As much as Israel may pride itself on its mighty PR machine, from what I’ve seen so far, they have done a lousy job trying to cover up their latest atrocity of attacking the Freedom Flotilla last week. By now everyone knows what happened in terms of the piracy and the subsequent murder of nine Turks on board the Mavi Marmara by Israeli navy commandos. Everyone has seen the shocking pictures of Israeli soldiers raiding the boat and opening fire on unarmed civilians interested only in breaking Israel’s siege on Gaza and delivering aid to its people. However, how many people have actually followed the ludicrous statements of Israel’s spokespeople and officials in response to the anger over the raid? Like always, they are outrageous, but unfortunately unsurprising when it comes to Israel’s lame excuses for carrying out the most heinous of acts.
The Israeli propaganda machine began working overtime, even setting the atmosphere for the raid prior to the actual ambush. However, it was the utter nonsense that Israel’s PR officials were churning out following the event that is so unbelievable. My question is, when will people stop listening?
Rumor number one: there were contraband weapons on board the Turkish ship and so the Israeli army was acting in “self-defense”. When this rumor fell through – of course there were no arms on a ship of international civilians carrying humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip – the next rumor was thrown out, along with video tapes:
Rumor number two: some of the activists on board were “mercenaries for Al Qaeda”. After being pressed for proof of this, the Israelis modified their statement saying they were “unidentified.”
Rumor number three: the navy commandos were brutally attacked upon “boarding” the ship. Of course, the Israelis were swift in providing a video complete with circles and arrows pointing to the attack on Israeli soldiers with knives and clubs and of passengers allegedly throwing a soldier overboard. Eyewitnesses and common sense both point to a different story. The Israelis attacked to ship with all the intentions of harming those on board. Evidence of this is that one, all phones, computers and cameras were confiscated by Israeli authorities immediately upon arrival at the Ashdod port, where Israeli ships later directed the flotilla. The only video tape released was the one doctored up by the Israeli PR machine to show how the poor Israeli commandos had been beaten by the savage peace activists.
Then, finally, the inevitable Israeli offense, the charge of anti-Semitism. I had wondered when Israel would play their “Holocaust card”, their cry-wolf of “the world is anti-Semitic.’ Lo and behold, it came, in a broad headline a few days later that read, “IDF video shows flotilla passengers tell Israel Navy to ‘go back to Auschwitz.'” The video is heavily edited, cut and scratchy and the Israeli army was later forced to issue a retraction over the video, the authenticity of which they could not verify. No kidding. When Israel botches up or at least thinks it has to mend its damaged image, it scrambles for sympathy through outrageous stunts like these. We have grown accustomed to this Israeli-style offensive, which always begins with words like “security and the right to self defense” and almost always ends up with cries of anti-Semitism and some grotesque allusion to the Holocaust.
As if this were not ridiculous enough, the “We Con the World” song video came out, which amazingly, was even distributed by the Israeli Government Press Office. It was later forced to apologize for the “error” but not before over a million people viewed the video. The spoof of the 1985 humanitarian aid video for Africa depicts Israeli artists singing about the flotilla. It is full of racist slurs and accusations against the Palestinians (who are unnamed) that they “created the greatest bluff of all” in the Gaza crisis. The “millions of dollars” in humanitarian aid goes to buying “missiles for the kids” and the flotilla activists were “peaceful passengers waving our own knives” concluding that “the truth will never find its way to your TV.”
You would think the world would see beyond this ridiculous media circus, what with all the retractions and apologies. But like one Israeli Jerusalem Post columnist arrogantly put it, “We’ve gone through all this before”, implying that the world may have its feathers all ruffled for a while over Israel but things will settle down eventually. He may be right, given past atrocities of an even larger magnitude such as Israel’s war on Gaza. But our hope is that the world’s reactions to these atrocities are accumulative, that there is a point when the powers that be have seen enough. Obviously, there will be those staunch supporters of Israel who will remain loyal to it regardless of its actions. I don’t think we can expect anything from them. However, there are countless people caught in the middle, teetering on the edge where their conscience blocks any blind support for Israel. Just the other day, a Jewish American woman lost an eye to a tear gas canister shot directly at her from Israeli troops dispersing a demonstration at the Qalandiya checkpoint. She was there protesting the attack on the flotilla, probably her first such protest. Emily Henochowicz’s mother says that although her daughter “still loves Israel” the family is filing a civil suit and has demanded an investigation into the incident. She also refuses to accept the army’s version of events. “To say that she threw something is just a lie. The claim that the teargas canister first hit the wall is an absolute lie.”
Other evidence of changing opinions is the canceled music concerts by foreign artists. The Pixies, an American rock band cancelled their upcoming tour in Israel along with two other bands in the wake of Israel’s flotilla raid. Swedish dock workers refused to unload Israeli goods in protest and hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets of the world’s cities enraged by Israel’s actions.
Unfortunately, if history is any indicator, this rage and emotion eventually blows over and Israel is back to business as usual, flaunting its military might in the face of international indifference. The lies Israel’s PR machine spews out after each and every incident such as the tragic outcome of the Freedom Flotilla raid become more and more outrageous each new time. It’s not that hard to see beyond these fabrications. With each act of violence Israel commits, more people are realizing this to be true. I just hope it doesn’t take a major bloodbath for the world to finally open its eyes to Israel’s web of deceit.
Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.