By Vacy Vlazna
“But the most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.” — Adolf Hitler
As its daily violations of international law, war crimes and settlement expansion flatline Israel’s international reputation, its desperate public relations (hasbara) efforts, scrambling for message control, have revived and slammed, yet again, Palestinians with the old catchall shibboleth of ‘terrorist’.
As luck would too conveniently have it, from a recently published book, a new heroine of hasbara has risen, Christian American, Anne Speckhard; propaganda princess, and wanna be femme fatale.
The saga-length title of her book amplifies the desired fear and Islamaphobia effect and fastens the yoke of ‘terrorist’ on the necks of victims of violent occupations;
‘Talking to Terrorists:Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & Martyrs to Combat Terrorism in Prison & Community Rehabilitation.’
This barbarella of the big spin deftly wields multiple propaganda weapons. The title, via stereotyping and dysphemism deliberately cements her trusting interviewees in the category of ‘terrorists’ thus manipulating the perceptions of the reader.
She selectively limits to Muslims, the notion of ‘Jihad’- holy war – though in Hebrew ‘Milkhemet Mitzvah’ i.e. ‘war by commandment’ has connections to Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) operations. Also omitted is George Bush’s professed holy war missions; “I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.”
So in Talking to Terrorists a reasonable person is disappointed not to find conversations with Netanyahu, Barak, Olmert, Amos Yaron, Gabi Ashkenazi, Benny Gantz, Putin, Bush, Rumsfeld, Blair, Cheyney, Howard, or even Speckard’s husband, Daniel, who formerly as Deputy Chief of Mission in Iraq and Director of Policy Planning in NATO is an accomplice in the Coalition of the Willing’s War OF Terror on the innocent civilians of Iraq and NATO’s war in Afghanistan.
Throughout, Speckhard preens her aura of trustworthiness and professional integrity which opened for her the hospitality of the ‘terrorists’, yet thinks nothing of exploiting, for the cover of her terrorist tome, a photo she took in a Nablus home, of a 5 year old Palestinian child holding a toy gun. The image is blatantly accusatory reinforcing her suggestions on the early training of Palestinian terrorists.
Whether referring to Chechnyans, Palestinians or Iraqis, the book is based firmly on straw man arguments that equate resistance with terrorism- ‘a mounting inferno of acts of Palestinian resistance or terrorism’:
Freedom fighters resist the occupation of their country
B. Freedom fighters are Islamic terrorists who threaten world peace and stability
A. Suicide bombings are destructive
B. Suicide bombings, by those who have no army, airforce or navy, are more destructive than massacres caused by state bomb assaults using weapons of mass destruction, such as M-82, M-84, PB500A1, AGM-114, Hydra 70, M107 155, white phosphorus, Depleted Uranium, dime and cluster bombs.
The chapters on Palestine, though littered with psychological data on PTSD and trauma, promote the normalisation of the illegal Israeli occupation and its hasbara agenda. Speckard does relay quite reliably, the “very real and painful political realities” the Palestinians share with her, however these are always qualified with asides and doublespeak that justify Israeli war crimes;
The Israelis only commit ‘violence’ not terrorism. Israeli brutality is ‘alleged’ and justified- ‘knowing that usually the Israelis feel they have good cause for destroying a family home’ …’ I learn as I go along that many of the young Israeli men and women who serve their military duty in the occupied territories and on the checkpoints don’t want to be there and are also terrified. They are young and afraid, knowing that at any moment they can be killed in a senseless act of terrorism”. ..“Israelis claim to handle the arrests of young children as compassionately as possible”… “The Israelis do not infringe on human rights on the level of Russians”.. “At counter-terrorism conferences, I’ve learned that Israeli soldiers train in how to respond to the many ethical dilemmas they face”, “how vulnerable and surrounded Israel really is”… Nor can Speckard call Baruch Goldstein who massacred 30 Palestinians praying in a mosque a terrorist. No, it wasn’t terrorism but an ‘horrific act’…
… and because she repeatedly presents herself as open-minded, mild-mannered, maternal peacemaker radiating her ‘natural role of nurturer, psychotherapist, healer,’ who will the reader believe- the expert Madonna or the inconsiderate revengeful ‘terrorist’ ?
“As a psychologist, I find this revenge mentality interesting as it misses the point of understanding why the other side acted and instead, just blindly strikes out again perpetuating the cycle of violence.”
Speckhard, gutsy She-Hulk of the Half-Truth and glaring omissions, cites,
“Mia Bloom points out in her latest book, the transition terrorists make from purveyors of violence to political leaders in their countries makes it difficult to say who is a terrorist and who is a freedom fighter. And as she states, “This is particularly evident when one considers that more former terrorist leaders than American presidents have won the Nobel Peace Prize.”98 Indeed, former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat is among them.”
Exquisitely omitted are Arafat’s fellow winners, Yitzhak Rabin a key player in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians during the Nakba, and who also had ‘ordered his troops to break the bones of Palestinians who confronted his tanks with stones in the first Intifada’; and Shimon Peres who was responsible for developing Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal, and was later blamed for the Qana Massacre. Also overlooked is the Nobel laureate, Menachem Begin, once head of Zionist terrorist group, Irgun, responsible for the King David Hotel bombing, and who later became prime minister.
Israeli hasbara oozes over the pro-Israel stand and doublespeak in Speckhard’s dismissal of the Israeli responsibility for the extrajudicial killing of 12 year old Mohammed al Durrah. You can see for yourself how she-of-maternal-largesse, twists the tragic death of a child into a stunt attacking Israel, oy vey! oy vey!
“Mohammad Durrah as a “martyr” and use his picture to deride Israelis as cruel killers of innocent children. The Israeli Defense Forces at first accepted responsibility for the killings but later after investigating the incident concluded that they had probably not shot the al Durrahs. Further controversy arose when it was discovered that the France 2 footage had been cut and that in the final few seconds of the filming, Mohammad appeared to lift his hand from his face and was still alive.128 The France 2 editors said they cut this part because the child was obviously in his death throes. There was also controversy over the killed boy’s identity. In 2007 the Israeli Defense Forces renounced responsibility for having killed the pair, and the Israeli government claimed the entire episode was a staged propaganda stunt. This death of Mohammad has been used as a rallying call to incite many to violence”
By the way, Charles Enderlin the Jewish recipient of the Légion d’honneur, who first reported the tragedy on France 2, finally won, this year, a defamation suit against Philippe Karsenty for calling the footage a hoax.
Inevitably, Speckhard as Director of the Holocaust Oral History Project-Belarus,reinforces the Israeli promoted exclusivity of Holocaust victimhood,
‘Many times as I’ve traveled through Palestine I’ve felt echoes of the Holocaust history in the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian homes and lands by settlers and the like, and through the separation barriers, dispossession and widespread discrimination.’
Then in the next breath,
‘It’s always disturbing to me when Palestinians argue that the Israelis are repeating some of the same things that were done to them. I don’t think it’s the same at all’.
For propaganda to be effective, credibility has to be firmly established. Apart from being the wife of an ex-US ambassador of Belarus and Greece, Speckard is backed by a cosy bunch of NATO, US and Zionist heavyweights. MERCSs piece, The Terrorist Whisperer lists the pro-US/Israel reviewers of her book.
Patently, Speckard’s pro-Israel penchant is palpable with pals like Yoram Schweitzer, Director of the Low Intensity Warfare & Terrorism Project and Senior Research Fellow at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). It’s chairman is Australian billionaire, Frank Lowy and on its board is Martin Indyk, an ‘indispensable partner’ of Israel and Kerry’s special envoy for the present Israeli-Palestinian negotiation farce. Indyk is also a co-founder of the AIPAC connected Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) and the Vice President and Director of the Foreign Policy Program at the right-wing Brookings Institute of which Speckhard’s husband is a Senior Fellow.
Daniel Speckhard is, what’s more, a Senior Advisor in Palantir Technologies. Its mass surveillance systems and project platform for complex information analysis are used for law enforcement, defence, hedge funds and for the US and military intelligence worldwide. Palantir is a partner of Kapow Software which is partnered with US armament manufacturers BAE and Raytheon and Kapow is also a partner with Taldor, an Israeli IT company which offers communications and infrastructures services to the Israeli Ministry of Defence and to Israel’s defence industry; Elbit, IAI and Rafael.
The book’s Foreward was written by Reuvan Paz who was former Academic Director of Israel’s International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) On its Advisory Board sits (non-terrorist) Gen. Doron Almog who evaded a warrant issued in the UK for his arrest on suspicion of war crimes for ordering the demolition of 59 houses in Rafah, occupied Gaza; an act of illegal collective punishment under international law and on 22 July 2002, for ordering a one-ton bomb to be dropped on a home in Gaza to assassinate Salah Shehadeh killing 15 people, including 9 children.
Under the guise of impartial academic research, Speckhard’s raising of the spectre of Palestinian terrorists emerges as a cynical ruse to win back, with fear, the hearts and minds of the swelling mass of decent folk who have deserted the US War on Terror and Israel’s war on the people of Palestine.
– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.