Is it impossible to escape from Israel-related propaganda?
Yesterday, I was in a Brussels coffee shop, where I picked up a copy of Le Monde. In a section marked “The laboratories of the future”, the French daily had a full-page feature about the Israeli Institute for Technology in Haifa, which is better known as the Technion.
Described by the paper’s headline writer as a “high-tech Eden”, the university was lavished with praise for its innovative work on treating Parkinson’s disease and sending microsatellites into Space. Peretz Lavie, the university’s president, was quoted as arguing that the Technion was a model for coexistence between Israeli and Palestinian students and that there would be peace in the Middle East if everyone else could follow the Technion’s example. Indeed, the only hint that the region’s problems may encroach on the campus was in a paragraph about how students sometimes have to drop their books to fight Israel’s wars (such as the attack on Lebanon in 2006).
It seems clear that Laurent Zecchini, the author of this piece, either relied entirely on the university’s authorities for information or had no interest in exploring its military links further. For if he did a little googling, he should have easily found a comprehensive study on the Technion by Tadamon!, a Palestine solidarity organization based in Canada.
Harmony in Haifa?
That study confronts the Technion’s official drivel. Far from being a place of harmony, Palestinian students in Haifa have been treated in an overtly racist manner. Last year, 10 such students were arrested when they staged a protest against Israel’s murder of nine activists on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Yet there were no arrests of Zionist students who organized a larger counter-demonstration, which unlike the Palestinian one, was not authorized by the police.
Furthermore, the Technion has a history of close cooperation with the Israeli arms companies Rafael and Elbit, both of which supplied weapons used in the offensive against Gaza in 2008 and 2009. Technion has even joined forces with Rafael to run a business administration course specifically geared for that company’s managers.
Had Zecchini felt inclined to do a little more homework, he might also have got in touch with the Alternative Information Center, a campaign group working in Jerusalem and the West Bank. It has drawn attention to how Technion’s inventions include a remote-controlled bulldozer, designed to help the Israeli military demolish Palestinian homes.
The Technion, incidentally, is taking part in numerous EU-financed scientific research activities. And these activities have been enjoying some uncritical media attention of their own lately.
Mesmerized by murder
Home in Dublin last month, I saw an article in The Irish Times celebrating how the EU will be devoting a mammoth €7 billion to research in 2012. As the author of the article, Conor O’Carroll from the Irish Universities Association, didn’t acknowledge that Israel (including its arms industry) will be among the beneficiaries of this largesse, I contacted the paper’s editors asking if I could write an opinion piece rectifying this omission. Not a chance, I was told; the news agenda is way too crowded at the moment.
Somehow, though, The Irish Times has been able to find space in the not-too-distant past to promote Israel’s scientific triumphs. In May, it ran a puff piece about how Israel has “the highest density of start-ups in the world” and how it has been able to turn its “intermittent wars” to its advantage. “Military units often act as incubators for tech start-ups,” journalist Ian Campbell wrote. Mesmerized by this success story, Campbell forgot to trace how the products of this enterprising culture end up as tools of oppression.
Both Le Monde and The Irish Times are considered journals of record in their respective countries. It is a measure of how amenable they are to Israeli spin that they are happy to present Zionist canards as undisputed facts.
Reading them often reminds me of my favorite comment from George Orwell: “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”