Hysteria, ‘hasbara’ and the flotilla

Rattling the Cage: Israel’s propaganda machine is in full swing prior to the ships’ upcoming arrival.

mavi marmara flotilla_311 reuters (photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)
mavi marmara flotilla_311 reuters
(photo credit: Osman Orsal / Reuters)
I just love Israel’s “hasbara” campaign against Freedom Flotilla 2. I mean, butter wouldn’t melt in these people’s mouths.
“There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” says Ehud Barak. Gazans are “importing televisions and plasma screens, and exporting agricultural products to the entire Arab world,” says IDF chief Benny Gantz.
Yes, Gaza is economically on the mend – but not because of Israel’s good intentions; rather, despite its bad intentions.
If it were up to the government, Gazans would still be unable to receive terrorist infrastructure equipment such as toys, musical instruments, heaters, newspapers, fishing rods, tractor parts, irrigation pipes and, of course, coriander, on relief trucks coming across the border.
Why did that policy change? What forced Israel to start letting everything through except construction equipment, which it fears Hamas might use to make bunkers? It was Freedom Flotilla 1, remember? It was the killing of nine Turks aboard the Mavi Marmara by Israeli commandos on May 31, 2010, after which Israel was compelled by international outrage to begin allowing all those previously banned weapons of mass destruction – cumin, ginger, dried fruit, industrial margarine, clothing fabric, sewing machines and more – into the Strip.
Likewise, if it were up to the government, Hosni Mubarak would still be ordering Egyptian troops to search out and destroy the tunnels built by Gazans to smuggle in goods. But to the government’s dismay, Mubarak was overthrown and Egypt’s new leadership is less eager to collaborate with our Gaza policy.
The result? “Sacks of cement and piles of gravel... are smuggled through hundreds of tunnels in double shifts, day and night, totaling some 3,000 tons a day... Streets are being paved and buildings constructed,” wrote The New York Times’ Ethan Bronner last weekend.
“Things are better than a year ago,” a leading activist in the Strip told him. “The siege on goods is now 60 to 70 percent over.”
SO YOU see? No need for a flotilla, Gaza’s doing just fine, say Israeli hasbaratists, smiling through gritted teeth.
Incidentally, when Gantz said that Gaza exports agricultural produce, he neglected to mention that that’s all Israel allows Gaza to export – and not much produce, either, or for very long.
“Export from Gaza is prohibited,” wrote Gisha, a Tel Aviv-based NGO, in a pre-flotilla report last week. “Between November 2010 and April 2011, Israel exceptionally allowed export of a minimal amount of strawberries, flowers, peppers and tomatoes from Gaza to European markets. The average rate of export during that time was two truckloads per day... Since May 12, 2011, no trucks carrying goods for export have left the Strip.”
I think Freedom Flotilla 2, even without making much progress toward Gaza, is playing hell with Israel’s image – or, rather, inducing Israel to show off its worst self (much as Freedom Flotilla 1 did.) Once again, Israel has gone hysterical, it’s lost touch with reality.
The Prime Minister’s Office threatened to ban foreign journalists for 10 years and confiscate their equipment if they dared report from aboard the ships. It also publicized a YouTube video made by a Tel Aviv actor pretending to be a foreign gay activist telling how he’d been banned from the flotilla. Israeli agents, presumably, sabotaged one of the Gaza-bound ships docked in Greece. “Senior officials in Jerusalem” claimed to have intelligence that flotilla activists planned to throw sulfur on IDF soldiers coming aboard and light them on fire.
Regarding that last item, Yediot Aharonot’s Alex Fishman, dean of Israeli military correspondents, wrote Wednesday: “There isn’t a shred of substance to the report that extremist elements will put up violent resistance to IDF soldiers aboard the flotilla. Neither is there any clear information regarding deadly weapons on any of the ships. It can be assumed that this is considered a possibility – along with many other scenarios and possibilities that come up in brainstorming sessions among military and intelligence officials preparing for the flotilla.But when a possibility such as this gets turned into a fact within the context of the Israeli hasbara campaign – this can boomerang and show Israel to be lacking in credibility.”
Lacking in credibility? You don’t say! I’m still waiting for the IDF to release all the videos confiscated from the Mavi Marmara – not just those that show the people aboard beating the commandos sliding down the ropes, but the stuff that happened before and after, too, especially the footage of the commandos killing those nine people.
Why won’t the IDF let us see that? Why do “senior officials in Jerusalem” make up scare stories about the flotilla? Why does Benny Gantz try to portray Gaza as a horn of plenty? Why does Israel twist and distort and cherrypick its way through the truth about Freedom Flotilla 1, Freedom Flotilla 2, Operation Cast Lead and everything else that has to do with its treatment of Palestinians?
And why on earth does anyone believe this “hasbara” – which has come to mean “Israeli disinformation” – anymore?

The writer blogs at Israel Reconsidered (www.israelleft.com)