Israel's public relations nightmare

July 10, 2009

In the aftermath of Israel's brutal December-January war on Gaza, which killed more than 1300 civilians, it is under greater scrutiny than ever. Its attempts to spin its crimes against humanity as justified self-defence are increasingly falling on deaf ears.

The July 4 Sydney Morning Herald said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's closest adviser, Ron Dermer, admitted: "We have to break out of the straitjacket. We have to defend our own right to defend ourselves. It's not for other people to do it for us.

"It is not enough for Israel to say that it wants peace. You must also say that you are not a thief. We did not steal another people's land. That is the core of this conflict."

Eytan Gilboa of Israel's Bar-Ilan University told the SMH: "We need to be spending $US100 million a year on information campaigns abroad — primarily in Arab countries and then in Europe, where there is a complete lack of knowledge of what Israel is and what Israel does."

Unfortunately for Israel's rulers, there is more than enough knowledge of ongoing Israeli human rights abuses, condemned by hundreds of United Nations resolutions, that are a daily part of Israel's illegal occupation.

It's a level of abuse that spin cannot hide.

Israel has been condemned for its crimes this year in reports by human rights organisations including the Red Cross, Amnesty International, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and Human Rights Watch.

A report from an Amnesty International delegation to Gaza in January said "there is no camera lens wide enough to embrace the sheer dimensions of the devastation".

As a result of Israel's near-total siege ontop of the war, 96% of Gaza's 1.4 million inhabitants are dependent on humanitarian aid, Sarah Roy said in a July 9 article.

On July 5, the European Union condemned Israeli settlements for "strangling the Palestinian economy" and perpetuating its dependence on donors. This statement was later overturned when Israeli officials complained to the EU, Ha'aretz said on July 9.

Within Israel, there are plans to end towns with an "Israeli-Arab" majority. Israeli-Arab is how Israel describes Palestinians living within it.

Already, tight planning restrictions limit the ability of Israel's Palestinian population to build homes. Vetting committees work to keep "Arabs" out of many areas. This is backed by laws aimed to ensure Israel remains first and foremost a Jewish state.

In the July 6 National, Jonathon Cook said Israeli housing minister Ariel Atias announced plans to relocate ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews as a part of a program of revitalising the "Jewish nature" of Israel.

Atias proposed the development of an exclusively Haredi town with 20,000 people.

The plans are just the latest project being proposed by Nefesh B'Nefesh, an organisation that facilitates the transfer of Jewish immigrants into Israel. In December, it announced a program to offer financial incentives to settle in northern Israel.

This has been a tactic used to entice lower-income citizens to move into Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Cook said "several mayors of northern cities in Israel have appealed to Mr Atias to help them 'save' the Jewishness of their communities in a similar manner by recruiting Haredim to swell the numbers of Jews in the north".

The July 3 Jerusalem Post said Atias told an Israeli Bar Association conference in Tel Aviv the previous day: "We can all be bleeding hearts, but I think it is unsuitable [for Jews and Arabs] to live together.

"If we go on like we have until now, we will lose the Galilee. Populations that should not mix are spreading there."

Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso, from foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman's far-right Yisrael Beiteinu Party, told on June 25: "As a man of Greater Israel, I think it more important to settle the Galilee than Judea and Samaria [in the West Bank] … I urge the settlers to come here."

Left-wing Hadash chairperson Mohammad Barakeh responded in the July 2 "Racism is spreading throughout the government and Minister Atias is the latest to express it."

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