Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Arabs Challenge Israeli Disinformation Campaigns
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, March 8, 2011
When the Libyan people took on their reviled dictator, Moammar
Gadhafi, Israeli officials seemed puzzled by the alarming and unprecedented
trend of popular awakenings in the Arab world.
Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has claimed that these awakenings are only
proof of the ‘weakening’ of the Arabs – even at a time when international
consensus points to the opposite conclusion.
According to Israeli
daily, Haaretz, Lieberman has claimed, “the Arab world is becoming
Worried perhaps that all rational analyses
will show how Israel’s decade-long aggression has been a major contributing
factor to instability in Middle East, Lieberman decided to dismiss the
notion altogether. “Whoever thinks that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is
part of the problems in the Middle East is trying to escape reality,” he
It must be a strange ‘reality’ which Lieberman subscribes to,
but he isn’t the only Israeli official that sees the world through such
While Lieberman has settled on the realization that
“it is clear to everyone…that the greatest danger they are facing is not
Zionism, but rather Hamas and Jihad,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu pushed into a different direction involving Iran and post-Mubarak
Addressing the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem, Netanyahu labored desperately to link
some imagined Iranian designs into the future of Egypt. “The leaders in the
West and the leaders in Tehran do not want the same future for Egypt,” he
claimed, according to the Jewish Tribune (February 24).
and European leaders want an Egypt that is free, democratic, peaceful and
prosperous…On the other hand, leaders in Tehran want to see an Egypt that is
crushed by that same iron despotism that has crushed human rights in Iran
for the last three decades,” he said.
One is accustomed to hearing
the flawed historical references of Israeli officials, but Netanyahu’s
latest comments are truly baffling. Tehran’s political involvement in Egypt
was and remains nominal. Yet again, Israeli officials are interpreting the
Middle East solely from the self-serving viewpoint of the Israeli political
This Israeli discourse is as old as the
Israeli state. The initial narrative was predicated on the assumption of a
unified party of ‘Arabs’ hell-bent on destroying a small, beleaguered
Israel. The former represented all that was evil, extremist and
anti-Western, and the latter embodied all that was good, democratic and
Maintaining this illusory discourse continues to be
essential for Israel, for it serves multiple purposes and has long been the
backbone of Israeli official hasbara, or propaganda. Even as the Israeli
army demolished much of Gaza and killed and wounded nearly 7,000 Palestinian
civilians in the 22-day military onslaught of 2008-09, the propaganda
continued in full-force. It suggested that the loss of so many civilian
lives was a price worth paying in order to uproot Islamic ‘extremism’ (as
represented by Hamas).
Although Israeli propaganda has always been
relentless, the Israeli official message in the face of popular Arab
uprisings seems befuddled and unclear. The reason for this might be the fact
that the current push for democracy – using largely non-violent means - in
several Arab countries, took Israel by complete surprise. The Arab peoples’
desire for reforms and democratic change is utterly inconsistent with the
image of Arabs shrewdly crafted by Israel and its friends in Western media.
This image suggests that Arabs are simply incapable of affecting positive
change, that they are inherently frenzied and un-democratic. Thus Israel,
‘the only democracy in the Middle East’, can be trusted as an oasis of
stability and democracy.
Israeli officials tried to infuse this
tired message following the uprisings in North African Arab countries, but
this time it seemed incoherent and was quickly overshadowed by the chants of
millions of Arabs for democracy, freedom and social justice.
Another reason behind the current failure of Israel to capitalize on the
ongoing turmoil is that Israeli propaganda tends to precede - not follow -
such upheavals. Israeli (disinformation media campaigns, or hasbra in
Hebrew) is most useful when Israel takes the initiative, determining the
nature, scope, timing and location of the battle.
official propaganda that preceded the war on Gaza seemed more
institutionalized than ever. Former Israeli ambassador to the UN, Dan
Gillerman was reportedly summoned by Tel Aviv to lead the PR effort. He said
that the diplomatic and political campaign had been underway for months. The
Guardian’s Chris McGreal, reporting on the campaign from Jerusalem during
the war, quoted Gillerman as saying, “I was recruited by the foreign
minister to coordinate Israel's efforts and I have never seen all parts of a
very complex machinery - whether it is the Foreign Ministry, the Defence
Ministry, the prime minister's office, the police or the army - work in such
co-ordination, being effective in sending out the message.”
hasbra had then worked in tandem with the Israeli military, leading to a
most coordinated campaign of war and deceit. But when the Arab people
revolted, starting in Tunisia, the belated Israeli response was confused.
Israeli officials warned, yet again, of some Islamic extremist menace
at work involving Hamas and Hezbollah, and others warned of an Iranian plot.
Some praised their fallen Arab allies, while taking pride in Israel for
being a fortress of stability, while others called to speed up the ‘peace
process’. Some denied any association between the absence of peace and Arab
revolution. Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom, who duly
accused Iran of attempting to exploit the situation, chastised Western
countries for disowning their beleaguered allies in the region.
fractured nature of the latest round of Israeli official propaganda could
partly be blamed on the element of surprise. Israel, which bought into its
own dehumanization of its Arab enemies for so long, couldn’t fathom such
scenarios as popular non-violent revolutions underway in the Middle East.
But even if a solid, streamlined, and certainly well-financed
Israeli hasbara campaign is launched to better manage Israel’s crisis, one
wonders if it could really make much of a difference. If a multi-million
dollar campaign to hide or ‘explain’ the bloodbath wrought by Israel in Gaza
in 2008-09 have largely failed, Israel cannot possibly succeed in hiding the
fact that it is no longer the ‘only democracy in the Arab world’ - or that
it was ever a true democracy to begin with.
- Ramzy Baroud
(www.ramzybaroud.net) is an
internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter:
Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on Amazon.com.