Juan Cole: Have Bush and the Neocons Ruined it for the Israelis?

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Mr. Cole is Professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan. His website is http://www.juancole.com.]

The Israeli propaganda blitz around their attack on Gaza has been greeted with uncharacteristic skepticism by the American public and even by some of the mainstream US press. Even the Jewish American community is uneasy about this one, in a way perhaps unparalelled since the 1982 Israeli attack on Lebanon and siege of Beirut. Jews for Peace in Los Angeles are actively protesting the Gaza atrocities, and newspaper articles from around the US on local protests held this weekend often mention mixed Arab-American and Jewish-American rallies.

If it is true that Americans are greeting Israeli talking points with more criticism this time, is it because we have been intensively exposed for the past 8 years to precisely this sort of mental manipulation by Bush-Cheney and their stable of Neoconservatives?

Let's take some of the basic techniques of propaganda practiced by Bush and compare them to those deployed by the Israeli leadership in the past 8 days.

1. Deny it all.

Bushie Examples: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld denied that there was massive looting in Iraq during April of 2003, alleging that CNN had one tape of a guy stealing a vase and kept looping it over and over again."How many vases can they have?" he asked. In mid-summer 2003, Rumsfeld denied that there was a guerrilla war in Iraq, even though Jamie McIntyre of CNN was able to quote the Pentagon definition of guerrilla war, and it fit Iraq. Rumsfeld just replied,"No."

Then there was Bush's insistence that"Brownie" had done a"heckuva job" in New Orleans after Katrina.

Kadima Examples: When French President Sarkozy requested a two-day halt in Israeli air strikes so that humanitarian aid could reach ordinary Gazans, Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni replied, “there is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce.” The UN and others involved in humanitarian work in Gaza do not agree:

' the UN agency insisted it was desperate to get supplies into the enclave."The military incursion compounds the humanitarian crisis following more than a week of shelling and an 18-month long blockade of the territory," the UN humanitarian coordinatory said in a daily report. There was an"almost total blackout" across most of Gaza and land and mobile phone networks were also down because they depend on backup generators which had no fuel, the report said. All Gaza City hospitals have been without mains electricity for 48 hours and now rely on backup generators which the UN said were" close to collapse." The report said that"for the second consecutive day Israeli authorities have refused to allow an ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) emergency medical team into Gaza" to help at the main Shifa hospital. The territory has been sealed off for more than two days. . . More than 510 Palestinians have already been killed in Israel's nine day old offensive on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which on Saturday was intensified with the launch of a massive ground operation. The UN said the tank fire and air attacks were preventing medical staff reaching hospitals and ambulances could not get to injured"because of continuous fire." The World Food Programme has coordinated emergency food deliveries into Gaza in recent months but the Israeli army said there was plenty of food in Gaza warehouses and that the territory's Hamas rulers had halted distribution.'

In line with Livni's Big Lie, the Israeli army said with a straight face that the reason the World Food Program doesn't send food into Gaza is because its warehouses there are"full."

2. Pretend that your main concern is for your own victims

Bushie examples: They refused to say that they"invaded" or" conquered" Iraq, always using the word"liberation" when they spoke of their war of aggression. Bush was not invading and occupying Iraq, he was liberating the long-suffering Iraqis. Richard Perle even maintained that they would be"grateful" for being"liberated." I.e., we're doing this to you for your own good.

The Bushies renamed the Iraqi guerrilla resistance to the US"anti-Iraqi forces." They even managed to get some clueless CNN anchors to report that"anti-Iraqi forces attacked US troops in the Triangle of Death today." The implication was that the US military and its allies were the pro-Iraqi forces.

Kadima: Livni said,"But Hamas is not our problem alone; it is also a problem for all the Palestinians in the region." I.e., Israel is bombing and attacking Gaza on behalf of the Palestinians to secure their welfare.

3. Demonizing the opponent, ad hominem arguments

Bushies:"Axis of Evil" (courtesy Neocon David Frum). Bush called Saddam a"threat" even if he had no weapons!. Saddam was intrinsically dangerous, ontologically dangerous; his danger to the US could not be divorced from his very being in existence. (How silly this all is is easily demonstrated by the Reagan and first Bush administration's active alliance with . . . Saddam.)

Israeli pundit: Confronting the depths of Hamas's evil.

Hamas won the elections for the Palestine Authority in January 2006 and formed a government; yet Livni objects even to speaking of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, because Hamas, she says, is just a terrorist organization. (It has engaged in terrorist tactics, just as Livni has committed state terror on a large scale, as with dropping a million cluster bombs on civilian areas of south Lebanon; but Hamas isn't"just" a terrorist organization, or Livni's bombing of policemen and the ministry of interior in Gaza would make no sense; she thinks it was the government of Gaza, obviously. Hamas has engaged in diplomacy, has called truces, etc. It is made up of human beings, not demons.)

4. Repetition of simple slogans until they become accepted as true

Bushie examples: There are so many I don't know where to start. But the repeated innuendo that Saddam Hussein was operationally connection to the 9/11 al-Qaeda attacks on the US is the big example. The assertion that Iraq had"weapons of mass destruction" (itself a propaganda phrase intended to suggest nukes) was made over and over again, and Bush, Rice, andothers constantly used"mushroom cloud" and other nuclear imagery for Iraq.

Kadima: Israeli leaders have repeated over and over again that they"had no choice" but to attack Gaza. But of course they had a choice. They had negotiated before, they could have negotiated again. Assertions that the Palestinians walked away from the 2000 Camp David negotiations, that Israel is involved in a"peace process", that the colonies in the West Bank can't be moved back to Israel, all of these are constantly repeated.

5. Use of half-truths

Bushie examples: Bush would boast that 2/3s of the al-Qaeda leadership had been killed or captured, without mentioning that many in its upper echelons, like, oh, Osama Bin Laden had not. Or he slammed the Democrats who had voted against his illegal war of aggression as"not supporting liberation."

Kadima examples: Israelis point to thousands of rocket attacks by Hamas on Israel, without mentioning that no Israelis had been killed by them during the truce stretching from mid-June, 2008 until December 26. That is, the prelude to the most violent Israeli attack on Gaza since 1967 was . . . not a single Israeli death at the hands of Hamas in the preceding half-year. And in 8 years, Hamas had killed about 15 Israelis with those home made rockets, during which time the Israelis had killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly 1000 of them minors. The rockets were small, handmade affairs for the most part and most landed uselessly. Some did damage to property and a few wounded or killed people. That would be a legitimate assertion. But the quotation of"thousands" of rockets is a half-truth and intentionally misleading.

Another half-truth is that Israel is involved in a"peace process" or supports Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, when in fact it has gone on stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank and making Palestinian lives miserable and colonizing them.

Then there are other techniques such as 6) appeal to fear and 7) appeal to prejudice. Apologists for the attack on Gaza depict Gazans as murderous, jihadi, homophobic, sharia-wielding fanatics, in a word, Muslims, and therefore of course their lives don't matter. Sound familiar?

Having been treated to these propaganda techniques repeatedly and continuously for 8 years, the US public can suddenly hear the similarity in the assertions of Israeli officialdom and its supporters.

Of course, the Neoconservatives had borrowed a lot of their techniques from the Jabotinsky/ Likud tradition of revisionist Zionism, so what goes around comes around.

By the way, since Tzipi Livni admitted Sunday that her government is resisting a diplomatic solution to Gaza and wants to keep the war going as long as possible, and that one impediment is"the pictures coming out of Gaza"-- i.e. of dead children and civilians and ordinary policemen, I'll just put in this link for those with a tough stomach. Not for the squeamish (and not an endorsement of the site). Here is another one; same caveats

Thanks to Lefty Coaster for the Kos Diary on yesterday's IC posting.
Read entire article at Informed Comment (Blog run by Juan Cole)

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