Comment: Israel’s ‘hasbara’ plight

Hamas’s victory Monday in connecting the opening of the US Embassy with the violence in Gaza will likely be temporary, just as the residue of Operation Protective Edge eventually faded away.

May 16, 2018 01:28
2 minute read.
Comment: Israel’s ‘hasbara’ plight

Ivanka Trump at the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem (L), and a wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip (R). May 14, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS + MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)


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There’s no doubt that Israel will prevail in any conflict with the Palestinians in Gaza. So why do we always lose in the PR battle?

It might have something to do with scores of dead Palestinians. The world – through tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram uploads – hates it when armed forces fire upon “defenseless” protesters, as the violent Gazan rioters who attempted to breach Israel’s border were described repeatedly on Monday.

The death toll for that day prompted the harshest reactions against Israel since 2014’s 50-day-long Operation Protective Edge, which resulted in more than 2,000 Palestinian deaths.

The condemnations were both official – South Africa and Turkey recalling their ambassadors – and strewn across social media.

The most common posts in an anecdotal review included American Jews expressing shame about Israel over the loss of life; blaming the violence on the embassy move (and thus on President Donald Trump); and accusing Israel and the US of celebrating in Jerusalem while Gazans suffer. Those kinds of broad brush strokes remove the complexity and depth of our humanity and of the situations, and undermine any chance for real conversation.

Those broad and simplistic responses, of course, belie the much more complex and nuanced reality, something that doesn’t reveal itself in a photo or 180 characters. But that is what Israel is up against in its Sisyphean effort to explain itself.

The opening of the embassy in Jerusalem might have been timed to coincide with the anniversary of the May 14, 1948, declaration of the State of Israel’s independence, but the fact that it also fell on the day before the annual “Nakba” or “catastrophe” commemoration by the Palestinians provided a grand opportunity for Hamas to deflect the glare of the cameras away from Jerusalem and score a huge PR victory. Split screens across the world showed shiny, happy Americans and Israelis in Jerusalem on one side, and the carnage in Gaza on the other.

No better was this exemplified than on the front page of the New York Daily News, which showed a smiling Ivanka Trump juxtaposed against a Palestinian casualty with the headline “Daddy’s Little Ghoul – 55 slaughtered in Gaza but Ivanka all smiles at Jerusalem embassy unveil.”

It neatly ties all the pieces together for casual American observers to bolster their belief that anything Trump does must be horrible. The thinking goes: He bucked a decades-long US policy on Jerusalem and moved the embassy – and as a result, the region is in flames, “innocent” Palestinians are dead, and in Jerusalem, the callous Trumps and the haughty Israelis party on.

Sure, Trump has done plenty of things as president to justify the anger against him. And because he has alienated so much of America there is nothing he can do that isn’t suspect. That makes Israel guilty by association, which burdens it with a huge handicap when trying to defend its actions.

Hamas’s victory Monday in connecting the opening of the US Embassy with the violence in Gaza will likely be temporary, just as the residue of Operation Protective Edge eventually faded away. Countries will return their ambassadors; Americans will refocus their attention on Childish Gambino’s latest video; and Israel will be left to grapple with what to do about Gaza.

A gala embassy move is not going to help solve that situation. Not as long as the screen remains split

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