The propagandist’s greatest asset is the perception of reasonableness, because his power comes directly from the public’s willingness to believe what it’s told.
A useful tactic in this regard is a self-criticism to mitigate the fallout from highly damaging news. Take the Globe and Mail‘s seemingly aggressive March 11 editorial that condemned Israel’s construction of 105 illegal settlements in the West Bank. It began:
“A damning report by a former state prosecutor [Talia Sasson] implicates successive Israeli governments in the financing of illegal settlements in Palestinian territory. The report pulls no punches in confirming what Palestinians and Israeli peace activists have long contended. Officials in several government departments were either actively complicit in the construction of the illegal outposts or turned a blind eye to their existence. Laws were broken. The government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon now has no excuses. It must dismantle all of the outposts and pursue all those responsible for their proliferation.”
Later on, the editorial even stated, correctly, that Sharon was responsible for encouraging the growth of “the illegal outposts” when he was Israel’s housing minister.
All of this is good and creditable, but for such an incendiary subject the paragraph lacks any sense of moral outrage. It’s a dry regurgitation of the bare bones of Sasson’s conclusions: “The report accuses Israeli governments…”; “It lists at least 105 unauthorized settlements…”; “[Talia Sasson] calls for urgent measures…”
This clinical treatment of the report seemed designed to acknowledge Israeli criminality without compromising the paper’s pro-zionist position. Not to have commented on the report would have been a conspicuous betrayal of journalistic integrity; therefore, it made sense to get the bad news out in the open and make the best of it. The key to understanding how the Globe spun the report to minimize damage to Israel lies in the second paragraph:
“The illegal settlements have been a major–”and entirely unnecessary–”impediment to productive negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. A growing number of Palestinians are fed up with the violence that has won them nothing but enmity and condemnation since the intifada against Israeli occupation broke out four years ago. They want a negotiated settlement, which is why they have thrown their political support to Mahmoud Abbas, a pragmatic technocrat who has long advocated an end to violence. At the same time, though, they are deeply cynical about Israeli intentions. And as the report makes clear, they have had good reason to be.”
Note how it begins by continuing the dry, critical style of the first paragraph, but then segues into irrelevant and inaccurate opinions about peace negotiations. These have nothing to do with the report, which is a self-standing condemnation of pervasive criminality and theft of Arab land–”essentially an indictment of Israel itself.
Nevertheless, this non sequitur served an important function: it allowed the Globe to subsume Israel’s criminality under the contrived rubric of mutual obligation, and take a few cheap shots to boot.
The Palestinians are sick of the violence to be sure, but it is patently dishonest to assert that it has “won them nothing but enmity and condemnation.” This standard bit of zionist disinformation obscures the fact that the Palestinians have won considerable world sympathy. As anyone with a functioning moral compass knows, the Occupation and Israel’s state-sanctioned persecution are entirely to blame for the violence.
A further deceit is the assertion that the violence only began when the second intifada broke out four years ago. (For “violence,” read “violence against Israelis.”)
Violence against Palestinians is daily fact of life, but is barely reported. During the “peaceful” 1990s when the Oslo fraud was in vogue, Palestinian military factions agreed to a ceasefire, but the number of illegal colonies and zionist occupiers doubled. The effects of the intifada get disproportionate attention from pro-zionist media like the Globe because they focus unwanted light on Israel’s repression and because Jewish suffering is more newsworthy than anyone else’s.
The gratuitous brass polishing of the “pragmatic” Mahmoud Abbas also shows that the editorial is intellectually suspect. What began as a sharp condemnation of Israeli criminality, has already morphed into a backhanded criticism of Palestinians. The Sasson report now seems less like an indictment of Israeli corruption than a diplomatic setback.
The editorial makes a strong bid for fairness when it said that at least half of the unauthorized settlements were built on land “legally belonging to Palestinians.”
At least half?! What about the “authorized” settlements, everyone of which is also built on land legally belonging to Palestinians? Should the Globe also not demand that Israel remove these in the name of peace?
UN Security Council Resolution 242 mandates that Israel vacate all territories occupied during the 1967 War, which started with Israel’s unprovoked invasion of Egypt on June 5, 1967. (Syria and Jordan were drawn into the war because each shared a mutual defence pact with Egypt.) Of course, Israel has never obeyed 242 or scores of other resolutions, and the U.S. doesn’t have the political independence to do anything about it.
Similarly, the editorial does not call for any punishment to be levied against Israel, and has nothing to say about redressing, much less acknowledging, the infringed rights of Palestinians.
If it were written honestly, the second paragraph would have begun something like: “Furthermore, Israel must compensate Palestinians for being denied the right to use their own land.”
Ironically, the Globe‘s call for justice ends with a supportive exhortation to Sharon, the greatest advocate of illegal settlements!:
Giving up the illegal settlements is a crucial step on the road to peace. Mr. Sharon has already made a commitment to pull out of Gaza, home of many settlers. He should now make a pledge to remove these illegal outposts from the West Bank.
As is always the case, it’s all about Israel.