During the last few weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has launched an effort to sway the world with short, English language video sermons on the conflict; and the latest has caused a diplomatic blowup with the U.S.: the Orwellian video Netanyahu put out last Friday titled “No Jews,” in which he said that “enlightened” countries’ pressure on Israel to remove settlements from Palestine is a demand for “ethnic cleansing” that those countries would never tolerate within their borders.
Netanyahu was trying to flip the script from the story that his country chokes and removes Palestinian communities on the West Bank, demolishes Palestinian houses, and has no interest in allowing a Palestinian state. The State Department called out that policy in angrily denouncing the video, while Palestinian leader Ahmed Tibi wrote, that Netanyahu’s statements were “immoral… [and a] total departure from rationality, history and Israel’s obligations under international law.” American liberal Zionists were also upset. J Street said that Netanyahu’s claims are “really absurd” because Israel has “systematically seized and occupied [Palestinian] land,” and Josh Marshall described the performance as an embarrassment to American Jews.
On Sunday in Haaretz, Barak Ravid reported a bombshell fact that the American media typically regard with indifference: Netanyahu’s clever language came from an American: Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the “wordsmith… political opinion guru… master political manipulator” (per the Atlantic). Ravid:
[L]arge swaths of Netanyahu’s remarks and arguments were taken from a 2009 document put together by Frank Luntz, a prominent U.S. political consultant who is identified with the Republican Party and those in the American far-right. Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, who is a close associate of the prime minister, worked with Luntz in the early 1990s.
Luntz developed the public diplomacy document for the Israel Project… Page 62 of the document states in part that ethnic cleansing is the best argument in response to the settlement issue when it comes to the U.S. public. In his video, Netanyahu repeated Luntz’s text almost word-for-word.
The document that Luntz prepared for the rightwing Israel project was titled “The Global Language Dictionary” and was an effort to sell Israel’s refusal to accept a two-state solution to an American audience in feel-good terms. It includes “The Best Settlement Argument,” which is pretty much what Netanyahu said the other day, we’re for co-existence. Luntz:
“If we are to have real peace, then Israelis and Palestinians will have to live side by side. The idea that anywhere that you have Palestinians there can’t be any Jews, that some areas have to be Jew-free, is a racist idea. We don’t say that we have to cleanse out Arabs from Israel. They are citizen [sic] of Israel. They enjoy equal rights. We cannot see why it is that peace requires that any Palestinian area would require a kind of ethnic cleansing to remove all Jews. We don’t accept it. Cleansing by either side against either side is unacceptable.”
In his video last week, Netanyahu used that Jew-free allegation — “Yet the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with ONE precondition: No Jews” –and deployed Luntz-like imagery to suggest that everyone else is a bigot, but not Israel. Netanyahu:
Since when is bigotry a foundation for peace? At This moment, Jewish school children in Judea and Samaria are playing in sandboxes with their friends. Does their presence make peace impossible? I don’t think so.
And if you go back to the “Global Language Dictionary” from 2009, it turns out that Luntz got a lot of the language from Netanyahu himself– who you should never forget was once a furniture salesman. Luntz:
“Here’s the best news: virtually all of the language in this chapter comes directly from Prime Minister Netanyahu himself. These words are both in line with the Israeli administration’s policy and highly effective. That’s what we call a homerun in America. The challenge now is to get all of Israel’s spokespersons hitting the same notes.”
Luntz and Netanyahu are twins in their effort to sell unpopular ideas. The wisecracking 54-year-old pollster, who reportedly urged George W. Bush to use the words “climate change” instead of “global warming,” is the son of Connecticut Jewish textbook authors (per Wikipedia), and an ardent Zionist. He has counseled many Israeli Jewish politicians from all parties–because he is “pained by Israel’s inadequate but improving performance in [communications, and is] a Zionist who insists he has no partisan preferences here,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
In that interview three years ago, Luntz adopted the classic armchair-irresponsible American Jewish line about never criticizing anything Israel does:
It’s not for people who don’t live here to tell you what you should do. My job is to help you communicate your policy effectively…
I need Israel to be able to fight another day – linguistically, not just physically. And if there is a misperception, there has to be a better way to educate and communicate and inform.
His work is fully in line with the Israel Project’s goal, to package intolerant policies as Ben and Jerry’s latest flavor:
I exist because The Israel Project exists. And the reason The Israel Project exists is because nobody was focusing on the impact of messaging – not the delivery of it, but the impact of it. To this day there is insufficient appreciation of the impact that words, and how they are delivered, can have on audiences.
Netanyahu’s recent barrage of videos surely reflect Luntz’s theme, shaping communications for an idealistic American audience:
I really hope that the Israeli leadership realizes that the American political situation is not the same today as it was two years or four years or six years ago. And just as leaders have changed, the communication should change.
On Fresh Air in 2007, per Wikipedia, Luntz sought to portray the term “Orwellian” in a “positive” sense, as an effort to communicate a meaning succinctly. In his JPost interview, the streetsmart Luntz described his battle to turn Jewish students into warriors for Israel, and do so by tricky tactics:
We did a session with MIT and Harvard students. The best of the best. We had 35 people in the room: 20 of them were non-Jewish, 15 were Jewish. And I didn’t tell anyone who was which. And I’d recruited them by telling them “we’re going to talk about Iraq, Iran and the Middle East,” not telling them that the real focus was Israel….
It was so crowded that we had kids sitting on the floor. But that added to the intensity. They felt like they were in a dorm room. And within 10 minutes, the non-Jews started with “the war crimes of Israel,” with “the Jewish lobby,” with “the Jews have a lot more power and influence” – stuff that’s borderline anti-Jewish.
And guess what? Did the Jewish kids at the best schools in America, did they stand up for themselves? Did they challenge the assertions? They didn’t say sh*t. And in that group was the leader of the Israeli caucus at Harvard. It took him 49 minutes of this before he responded to anything.
The group is over. It’s a three-hour group. I then say, “Who’s Jewish, who isn’t?” And at that point some of the Jewish kids got a little outraged. I dismiss all the non-Jewish kids.
And the Jewish kids are there. And they’re now ticked at me for doing this, you know, “Why have you segregated us?” I said, “I’m Frank Luntz and I’m Jewish, and I’ve been working on this now for 10 years, and you all didn’t say sh*t.”
And it all dawned on them: If they won’t say it to their classmates, who they know, who will they stand up for Israel to?
So that’s where the Zionist project has taken the Jewish people. It has led to the tricking and isolating and embarrassing of the smartest and brightest young Jewish kids in the world, to guilt them to memorize an Orwellian immoral document, whose goal is to obfuscate, to celebrate tendentiousness, in order to defend the indefensible. All in the name of, and great cause of, Jewish ethnic loyalty. It has led to a permanent Prime Minister. Who now instead of duping his customers into buying a form fitting bed is using his grade B acting skills to try to sell the world on a permanent Israeli occupation.