Israel’s media weapons and lobbies must be conquered

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In addition to all the military power at its disposal, Israel uses other arms that are much more effective and much more lethal in the long run: the ability to lobby and the influence of media.

Anyone still naive enough to doubt that they are, particularly in America, among the most powerful weapons in the hands of expert propagandists should consider what happened when the Washington Post dared to state that Sharon was losing support in the White House.

In an article on Wednesday, the paper quoted “administration sources” as saying that “Israel’s continued defiance of President Bush’s demand for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian cities and towns is eroding support for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon inside the White House.”

This immediately prompted the spokesman of the most powerful administration on this planet to rush to the media to hastily appease fears that the United States government, God forbid, was even remotely critical of Sharon. With a perfectly straight face, Ari Fleischer reassured everyone that “the President believes that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace.”

If George W. Bush really thinks that Sharon is a man of peace, one can only guess what kind of a man the president is himself. Apparently, he does not mind being publicly rebuffed, over and over again, by the Israeli prime minister, nor does he mind being a mere servant of the Israeli propaganda machine.

An advantage of this Israeli PR club is that no matter how crowded it gets, there is always room for more merchants of deception, no matter what their backgrounds. Bush has plenty of company in this fan club of the Jewish state, where membership is restricted to those who can tell a lie.

When Sharon calls on one of his most serious potential opponents in the next Israeli elections (and one of his harshest critics with regard to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority) to jump on the bandwagon of Israel’s public relations system, one can only recoil in horror at the quantity of lies these two fanatics will be feeding an already biased media and a far from objective US political establishment.

It is clear that Benjamin Netanyahu has been doing his dirty job well. The former Israeli prime minister had most American congressmen eating out of his hand again, following a speech that exceeded even his own previous capacity for deceit.

After having arrogantly dismissed Secretary of State Colin Powell’s mission to the Middle East as one that “won’t amount to anything,” and a day after having condemned US demands for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns, Netanyahu still had open access to the top officials of the American administration, including Vice-President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice.

In spite of Netanyahu’s open criticism, it appears that Cheney and Rice gave him a reception that was just as warm as the one the National Press Club and the American Enterprise Institute gave him. But his most adoring fans were undoubtedly the members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee who, right in the heart of Congress, listened to Netanyahu’s 20-minute speech openly criticizing American “peace efforts” and laying the blame for the current crisis on Yasser Arafat only.

Not a single congressman felt his intelligence had been insulted when Netanyahu distorted even the pictures seen on every television screen since the beginning of the latest Israeli incursion, or when he implied that Israeli forces had been humane by sending ground troops “rather than bomb Palestinian populated cities and towns from the air” (nor did anyone point out that they did indeed bomb them).

Not a single congressman objected to renewed Israeli attempts to milk Sept. 11 and to equate Israeli deaths with it (“a per capita toll equivalent to half-a-dozen Sept. 11s” according to Netanyahu). No one rejected as preposterous Netanyahu’s description of Palestinian preschools as “ghoulish kindergarten camps that glorify suicide martyrdom.” Likewise, not a single congressman reminded Netanyahu that his call for physical barriers to separate the Palestinian population from Israelis was tantamount to establishing ghettos, supposedly so hated and so condemned by Jews.

Countering each and every one of Netanyahu’s claims is easy, since he failed to make a single responsible or accurate statement. Cunningly using America’s own reasoning with regard to “fighting terrorism,” his speech was an inflammatory call to expel the Palestinian president who, he said, “has indoctrinated a generation of Palestinians in a culture of death, producing waves of human bombs that massacre Jews.”  But responding to his lies and blatant fabrications is not the object here; rather, the object is to call on the wronged party to once and for all realize where the real battle is taking place.

The despicable Netanyahu and his likes are more damaging than a hundred F-16s. They have been lying to the American establishment, abusing its trust and taking it for a ride. It is time Arabs put a stop to this, beat the Israeli and Jewish lobbies at their own game and apply their own lobbying skills, but with facts.

While Arabs are currently doing a great job of exposing Israel’s inhumanity, they continue to preach to the converted. The Arab media, which has reached excellent levels of professionalism in a very short time, should beware of catering only to a “woe is me” attitude which only frustrates people even more and leaves them feeling powerless to do anything. Concentrating only on its own misery will do the Arab world no good whatsoever, especially when the adversary is calmly explaining its malicious point of view in powerful circles.

Having a lot of catching up to do to reach the level of persuasion of Western media, Arab media must adapt its strategy to empower the collective viewpoint and give credence to the Arab position. This is a long-winded, but necessary mission.

Activists for the Arab cause must be heard, not only in Arab media, but in Washington, New York, London, and other centers of power in the world. For every voice supporting Israel and distorting the truth, 10 voices capable of countering the lies and presenting the facts must rise to try to narrow the gap of representation.

Palestinians themselves have even stopped asking about Arab help and support, for they have gotten the message. No Arab army is going to come to their defense, and Arab generals will continue to exhibit their medals of mysterious origin on military parades and at diplomatic cocktails, but not on the battlefield.

However, there are other Arab armies at large, only too willing to participate in the defense of the Palestinian people, and only too eager to help shatter the illusion that Israel is democratic and to denounce the travesty of its “yearning for peace.”

With their pens, their voices, their contacts, their determination, Arabs everywhere must take over the battle in a calculated, planned manner. If they continue to only “react” to events, they will spend a lifetime trying to catch up with those who distort history so well. But if they adopt a clear policy of planning and preparing, they will certainly get a wider platform and a greater, more positive response.

Arabs must learn to lobby the world’s decision-makers and those who influence them, and they must learn to confront the media to live up to its supposed Hippocratic oath of impartiality.  Only when this is attempted can they dream of justice.

Rime Allaf is a writer and specialist in Middle East affairs. She is also a consultant in international communications and new economy business.

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