While channel surfing a couple of weeks ago, I landed on the "Anna Nicole Smith Show," quite by accident I assure you. In the scene I happened upon, the irrepressible Anna Nicole was riding in the back of a limousine with her lawyer, Howard K. Stern, on their way to some celebrity bash. "I think it would be good if you said something in support of Israel," Howard offered, out of the blue. I was somewhat shocked that this solicitation, completely out of context with the proceedings, would come while the camera was rolling. Nicole demurred, not that it would have made much difference in the greater scheme of things, that is.
The incident set me thinking of how invidious and ubiquitous the pro-Israeli sympathizers are. It isn't enough that our administration, Congress, and media find little if any fault with the State of Israel. It isn't enough that Israel receives massive amounts of military and economic aid, courtesy of US taxpayers. It isn't enough that our diplomats fight Israel's battles in the international arena. No, they have to answer every critic, cultivate every personality, and promote its agenda in every forum lest it suffer a percentile drop in its overwhelming support.
Last week, my local newspaper ran a story, which encompassed 13.5 column inches, about the trial of Palestinian Marwan Barghouti in Israel, with the headline, "Defy Israeli curfews, Fatah chief says." Superimposed over the article was a large picture that covered 18 column inches. Did the picture have anything to do with the story? Not a whit.
The photo was of a somber Ariel Sharon, head bowed before the "Wall of Names," a memorial to Israeli soldiers who have died since 1948. This was an obvious public relations coup that must have left Israel's supporters howling at their ability to manipulate the press.
Of course, the story failed to mention that Israeli curfews are illegal and condemned by everyone but its principal benefactor, the United States. It failed to mention that the Palestinians are an occupied people subject to international law and the Geneva Conventions, which Israel violates daily. It failed to mention that these people are being humiliated and starved into submission.
The headline instead implied that Fatah chief Barghouti was being obstinate, for surely the Palestinians should meekly, and in complete obeisance, put their heads into the Israeli public stocks for the world to see.
The PR campaign to sanctify the war criminal Sharon's image has taken on epic proportions. Read what Uri Avnery, the Israeli peace activist, journalist, and former Knesset member, had to say about the trial after being denied entrance to the courtroom.
"Israeli TV channels gave much prominence to the riot (guaranteed by admitting only right-wing supporters) in the courtroom without reporting how it was planned and orchestrated. No wonder: what is happening now to the courts has already happened to TV. Since Ariel Sharon recently took direct control over the electronic media, everybody can see the result with his or her own eyes. Like the late Stalin, Sharon now appears on TV almost every day, speaking at length to the nation. Each such ‘event' is meticulously planned and directed by his spin-doctors. He appears among soldiers, against a background of tanks, in the company of children, at meetings of bereaved parents, at memorial ceremonies."
But it isn't enough that the Israeli sympathizers get their say in the government and the media. Their zeal to justify their actions, no matter how brutal and illegal, seems to exhibit a deep-seated fear that Americans will wake up one morning and say, "What the hell is going on here?" They need to insure that this won't happen by going after anyone and everyone who voices dissent.
Recently, a campaign has been launched by a pro-Israel group to identify and blacklist any academics who disagree with them. The Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum created a new website, dubbed Campus Watch, to monitor US academic institutions. As the site puts it, "American scholars on the Middle East, to varying degrees, reject the views of most Americans [i.e., are not pro-Israel], and the enduring [pro-Israeli] policies of the US government about the Middle East."
The group plans to "monitor and gather information on professors who fan the flames of disinformation, incitement and ignorance … and make available its findings on the Internet and in the media." The obvious objective is to label academics as pro- or anti-American, and while offering patronage and solidarity with the pro variety, they intend to incite the media and the public against those classified as "anti." They further intend to manipulate the funding and appointments to the benefits of loyal elements and the detriment of those whose policies oppose theirs.
The main objective of these fascist style tactics is to totally suppress dissent, to cultivate the approval of the masses and to strike fear into the hearts of those whose conscience drives them to speak out against the daily injustices heaped upon the Palestinians. As an example of how insidious this program is, I quote from a letter to an activist friend of mine from his concerned brother.
"While I totally agree with your position, I wish you did not have to make public comments to promote your message. Please use great caution. There have been many cases of politicians, judges, legislators, news people, and others who were ‘targeted' for such expression of free speech and calling for ‘balance' in reporting. I do not want to read about you."
Thought this was a free country, didn't you? I have a Jewish friend and fellow professional who is a PR representative at his temple. His job is to answer all letters to the editor and articles in the newspaper that might be in anyway negative on Israeli policy.
He and other members of his temple network with other Jewish organizations to see that nothing goes unanswered. They are firm believers in their mission and will destroy anyone or anything that opposes their view.
The Israeli PR machine and their apologists, like the record-setting football team that piled it on to win 222-0, are not satisfied with just winning.
They must show their power and pummel the opposition into insignificance so they may convince themselves that might makes their cause right.
One can only hope that such overzealous actions will, as has happened throughout history, lead to their own destruction. As Shakespeare would say, "‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."
Raff Ellis lives in the United States and is a retired former strategic planner and computer industry executive. He has had an abiding and active interest in the Middle East since early adulthood and has traveled to the region many times over the last 30 years.