By Dan Lieberman
Propaganda is most effective when subtly planted and the reader remains unaware that a commentary is actually indoctrination. Sometimes the writer is not cognizant that what he has published has been moved by its propaganda effect – sources for the material are actually misleading and publication is facilitated when the commentary fits a particular agenda.
Two recent publications, a response by United States Senator Benjamin Cardin to an Amnesty International plea and an article in Newsweek magazine, A Plan of Attack for Peace by Daniel Klaidman, Jan. 12, 2009, demonstrate how far Israel’s supporters can reach to mislead the public. The former remarks, coming from a U.S. Senator, are particularly insidious – careless disregard for a defenseless Palestinian community and an excuse for those whom Amnesty International considers to have shown a lopsided response to the recent violence and who have exhibited lackadaisical efforts to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Senator Cardin Echoes the Israeli Line
Amnesty International, a well-respected and politically neutral organization, expressed alarm at the events in Gaza and alerted its vast U.S. constituency to prompt their senators to ameliorate the situation. Instead of replying to the urgencies requested by the message, Benjamin Cardin, U.S. Senator from Maryland, responded with general and vague comments and used the email opportunity to indoctrinate his constituents into believing that the violence and killing were all due to Hamas. An insensitivity to creating problems for Jewish people, which might arise from his remarks, added to Senator Cardin’s deceptive manner.
First the Amnesty International email:
With innocent civilians, women and children dying every day, Congress must act. Tell Congress to help get more humanitarian aid into Gaza and to suspend all transfers of weapons to Israel.
20 days into the Gaza crisis and the humanitarian crisis there gets worse every day.
Over 1000 Palestinians have been killed; 398 women and children are dead, another 4500 injured, 750,000 lack access to water and one million are without electricity. Thirteen Israelis, including three civilians have been killed .
Each day that passes guarantees more innocent civilians will suffer. Tell Congress to act swiftly to help more humanitarian aid and workers enter Gaza and to suspend all transfers of weapons to Israel.
Almost 30,000 of you sent letters to Secretary Rice. Your letters together in concert with separate parallel actions from other Amnesty sections around the world helped bring about a positive vote at the UN late last week. The UN passed a binding resolution 14-0 on January 8th calling for an immediate cease-fire.
But despite mounting evidence of war crimes, both Israel and Palestinian armed groups continue to defy the resolution.
It’s critical that Congress acts. Congress can take two actions that will make a significant impact on the ground:
1. Urge Israel to allow for increased humanitarian supplies into Gaza and press Egypt to allow more wounded Palestinians to seek medical treatment in Egypt.
The Israeli three hour truce to allow for humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza is not sufficient. A spokesman for the UN relief agency UNWRA said “When you are trying to feed 750,000 people a day in Gaza as we are, you need a permanent ceasefire. You can’t do that in a three-hour window.”
Although Egypt has opened the Rafah crossing allowing limited medical help in and injured Palestinians out, the number allowed to seek medical care outside of Gaza needs to increase dramatically. There are currently 4500 wounded Palestinians.
2. Suspend all transfers of weapons to Israel until there is no longer a substantial risk that they will be used for serious violations of human rights or international humanitarian law — such as in attacks that disproportionately kill civilians — while pressing all sides to stop unlawful attacks.
AI is calling for a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups. The US Arms Export Act of 1976 was passed to help guarantee that US-made weapons would only be used for legitimate self-defense and not for violations of internationally recognized human rights. The act requires the State Department to report to Congress when there is a ‘’substantial violation” of the law.
These demands comply with widely recognized international human rights law. Tell Congress to act now, and then please forward this email. Time has run out for the civilians of Gaza and Israel.
Deputy Executive Director
Senator Cardin’s reply, complete with punctuation errors, to the Amnesty International message sent to him by a constituent.
Thank you for contacting me regarding the current conflict between Israel and Hamas.
I share your sadness at the suffering and loss of innocent lives on both sides of this conflict. The international community needs to take strong action to restart the peace process and provide more humanitarian assistance in Gaza.
Hamas’ actions to extend its reach deeper into Israel and its failure to end continuing attacks exacerbates the already fragile humanitarian situation for the residents of Gaza and undermines efforts to attain peace and security in the region. As a result of the fighting, Gaza City and its main medical center, Shiffa Hospital, have been left without electricity and hospitals are pushed beyond their capacity to handle the number of victims. Hamas seems to care more about inflicting damage on Israel than the protection and welfare of its own citizens.
Hamas poses a critical challenge to the regional peace process. Labeled as a terrorist organization but holding seats in the Palestinian government and acting as the controlling authority in Gaza, the organization’s leaders encourage violence and cling to the belief that Israel itself should be destroyed. Questions remain as to whether or not the organization should even be included in peace negotiations, but the fact remains that the threat Hamas poses to Israel is an obstacle to any negotiation efforts.
The U.S. has also continued to provide humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians. It is equally important for the U.S. to take an active role in bringing stability in the region, so that all Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace. I share your concern about the continuing violence and loss of innocent lives in the region, and I support providing U.S. aid to the area. The continuation of violence between Hamas and Israeli forces is straining the progress. I urge Israel and the Palestinians take advantage of the current, high-level European efforts to broker a sustainable cease-fire and a negotiated peaceful settlement.
Rest assured I support continued aggressive diplomatic involvement. The U.S. objective must be for a peaceful and long-lasting resolution to this conflict. Again, thank you for contacting me on this important issue.
Please visit my website at http://cardin.senate.gov to sign up for my e-newsletter.
Note that Senator Cardin does not respond with specifics to any of the humanitarian demands and ignores Amnesty Internationals’ request to: “Tell Congress to act swiftly to help more humanitarian aid and workers enter Gaza and to suspend all transfer of weapons to Israel.”
The Maryland senator shows no regard for the Maryland citizen’s concerns and, in an about face, uses the email exchange to instruct the sender about the crisis.
Unsubstantiated rumors and private opinions that mainly describe Hamas’ “role” in the violence highlight his response. Note the unnecessary insertion of the computer generated macro adjectives normally used to describe Hamas: “the organization’s leaders encourage violence and cling to the belief that Israel itself should be destroyed.”
Senator Cardin happens to be Jewish. This does not mean he cannot express support for Israel. However, a Senator of Jewish faith should recognize that unqualified support for Israel leaves Jews open to attack by those who suspect that elected Jews use their official office to promote Israel’s agenda regardless of its effects on the U.S. and the world’s peoples. Senator Cardin’s obvious propaganda thrust reflects poorly on the Jewish people and contributes to dangers confronting them.
Just an irresponsible response to a responsible email or another example of how far Israel’s supporters can reach to mislead the public?
Weak News from Newsweek – A Plan for Peace?
The expectation that Newsweek’s article titled: A Plan of Attack for Peace by Daniel Klaidman, Jan. 12, 2009, would have original concepts and seek credibility by stating verified facts concerning the Middle East crisis fell wanting. Daniel Klaidman selected the facts, used opinion as authenticity and steered the keyboard to write the conclusion he wanted and which Israel’s more conventional politics relished. Consider these remarks:
"It is also true today as Israel continues its assault on Hamas in Gaza, attacks that were prompted by Hamas missile strikes on Israel. The recent violence has reportedly cost more than 400 lives and left over 2000 wounded."
Did the Hamas rocket (not missile) strikes prompt the response or were they used to provide a cover for Israel’s intended assault? Note that no mention is made that the 400 dead and 2000 wounded were all Palestinians.
"The hope, however faint, is eventually to allow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government to reassert control in Gaza, clearing the way for serious peace negotiations. With Hamas out of the way, Olmert believes there is a chance that Israel and the Palestinians can put flesh on the outlines of a comprehensive peace plan he negotiated with Abbas over the past year."
This is conjecture portrayed as fact. Klaidman admits that the negotiations during the last year were not serious and then claims "Olmert believes there is a chance that Israel and the Palestinians can put flesh on the outlines of a comprehensive peace plan he negotiated with Abbas over the past year." Are there any "outlines of a comprehensive peace plan he negotiated with Abbas over the past year?" Maybe some words in reference to an Arab peace plan, but was there a negotiated plan with Abbas? Don’t you need a body to hold the flesh?
"The current Olmert "shelf plan" is remarkably similar to the Clinton parameters: a two state solution in which Israelis and a Palestinians make painful compromises on the core issues of territory, security, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees."
Aren’t all plans similar to the Clinton parameters? Did Klaidman mean the "Olmert shelved plan," a plan rejected by the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu and just about everyone wandering through the Middle East?
"At the moment, the greatest impediment to peace is Hamas, the terrorist group that won power in Gaza through elections in 2006. The rise of a rejectionist ‘Hamastan" in Gaza has left Palestinians divided between Fatah’s more moderate Fatah government and radical Hamas leaders who encourage violence and believe Israel should not exist (Note: Common expression used in Israeli propaganda statements). Hamas rose by exploiting the misery and grievances of the Palestinians."
Many questions: Hamas might be an obstacle to peace, but aren’t the principal impediments to peace the illegal occupation and settlements, seizures of Palestinians lands, abusive checkpoints, and the blockade of Gaza? Is there any reason for telling the readers that Hamas is a terrorist group? Where is this Hamastan?
Don’t "democracies" have divisions? Can Fatah, which is not even a government, be a "moderate government," or is it a corrupt party? Is Hamas just leaders or is it an elected government? Who encourages violence and who engages in violence? Let the statistics tell the story. Did Hamas rise by exploiting "the misery and grievances of the Palestinians," or because Israel caused "the misery and grievances of the Palestinians," and Fatah did nothing about them?
"At Camp David, Yassir Arafat refused to finalize a peace agreement with Israel, claiming to do so would be to court assassination by his own people."
That’s an odd ‘thrown in’ statement considering that former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated because he negotiated with the Palestinians, while Arafat died a natural death. Besides, what Arafat actually said was that he could not negotiate away Jerusalem and just used the phrase "I could be assassinated," to emphasize his dilemma.
Daniel Klaidman then continues to outline a plan that has no Israeli compromises and fits well into Israel’s concept of how to manage the West Bank and Jerusalem and disregard the refugees. Some of Klaidman’s innovative recommendations:
Territory – “Israel and the Palestinians (Ed: Note Israel the country and Palestinians the people) should swap equal amounts of land, allowing a majority of the roughly 270,000 Israeli settlers now residing in the largest of the West Bank settlement blocks to stay where they are while remaining under Israeli sovereignty.”
Security – “A more feasible approach would be to put a NATO-based international force in the West Bank that would later transfer control to the Palestinians (Ed: 100 years?). As far as Israeli forces are concerned, they would be able to withdraw from the strategically important Jordan Valley over a longer period of time, perhaps three years. (Ed: Strategic for whom, and why wait three years?) Israel would be allowed (Ed: Allowed by who?) to maintain a number of warning stations on Palestinian territory. Israel would allow (Ed: Allow a sovereign Palestinian nation?) the Palestinians to have sovereignty over their borders and international crossing points. But these borders and crossing points should be monitored by an international presence.”
Jerusalem – Klaidman follows the Clinton Plan “that Jerusalem must be divided – but shared, and it must serve as a capital to both states.” However, he considers former ambassador Martin Indyk’s recommendation “that the Old City be placed under a so-called special regime, with Israeli and Palestinian governments sharing sovereignty over the territory.”
Refugees – A plan by Walter Russell Mead, Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, governs Klaiman’s solution to the refugee problem: “Israel must acknowledge its part in the events of 1948, but the international community must take ultimate responsibility for the 60 year-old crisis.”
Although its title promises a unique approach to achieve peace in the Middle East, Daniel Klaidman‘s approach has the conventional misleading facts which lead to conventional recommendations. The entire narrative only considers how Israel will view the issues. The Palestinians are bystanders. There are no Israeli compromises, no retreat from what it has taken, only a promise not to take more. The Palestinians compromise all by not receiving back anything taken and then receive the crumbs on the table. The article and the arguments express those of moderate Israeli governments, a toss of Labor and some Kadima flavoring. It could have been written in Tel Aviv, with or without Klaidman realizing how the words made their way to become printed on the pages of Newsweek magazine.
– Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. Dan has written many articles on the Middle East, which have circulated on websites and media throughout the world. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.