Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Making Israel Pretty

We'll never have a clearer demonstration of the Israel Lobby's unwarranted influence over the U.S. media. Israel, backed and armed by the world's sole superpower, is committing atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza, an ethnic group, confined to a tiny strip of land, that Israel has attempted to starve into submission for over a year and a half. Defending the ethnic group is Hamas, an irregular force armed largely with makeshift weapons like rockets it manufactures from steel tubes and fertilizer.

Yet to hear America's newspaper of record tell the story, Israeli forces face a "war full of traps and trickery." According to a January 10 New York Times story by Steven Erlanger, Hamas, "with training from Iran and Hezbollah" (of course), has turned Gaza "into a deadly maze of tunnels, booby traps and sophisticated roadside bombs."

Ah, yes: all failed Middle East policies lead to Iran. It's funny how Iran, a country whose entire gross domestic product is less than what America has spent on its woebegone wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, can call all the shots in the region. Even more astounding is how, merely by showing an oppressed people how to dig tunnels and make weapons out of scrap materials, Iran can run rings around a global hegemon that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined.

Maybe it helps that Hamas fighters are, as the NYT says, "Unwilling to take Israel’s bait and come into the open." That statement contains two glaring absurdities. First is the notion that guerilla fighters would dream of fighting "in the open" like a conventional army. Second is the inference that Israel's army had any expectation of catching Hamas out in the open. They know all about how guerillas fight from watching us shoot ourselves in the baby makers in Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan. Erlanger makes a point of noting that "Hamas militants are fighting in civilian clothes; even the police have been ordered to take off their uniforms." Jesus, Larry and Curly. If Hamas fighters bothered to wear uniforms, they might as well simply huddle together in a parking lot, paint Day-Glo bulls' eyes on their chests, and slap neon signs on their backs that say "KILL ME!"

Erlanger relates grisly tales of Hamas's underhanded tactics; all of them sourced to anonymous "Israeli intelligence officials," "Israeli officials," and "Israelis." One such story appears at first blush to be an eyewitness account from an imbedded Israeli reporter, but on second reading it's clearly hearsay relayed from "Israeli soldiers." The NYT perfected this covert propaganda technique back in 2002, when Judith Miller and Michael R. Gordon cited unnamed "officials" more than twenty times to sell Dick Cheny's Nigergate hoax to an American public still reeling from the 9/11 attacks.

In one passage, Erlinger says that the name of the commander of an Israeli engineering unit "cannot be published under censorship rules." He's talking about Israeli censorship rules, which appear to be the keystone of the NYT's journalistic standards.

Industry Standard

Erlanger makes sure we know what Israeli forces are doing to "minimize collateral damage," like warning civilians "by leaflets, loudspeakers and telephone calls to evacuate battle areas." Erlanger doesn't explain that even if Israelis send Palestinian civilians candy-grams, they won't have any place to evacuate to. Erlanger also writes about a "small-diameter smart bomb" the Israelis use to "minimize" damage in an urban area, and a missile that doesn’t explode at all, but he offers no word of explanation from the Israelis on why they found it necessary to fire bomb Gaza City with white phosphorous for several days before they attempted to enter the city.

Erlanger cites Israeli officials echoing the propaganda mantra that "Hamas is using civilians as human shields," which is a malevolently disingenuous way of describing what's really going on; Hamas is defending the Palestinian people on their home turf.

Ironically, though Erlanger lets Israeli officials accuse Hamas of hiding behind women and children and refusing to fight in the open, he also cites them describing how their troops move "only behind tanks and armored bulldozers, riding in armored personnel carriers, spending as little time in the open as possible."

You have to wonder how that one slipped past the unnamed Israeli censors.

In a 2002 article for The Nation, journalist Michael Massing says the "main obstacle" to U.S. media standing up to the influence of Israel Lobby groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is "fear." In The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Professors John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard note: "The Lobby's perspective on Israel is widely reflected in the mainstream media because most American commentators are pro-Israel."

The professors quote the late Wall Street Journal editor Robert Bartley as saying, "Shamir, Sharon, Bibi—whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me." Mearsheimer and Walt further cite the memoir of former New York Times executive editor Max Frankel who confesses that he "wrote most of our Middle East commentaries…from a pro-Israel perspective."

They also detail how the Israel Lobby influences news reporting through letter campaigns, boycotting, demonstrations, and pressure from Congress where, as journalist Ari Berman puts it, "unconditional support for Israel" is "an accepted cost of doing business."

The coverage of the Gaza monstrosity by Bill Kristol and the rest of the Big Brother Broadcast has been atrocious enough, but "mainstream" reporting, like the Erlanger article, has been little better. One has to reach to the "alternative" press to grasp the key truths about Israel's invasion of Gaza:

Hamas did not, as Condi Rice claims, stage an "illegal coup" in Gaza. It won political power in open elections in January 2006, at which time the Bush administration launched machinations to reverse the results of the election. Hamas did not violate the ceasefire; Israel violated it when it sent troops into Gaza in November 2008, and Hamas did not refuse to extend the ceasefire in December. Hamas offered to renew the peace agreement and Israel spurned the offer.

I doubt even George Orwell expected that a great western nation's information environment could become as utterly corrupted as America's is today. Here we are, almost a decade into the 21st century, proving the veracity of 18th satirist Voltaire's admonition that "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. "makes sure we know what Israeli forces are doing to "minimize collateral damage," Er, like using phosphorous incendiary bombs so the civies can more easily find the exits?

  2. Just try bringing this up to someone in LA with many Jewish friends. Oy. Oy vey.

    "Look at some maps of Israel dating frm 1948 to now!" doesn't work.

    "Open your eyes!" doesn't work.

    "Find out how the maps have changed over the years!" doesn't work.

    "Find out how the Israeli Government seizes land!" doesn't work.


  3. You get it Jeff, I get it. Most Americans don't, and that is by design.

    30 minutes worth of video that may open some American eyes.

    I started following world events and reading non-fiction, almost exclusively on September 12, 2001.

    I very quickly realized how focused the "Arab street" is on events in Israel/Palestine. Maps of Israel dating from 1948 to now are interesting to say the least.

  4. Yep. Israel is no doubt rueing the existence of those maps.


  5. Well I can tell you that the book I read at the library that had maps very clearly showing the progression and shrinkage of the territories of Israel and Palestine is no longer in circulation at my branch because I remember what it looked like and I can't find it, though unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the book or the author.

    I never used to think that was important.
    Ah, live and learn I suppose.

  6. Here's the 47 map with the pre-1948 war UN assigned boundaries.


  7. Anonymous10:24 AM

    Great writing. I wish you could reach a wider audience.

  8. Jimmy Carter's book - "Palestine - Peace Not Apartheid" has a series of three maps.

    Map No. 1. shows the Middle East today.
    Map No. 2. shows the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan.
    Map No. 3. shows Isreal from 1947- through 1967.

    Ironically, I ordered this book on-line. I bought it used. (They are less expensive that way.) and it is a copy that was "officially withdrawn" from the Glendale Public Library, (on Brown Street) in Glendale Arizona. There may have been many other libraries who did similar "withdrawals."

    Further irony. When Professor's Walt and Mearshiemer finally found someone to publish thier work - it was roundly "condemned" by the leadership in both parties, and by our new President-Elect. Strangely, none of them admitted to having read it. (Obama included.)

    Same thing happened to Carter's book when he went on his book tour. (I admire the man so much... he has this wonderful "to hell with them" attitude.) The House Speaker blustered something to the effect that the Former President didn't speak for the Democratic Party. Again, Ms. Pelosi admitted she hadn't read his work.

    Don't you at least have to read something, before you can be taken seriously as a book critic?

    Carter is now working on a new book on the MidEast. I think you can probably get a copy of the current one --- somewhere.

    I'm not a war strategist, Commander. I'm a great-grandmother, with lots of family, and some dogs.

    However, they way I see this current bloodbath is this way: If Hamas survives --- Israel lost again.

  9. Thanks, Anon. I'm working on that.


    It appears to me that Israel is real happy with inciting a Muslim uprising globally.


  10. General Quarters1:23 PM

    For those who like their circuses in real time, here's a link to a 24/7 Gaza cam.



  11. For you news junkies --- check out Livestation.com. I think you can get a kazillion tv stations world wide.

    You can watch, in real time, the Al Jazeera reports from Gaza.

    The IDF is not letting any foreign correspondents into Gaza.

    The Al Jazeera correspondents never left.

  12. Anonymous7:17 PM

    What will it take to end the Israeli dominance of the US government? What will it take to end the genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere?
    Woefully, the only solution that I am able to conceive of is that we become as evil as the enemy. If we fall to this level all rhetoric and speech will be useless. The majority of Americans are taken in be the media and will not be persuaded to go against their propagandists unless they are personally injured by their beliefs. Run for the hills!!!

  13. That's a good question. We're talking about a society that's been programed to consume whatever slop Madison Ave. and Hollywood sells it, so...

  14. Interesting discussion, especially for this morning.

    The IDF may have, finally, pissed off a lot of people -- in that they bombed a U.N. warehouse full of food stuffs, and people, in Gaza.

    Headlines in the NYT, in WAPO, in the UK Independent, where Gordon Brown calls the bombing/shelling "indefensible."

    The U.N Secretary General is outraged, as most people of conscience would be.

    Even MSNBC on-line, expresses outrage.

    No word at all (yet) from any of the pols in the Halls of The United States Congress.

    I'm an optimist. The "consumption" variable may be changing. If it is..... it's because of the questions that have been asked .... since this whole thing started.

    Maybe we are no longer that easily led to back stupid/dumb wars.

    (One can always hope.)

    I expect this will end, simultaneously with the end of the Bush to Israel "Do whatever you want" era.

    Again, there's always hope.

  15. Anonymous1:34 PM

    I read a post this morning at Suburban Guerrilla about the injuries (amputations) caused by a new munition called a DIME weapon that Israel is also denying they use. Is this perhaps the "small-diameter smart bomb" mentioned in your post?

    I googled "DIME weapons" and found lots - here's one article: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/dime.htm

    The description of the injuries in the post at SG are graphic - this DIME critter, supposedly designed to confine damage to a small area sure sounds nasty. I wonder why development has focused on weapons to be used in urban areas. Has the government gotten even more paranoid than we thought?

  16. The new weapons are horrible. We are expecting the Israelis to drop a God Rod soon...

  17. Looks like DIME is the limited diameter weapon, yes.


  18. When I check the sitemeter on my blog, two of the biggest Google searches that land people on my blog are "religion sucks" and "DIME weapon." The third biggest is "dupont layoffs."


    I'm really sick of the whole world being sucked into the Israel/Palestine mess.

  19. I'm sick of it too, Nunya. Thanks for the link to the maps.


  20. Here are some links to the exotic weaponry being 'tested' in Gaza:

    'Tungsten bombs' leave Israel's victims with mystery wounds
    As it declares a unilateral ceasefire, Jerusalem faces a UN call for a war crimes investigation


    Outcry over weapons used in Gaza http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/01/200911916132228885.html

    DN! http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/14/white_phosphorous_and_dense_inert_metal

    Of course, when theres no time for WP or DIME fanciness, you could just shoot them in the head (that should teach those terrorist toddlers!)

    And then what some in Israel may look forward to:

    Israel expects army officers to be prosecuted for war crimes

    War crimes lawsuits Israel fears wave of war crimes lawsuits over Gaza offensive http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1056677.html

  21. Thanks for the great links!


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