US Backing Israeli War of Choice In Gaza

An edited version of this article appeared at LobeLogGaza_house_destroyed

The moral high ground is always a tenuous piece of property. It is difficult to obtain and is easily lost. It is seen, however, as crucial because most people, all over the world, cannot accommodate the notion that life is composed of shades of grey; they desperately need to see black and white, good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains, in every situation. Nowhere is this truer than in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

It has become even more important for Israel to fight this rhetorical battle because, while it can always count on mindless support from Washington and from the most radically nationalistic and zealous Zionists around the world, the current escalation and ugliness is going to be very difficult to defend to even mainstream pro-Israel liberals, let alone the rest of the world. The hasbara (propaganda) has been flowing at a rapid pace, even more so than usual, as Israel struggles to maintain the treasured hold on the “moral high ground” that its own actions have increasingly undermined. Continue reading

Actually, We CAN Change Things, If We Decide to Try

In response to my article today, a long-time reader commented as follows:

“What’s needed is an Eliot-Ness-type figure to bring down this AIPAC mafia. But where is one to be found in this post-heroic era?”

US elected officials treat Israel as a sensitive domestic issue, not a foreign policy matter. Must it be so?

I thought it was worth bringing my response over here, because I think this sort of thinking, while certainly based on being well-informed and thoughtful, is ultimately self-defeating and unnecessary.

My response:

I don’t think that’s what’s needed. in fact, I think that approach is part of the problem. Sure, AIPAC has done some shady things in its history. That’s also true of other lobbying groups, incidentally. But the bulk of their success is due to things that are perfectly legal–propagandizing, badgering their opponents, and directing campaign funds. Most of all, straightforward lobbying of elected officials.

Even if AIPAC was less connected to the Israeli government per se, they’d still have a lot of the effect they do. In part, that is due to the fact that they capitalize on the sorts of things I describe in the article above–American idealization, almost deification, of Israel as a military power, American anti-Muslim/anti-Arab bigotry, and the stability of Israel as a country and an ally. While Israel often spits in the face of US desires, the Israeli government knows exactly when it needs to stand by the US–usually when no one else will.  Continue reading

Post Hacks: Jennifer Rubin and Caroline Glick, Separated at Birth?

There was a time when the Washington Post was understood to be one of the better mass media newspapers in the country, often regarded as on a level with the New York Times as a serious paper.

Media analysts (which is where I started this work, so I’d count myself among these) would assuredly contend that this was damning with faint praise. Still that regard the WaPo, as it’s often called on the internet, was once held in has been in sharp decline for some time now.  Their coverage of Israel, for example, just gave us a startling example of that decline, when the Post decided to hire Jennifer Rubin as blogger.

Washington Post blogger, Jennifer Rubin (photo by Daniel Sieradski)

Rubin had previously written for the neoconservative Commentary Magazine and other outlets after leaving her career as a lawyer. Columnist Ali Gharib, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, says of her:

Rubin has a penchant for relentlessly sticking political opponents with negative labels… During the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, Rubin claimed that Obama’s “sympathies for the Muslim World take precedence over those, such as they are, for his fellow citizens.” Last year, Rubin derided Obama as “the most anti-Israel U.S. president (ever),” a judgment unequivocally repudiated by even the hawkish Israel lobby group AIPAC. Undeterred, this summer Rubin lamented, in a typically overblown overstatement, that the Israel “must figure out how (quite literally) the Jewish state is to survive the Obama presidency,” insisting the following day that Israel will have to go it alone against Iran.

Rubin got called this week on that penchant for labeling, which some think is libeling. Continue reading

Webcasting Hasbara

The spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister’s office held a webcast today. Mark Regev, who is expert at talking with the media and is specifically geared toward English-speaking audiences, spent half an hour answering questions that had been submitted through Facebook.

If Israel is smart, they’ll have Regev do a lot more of this. He’s very good at it, and his remarkable skill at disseminating

Israeli PMO spokesman Mark Regev

hasbara (propaganda) was on full display. He sticks as best he can to areas where Israel can make a good case and he’s very good at framing his statements to present Israel in the best light possible. But a careful listen shows once again the limits of even the best public relations; you can sell a Honda like it’s a Mercedes for a while, but eventually the quality of the product you’re selling cannot be disguised.

In a mere thirty minutes, Regev could only touch on the subjects that came up, yet the time amply demonstrated both the strengths and weaknesses of Israel’s arguments.

Recognizing the “Jewish State?”

The first statement Regev made which bears examination is when he described the Israeli vision of a demilitarized Palestine that recognizes “the Jewish State.” The first part of that sentence will raise some hackles, but it is a condition which, while it has never been formally committed to, has always been understood to be a part of a final status agreement.

But the idea of Palestine recognizing not only Israeli sovereignty and its right to exist, but recognizing it as a Jewish state is a deal-breaker. It is a willful wrench that has been thrown into negotiations, actually by Ehud Olmert, who first brought the idea to the fore.

Palestinians might be able to live with a demilitarized state. But recognizing Israel as the Jewish State demands that Palestinians drop their objections to the discrimination their fellows who hold Israeli citizenship face. More importantly, it implicitly demands that they acknowledge that the dispossession they have endured for the past 62 years was justified. Whether one believes that Palestinian dispossession was inevitable, criminal, justified by war or a case of ethnic cleansing, surely everyone can agree that asking Palestinians to make such an admission is simply unreasonable.

It’s also unthinkable. Regev, like many other advocates for the official Israeli position, puts this out there as if it is a normal demand. Far from it—no country recognizes another “as” anything. It simply recognizes another country’s sovereignty, with the rights and responsibilities that implies. One of those rights is for any country to define itself, through its own political and social processes. Continue reading

The End of Hasbara

In my latest piece for Zeek, I look at the recently release report by the Reut Institute, which looks at the BDS movement around the world. It has some points to it that are actually quite important, but it is fatally flawed, and it revives so many of the mistakes Israel has been making for many years.