Sunday, January 4, 2009

Analysis: Israeli Propaganda Campaign Downplays Success of the Truce with Hamas - Paul Woodward

War in Context, January 4, 2009 - For four months, from Summer into Fall, the truce between Israel and Hamas was a stunning success. Indeed, if Israel doubted Hamas’ ability or willingness to engage in a truce, the Jewish state would have had no reason to request that the truce be extended as its expiration approached and passed in late December.

But now is a time of war and not only is talk of a truce being ruled out by the authors of this war but history is being re-written in order to degrade the value of a ceasefire. The memory of a period of recent calm that was the most durable peace that the residents of southern Israel have experienced in recent years must now be erased.

The Israeli government’s own graphical representation of the calm told the story in terms that even a child could understand. This is the graph that the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs displayed on its web site demonstrating that from July to October, rocket fire, if not reduced to a perfect zero, came stunningly close. From an average of 179 rockets per month in the preceding period of 2008, the number fell to just three per month:

Now that the Israeli propaganda machine is revved up to full throttle, the image of an effective truce no longer suits the Israeli government’s purposes. Instead it has become more convenient to try and hide the numbers — with numbers! The foreign ministry has thus removed the simple graph shown above and replaced it with this:

In the earlier image, graph blocks dramatically portrayed the rise and fall in rocket fire rates. In the revised image, blocks of equal size (containing numbers) are used to obscure the graph. The effect, clearly intended, is to try and portray the lull as really nothing more than a minor undulation in a period of unremitting attacks.

The message Israel now wants to sell is that the truce never really worked. Instead of acknowledging that the truce effectively collapsed when Israel launched Operation “Double Challenge” on November 5, the rocket fire that followed that Israeli raid is being used to obscure the fact that rocket fire had effectively been curtailed up to that point.*

Was four months of calm really worthless? Given that it became the precursor to war, the answer now apparently is yes.

But it didn’t have to turn out this way. The effectiveness with which Hamas enforced a truce should have provided the impetus for Israel to lift its economic siege of Gaza.

Instead, we are once again witness to Israel’s seemingly insatiable appetite for war, even while it never tires of professing its love of peace.

* Should anyone doubt that the Israeli raid (official declarations about Israel’s commitment to the truce notwithstanding) constituted a unilateral breach of the truce, consider what Israel and the world’s response would have been in the event that the raid had been launched from Gaza. Hamas gunmen conducted a raid inside Israeli territory, killing six Israeli soldiers.

That wouldn’t have been described as a breakdown in the truce; it would have been regarded as an act of war.

Paul Woodward is editor of War in Context, the site where this Editorial was originally posted.

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