Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Opinion: A Checklist: Reasons for War and for Lies - Dominique Vidal

Le Monde (Paris), via Middle East Online (distributed by Agence Global) - The attack on Gaza has many reference points with the Lebanese war of Summer 2006, from which Israel’s leaders obviously learnt lessons. Not strategically, for to do that they would have had to take those infamous “painful decisions” -- in fact the straightforward application of international law -- as the basis of a lasting peace with their neighbours. But they avoided repeating military errors and were much more prepared for the communications battle. With internal sources tight-lipped, journalists were denied access to the Gaza strip, keeping images of victims from TV screens. A widespread propaganda offensive beyond Israel completed the package.

“A new information directorate was established to influence the media, with some success,” the Observer noted. “And when the attack began…a tide of diplomats, lobby groups, bloggers and other supporters of Israel were unleashed to hammer home a handful of carefully crafted core messages. The PR operation’s kingpin, former UN ambassador Dan Gillerman, said in the same report: “I have never seen… the foreign ministry, the defence ministry, the prime minister’s office, the police or the army work in such effective coordination.”

Self-defence The key word. Israel repeatedly stressed that no state would sit by and allow its population to live in fear of enemy rockets. It goes without saying that any government faced by such a situation would react -- but how? By starting a much bloodier war, or by negotiating a lasting truce? For the past 60 years Tel Aviv has been waging war stating “I have no choice” – in Hebrew, ein brera. Now, more than ever, the opposite is true: Palestinians formally recognised their neighbour in 1988, while the Arab world extended a hand of friendship in 2002, offering Israel total normalisation in exchange for leaving the occupied territories. And if the Israelis have the right to self-defence, so too do the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv’s spokespeople, diplomats and journalists repeated the mantra that Hamas had broken the truce -- forgetting that Operation Cast Lead was, according to Ehud Barak, planned six months before the attacks. Nobody, not even the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, denies that Islamist militants had held fire until the end of October 2008. It’s true that rockets started again in November. The conveniently forgotten reason was that the Israeli army staged an operation on 4 November, which claimed the lives of six Hamas combatants. Another rarely mentioned fact: The cease-fire should have gone hand-in-hand with ending the Gaza blockade and reopening frontiers -- which Israel never accepted. Worse, the embargo became almost total in the final months to the point where, even before the 27 December offensive, four-fifths of Gaza’s population was dependant on UN food aid. Following the offensive, supplies of water, fuel, electricity and basic foodstuffs dwindled away.

[For the remaining messages--the blockade, lack of proportionality, balance, civilians, hatred, community impact, anti-Semitism, and peace, see the full article at the link.]

Dominique Vidal is a journalist with a special focus on the Middle East region -- translated by Robert Waterhouse.

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