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Veiled Mona Lisa, Missiles over Big Ben: Israeli War Propaganda Hits New Lows

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(h/t: Shawn)

Veiled Mona Lisa, Missiles over Big Ben: Israeli War Propaganda Hits New Lows

By Lior Sternfeld (Informed Comment)

It has been a month since the current war in Gaza started. The number of casualties is beyond our ability to comprehend. Every Israeli or Palestinian that dies breaks not only the heart but also any chance for rapprochement in the foreseeable future. While both sides are attempting to shape public perceptions (and some pro-Palestinian sites err in descending into anti-Semitism or making fruitless analogies to Syria), I want here to make some points about what is distinctive in this war about Israeli “Hasbara” or propaganda.

On the pro-Israel side, the publicity effort crossed a previous red line: outsourcing of the Israeli ‘Hasbara’ (propaganda). Following the spirit that overflowed Israel in the recent decades, the time has come to outsource the propaganda machine. Fox News has never been more popular in Israel, and memes taken from substandard newscasts pop up everywhere on the social media. Organizations such as “Stand with US” and “We Stand with Israel” disseminate false information that serves only to incite people around the world to make a stand against the Palestinians.

The Facebook page of “We Stand with Israel” still shows a picture from a public school in an Arab town in Israel of kids celebrating the miraculous night journey of prophet Mohammad, the caption however takes the photo completely out of context and explain that the kids were actually “rooting” for Hamas. The photo was taken two months before the war erupted and presented as if taken during the fighting. Even after the Israeli Ministry of Education clarified that the caption was taken out of context, this meme was still posted as “revealing the real nature of the Palestinians,” even those live in Israel.

Another active actor is “Ask Dr. Brown.” In the propaganda war, all means are legitimate. This map also went viral on the social media, asking, in English of course: “how did you sleep?” Asking Americans or Europeans how they slept might be addressing the wrong crowd. I would very much like to know how the people in Gaza slept the same night. Make no mistake, being at the risk of having rocket targeting your home is the gravest of all. One who never experienced it will never know. However, can someone really compare the risk of living anywhere in Israel, to the risk of living anywhere in Gaza?

The appeal to a common “Judeo-Christian civilization” became prominent in other media outlets as well. A usually highly professional source, such as NPR interviews on a daily basis speakers for both Palestine and Israel. The Israelis on air are usually U.S. born Israeli diplomats, who speak polished American English, or rather Republican-American English. The Palestinian speakers, no matter how eloquent always have this accent, which in the American popular culture is identified with the villain, hence once again (and I really do not know how intentional it is) signaling the Israelis are just like us. The Palestinians– well, think about it. Dehumanization is a huge part of the problem here.

Yet another campaign portrays cities in the West (London, NY, Paris) attacked by rockets or surprised by tunnels, raising yet again the question: “what would you do?” Is there any way possible to ask this question out of context? Is England currently in territorial dispute with any nation whose land it occupies or shutters its economy? Has NY City imposed a blockade on the civilian population of New Jersey that merited digging tunnels into the city?

Another facet of this out-of-context campaign is showing recognized symbols like the Mona Lisa, or Lady Liberty veiled in an equally recognized Muslim symbols (kafiyeh, green robes, veil), in hopes of associating everyday items in Muslim life with some sort of vague threat. This kind of campaign is even more dangerous than those listed above. This one can be used to fuel Islamophobia and other sectarian tensions in already highly intense times.

The point of this propaganda is aligning the world (i.e. the West) with Israel. Make them understand that we, Israelis, are more like you, Westerners. We are peace-loving people, not like those “animals.” But of course, there are only humans in this conflict, and none are more equal than the others.

Lior Sternfeld has just successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation in History at the University of Texas, Austin

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  • Friend of Bosnia

    Well, in any case I thank you for your sharp as a nail description of that … Nemanja, ah, Emir Kusturica. Yes, a terrible human being, that’s what he is.
    Indeed, being famous does not mean being good. The name Jimmy Savile comes to mind…

  • Mehdi

    You’re not, come on!!

  • Friend of Bosnia

    Oh, I just try my best not to be a hypocrite.

  • Mehdi

    Great comment, and for the record, I wouldn’t compare you nor anyone honest with Kusturica, a fine artist but a terrible human being, an opportunist who likes to quote Marx while using nationalism and a sick sense of nostalgia to make money, while rewriting history.
    You are a strong and generous person and deserve much more than comparing to a pathetic person like Kustrurica, even if he’s famous.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    I have to thank you.

  • Jekylll,
    You need no education from a person like me, because you have enough education to think correctly for yourself, loved ones, your community and house of worship, whatever it may be. Church, Mosque, or etc…..
    At any rate, thank you for the expressed confidence.

  • Beautiful, to say the least, Friend of Bosnia.
    Having , sometimes, a tendency to read between the lines, I can detect the whole content of your post, from start to finish, has come from the heart of someone who had encountered personal anguish/agony, resulting from the harsh reality, or a better word harsh environment, that had engulfed his or her life like an Earth-Quick, for which, he or she was totally and completely unprepared for. The way you have put it together is absolutely so splendid, so beautiful and so marvelous, not for me alone, but for anyone who is interested to know. You have left me speechless for being so transparent and so honest. I simply cannot thank you enough.
    Being an Agnostic, does not really refrain me from expressing encouragement to my loved ones, not only to believe in a religion but more important to practice it daily. Reasons:
    (1) Since the first act of war that is known to the human race was when Cain had murdered his brother Abel. Its essence was ugly like all the wars that were subsequently suffered by the human race .
    (2) Based on reason (1), as the Old Testament clearly stated, one may conclude that human nature is made up of a mixture of evilness, as well as goodness.
    (3) Within the total fabric of the human nature, the struggle between good and evil is steady and endless.
    (4) Accepting reasons, (1), (2) and (3) outlined above will lead to the most important reason of them all which is reason number (4) and will be written in capital alphabets for emphasis: BECAUSE OF THE HUMAN NATURE THE WAY IT IS, RELIGIONLESS HUMANITY, A HUMANITY WITH NO RELIGIOUS GUADANCES, WILL END UP LIKE A BUNCH OF ANIMALS LIVING IN A HUGE GUNGLE CALLED MOTHER EARTH-ANAMILISTIC BABERITY AND EVEN CANABALISM. THEREFORE, RELIGIONS ARE SSENTIAL TO THE HUMAN RACE AS CLEAN WATER AND HEALTHY FOOD. IN SHORT, RELIGIONS KEEP THE EVILNESS OF THE HUMAN NATURE UNDER LEASH PERIOD.
    Friend of Bosnia: I have meticulously responded to your post for two reasons: (A) I have liked your post so much and felt that I should respond in kind, and (B) I wanted to make myself very clear, as to where I really stand concerning religions, in spite of the fact of being an Agnostic.
    AND THANK YOU FOR THE OPPURTUNITY.

  • Friend of Bosnia

    You’re OK Sodium. I can understand your feelings very well, they’re the same I felt in 1992-95.
    I wonder how many people feel the same too. For you it might have been easier. But in certain societies, you just don’t leave the faith of your ancestors. Because these are very tribal societies. You don’t take the “other’s” faith, because if you do you become an outcast.
    Yet it was not the war, the treason of the Bosnian Croats against he Bosniaks or the massacres such as Srebrenica what made me (re)turn Islam, it was, as for you, the impression I got of it, and a very powerful experience I had when I was abroad. Let’s say an angel was sent my way. Even then it took me some time.
    Having said that the IS and such are not Muslims. They behave like cetniks, and you know, flaps like a duck, quacks like a duck… then it can only be a duck. Allah forbid that such people come into our midst.
    Now somebody might claim I’m no better than Emir Kusturica because he had the courage to leave his faith and turn towards another one. But it’s not as simple as that. I for one have not taken the faith of the enemy of my people, in time of war to boot, nor have I put myself at their service, and all that for vain and fatuous reasons in the bargain. Not to mention greed and opportunism.

  • Mehdi

    May I suggest the following?

    The legal status of dimmis in the Islamic West
    Just read a review, seems like an interesting read http://www.amazon.com/Eighth-Ninth-Fifteenth-Centuries-Christian-Societies/dp/2503548547

  • No, Jekyll, you have missed the score, here, by a wide margin. And when you invoke God in the discussion I know very well that it is about time for me to withdraw from it and let you have your way, any way you see appropriate to serve what you believe in.
    By the way, thanks for the author’s name of the book, dealing with Balfour Declaration. I will check the book and see whether it deserves spending time on reviewing it or not.

  • Jekyll
  • Tanveer ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Khan

    All of them

  • Twice I responded in kind and twice the editors deleted them, depriving you of an enjoyable laugh, or at least a smile.

  • Tanveer ¯_(ツ)_/¯ Khan

    I’m a strong woman.

  • The first book: Modern Middle East ?
    My Comment: I wish they kept it Un-Modern Middle East, instead of screwing it up the way they did. Nah. You can have it.
    The second book: Six Months That Changed the World.
    My Comment: The world has been in constant and ceaseless changes since the Big Ban, if ever there was one. Nah, you can have it.
    The third book: Modern Middle East ?
    My Comment: Same comment as for the first book.
    The fourth book: 1919 Versailles ( Treaty )
    My Comment: The 1919 Versailles Treaty was a real mean one. It had bankrupted Germany and was the real fornicator for the birth of World War Two. Nah, you can have it.
    The fifth book: The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
    My Comment: Now you are talking with words made of pure gold. Will you please tell me the name of the author or may be authors and will be most appreciative.
    A good attempt, Jekyll. Thank you.

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