Sunday, June 13, 2010

Israel's Talking Points, the Media & the Cement Missile Threat

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Israel's Talking Points, the Media and the Cement Missile Threat


By Carl Bloice,

Editorial Board

Black Commentator

June 10, 2010


In recent months, said the June 3 story on the front

page of the New York Times, Israel "has permitted

increased - although still quite limited - movement of

goods and people into and out of Gaza. One Israeli

official said that under Mr. Netanyahu there had been a

20 percent increase in goods, including some limited

building materials under third-party supervision so

that Hamas would not get hold of them.


"But Israel remains adamant, saying that if cement and

steel were allowed to pass in any serious amount, they

would end up in Hamas missiles and other weapons that

would be aimed at Israel."


Unable to get the image out of my mind and being

totally ignorant on such matters, I called a couple of

people who know about this stuff, inquiring as to how

one makes a missile out of cement. Not easy was the

response, and one person suggested that the kind of

structural steel needed to repair the bridges Israel

destroyed in the terrible 2006 onslaught wouldn't be

much help either. A couple of days later the Israeli

government sought to clear up the confusion by saying

the Palestinian government in Gaza uses cement as

ballast for its crude rockets. Could be. But one has

only to picture again the tremendous devastation in

Gaza to realize that unless the residents have access

to more than a "serious amount" of concrete and steel

they are never going to rebuild their cities and villages.


But then the government of Israeli Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu, and its far-flung propaganda

operation, can be counted on to have an answer - or

excuse -- for everything.


The purpose in this case is to underscore the

contention that the cruel blockade of Gaza is to

prevent the smuggling of arms and weapons-making

material into the enclave. It is not and never has

been. The aim of the blockade is to make life miserable

for the 1.4 million Palestinians there in the hope of

undermining the Hamas government, which was duly

elected four years ago. Gaza is being held for ransom.

That's collective punishment and it's against

international law.


The assertion that the only reason for the blockade is

to prevent arms or munitions building materials from

entering Gaza is a bold face lie. That is unless you

consider food and medicine to be weapons because they

might be fed to military personnel.


"Preventing the importing of arms is an element in the

blockade," writes Esther Kaplan in The Nation, "but the

blockade also bars the importation of many basics of

life, such as fuel to power hospital generators and

building materials, including iron and cement,

necessary for rebuilding after the devastation of

Operation Cast Lead. It bans pesticides and spare parts

for farming equipment, which has debilitated the

agricultural sector. According to the Israeli human

rights group B'tselem, some 4,000 goods were allowed

into Gaza before the siege, and only 150 are allowed in

now. (And the guidelines for what may join the list of

acceptable items is a tightly guarded secret.) The

blockade has severely limited access to electricity,

leaving the vast majority of Gazans facing blackouts

for eight to ten hours a day. It has cut off students

from their university educations and severed family

ties. It has left a stunning 70 percent of the

population dependent on international food aid just to survive."


Reflecting Netanyahu's original line of propaganda

attack, Gal Beckerman writing in The Forward, says that

on June 2 the Jewish Federations of North America

distributed talking points, which read: "When Israeli

commandos boarded the ships, they were met with

violence from a supposedly nonviolent group, including

gunfire from automatic weapons and attacks with knives

and axes. Several Israelis were wounded. As a result of

the clash triggered by the pro-Hamas group, a number of

them were killed or wounded in the confrontation."


However, on June 1 Caroline Glick, rightwing deputy

managing editor of the Jerusalem Post and one-time

advisor to Netanyahu, sharply took the Israeli

government to task for deficiencies in waging the

propaganda surrounding the flotilla. The "information

strategy" she wrote in her paper "was ill-conceived."

It should have attacked Turkey for "facilitation of

terrorism," she wrote, it should have prepared "charge

sheets against the flotilla's organizers, crew and

passengers for their facilitation of terrorism."

Israeli leaders "stammer," she wrote, and engage in

arguments that are "worse than worthless." The

following day, the Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv-based

think tank that - in the words of the Wall Street

Journal  - "provides strategic-thinking support to the

Israeli government," and with which Glick is

associated, criticized the government for having "no

coherent conceptual response" to push back against

global critics. Then, on June 3, Netanyahu went before

the media to say there was a danger of arms smuggling

involved. By that afternoon--U.S. time--U.S. Vice-

President Joseph Biden was making the same claim.


As the days have worn on since the bloody events aboard

the Mavi Marmara, the arms smuggling message has

sharpened.  On Saturday Netanyahu said Israel would

"not allow the establishment of an Iranian port in

Gaza."  Then rightwing columnist Charles Krauthammer

got in on the act, claiming that the purpose of the

blockade of Gaza is to "prevent Hamas from arming

itself with still more rockets." One of CNN's resident

foreign policy experts, Jill Dougherty, went on the air

to explain the purpose of Israel's Gaza blockade as:

"Essentially to stop weapons from being taken into

Gaza, and to be used against Israel."


Of course, there were no weapons making their way to

Gaza aboard the Mavi Marmara, hence the steel and

cement tale passed on to us by the Times' Ethan

Bronner. And the idea that if the ship reached port in

Gaza it would open up a sea smuggling route is sheer fantasy.


Another taking point that has gotten a lot of play over

the past two weeks is the notion that the aid ships

were not really on a humanitarian mission but rather

were aiming for a conflict or "provocation." This is a

smokescreen designed to cover what really happened.

The African American students that sat in at lunch

counters in North Carolina in 1960 expected a

confrontation (little likelihood the owners were going

to do the decent thing and make them hamburgers). But

they didn't expect the Tactical Squad to suddenly

arrive en mass and start shooting them in the head with

assault rifles.


One thing that has emerged from Israel's piracy on the

high seas, and the resulting tragic deaths and

injuries, is that a bright light is being shown on

something that has usually been ignored by the Western

media: the reality and effect of the blockade. Herein

lies the test for the international community, and the

Obama Administration in particular. Only the Netanyahu

government and its supporters at home and abroad would

argue that the crippling siege of Gaza is justified and

should continue. Peace loving and progressive people

should demand that it be lifted. It would mean a lot

for the suffering Palestinian community to have access

to steel and cement.


This, of course, must be a prelude to the urgent task

of ending the occupation and the birth of a new Palestine.


Following the May31 Israeli military assault on an

international flotilla trying to bring humanitarian

supplies to besieged Gaza, the Israeli propaganda

machine went into overdrive. It wasn't always well-

coordinated but it was unrelenting and it had one big

advantage: the reluctance or refusal of the Western

media - particularly in the U.S., to ask hard questions

and its willingness go along with the Netanyahu

government's framing of the issues. Robert Fisk wrote

in The Independent (UK) last Saturday, "The amazing

thing in all this is that so many Western journalists -

and I'm including the BBC's pusillanimous coverage of

the Gaza aid ships - are writing like Israeli

journalists, while many Israeli journalists are writing

about the killings with the courage that Western

journalists should demonstrate."

_______________ Editorial Board member Carl Bloice

is a writer in San Francisco, a member of the National

Coordinating Committee of the Committees of

Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and formerly

worked for a healthcare union

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