First Published: 2009-01-07

Israeli propaganda takes international beating

Despite Israel’s propaganda campaigns on Gaza conflict, world public opinion remains critical of Tel Aviv.


Middle East Online

You can’t fool all the people all the time

TEL AVIV - Israel has taken a battering in the global media battle over its war on Gaza, despite deploying a propaganda campaign that used Youtube and blogs, experts said.

Populations and even governments worldwide have slammed the Israeli military onslaught on the Gaza Strip, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemning attacks near UN schools that killed dozens and foreign media angry at being kept out of the Palestinian territory.

With images of parents carrying lifeless children to overwhelmed hospitals dominating international media, angry protests have been staged in major capitals and Israeli websites have reportedly come under cyber attack.

European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told President Shimon Peres in a meeting on Tuesday that "Israel's image is being destroyed" by its refusal to heed appeals for a ceasefire.

Hamas has been largely shunned by western media, but its plight – as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the West Bank and even in East Jerusalem – is recognized by much of the world. .

Israel has sought to blame Hamas for its attacks on Gaza, ignoring the fact that Hamas was democratically elected by the Palestinians and that the people in Gaza know very well that Israel is the party behind their suffering.

But that fact is not commonly known in the West, where Israeli propaganda enjoys a large influence.

Israeli military spokeswoman Major Avital Liebovich and Israeli ambassadors have joined the television battle.

The defence ministry in Tel Aviv has posted videos of Israeli air strikes on Youtube, and the government has also tried to spur debates on Facebook.

But both sites are also a favorite of peace and humanitarian activists condemning Israeli policies long before Israel’s new offensive.

The Israeli consulate in New York this week organised a Twitter social networking debate on the merits of the war which drew more than 2,500 bloggers.

But blogs are the last place Israeli propaganda is expected to prevail, where they have long been used as a platform to expose Israeli ‘crimes’.

Israel says it will not let world public opinion sway the decision whether to call a ceasefire in the conflict that has left more than 680 Palestinians dead since December 27 -- a third of them children.

According to the president's office, Peres replied to Ferrero-Waldner: "We are not in the business of public relations or improving our image."

But experts say Peres tells a lie as Israel is doing all it can to present its war on the besieged Palestinian population in Gaza as an act of “self defense”.

Israel last year had hired a British public relations firm that had worked with Lebanon and the Northern Ireland governments on their image, experts say.

The Israelis "are the ones who have a grip on communications," said Dominique Wolton, a specialist on media at France's National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris.

"But Israel will not win the communications battle because whatever Israel's legitimate rights are, the unbalanced use of force and the unleashing of violence by Israel is acting against it.

"The Palestinians are not saying a lot. Israel has a grip on the communications and Israel manages its very well," Wolton commented. "The word 'terrorist' is systematically linked to Palestinians."

Charles Tripp, professor of Middle East politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, said that in Europe, "the very powerful images of what's happening to civilians in Gaza must be having a greater impact than seeing Israeli spokesmen talking about the war on terror.

"In many ways, one of the main targets of the Israeli propaganda is Europe and the US, and I would have thought they're not doing too well there."

Meanwhile, two press rights groups Wednesday urged a media corridor in Gaza and called for Israel to allow journalists to work unfettered in the conflict zone.

Israel had blocked international journalists from entering Gaza. Israel had also bombed a Hamas-run TV station during its second day of raids against Gaza.


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