Israel's War on Information

By Fazila Farouk · 9 Jan 2009

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Picture: Alvaro Herraiz
Picture: Alvaro Herraiz

With the Israeli military offensive on Gaza approaching a fortnight of blood soaked bombardment, signs are beginning to emerge that a ceasefire is imminent. Its been said that it will take a few days to hammer out a peace settlement. Until a settlement is reached, Israel continues its attack on Gaza.

Believing that she holds the moral high ground in this conflict, Israel has made many claims professing her innocence and honourable intentions. 

The well-rehearsed mantra repeated by every Israeli spokesperson is firstly that the current attack on Gaza is a direct response to Hamas breaking the most recent cease-fire; and secondly that Israel’s targets are so-called Hamas militants who shamelessly use Gaza’s civilian population as human shields, hence the high civilian death toll. 

Much of what the Israeli’s say is swallowed and regurgitated by western powers and their mainstream media. France's Nicolas Sarkozy, to name but one of the prominent leaders associated with the current episode is on record condemning Hamas for being a terrorist organisation that is responsible for the bloodshed in Gaza. Disappointingly, American president-elect, Barack Obama shows no sign of deviation from this discourse.

But, the rest of the world is not being taken in so easily. 

Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni can take much of the credit for this. These past days, as the world watched in horror the carnage of the Israeli assault on Gaza and the humanitarian disaster that came with it, Livni sat stone-faced before television cameras, day after day repeating the chant that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. 

However, her words have not correlated with the images beaming out of Gaza, resulting in people all over the world, even those with a peripheral interest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, starting to question Israel’s true motives in this attack.

Earlier this week, when Israel bombed a United Nations school, killing scores of helpless children, even more doubts were cast on Israel’s assertion that she only engages in precision bombing of so-called militant hideouts. This claim has sounded far-fetched right from the beginning.  Israel's cluster bombs and free-for-all definition of what constitutes a "military target" have been more revealing of a killer with sinister motives and reckless abandon. 

As the tragedy in Gaza unfolds, human rights organisations, the alternative media and of course Al Jazeera - the only news network reporting from within Gaza (the Israelis have refused to allow other news outlets into Gaza) are emerging as a counter force to the dominant Israeli narrative. By tirelessly reporting the facts on the ground and providing context to the conflict, progressive news sources and human rights activists, writing in the blogosphere, have put pay to the misinformation being dished out by Israeli spin-doctors. 

Perhaps the biggest embarrassment for Israel came a week after her attacks on Gaza commenced, when longstanding media ally, CNN finally uncovered evidence that Hamas did not break the recent cease-fire agreement after all.

It was Israel that broke the cease-fire agreement two months ago on November 4, 2008 when an Israeli raid resulted in the killing of six Palestinian gunmen. This fact was widely reported on progressive news channels long before CNN enthusiastically bandied it about like it was “breaking news.”

Even more deplorable is the revelation from Israeli newspaper, Haaretz that Israel drew up a detailed plan to destroy Gaza six months ago -- exposing the malicious intent of Israel’s current onslaught.

Also reported by human rights activists is the fact that Israel completely sealed off Gaza’s borders the day after killing the gunmen on November 5, 2008, holding back crucial food-aid for 80% of Gazans who are dependent on aid. Sarah Roy of the Harvard Centre for Middle Eastern Studies contends that Israel had the audacity to charge the World Food Programme (WFP) storage fees for the food that was being held back at the border. The WFP paid US$215,000 and US$150,000 to the Israelis, in November and December 2008 respectively, to cover warehousing costs. 

Earlier this week, Livni had the nerve to say that there was no food shortage in Gaza, taking her cue from the fact that the WFP had stopped sending aid to Gaza, as food warehouses were packed to capacity. She failed to mention that the food warehouses were on the Israeli side of the border and were brimming to capacity because the Israelis were blocking the food’s delivery to Gaza. One can only marvel at this woman’s arrogance.

The ongoing narrative that Israelis are the victims of anti-Semitism in the Middle East, simply protecting themselves against Islamic radicals, has been ringing hollow for human rights activists for a long time. Richard Getman, Director of the Jerusalem chapter of World Vision argues in the award winning documentary “Occupation 101”, on the contrary, it is Israel that is the aggressor and her attacks on Gaza are plain harassment aimed at purging Palestinians from the occupied territories.

Reports are already surfacing that Jewish settlers, removed from Gaza two and half years ago, because their settlements were built in violation of international laws, are planning to return to their settlements even before the dust settles on this current attack.

If Americans Knew is an “independent research and information-dissemination institute, with a particular focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. foreign policy regarding the Middle East, and media coverage of this issue.” This nonprofit organisation was founded by Allison Weir, an investigative journalist, who upon travelling to the Middle East in 2001 found a situation on the ground, largely the reverse of what was being reported in the American media.

A key focus of Weir’s organisation is exposing America’s biased support for Israel as it occupies land that does not belong to it. Her institute provides well-researched and referenced data. The historical analysis of the conflict, which can be found on the institute's website, is a must read for anyone looking for accurate information on the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The institute also warns that a pro-Israel group plans to re-write history on Wikipedia.

As rational individuals and organisations use the opportunities provided by information technology to expose Israel’s crimes against humanity. Israel knows that her military might is no match for the battle in cyberspace and is employing increasingly desperate schemes in her offensive on the World Wide Web.

Yonit Farago reports that to counter the pro-Palestinian sentiment currently sweeping through the world, Israel’s foreign ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track websites and chatrooms so that networks of American and European groups that are supportive of Israel's policies can place pro-Israel messages.

According to Farago, “In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have downloaded special ‘megaphone’ software that alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or Internet polls to enable them to post contrary viewpoints. A student team in Jerusalem combs the web in a host of different languages to flag the sites so that those who have signed up can influence an opinion survey or the course of a debate.”

This is a cheap trick that smacks of desperation. Students filled with religious zeal will prove no match for the rigorous research, watertight referencing and painstaking documentation of academics, investigative journalists and human rights activists, working tirelessly to expose Israel’s racist laws and cruel behaviour.

The truth has a way of surfacing in time. We can at least take some comfort in this knowledge.

Farouk is founder and executive director of The South African Civil Society Information Service.

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Comments

Andrew Johnson
9 Jan

War on Palestinians

The onslaught of Israel on the Palestinians and the unfolding human costs are totally outrageous. The majority of the world has condemned this. Words are unfortunately not enough, what's called for is action. Venezuela's courageous act of expelling the Israeli ambassador, is probably rejected by most as diplomatic naivety, but such action could effectively lead to the proper isolation of Israel. Why is our government not taking, if nothing else, such a symbolic step? After all we should know better the pain of being on the receiving end.

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Rory Short
11 Jan

Gaza

As I understand it the majority of the people living in Gaza are Palestinians, and their descendants, who were expelled from their homes by the Israelis during the formation of the Israeli State. Israel has done nothing since then to attempt to rectify this gross injustice and in fact it has only added to the injustice as it is doing right now.

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Ingrid Blank
17 Jan

Premeditated genocide

Thank you, Fazila, for this superb article. Bolivia and Venezuela expelled the Israeli ambassador and we should do the same and add the US ambassador for good measure since the Bush regime keeps dishing out billions of dollars for Israel's war machinery and genocidal exercises, which, however, is not surprising since - according to Ariel Sharon - Israel controls America. And this scenario will never end unless the Christian churches stop brainwashing and conditioning their sheep with the false broken-record slogan that the people occupying Israel (illegally I might add) are God's chosen people and anybody opposing this is called anti-semitic. God forbid that anyone treads on Israel's toes and exposes their atrocities.

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