Vulgar propaganda: Israel in Haiti vs the real Israel

The National Times, of course, has vulgar Israeli propaganda about its aid in Haiti. This is why people are cynical about Israel’s efforts. I mean, look at the vulgarity of what is written

“Israelis seem determined to do all they can to help the inhabitants of a frail nation thousands of miles away, people with no connection to Israel other than the fact that they both have a history of suffering. Watching the Israeli response, it is striking to see the enormous gap between the grotesque image of Israel woven by its enemies and the reality of the country’s character.”

The propagandist goes on to claim that Israel is so unfairly smeared, even being accused of killing Palestinian children and being bloodthirsty and amoral creatures (note the conflation of actual criticisms with fabrications). These are supposedly all in the traditions of medieval anti-Semitism. And then:

They will ignore Israel’s restraint but if the escalation ultimately leads to a response, they will fulminate against Israel’s efforts to stop its attackers and they will ignore it in discussing the tough question of the Gaza blockade. What would critics do if their own civilians were subjected to thousands of rocket attacks?

It is not a tough question, and if anyone were to talk about civilians being subjected to rocket attacks, it would be Gazans. “A grateful mother named her new baby “Israel”.” Look at how even that was trotted out. The conclusion is unbelievable:

Israel’s demonisers will concoct sinister reasons for Israel’s good deeds. You can count on that. Israel’s response to Haiti’s plight shows the country’s true face – a face its enemies don’t want you to see.

I think its vulgar, but I think this shows how defensive Israeli propaganda is. To wipe away the moral stains from Gaza, they can’t just aggressively promote the aid effort. Um, I think this is the problem Israel faces. Bad news sticks on countries easier than good news, and once a country has a reputation of violating human rights, it is hard (if not impossible) to erase that reputation.

But let’s go from the dreaded critics of Israel to Israeli media. What do they say? Put aside the Ynet article I mentioned the other day. Let’s just look at Haaretz.

Firstly, it’s basically openly acknowledged that the Haiti operation was designed to show a new face to the world of Israel.

Netanyahu told the returning team. “As many plot against us, distort and muddy our names, you have shown the real IDF.”

“Many have tried recently to tarnish our image,” Ashkenazi said in his welcome. “With you deeds, you have proven that the opposite is true.”

In his welcoming address, Barak added his own accolades and praised the team for its efforts. “We all watched with excitement as the eyes of the world were on you. It warmed the heart to see you fulfill your professional mission.”

“In a world where the IDF is criticized, you showed the true spirit of the IDF and the true spirit of Israel,” Barak added.

Okay, so let’s read Akiva Eldar – who really isn’t a radical by any means – in Haaretz.

But the remarkable identification with the victims of the terrible tragedy in distant Haiti only underscores the indifference to the ongoing suffering of the people of Gaza. Only a little more than an hour’s drive from the offices of Israel’s major newspapers, 1.5 million people have been besieged on a desert island for two and a half years. Who cares that 80 percent of the men, women and children living in such proximity to us have fallen under the poverty line? How many Israelis know that half of all Gazans are dependent on charity, that Operation Cast Lead created hundreds of amputees, that raw sewage flows from the streets into the sea?

The disaster in Haiti is a natural one; the one in Gaza is the unproud handiwork of man. Our handiwork. The IDF does not send cargo planes stuffed with medicines and medical equipment to Gaza. The missiles that Israel Air Force combat aircraft fired there a year ago hit nearly 60,000 homes and factories, turning 3,500 of them into rubble. Since then, 10,000 people have been living without running water, 40,000 without electricity. Ninety-seven percent of Gaza’s factories are idle due to Israeli government restrictions on the import of raw materials for industry. Soon it will be one year since the international community pledged, at the emergency conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, to donate $4.5 billion for Gaza’s reconstruction. Israel’s ban on bringing in building materials is causing that money to lose its value.

A few days before Israeli physicians rushed to save the lives of injured Haitians, the authorities at the Erez checkpoint prevented 17 people from passing through in order to get to a Ramallah hospital for urgent corneal transplant surgery. Perhaps they voted for Hamas. At the same time that Israeli psychologists are treating Haiti’s orphans with devotion, Israeli inspectors are making sure no one is attempting to plant a doll, a notebook or a bar of chocolate in a container bringing essential goods into Gaza.

Even the images of our excellent doctors in Haiti cannot blur our ugly face in the Strip.

Or Anshel Pfeffer.

With the mission’s return to Israel Thursday, the real criticism should be directed toward much of the Israeli media – which overstated its praise for the mission’s work and turned them into the heart of the story.

It will be intersting to see whether the Israeli media will continue to cover rehabilitation efforts now that there are no more uniformed Israelis in Port-au-Prince.

Israel donates 0.042 percent of its Gross Domestic Product in aid to developing countries – one fifth of the average amount of aid contributed by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which Israel is seeking to join.

A large portion of what Israel declares as assistance to developing countries are actually funds earmarked for the absorption of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel.

And of course, those who follow the Israeli press know how well Ethiopians are treated in Israel.

Then there is this video of Israeli satire, surely motivated by hatred of Israel too.  (I particularly enjoyed the “Begin” joke)

I mean, the fixation on Israeli aid seems bizarre even before looking at the facts about. Lots of countries gave some sort of aid. Why single out Israel’s aid? If Haiti needs anything, it could benefit from a cancellation of its debt (see Oxfam), being paid the debt it is owed by France. It could also use the restoration of its twice elected president, in exile after being kidnapped by the US, with the support of France and complicity of much of the world. Sending in security – like Israel and the US did – helps US foreign policy goals, but is hardly the most urgent (or even a real) issue facing Haiti.

Okay, so moving past Haiti, what’s Israel deflecting attention from? Firstly, the Goldstone Report remains an issue. Given Amnesty, HRW, Dugard and Breaking the Silence also wrote reports, it is a measure of his significance that he remains such a nightmare for Israel. Note the casual threat at the end of the article.

Arab commentators and leaders say they hope the [Goldstone] report will paralyze the IDF in the next round. Asked about it this week, a senior officer in the General Staff replied without hesitation: “When missiles fly at Tel Aviv in the next war, and we presume that they will, we will respond with all the necessary force. Don’t delude yourselves that anyone’s going to wait for the lawyers.”

This casual admission that the army won’t worry over whether they are committing war crimes is almost unbelievable, yet of course will also go ignored.

The Haaretz editorial attacked the terrorism (and it doesn’t shy away from using this term) of settlers, who responded again to evacuations of settlements by attacking Palestinians (they call this a “price tag”)

There is no way to describe the West Bank settlers’ attack on the Palestinian village of Bitilu but as a well-planned terror attack. The settlers’ “military” organization and violent resistance to the cabinet decision to destroy the illegal outpost of Givat Menachem, as described by Chaim Levinson in Haaretz yesterday, are no different from the activities of other terrorist organizations. This includes the incitement, ranting and raving preceding the act of vengeance on Bitilu, the attempt to set a house on fire, the injuring of villagers with stones, and the threat to continue these violent tactics.

Also in occupation news you won’t read in the odes to aid in Haiti, there’s female soldier testimonies about the occupied territories and the routine crimes they commit against the Palestinians. It’s a very important article. But it won’t be publicised anywhere. Certainly, I don’t expect to read about it in Australian media, which never reports on these things.

I’ll post a few bits.

A female Seam Line Border Guard spoke of the chase after illegal aliens: “In half an hour you can catch 30 people without any effort.” Then comes the question of what should be done with those who were caught – including women, children, and elderly. “They would have them stand, and there’s the well-known Border Guard song (in Arabic): ‘One hummus, one bean, I love the Border Guard’ – they would make them sing this. Sing, and jump. Just like they do with recruits… The same thing only much worse. And if one of them would laugh, or if they would decide someone was laughing, they would punch him. Why did you laugh? Smack… It could go on for hours, depending on how bored they are. A shift is eight hours long, the times must be passed somehow.”

Most of the female soldiers say that they sensed there was a problem during their service, but did nothing.

Another female soldier’s testimony, who served at the Erez checkpoint, indicates how violence was deeply rooted in the daily routine: “There was a procedure in which before you release a Palestinian back into the Strip – you take him inside the tent and beat him.”

That was a procedure?

“Yes, together with the commanders.”

How long did it last?

“Not very long; within 20 minutes they would be back in the base, but the soldiers would stop at the post to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes while the guys from the command post would beat them up.”

This happened with every illegal alien?

“There weren’t that many…it’s not something you do everyday, but sort of a procedure. I don’t know if they strictly enforced it each and every time…it took me a while to realize that if I release an illegal alien on my end, by the time he gets back to Gaza he will go through hell… two or three hours can pass by the time he gets into the Strip. In the case of the kid, it was a whole night. That’s insane, since it’s a ten minute walk. They would stop them on their way; each soldier would give them a ‘pet’, including the commanders.”

“We caught a five-year-old…can’t remember what he did…we were taking him back to the territories or something, and the officers just picked him up, slapped him around and put him in the jeep. The kid was crying and the officer next to me said ‘don’t cry’ and started laughing at him. Finally the kid cracked a smile – and suddenly the officer gave him a punch in the stomach. Why? ‘Don’t laugh in my face’ he said.”

There was a policewoman, she was bored, so okay, she said they threw stones at her. They asked her who threw them. ‘I don’t know, two in grey shirts, I didn’t manage to see them.’ They catch two guys with grey shirts… beat them. Is it them? ‘No, I don’t think so.’ Okay, a whole incident, people get beaten up. Nothing happened that day.”

A female Border Guard officer spoke of how Palestinian children would arrive at checkpoints with bags of toys for sale – and how the Border Guard would deal with them: “‘Okay, throw the bag away. Oh, I need some batteries,’, and they would take, they would take whatever they wanted.”

What would they take?

“Toys, batteries, anything… cigarettes. I’m sure they took money as well, but I don’t remember that specifically.”

“Because the one child is Jewish and the other is Palestinians, it’s somehow okay… and it was obvious that there would be a mess afterwards. And you also don’t really know which side you are on…I have to make a switch in my head and keep hating the Arabs and justify the Jews.”

In her frustration, the same female soldier told of how she once spit on a Palestinian in the street: “I don’t think he even did anything. But again, it was cool and it was the only thing I could do to… you know, I couldn’t take brag that I caught a terrorists… But I could spit on them and degrade them and laugh at them.”

Another female Sachlav soldier told the story of the time an eight-year-old settler girl in Hebron decided to bash a stone into the head of a Palestinian adult crossing her passing by her in the street. “Boom! She jumped on him, and gave it to him right here in the head… then she started screaming ‘Yuck, yuck, his blood is on me'”.

The soldier said the Palestinian then turned in the girl’s direction – a move that was interpreted as a threat by one of the soldiers in the area, who added a punch of his own: “And I stood there horrified… an innocent little girl in her Shabbat dress… the Arab covered the wound with his hand and ran.” She recalled another incident with the same child: “I remember she had her brother in the stroller, a baby. She was giving him stones and telling him: ‘Throw them at the Arab’.”

Fisk is back in Palestine. To be honest, though I think he is an outstanding correspondent, he hasn’t been good in a while. With the exception of his reporting from Iran after the elections, he has generally avoided the kinds of areas where he used to be the best Western reporter.

Even the western NGOs working in Area C find their work for Palestinians blocked by the Israelis. This is not just a “hitch” in the “peace process” – whatever that is – but an international scandal. Oxfam, for example, asked the Israelis for a permit to build a 300m2 capacity below-ground reservoir along with 700m of underground 4in pipes for the thousands of Palestinians living around Jiftlik. It was refused. They then gave notice that they intended to construct an above-ground installation of two glass-fibre tanks, an above-ground pipe and booster pump. They were told they would need a permit even though the pipes were above ground – and they were refused a permit. As a last resort, Oxfam is now distributing rooftop water tanks.

Fisk here too.

When Obama’s elderly envoy George Mitchell headed home in humiliation this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated his departure by planting trees in two of the three largest Israeli colonies around Jerusalem. With these trees at Gush Etzion and Ma’aleh Adumim, he said, he was sending “a clear message that we are here. We will stay here. We are planning and we are building.” These two huge settlements, along with that of Ariel to the north of Jerusalem, were an “indisputable part of Israel forever.”

I disagree with Fisk here though. He claims the first holocaust of the 2oth century was the Armenian genocide. What about Leopold’s genocide in the Congo? And the German genocide against the Herero in South West Africa? He does deal with Israeli hypocrisy on the Armenian genocide though:

This piece of brash hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by Yossi Sarid who has described how, a few months after Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the Gaza war, “an important Israeli personality telephoned me and said the following: ‘Now you have to hit back at the Turks, to denounce them for the crimes they committed against the Armenians You, Yossi, have the right to do so…'” Sarid was appalled. “I was filled with revulsion and my soul wanted to puke,” he wrote in Haaretz. “The person who telephoned me was an example of the ugly Israeli who had disgracefully been at the forefront of those who denied the Armenian Holocaust.” So now “new tunes” – Sarid’s phrase – are being heard in Jerusalem: “The Turks are the last ones who have the right to teach us ethics.”

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  1. […] long article about female testimonies of how they treat Palestinians in the occupied territories. I wrote about it, saying Also in occupation news you won’t read in the odes to aid in Haiti, there’s […]

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