Time to expose Israeli propaganda network

The Israeli government knows the importance of propaganda, but rather than use the equivalent of Lord Haw-Haw or Hanoi Jane, it encourages more subtle ways of indoctrinating an unsuspecting world in its favour, attempting to turn public opinion against the Palestinians and their supporters.

Brian Whitaker of the Guardian recently exposed an innocent-appearing translation website - ostensibly a non-profit, non affiliated organisation - altruistically set-up to translate articles appearing in the Arabic and Israeli press - the Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri).

Memri’s stated aim on its website is to bridge the gap between East and West. Whitaker, however, realised over time that the free Memri translations of articles in the Arab press, which arrived on his desk, invariably cast the Arab world in a bad light.

Aware that these selective translations were being sent not only to the Western media but also to parliamentarians in the West, including those in the U.S., he decided to do his own investigation into the people behind Memri.

After some digging, Whitaker discovered that the founder, president and owner of Memri’s website turned out to be none other than one Yigal Carmon, an ex-colonel in the Israeli military intelligence services. Colonel Carmon also served as an advisor to two Israeli prime ministers.

Whitaker quoted Carmon as having said to an American audience: “The controlled media of the Arab governments conveys hatred of the West and, in particular, the United States.”

Carmon has also claimed that most of the guests on the Qatari-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera are anti-Semitic. Hardly the type of statements that a person who genuinely wanted to bridge the gap between East and West would make!

One of the tools in the Zionist propaganda armoury is the loaded term “anti-Semitic”, which is being thrown around with wild abandon these days, used to label anyone who doesn’t agree with their political agenda.

Like the boy who cried “Wolf”, the term is becoming devalued with over-use and instead of being applied to genuine Jew-haters, it’s used to describe those who consider Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories illegal.

Robert Fisk of the Independent - a champion of the Palestinian cause, who has firmly come out against any new aggression on Iraq - has been the recipient of hate-mail and even death-threats from Zionist detractors.

Fisk, who has often been wrongly maligned as an anti-Semite, spoke of a letter he had received in 1996, which read: ‘I do not like or admire anti-Semites. Hitler was one of the most famous in recent history’. Said Fisk, “Yet compared to the avalanche of vicious, threatening letters and openly violent statements that we journalists receive today, this was comparatively mild.”

Another Internet organisation, which targets those who challenge Israeli policies is the misnamed HonestReporting.com. Honest Reporting - set up by a young Jewish web-designer in North London - began a campaign of hate against the Guardian and its journalists.

The Guardian suddenly began receiving hundreds of emails from all over the world asking the same question: Why would the Guardian provide the moral justification for the multiple murder of innocent Israeli civilians?

Many of these hate-filled missives were addressed to the newspaper’s Middle East correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg. Other emails, says the Guardian, “were scary and even violent in tone”, asking: “Have you killed a Jew today?” or “Are you anti-Jewish?”.

An investigation discovered that HonestReporting receives funds from Media Watch International in the U.S. Media Watch International was founded by a “group of concerned Jewish business people in New York”, according to its director Sharon Tsur.

Media Watch International is linked to the Jerusalem Fund of Aish Ha Torah. After the expose by the Guardian, Honest-Reporting has now shown its true colours on its website, and now admits its Zionist affiliations.

HonestReporting boasts of thousands of like-minded subscribers, ready, willing and able to assist in spreading its pro-Israel, Zionist propaganda far and wide. When HonestReporting finds an article published in the mainstream media non-supportive of its agenda, it circulates the article to its members, asking them to send ready-made protest emails to the publisher, with one click of a button. It later gloats over its perceived “successes”.

Other Zionist websites, such as Masada.com and Mish-Mash.ca (also calling itself the Jewish Watchdog) are more up-front concerning their real agendas. Their main aims are to intimidate pro-Palestinian journalists, publications and television channels.

Masada’s website begins with: “Those who bless her (Israel) will be blessed, and those who curse her will be cursed.”

Mish-Mash has a web page for so-called “Dangerous People Alerts” nominating as dangerous people the pro-Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah, ex-Palestine National Authority Cabinet member Hanan Ashrawi, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and even the former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Apart from aggressive pressure being put upon journalists by members of Zionist websites, Israel has a dedicated satellite channel broadcasting its propaganda around the world in Arabic.

Between airing the latest Egyptian movies and entertainment spectaculars, its producers slot-in so-called news programmes, showing Arab Israelis purportedly lining up to join the Israeli Defence Forces, IDF, or teenage Arab youths happily playing music or drinking coffee with their Jewish Israeli counterparts.

What is rarely shown on the Israeli Arabic-language channel or on the American networks are the victims of the IDF. Footage of babies, shot while in their mother’s arms like four-month-old Iman Haju, never feature on their programme schedules.

Neither does video of the 14 (eight of them children) who died when the IDF dropped a one-ton bomb onto a heavily populated area in Gaza, or the 140 plus who were injured.

Not for viewers in the U.S. and Israel the scenes of frantic parents searching the rubble for their babies, or shots of the dead children, covered in their own blood on steel mortuary tables. And neither do they show the endless lines of Palestinian men, women and children who wait for hours and sometimes days at checkpoints under the burning summer sun or the humiliating treatment to which they are subject daily.

Why isn’t the Arab world fighting back under the onslaught of this Zionist propaganda campaign? Certainly a lack of financial resources isn’t the crux of this failure.

Almost a year ago, Al-Jazeera announced that it intended launching an English-language satellite news channel and began broadcasting regular English language talk shows out of the U.S. Since then, nothing has been heard of the new English-language network, and its English talk shows have ceased.

Palestine Television, on the other hand, is making a valiant effort at spreading the truth about the atrocities being committed by the Israeli military on the West Bank and in Gaza. Its main studios having been bombed, it transmits from temporary and basic facilities somewhere in Gaza.

Without sophisticated equipment and few resources, Palestine Television broadcasts an English-language programme every evening entitled Your Message to the World.

The two-hour call-in show receives callers from as far afield as Australia, America, the UK, the Gulf and Nigeria, besides the neighbouring countries.

After watching the scenes of carnage shown by the programme, callers often become extremely emotional: sorrowful, disbelieving or just plain angry. Time after time, callers from the West say: “We didn’t know. Our media doesn’t show us this.” Palestinian callers invariably shout: “Where is the world? Why have we been abandoned?”

Egypt’s Nile TV also has English-language programming but rather than show the traumatic aftermath of house demolitions, it mainly concentrates on interviewing sun-tanned European Red Sea tourists or corpulent Western females, wearing T-shirts and baseball caps, attempting to learn the undulating movements of Oriental dancing.

With the combined wealth of the Arab world and the media professionalism, evidenced by Al-Jazeera, MBC, Al Mutstaqbal and EDTV, there seems on the surface to be no obstacle to an Arab-owned and managed version of CNN or NBC. This is urgently needed to present the Arab point of view to the rest of the world.

It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a news only network. Alternatively it could be an entertainment/sports channel showing the latest Western movies and live sports events to attract a wide viewership, while interspersing these with news, current affairs programmes and documentaries on Arab culture and tradition.

There is a growing awareness in the Arab world now concerning the importance of public relations, but this has yet to be translated into a results-oriented medium a far as television is concerned.

In June, there was a meeting of Arab Information Ministers held in Cairo when they urged Arab states to speed up plans for an English-speaking Arab channel to address international public opinion. We are still waiting.

The Internet, however, has witnessed a plethora of pro-Palestinian websites springing up, such as the highly professional and committed Electronic Intifada, Palestine Media Watch and Ramallah On-line. These sites offer the latest news on the ground from the Palestinian territories, up-to-date articles, day-to-day accounts of life under occupation as well as historical facts.

These pro-Palestinian websites also organise campaigns to get their message across in the most effective way possible, without using HonestReporting-type intimidation tactics. Visitors to the websites are urged to provide moral support to courageous reporters like Robert Fisk, Suzanne Goldenberg, Amira Hass, and Gideon Levy.

Phil Donahue is the latest media personality to come into the range of the Zionist firing line.

Donahue has actually “dared” to interview advocates for the Palestinians instead of the usual diet of Dennis Ross, Dory Gold and Benjamin Natanyahu, regular “Middle East experts” making the rounds of the U.S. networks.

Donahue - not to be confused with Ed Donahue of Fox, who can hardly say the word ‘Palestinian’ without screwing up her nose in distaste - is now with MSNBC and has a prime-time slot on U.S. cable television.

The pro-Palestinian website pmwatch.org writes: “The show is injecting much-needed sanity into the mainstream Israel/Palestine debate” and predicts that “Phil Donahue is sure to be branded as a ‘terrorist lover’ and an ‘anti-Semite’ ”. Pmwatch urges support for Donahue and the show’s senior producer Jeff Cohen, formerly with Fair and Accurate Reporting.

Armed with the courage of their convictions, brave journalists are doing their best to say it like it is. But unless they are given support, they too could opt for the easier and safer option.

Robert Fisk sums it up best: “As journalists, our lives are now forfeit to the Internet haters. If we want a quiet life, we will just have to toe the line, stop criticising Israel or America. Or just stop writing altogether.”

It is surely time for Arab countries to band together to create an English-language media to rival the U.S. and to offer a forum for reporters of conscience to speak out.

If the Arabs, themselves, shrink from going the extra mile, then why should they? Perhaps there will come a day when they won’t and the Israeli propaganda merchants will have won. What a sad day that would be.

Linda S. Heard is a writer, editor and Arabist, who has lived and worked for most of her life in the Middle East.