(*Verson 2.4 – Updated 28 July 2010, 2:40GMT/11:40SYD)
Truth is a relative thing in the time of war. Well at least so say our governments. Take for example Israel’s state-sponsored campaign of misinformation and disinformation in response to the Gaza flotilla killings. The troubling thing about this latest propaganda by the Government of Israel is how bad it is. The following outlines several troubling pieces of material that almost certainly appear to be government propaganda.
Perhaps the worst example of disinformation was the “Go back to Auschwitz…Don't forget 9/11” audio fabrication released by the IDF implying that the Gaza flotilla were a pack of anti-Semites. And thus adding further justification for the action of the Israeli commandos in the killing of the 9 passengers and wounding and assaults on scores of other people.
1. Audio fabrication "Go back to Auschwitz"
The IDF initially released the audio transmission on 4 June 2010. But it was so obviously fraudulent, that the IDF released another version on the 5 June -- a ‘clarification’ -- of the initial copy. This ‘clarification’ instead of doing the honorable thing only made it worse and simply reinserted the suspect phrases within a longer time period. Listening to the ‘clarification’ only gives greater support for substantiating the original copy was a fake.
Original version released by the IDF
Clarification of the Audio Transmission, 5 June 2010
Transcript of the alleged audio communication
This audio fabrication was quickly noticed by a number of commentators including Free Gaza organizers and Max Blumenthal. One reader on Max Blumenthal's blog named "pro-Israeli" even produced a spectrographic analysis of a sample of the recording: http://i.imgur.com/R4NbJ.gif [although the anonymity of the reader does not help establish the veracity of this apparent analysis].
From conversations with various linguists, I found them to be cautious about suggesting a nationality of a speaker based on an accent. That said the first voice "Shut up, go back to Auschwitz" sounded like a non-native speaker of English from Eastern Europe, aged in his late 50s (presumably who has emigrated to Israel). The second voice "We're helping Arabs going against the US. Don't forget 9/11 guys." To me sounded like a Jewish-Israeli, aged in his early 20s with the characteristic American English accent. I accept this is speculation based on my own experience, but it shows that there is a body of people that do not accept these tapes alone as conclusive by any means in attributing anti-Semitic or terrorist comments to members of the Gaza Flotilla.
On the other hand those who claim the recording is bona fide state that even if a passenger of one of the six Gaza flotilla ships did not say these anti-semitic statements then they could have been said by a land based source. One such example could be the Filipinio Monkey pranksters; or a copy-cat. The negative response to this is that Huwaida Arraf (the female voice heard on the recording and a key organiser of the flotilla) said she never heard such anti-semitic comments. The channel that was released was channel 16. This is the emergency and distress channel (that is often used as a working channel temporarily before passing ships switch to an alternative channel). As such this communication is open to all ships in the immediate vicinity and may even be picked up by coast guards many tens of kilometers away. So if such statements were said then all the ships captains should have heard the antisemitic statements.
The second response is any claim that the statements were made by a land based source (eg Egypt) are just as much speculation that the recording is bona fide. This is because the Israeli government refuses to release the Gaza flotilla's copy of the recordings made on their ships (for this very reason). As such until Israel releases the audio of the Gaza flotilla participants any Israeli government release cannot be accepted at face value.
The third response or question is what recordings were made by Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, US, French or UK intelligence agencies who surely would be listening to this significant event. What would it take these countries to release any recordings made of the maritime communication on 31 May? What about other passing ships in the vicinity? Did they hear any such communication? What about UNIFIL or UNTSO? Did they monitor such maritime communication?
Other examples of Israeli state misinformation and disinformation that I would suggest have been created in the attempt by the Israeli government to defend their actions to the people of Israel and to bolster the support of those in the West who continue to support Israel without question, include:
2. Weapons fabrications
On the 3 June the IDF released video footage of weapons allegedly in the possession of the passengers on the Gaza flotilla. Again the purpose of this footage was to justify state sanctioned killings against an international contingent of people who sought to highlight the humanitarian plight of the people of Gaza given the Israel’s air, land and sea closure to all but the simplest of goods.
Video: Weaponry Overview and Footage of Mavi Marmara Passengers Preparing Weaponry, 3 June 2010
What is disturbing of this footage is again the blatant manipulation and tampering of evidence. Yes, it is undeniable that a group of male passengers on the Marmara did indeed prepare to confront Israeli violence with violence eg with the use of slingshots and batons. This can be clearly seen in Iara Lee's documentary.
Iara Lee, Unedited footage on the Maramara
However, the fact that there were elements within the Gaza flotilla that were willing to risk using violence against Israeli violence does not justify the killings and events that occurred in the early hours of the 31 May.
Anna Baltzer puts it into context when she reminds readers that the Israeli army had to remove 8,000 ideological settlers from Gaza who brandished sticks and stones. And yet the Army managed not to kill any settler. Baltzer chillingly then asks “Do sticks from Turks hurt more, or is it not about the sticks at all?”
Anna Baltzer, 7 June 2010 http://australiansforpalestine.com/23580
In response to the deaths the Israeli government propaganda attempted to muddy the waters with the claim that the “IDF were acting in self-defence from jihadists who wanted to lynch them”. This was the story that ran in the Jerusalem Post.
However, as time passes further evidence is building to support the Gaza flotilla’s case that the killings by Israeli forces were not acts of self-defence but were either targeted killings eg the killing of the internet operator whose function it was to get the communications off the ship; or acts of revenge (i.e unlawful executions).
The following gives examples of how the Israeli government apparently fabricated or manipulated evidence to support their claim that the Gaza flotilla participants were part of some dastardly conspirators intent on Israel’s destruction.
2.1 The sling shot fabrication
If you look at frame 1:08 there is an image of a slingshot with the capitalised words "HIZBULLAH". Hizbullah is in green writing. There are approximately 10 stars coloured in (7 blue and 3 red) above the words Hizbullah. It is at 1:08 minutes.
Then if you look at 1:26 you will see the words "islami Cihat" on the same sling shot as it is held towards the camera and displayed.
Then at 1:29 you will see the capitalised words "HAMAS".
With regard to the question of authentiicty of the text on this slingshot. It is fortuitous for Israeli political propagandists that Turkish and English share a latinised alphabet. So Hamas = Hamas in Turkish and English; Islami = Islamic; Hizbullah = Hezbollah and cihad = jihad. However the question remains (1) Why would a jihadi have written on the slingshot in the first place? (2) Has any of the passengers admitted to writing such a script? (3) Would a Turkish jihadi have written in Turkish onto the slingshot or in Arabic (the holy language of the Quaran)?
[Note: In a previous version I had made the mistake that in Turkish Islamic is written as “İslami”. That is there is a long “i” with a dot. In previous versions I had made the mistake that what I was seeing was a lower case “i”. I can thank a Max Blumenthal reader ‘Marcel’ for being corrected on this.]
As a result of these three grounds it would appear the writing on the slingshot cannot be held to be authenticate unless Israel release all the photographic evidence to the journalists and passengers. There is real concern that this script is fabricated by the Israeli military in attempt to further demonise the Gaza flotilla participants. It was fortuitous for Israeli propagandists that Turkish and English are similar. However, it makes no sense why any of the participants would write anything of the sort.
2. The knives
As mentioned by a number of commentators the knives displayed can have been sourced readily from the ships kitchen. Certainly one of the knives, the dagger with central raised rib and curved blade (at 1:03) was not a kitchen knife. But have any of the participants claimed it was theirs? How can we substantiate that this dagger was not planted by an Israeli? Was it a ceremonial knife (and therefore not a threat) as suggested by Ali Abunimah?
Ali Abunimah, “Israeli propaganda around the Gaza flotilla”, 31 May 2010
[Note here I had previously questioned the authenticity of the red crescent symbol and Turkish flags on the bullet proof vests. But since contacting IHH have confirmed the bullet proof vets did indeed have the markings shown in the footage.]
3. The deck fight scene - "the dagger and the soldier "thrown" off the deck
All this raises further questions about the authenticity of the deck fight scene on the Mavi Marmara. Take for example the image that shows a soldier being thrown off the upper deck. Why does one of the alleged passengers hold onto the soldier's backpack (at 2:03-2:04)?
“Passenger” holding the “soldiers” bag
By doing so you can see the soldier is able to hold onto it as well to help him safely drop to the deck below. Similarly the "dagger" scene (at 2:00).
Again the authenticity of this is questionable given the context and unreliability of Israeli military footage that is released for public purposes (ie winning the propoganda/publicity relations war).
RT news on Israel’s media war surrounding the Gaza flotilla
RT News, IDF video bullets - Truth & Propaganda in Gaza flotilla media war, 9 June 2010
Ehud Shem Tov, Editor Israeli Social TV
Israeli “all footage seized and controlled by Israel”
Lt Aliza Landes, New Media Head, IDF Foreign Press Branch
Prof Tamar Liebes, Dept Communication, Hebrew University
“very difficult to decipher…it is a trap”
Danny Scgecter, blogger and film maker
“Israel presents themselves as the victims, portryas everyone else as the aggressive, perhaps anti-Seimitic”
Further reading on Israeli propaganda
Max Blumenthal, The Israeli Media’s Flotilla Fail, 22 June 2010
Max Blumenthal, “Israeli military correspondents as a maid”, Velvet Underground, 18 June 2010
Robert Mackey, Photographs of Battered Israeli Commandos Show New Side of Raid, The Lede, New York Times, 7 June 2010
Narine Melikyan, “Truth and Propaganda in Gaza flotilla media war – War of Words”, mepeace, 16 June 2010
Independent journalists dismantling Israel's hold on media narrative
Abraham Greenhouse, Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 15 June 2010
James Zogby, “How Israel’s Propaganda Machine Works”, The Huffington Post, 9 January 2009
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-zogby/how-israels-propaganda-ma_b_156767.html (Accessed 14 June 2010).
Glenn Greenwald, “How Israeli propaganda shaped US media coverage of the flotilla attack”, 4 June 2010.
Max Blumenthal, “IDF Releases Apparently Doctored Flotilla Audio; Press Reports As Fact”, 4 June 2010
Ali Abunimah, “Proof emerges IDF audio of radio communication with Mavi Marmara is fabricated. #flotilla”, 4 June 2010
Committee to Protect Journalists, “CPJ denounces Israel's use of footage seized in flotilla raid raid”, 3 June 2010
"The Foreign Press Association in Israel, which represents hundreds of foreign correspondents in Israel, called the use a "clear violation of journalistic ethics and unacceptable" and warned news outlets to "treat the material with appropriate caution.""
Ali Abunimah, “Israeli propaganda around the Gaza flotilla”, 31 May 2010
Ali Abunimah, “A textbook case of Israeli propaganda“The Electronic Intifada, 8 July 2002
Concerning the claim of Palestinian propaganda in school textbooks
Further reading on propaganda
Definitions on propaganda
Propaganda Systematic manipulation of public opinion through the media. Although examples are found in ancient and early modern writings, the most effective propagandists in the 20th century were totalitarian governments of industrialized states, which were able to control all means of public communication. Many political, economic and social organizations, and pressure groups employ some kind of propaganda.
A term derived from the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, a commission of cardinals set up by Pope Gregory XV in 1622 with the purpose of spreading the Christian Gospel amongst the heathen. Propaganda gained its negative connotations during World War I, when it described the attempts by the belligerent nations to discredit their opponents and to promote their own national cause through inflammatory rhetoric, lies, and the invocation of popular prejudice. Subsequently, the development of a perfect propaganda machine by Goebbels (the dissemination of rhetoric through popular radio broadcasts, the promotion of the cinema, and the staging of mass rallies) was a crucial factor in ensuring the success of Hitler and the Nazi Party before and after 1933. Propaganda has also been used by other movements. Proponents of anti‐Semitism across Europe have used it, as have dictatorships led by Mussolini and Franco. Communist regimes too have sought to strengthen their emotional appeal, particularly when they were deficient in economic or political appeal.
Quotations on propaganda
“We fight not to destroy a nation, but a nest of evil ideas…Our business is to kill ideas. The ultimate purpose of this war is propaganda, the destruction of certain beliefs, and the creation of others.” HG Wells
“Propaganda is a soft weapon: hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way.” Lillian Hellman
That branch of the art of lying which consists in very nearly deceiving your friends without quite deceiving your enemies. on propaganda” Francis Cornford
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way round, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.”
Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves.
Goebell’s Principles of Propaganda
Lochner, Louis P. [Editor]. The Goebbels Diaries. New York: Doubleday & Company, I948.
Leonard Doob on Goebel’s Principles of Propaganda 1950
Leonard W. Doob, Goebbels' Principles of Propaganda, The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Autumn, 1950), pp. 419-442
“AMONG the Nazi documents salvaged by American authorities in Berlin in I945 are close to 6,800p ages of a manuscripto stensiblyd ic-tated by PropagandaM inisterG oebbelsa s a diaryw hich covers,w ith many gaps, the period from January 21, I942 to December 9, 1943.”
PROPAGANDA MUST LABEL EVENTS AND PEOPLE WITH DISTINCTIVE PHRASES OR SLOGANS
Again and again Goebbels placed great stress upon phrases and slogans to characterize events. At the beginning of 1942, for example, (p. 435-436)
he began a campaign whose purpose was to indicate economic, social, and political unrest in England. He very quickly adopted the phrase "schleichende Krise"-creeping crisis-to describe this state of affairs and then employed it "as widely as possible in German propaganda" both domestically and abroad (M762). His thinking was dominated by word-hunts: privately-or semi-privately-in his diary he summa-rized his own or enemy propaganda with a verbal cliche, even when he did not intend to employ the phrase in his output. He admitted that the experiencing of an event was likely to be more effective than a verbal description of it, but he also recognized that words could stand between people and events, and that their reaction to the latter could be potently affected by the former (MI385). To achieve such effects, phrases and slogans should possess the following characteristics: a. They must evoke desired responses which the audience previ-ously possesses. If the words could elicit such responses, then Goebbels' propaganda task consisted simply of linking those words to the event which thereafter would acquire their flavor. When the British raid on St. Nazaire in March of 1942 aborted, Goebbels decided to claim that it had been made to appease the Russians who had been demanding that their ally engage in military action. The raid was dubbed the "Maisky Offensive," after the Soviet envoy in London. Sometimes news could speak for itself in the sense that it elicited desired responses with-out the addition of a verbal label. A military victory was not interpreted for Germans when Goebbels wished them to feel gratified. Most news, however, was not self-explanatory: Goebbels had to attach thereto the re-sponses he desired through the use of verbal symbols. The most regu-lated news and commentary, nevertheless, could produce undesirable and unintended actions; even a speech by Hitler was misinterpreted (M4677).
16. PROPAGANDA TO THE HOME FRONT MUST CREATE AN OPTIMUM ANXIETY LEVEL For Goebbels, anxiety was a double-edged sword:t oo much anxiety could produce panic and demoralization,to o little could lead to complacency and inactivity. An attempt was constantly made, therefore, to achieve a balance between the two extremes. The strategy can be re-duced to two principles (M6I62). a. Propaganda must reinforce anxiety concerning the consequences of defeat. Enemy war aims were the principal material employed to keep German anxiety at a high pitch. "The German people must re-main convinced-as indeed the facts warrant-that this war strikes at theirv ery lives and their national possibilities of development, and they must fight it with their entire strength" (I47). Lest the campaign of "strength-through-fear"fal ter, no opportunityw as missed to attack enemy peace terms which might appear mild. Anti-Bolshevik cam-paignsa ttemptedn ot only to stiffenG ermanr esistanceb ut alsot o enlist the cooperation of all neutrala nd occupiedc ountries. On the one hand, Goebbels tried to convince himself in the diary that Germans would not be misleda gain-as they had been,a ccordingt o his view, in World War I-by enemy peace terms: they "areq uite accuratelya cquainted with their enemies and know what to expect if they were to give them-selves up" (M6684). On the other hand, he felt very strongly that Ger-mans were most vulnerablet o peace propaganda. He feared, for example,t hat Americanp ropagandam ight be directed" not ... against the German people but against Nazism" (147) and "we can surely congratulate ourselves that our enemies have no Wilson Fourteen Points" (47). Occasionallyi t becamen ecessaryt o increaset he anxiety level of Germans concerning a specific event. On February 24, I942, after the first disastrous winter campaign in Russia, Goebbels "issued orders to the German press to handle the sitation in the East favorably, but not too optimistically." He did not wish to raise false hopes but, perhaps more importantly, he did not want Germans to "cease to worry at all about the situation in the East" (99). b. Propaganda must diminish anxiety (other than that concerning the consequences of defeat) which is too high and which cannot be reduced by people themselves. Air raids obviously raised German anx-iety much too high, but they were a situation over which Goebbels could not exercise propaganda control. In other situations involving a demoralizing amount of anxiety he could be more active. "To see things in a realistic light" when the military situation in Tunisia became hopeless, German losses were portrayed as being "not of such a nature that as a result our chances for [ultimate] victory have been damaged" (M4542). In contrast, he attempted to use the same principle in reverse -the so-called "strategy of terror"-against his enemies. Leaflets were dropped on English cities "with pictures of the damage done by the English in Luebeck and Rostock, and under them the Fuehrer's an-nouncement of his Reichstag speech that reprisal raids are coming" (I93) (pp438-439)
18. PROPAGANDA MUST FACILITATE THE DISPLACEMENT OF AGGRESSION BY SPECIFYING THE TARGETS FOR HATRED Goebbels had few positive gratifications to offer Germans during the period of adversity covered by the diary. He featured enemy losses, quite naturally, whenever he could and whenever Germans were not over-confident. Only once did he praise Germans for withstanding the enemy as long as they had. By and large, the principal technique seems to have been that of displacing German aggression on to some out-group (M622o). Favorite hate objects were "Bolsheviks"and Jews. Goebbels was disturbed by reports which indicated that "the fear of Bolshevism by the broad masses of European peoples has become somewhat weaker" (M4572)o r that" certain groups of Germans, especially the intellectuals, express the idea that Bolshevismis not so bad as the Nazis represent it to be" (335). Anti-Semitic propaganda was usually combined with active measures against Jews in Germany or the occupied countries. German aggression was also directed against American and British pilots, but on the whole the United States and Great Britain did not stir Goebbels' wrath, at least in the diary (I47). In enemy countries Goebbels had a strong penchant to engage in "wedge-driving":he sought to foment suspicion, distrust, and hatred between his enemies and between groups within a particular country. He thus assumed that the foundation for hostility between nations or within a nation already existed for historical reasons or as a result of the frustrations of war. His task was to direct the aggression along disruptive channels (46). (p. 440)
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