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Gaza was a watershed

January 25, 2009

I believe the recent assault in Gaza will turn out to be a turning point in the way people in the West see Israel: Israel has had its Sharpeville, the event in South African history that galvanised world opinion against apartheid.

No amount of spin can cancel out the images of dead babies.

Even though I think most of the mainstream media – the BBC included – downplayed a lot of the horror and went easy on Israel, enough filtered through to outrage people. I have also see a lot of activity on the Internet: people are no longer satisfied with the official narratives that Israel has worked so hard to plant in the Western mind, and there is increased interest in understanding what is happening.

Increasingly, people are wise Israel’s massively expensive, coordinated propaganda effort – Hasbara – and its tactics, like using software like Megaphone, a program that

“…alerts users to opinion polls and “talkback” features on news sites so they can respond with pro-Israel views. [source]

And the pro-Israeli activism has been undermined by the fact that it so boringly predictable, such obvious cut and paste following a tired formula:

a) Blame the Palestinians for starting it

b) Lie, knowing that few people will have the chance to fact check, and that if you tell a lie often enough it becomes the truth

c) Deflect criticism (what about Darfur, China, Congo, North Korea etc.)

d) When you are losing the argument, accuse your opponent of anti-Semitism.

Just how far the world has moved is evidenced by the way the anti-Semitic smear just doesn’t work any more. For instance, American writer Elizabeth Wurtzel (of Prozac Nation fame) tried to trot out the familiar line in The Guardian:

“It is not Israel’s action, but the vitriolic reaction to it that has been disproportionate. There’s only one explanation: antisemitism”

People are just not having that anymore. It’s anti-Semitic to want to stop Israel killing babies? Within 24 hours, the article had picked up a thousand comments, almost all of them saying something like this one:

Opposing the deliberate killing of civilians makes you an anti-semite?

I disagree.

Revolting article, revolting thesis. Hard to express my disgust with this.

In fact, reading through the comments restores your faith in humanity somewhat: the Hasbara just ain’t working, and writers like Wurzel and Thomas Friedman are destroying their reputations with their support for Israel.

Also, the sheer cynicism of the attack – timed for the last weeks of Bush’s presidency, and in time to boost the testosterone levels ahead of an election in Israel – has horrified people.

It’s also been encouraging to see some prominent people speak out, as the following YouTube videos show. Here is Gerald Kaufman MP – who is Jewish – making a speech in parliament accusing the Israelis of acting like Nazis. Here is Tony Benn, overturning the BBC’s ban on broadcasting an appeal for aid for Gaza, and here are thousands of Israelis protesting the war in Tel Aviv.

The climate has changed. The world has had enough. No more blank cheque for Israel.

In fact, I would go as far as to say Israel is finished. The disaster in Lebanon was the beginning of the end; the assault on Gaza consolidated the decline. Israel has become a liability to its closest allies. It will be interesting to see how long it manages to hold on, but unless there is a radical change in policy, I don’t expect to be around for more than 10 years.

The world has moved on, and is tired of Israel. It needs to either make peace or lose all the sympathy and support it once enjoyed.

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