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Posted in: Israel

Published on Jun 28, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

Time Magazine: What Counts as Propaganda Against Israel?


A secret admirer, perhaps a critic, has sent me a gift subscription to Time magazine. I leaf through its pages, stop at the two page layout of "The World" which displays Israel as one of ten world hot spots this week. Israel's "easing of the Gaza blockade" merits 176 words and comprises a column which is 5 ½ inches by 2 ½ inches. By contrast, China's "easing" of its financial currency restrictions (which may have major world repercussions) merits only 89 words; the refugee crisis in Kyrgyzstan which has displaced 400,000 ethnic Uzbeks merits only 82 words and a photo. Obama's Patients' Bill of Rights is only 65 words; America's additional resolutions sanctioning Iran merit only 58 words.

Am I crazy, counting words? Not really. Propaganda works, word by word when it is repeated day after day, year after year. The aim of such propaganda is to render Israel a pariah among nations–so that proposals for its elimination will seem reasonable and will achieve as welcome a reception as have the narratives about Israel murdering little Muhammad Al-Dura, committing a massacre in Jenin, harvesting Palestinian organs, and attacking non-violent humanitarians on a boat. We also understand how propaganda fulfills its mission by counting, literally, how many words are being used to focus attention on one subject, one special country. Obsessive attention versus benign neglect is also a propaganda tool.

But, some might say that Time's editors chose Israel for praise, not blame: they viewed Israel's "easing" of the "controversial" Gaza blockade as a positive accomplishment. On the other hand, Time ties this "easing" to "the Israeli raid on an aid flotilla which killed nine and drew international condemnation."

In other words: Lean on the Jew. It works. The fact that the "aid flotilla" bore hired assassins, shahids; that the so-called humanitarians knew they were aiding Hamas, an organization deemed a "terrorist" group by the United States; and that Israeli soldiers killed them in self-defense, is not acknowledged here as a contending counter-narrative.

Thus, all the other areas and issues chosen by Time: Severe Brazilian floods which left thousands homeless, the rather serious Uzbek refugee crisis, the sentencing of Somali pirates in Holland, the violence which continues, unabated, in Mugabe's Zimbabwe over the "blood diamonds," Obama's Patients' Bill of Rights, the "loosening" of China's currency restrictions, the arrest of a major drug lord, etc. deserve fewer words.

Finally, guess which country is shown first, in the #1 position, on Time's map of the world? Tiny Israel of course.

So much for what Israel is up against in terms of the allegedly neutral Western media.

Israel is also up against Israeli Jewish critics and Jewish rabbis. There are so many examples that it is hard to pick and choose any one. Well, here's one. J Street just published a full-page ad in the July 2nd edition of The Forward. It is signed by too many American rabbis to even count. While acknowledging Gilad Shalit's captivity and Hamas' rockets, it nevertheless remains committed to a "democratic Jewish state—a nation that upholds the highest human and Jewish values." It "hopes" that Israel will end the "counter-productive" Gaza blockade and remains proudly hopeful about "the possibility of two states, Jewish and Palestinian, living as neighbors, in peace and security."

The J Street rabbis absolutely refuse to understand that dealing with Hamas (or with Arafat's heirs) is a little like dealing with Hitler or with Al-Qaeda, that evil does not negotiate, nor does fascism, that Israel has tried their approach over and over again only to have "peace" and a "two-state solution" rejected by the Palestinians. What is it that they don't understand? Or is it that they are far too frightened to face an evil which is not fathomable, not receptive to appeasement, not even to surrender?

Since many of the rabbi-signatories are women and/or feminists, I wonder if they would give a battered woman or a rape victim the same advice: Sit down with your batterer, reason, compromise with him, forgive him, act non-violently, show the world that you are more ethical than he is.

Finally, over the weekend, an acquaintance sent me an article and implored me to read it with an open mind and open heart. She is an educated and religious woman who wrestles with the narrowness of Judaism. Like many writers and intellectuals, I usually first go to the footnotes and bibliography. I need to know whose shoulders a particular work is standing upon. Idly, I glanced at the recommended reading list at the end of the article. It consisted of Jimmy Carter, Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe, Tanya Reinhart, Baruch Kimmerling, the early Benny Morris. This told me all I needed to know without reading the article which, indeed, turned out to be a trite one-sided critique of Israel but one launched in a soft and "healing" voice.

Hark! A new kind of propaganda.

I wish I were part of a Ministry to Combat Propaganda in the age of post-Orwellian Newspeak. Well, maybe I already am.


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