Welcome to Palestine 2012 is already a huge success. Israel has already set up a welcoming committee, the only way a military regime meeting opposition knows how: As in last year’s Fly-in, hundreds of border patrol personnel and police officers will await the delegation. Detention facilities are already ready for 1500 children, women and men, expected to arrive in Ben Gurion Airport. But why tell when I can show? Here’s your typical, run of the mill article on Channel 1:
The State of Shooting Itself in the Foot
The segment is a goldmine for examining the Israeli state of paranoia. As a translator, I often get the chance to rethink my mother tongue. While I find the irony of the use of the terms “Safe Space”, “community”, “big brother” and “equip with flowers” hilarious, I want to specifically talk about the changing attitude of the Israeli media towards Hasbara.
I began writing about Israeli media since the Gaza Massacre of the winter of 2008. I admit I hadn’t Fisked an article in over a year, I guess I got bored. Translating this segment, however, it occurred to me that the change in Hasbara strategy, which can be traced back to “Brand Israel”, concocted around the second intifada, has become a sort of “common knowledge”, which journalists don’t even think about, as they construct their sentences.
So while we have the yey ole’ tactics of outright lying in the first lines of the segment, as exemplified by the hysteria mongering “violent clashes”, something very interesting happens with the rest of it. The “security” apparatus of Israel declares a “Hasbara war” via Channel 1 (a.k.a. “The Broadcasting Authority”). Gone are the days of the “victim narrative”. You see, for the Israeli Police maintaining “order” is “small potatoes”, the real threat is in counter-propaganda.
How do you counter propaganda of the oppressed and their supporters? Well duh! You put a brigade of undercover police in the airport, seize all tourists, cut their connection to the outside world, and after welcoming them with a search and interrogation, arrest the “suspicious” culprits, who would have “admitted” to their “crime” willingly at the appropriate already existing checkpoint, and “equip” the “innocent tourists” with an apology and flowers. Oh yeah, don’t forget to upload photos to Netanyahu’s Facebook page and tweet it on the IDFinfodesk twitter account. This will undoubtedly entice scores of tourists from enlightened Europe to come on down to the OnlyDemocracyInTheMiddleEast™. Welcome to Israel!
Fair and Balanced Hasbara
I actually don’t think that Channel 1 was attempting to be fair and balanced, It’s just that we at Welcome to Palestine were very forthcoming with the Information. Our contacts were sent to all the media outlets in Israel; Palestinian, international and Israeli, so they could get the story straight. Interestingly, after doing their lazy, routine work of pseudo journalism, interviewing the Hasbara Ministry, the police and immigration, and making sure all ministry talking points have been expressed, they decided to speak with the Palestinian organizers. And though the final minutes are dedicated to the Palestinian faces behind Welcome to Palestine, to their community projects, and to the earnestness of their intentions, somehow Palestinians in Israeli mainstream media are always “claiming”, while the occupying Israeli military regime is speaking straight out of the mouth of the media, as it “knows” what’s happening and “estimating” facts on the ground.
There must be a confidence within the government and media, that it’s OK to show the “other side”, because the Israeli public doesn’t hear Amira Musallam when she says “we don’t want to lie”, all they see is the enemy. But just in case, the concluding sentence is the diminutive “Another act of protestation against Israel that’s mostly granted and will garner a passing media impact.” A rather calming message, already stating the victory of Israel in the “Hasbara war”, which contradicts the massive “security” hysteria, which is actually “small potatoes”.
Another thing to be learned from this segment is that in Israel there’s no real distinction between the state and the media. All of the state’s oppressive procedures and whitewashing tactics are being announced to the Israeli public, but rather than in a critical manner, they are framed as protection from a threat to public safety.
Being one out of 7 Israeli activists who have been summoned for by the Shabak over Welcome to Palestine, I agree with one thing the segment has to say: All involved know that Israel’s “security” apparatus knows exactly who’s coming in, and that they are, in fact, families, with children and elderly. Moreover, they know perfectly well that neither the delegation, or the welcoming committees of dissident Israeli citizens have any plans of holding a demonstration inside the airport. Knowing this, one must ask the question, why the state is reacting as if any of us are dangerous, and why it encourages the media to portray the delegation as a “security threat”?
Israel is hellbent on showing the world how far it’s willing to go in order to violate the freedom of movement, thought and political assembly. The state’s inability to allow action which it deems legal, exposes its true fears, and as such, it’s true agenda. Indeed, what could be scarier than someone wishing to go to a place called Palestine.