By Jeremy Havardi
June 6, 2010
What is striking about last week's flotilla affair is just how easily the global media, the NGOs and Western governments were willing to swallow the lies of militant Turkish jihadists. Lakma TV's hilarious and inspired satire on these events seems so appropriate now for much of the world was indeed conned into 'abandoning reason.'
The victim nation that fends off a frenzied lynch mob is branded a bully; a terror ship containing mercenaries from the IHH is labelled a 'peace mission'; the attempt to inspect this ship is instantly condemned as 'illegal' while the blockade of Gaza (that of Israel, never Egypt) is seen as a barrier to peace. This hysterical demonisation of Israel spreads like a virus through the arteries of the global media, subverting truth and reason in the process.
It is now blindingly obvious that Gaza is the focal point of the Islamists' attempt to subvert and manipulate world opinion against Israel. It is part of a relentless propaganda war, one that the Arab and Muslim world feels it can win because of the spineless of Western governments and international organisations. But it is also a question of numbers. The deaths of 9 'shaheeds' matters little in the terrorist calculus when the number of recruits numbers in the millions. When you compare the relatively small (for them) loss of life involved in such an incident to the sustained global attention it brings, you can see the beguiling asymmetry involved.
And if one incident can cause Israel immense harm in the court of international opinion, why not another and one more after that? After the Mavi Marmama, came the Rachel Corrie and there are now reports that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards may accompany another vessel. You can understand their logic.
So how can Israel respond to this hysterical wave of diplomatic protest? First, they must not capitulate to demands to end the blockade. Allowing even one ship through will send a signal that Israel is not prepared to defend itself any further, something that will undoubtedly harm its deterrent posture towards Iran.
Second, their PR (which varies from adequate from woeful - and here it was woeful) must become strident and aggressive in the court of public opinion. Israeli leaders and spokesmen (and yes, satirists) have to tell the world what their fight is all about. They must show how they are on the front line of Islamic terror and demonstrate the linkage between Iran and its murderous proxies. Above all, they have to be swift with their message, repeating it endlessly until it becomes an unforgettable mantra. The failure to release crucial video footage in the first few hours after last week's incident was surely unforgivable. Yes, they face enormous obstacles, bigotry and preconceived agendas. But try they must.
As for the Anglo-American twins in the Special Relationship, Israelis should stop deluding themselves. Obama's desire to appease the Muslim world has led him to imbibe their twisted victim narrative. He seems to believe that Palestinian grievances lie at the heart of the region's ills and that Israeli intransigence must be punished at all costs. For this reason, he recently fixated on Jerusalem's settlements while ignoring incitement in the West Bank.
In Britain, the Conservative led coalition has proved itself a similar sucker for Arab lies, calling for an end to the blockade of Gaza. In effect, Cameron and Hague have retreated into fantasy land, pretending that a dose of Israeli goodwill will bring reciprocal Palestinian goodwill. It will not. Hamas, Hezbollah, the IHH, al Qaeda and the worldwide Islamist movement will interpret Israeli concessions as a sign of decline and weakness. And the perceived weakness of others is far more a tonic than their perceived strength. Ending the blockade strengthens the Iranian front against Israel.
The Israelis must improve their message and pursue it with vigour and without apology. For unlike previous conflicts, the battalions of this propaganda war are now virtual.