptical–as you state, Hamas’ responsibility for the rockets is practically conventional wisdom at this stage. Ultimately, we are individually responsible for the length we will go to in pursuit of truth.

    If I could offer you just one piece of evidence for my skepticism, however, it would be the following. When Hamas has carried out attacks on Israel in the past, it has always claimed responsibility (and of course, justification, correctly or not).

    Contrast that pattern of behavior with the following:

    Finally, just as a point of common understanding, I want to highlight this part of your statement–

    “Moreover, even if the firing of large numbers of rockets at Israel after the ceasefire was not done by Hamas or with its encouragement, Hamas should still be treated as the party responsible.”

    Of course you will grant that the democratically elected Hamas-led government in Gaza has been continuously undermined from its inception, no doubt reducing its capabilities, but nonetheless, I think you make an important point.

    If Hamas constitutes the elected authority in Gaza and is thus responsible for all violent actions of all its constituents, then what is the Israeli government’s responsibility for the violent actions of West Bank colonizers during the past decade?

    Likewise, extrapolating further–if Israel is a state of “the Jews”, as opposed to all of its human inhabitants, what is Israel’s responsibility when Likud-oriented American government officials (Doug Feith, Richard Perle, ad nauseum) encourage, plan, and facilitate a disastrous invasion of a Middle Eastern country? Should that be laid on Israel’s doorstep as well?

  12. MM,
    “What is the responsibility of the Israeli government for the actions of West Bank colonizers?”

    The Israeli government is not responsible for the actions of the settlers. It is only responsible for maintaining law and order, or failing to do so.

    If you regard Hamas as “the democratically elected government” of Gaza, then it IS responsible for maintaining law and order there, including prohibiting the initiation of warfare onto anothers’ civilian populace.

    Last night I heard a report on NPR from a Gaza resident, who described that the strikes on Hamas infrastructure was very precise and did NOT target civilians.

    That contrasts with the shelling which does specifically, and ONLY.

    I don’t get the defense of Hamas by the left.

    Its possible, its skillful, to dissent without buying into the WARTIME rationale that the opponent of my opponent is my friend.

  13. I’m not buying into that rationale, Witty–you are constructing a strawman, which is one of your only successful tactics.

    I do not have an opinion on Hamas because there is no doubt in my mind that the majority of what is available to read about them is misinformation.

    But it is telling that you want to consider Hamas responsible for everything in Gaza, but the Israeli government is NOT responsible for what happens in the (Israeli-military-occupied) West Bank. Fascinating double-standard that your Zionist blinders are unable to detect, apparently.

    But “the left” definitely DOES have a problem with violent colonialism. It’s not just Zionist colonialism, but all colonialism. It’s racist, violent, sociopathic, exploitative, and clearly immoral–no matter who’s doing it.

    Richard, tell us another modern day colonial project you support.

    Tell us, also: what would be the appropriate “dissent” against Zionism? I’d love to hear your version of that.

  14. Gideon Levy: The IAF, bullies of the clear blue skies
    By Gideon Levy

    In four days they killed 375 people. They did not, and could not, distinguish between a Hamas official and his children, between a traffic cop and a Qassam launch operator, between a weapons cache and a health clinic, between the first and second floors of a densely populated apartment building with dozens of children inside.

  15. If you do not form an opinion about Hamas from its published documents, public statements in English and Arabic, published journalistic articles from reliable varied sources, and historical behavior, then you are either “ignorant” in the definition of being negligently uninformed or “ignorant” in the definition of being intentionally bigoted.

    That you nevertheless form a consistently negative opinion about Israel from a similar set of known and unknown content, indicates at least some malevolent bias on your part.

    Your attribution of my opinions, is equally ignorant.

    It is the aspect of the left that alienates rational and compassionate individuals from otherwise laudable expression of mutual kindness, and imagination and negotiation put to genuinely productive purpose.

    Criticism of Hamas is NOT a deception, NOT a distraction. It is a critical component of an analysis.

  16. @MM,

    “I really have to applaud Dan Fleshler for his last two posts. I can imagine that it must be difficult for a defender of Israel to expose the manipulative nature of Zionist public relations discourse at this critical juncture.”

    I join you in your applause. Dan, your ability to step back and be more impartial is admirable.

    @Dan Fleshler

    “I simply don’t believe that what you seem to be proposing can be true. At a certain point, one has to choose the information one believes in,”

    I agree with this second point about choosing information, and frankly, I do not trust ANY of the information coming from the American MSM.

    @Bill “Sword” Pearlman

    “Paul, I’m sorry that the Jewish body count isn’t more to your liking.”

    Bill, for once you nailed it!! A Jewish body count of zero would be more to my liking. An Arab body count of zero would also be more to my liking. A just solution would also be to my liking.


  17. Criticism of Zionism is NOT a deception, NOT a distraction. It is a critical component of an analysis.

    Thanks, Richard.

  18. “Bill, for once you nailed it!! A Jewish body count of zero would be more to my liking. An Arab body count of zero would also be more to my liking. A just solution would also be to my liking.



  19. “Its at most, half an analysis.”

    Yes Richard, and considering the power dynamic at play, it’s certainly the more important half.

    You choose to distract yourself by focusing on Hamas’ actions instead of looking at the root cause of the conflict.

  20. You don’t read do you, MM?

    I have mixed feelings about Israel’s assault. On the one hand, I entirely identify with Livni’s statements of “Enough is enough.”, regarding Hamas’ resumption of shelling civilians (now with imported, larger and more precise weapons). You can no longer call them “bottle rockets”, where they can target within .1% at 30 miles.

    I give Israel credit for its specificity of most targets, and precision at hitting only those targets, in many cases.

    I derive a great distate for the gullibility of the far left that interprets a picture of a destroyed building (while the neighborhood around it is standing) without question as “massacre”.

    I’m sure that there is some truth in what you and others say, but it is made extremely difficult to discern.

    I personally don’t know what means would have, or will, accomplish the reasonable ends of providing security for Israel’s civilian residents.

    My peace-seeking is to encourage that the least harmful ends be employed, and that damages that are caused in war are repaired.

    I don’t know what are the least harmful means. Doing nothing was NOT the least harmful.

    I do NOT hold that permitting Hamas to develop a lethal arsenal (or Hezbollah for that matter) that they rarely direct at military occupation (instead entirely directed solely at civilians), is anything resembling peace.

  21. Richard, this isn’t about “Israel’s assault” in the most recent sense. That is merely the occasion for this discussion, because Dan Fleshler has chosen to shine a light on the “spin” that is accompanying it.

    This is really about the expanding and bloody Zionist colonization that has taken place for going on a century now.

    There is no way that Zionism will achieve a conclusive military victory. Do you realize that?

    Essentially, all colonial efforts end in one of two ways: either the colonists end up leaving, or the colony detaches itself from its foreign power base and becomes an independent nation of all its inhabitants.

    Which do you hope that Zionists eventually choose, Richard?

    The ONLY way that violent Palestinian forces can be marginalized is by granting full rights to Palestinians–that is, by offering a better alternative to violent resistance.

    The expansionism encoded into Zionism’s DNA notwithstanding, if a barely functioning Bantustan or two would’ve resolved this conflict, then we’d already have peace by now.

    The unjust nature of the Palestinians’ displacement, coupled with the familial connections between Gaza and the West Bank, make the Bantustan solution a non-starter. When are you going to see this?

    What I and increasingly so many others are advocating is a replacement of one state of apartheid with one state of democratic inclusion.

    Only if Palestinians are granted civil rights, and THEN resort to violence, will the pendulum of world opinion swing back in favor of Jewish defensiveness.

  22. MM,
    The spin includes the left’s spin, the very gullible and/or opportunistic left.

    A picture of a building destroyed is shown on the web, with the caption “Israel’s massacre of civilians”, but a wider angle photo reveals that the apartment 20 yards away experienced little or no damage.

    There is spin. There are civilians harmed.

    And, there is rationalization for the idiocy of shelling civilians in the name of “justice”, by Hamas, by those in “solidarity”, when the only form of their solidarity is shared anger, hiding their shared negligence.

    That’s if we’re talking about spin, and gullibility.

    “Colonialism” is a propaganda word.

    Hamas is at war with Israel. It is reasonable for Israel to NOT have entirely open borders with a state that it is at war with.

  23. Hamas exists ONLY because of Zionist aggression. Hezbollah exists ONLY because of Zionist aggression.

    As someone pointed out recently in a thread on Mondoweiss, the Indian killers of the U.S. also thought they were the victims. (Because some Indians fought back.)

    There is a psychological tendency among aggressors to view their actions as defensive, and once again, Hasbara Richard Witty provides ample evidence of that.

    “Spin and gullibility”, indeed, Rich. Indeed. Please, explain to all of us how that university, hospital, and prison that Israel recently destroyed were all at war with Israel, too.

  24. By the way, does El-Al have any direct flights from Tel Aviv to The Hague yet?

    Bombing a prison is, after all, a WAR CRIME.

  25. I don’t know about those specifics MM.

    You can stop the name-calling, “hasbara” Richard Witty.

    I don’t want to start every reference to you with “gullible” MM, or “propagandist” MM.

    I’m not “spinning”. I don’t represent an organization, nor defend every Zionist action.

    If you bothered to read back (of course you didn’t), the first post on the Gaza activity was posted by me, in which I described the selection of a civilian apartment as valid target because it included a Hamas communication link, as a likely example of state terror.

    I conclude that you are a very gullible person, who doesn’t question the authenticity or significance of what you repeat.

    I, like many others that have been reading and listening about what is occurring in Gaza (I don’t have TV, so don’t dare accuse me of being a repeater of “Fox News”), don’t know if what Israel is doing is right or wrong.

    I DO know that Hamas shelling civilians IS wrong unequivocally, and until they acknowledge as such and that they will adopt OTHER methods and scope of “resistance” or dissent, that harsh means to address harsh means will be necessary.

  26. Missing the point again, Rich. It’s not that you defend every Zionist action. It’s that you unconditionally defend ZIONISM itself. You refuse to consider the possibility that it has been absolutely tragic for almost everyone involved (excluding the military industrialists, obviously).

    Maybe instead of starting with Hamas “shelling civilians” (a deliberate misunderstanding of what they are doing, to begin with) and working backwards to justify Israeli atrocities, you should start with the Balfour declaration, imagine yourself a Palestinian peasant, and work your war forward through the horrors visited on a population that had nothing to do with European anti-Semitism, Zionism’s raison d’être.

  27. I do unconditionally defend Zionism.

    The idea that Jews are a nation and have the right to self-govern is an unconditional right from my perspective.

    That you would oppose that, strikes me as anachronistic and frankly somewhat fascist.

    In imagining Palestinian experience, I am sympathetic. It is a great tragedy.

    I differ entirely with you on your prejudice that Zionism was a “colonial” enterprise, universally endeavoring to ethnically cleanse from day one.

    And, I greatly differ with your CURRENT implied goal, of removing Israel from the map (through advocating for a “democratic” single-state).

    It sounds nice, but in fact is impossible and cruel.

    From the present forward, the optimal solution is mutual acceptance, as a step towards further integration.

    If after twenty years of real acceptance, a regional Union emerged, in which Jews and Arabs could reside wherever they chose legally, wonderful.

    But, in the current state of the world, with prohibitions against Jews living fully as peers in most of the Arab world, your criticism of Israeli prejudices is relevant, but only relatively.

    Zionism is NOT racism. It is a national liberation.

    The big question is how it will live in a world in which it is accepted.

    Absence that acceptance, war is inevitable.

    I’m surprised that you don’t get that anti-Zionism, especially applied through violent means, is racism and active initiation of war as well.

  28. “Zionism is NOT racism. It is a national liberation.”

    National liberation, on someone else’s land. That’s a new one!

  29. It certainly was and is a national liberation.

    The Jewish people are a people, and prior were suppressed. There are still too damn many that continue to desire that the Jewish people be homeless.

    Whether you pose your reasoning in that manner or not, functionally, there is an element of ethnic cleansing in your rhetoric.

    Its a great dilemma to be so militant that either/or becomes the only possible mode of relationship.

    To my mind, either/or prohibits justice, rather than realizes it.

    And, from that understanding, the two-state solution is the only justice that I can perceive in the region.

    The functional result of forced assimilation is not justice, but an imposition.

    I get that Palestinians and their solidarity adopt the story from the Palestinian ground, in favor of the story from the Israeli ground.

    Its faulty. The real story is larger and more intimate simultaneously. To make any effort to dismiss the holocaust for example from the story, is an abuse of history, as to assert that Palestinians never lived there or don’t have legal rights.

    It is healed by compassion for the other, and mutually making room, helping.

    Work, MUCH MUCH more than agitation.

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