I recently read an article titled “New Information Agency Winning Support For Israel” (Globe and Mail). It described how Israel was skillfully managing the propaganda front of it’s attack on Gaza by effectively swaying the nature of news and opinion coverage on all media fronts. Even YouTube was being flooded with video that portrayed Israeli military operations in a favorable light. Israel had gone to great lengths to ensure that the major media outlets as well as new media such as YouTube and popular news blogs and discussion sites would spin the unfolding events in a way that benefits Israel.
But this spin is only a miniscule part of the propaganda campaign that has gone on for years - the one that tells the endlessly repeated story about the imminent threat to Israel’s existence posed by the Palestinians. Every controversial action, no matter how outrageous, no matter how destructive, is justified on the grounds of removing threats to Israel’s security. Considering the vast discrepancy between Israel’s military capabilities and the almost shantytown existence of Palestinians in Gaza, it is a sign of the resounding success of Israeli propaganda that this fable has gained general acceptance. A fenced in, long term refugee camp (whose inhabitants struggle to raise themselves from poverty amongst endless import restrictions, trade blockades, travel barriers) is no threat to one of the best-equipped military states in the world. The real threat is to the Palestinians, whose land continues to be stolen a few homes at a time and encroached upon one fence at a time by the Israelis. The world seems too busy, too occupied, or too diffident to pay attention to this continuous process of annexation which continues under various pretexts, or to the constant hardships imposed through restricting the flow of essential goods available to the Palestinians, or to the intolerable living conditions and psychological pressures that arise as a result of the ever-shrinking options open to them.
Propaganda and spin - these have been effectively pressed into service by Israel over the years. In this current crisis, Israel’s Information Agency is openly claiming that it’s strategies and it’s seeding of the media with biased material is a wonderfully effective strategy. After all, the aim of such an agency is to serve a particular ideology and to bend all information, all facts, to the service of that ideological aim.
By it’s nature an ideological approach is a reductionist approach since the wide sweeping complex panorama of reality is then reduced to fit set ideological directions. It provides a set of facile algorithms which grind up available facts and re-form the resultant paste by pouring it into a preset ideological mold.
A process like this works well for a nation like Israel whose Zionist ideology does not seem to allow for a truly fair and legitimate shared existence with the Palestinians, nor will it accept and act on criticism of that ideology, even that which arises from within the state. This is because this ideology is more connected to will and power than to knowledge and morality. In other words, ideology trumps knowledge and morality. It reshapes, rejects, accepts, and even manufactures “knowledge” (as propaganda) according to the goals (will) of the ideology and in seeking it’s own preservation and growth (power).
A combination of ideology and effective propaganda has the potential to make people apathetic, cold, indifferent, or even pleased at the plight of others - those others who hold conflicting viewpoints. No longer able to see each other’s humanity, they instead see ideological ciphers. This allows a state or group to undertake unsavory or repugnant actions - bombings, aggressive and unbalanced military action, killing of civilians etc. - in order to accomplish that which they desire to accomplish, to carry out their business with a minimal amount of moral outcry. Hamas is guilty of this with it’s pitiful and foolish rocket attacks on Israel, and Israel prods the Palestinians through a myriad of continuous and purposeful provocations designed to generate just such a response that will allow it to take heavy-handed retaliatory action without being restrained by the international community.
This type of scenario has played out over and over again since the creation of Israel as a Zionist state. Over the years, the existence of groups such as Hamas, Fatah, the PLO, have all been used to excuse the refusal to come to a fair accommodation with the Palestinian people (to allow a viable Palestinian state) and to justify wholesale slaughter, expropriation of land, and greater restrictions on the already hamstrung Palestinian population. Israel will always manufacture excuses since it acts, not on the demands of the situation, but on an ideological imperative that will brook no other course of action, no other goal but complete capitulation of the Palestinians to Israeli demands.
And now the Israeli’s have become far more proficient in their management of international perceptions, so that, with barely a whisper of protest from governments or the major media outlets, they go to their brutal task with speed and amoral ease.