Killing Palestinian protesters turns into a PR debacle for Israel

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Something has shifted in the discourse of Israel since the Friday killings of 17 Palestinian protesters in Gaza, many of them plainly unarmed, by Israeli snipers from across a security fence: the hasbara– Israeli propaganda– is not working.

The country has plainly done something indefensible. The usual defenders are silent, and the criticism from the left/center is stronger than ever. Senator Bernie Sanders’s sharp criticism is actually leading the U.S. discussion of the event.

Ori Nir of Americans for Peace Now captures the moment, tweeting in Hebrew (roughly translated):

“National Public Radio” Morning Edition, the United States’s largest radio network, opened its news: Israel says it will not investigate the circumstances of the 15 Gaza residents killed on Friday’s clashes. Another propaganda achievement of the government whose army is the most moral in the world.

“A pro-Palestinian narrative” is dominating international media, The Times of Israel reports; and fingers are being pointed throughout the Israeli government about who allowed Israel to be led into this PR “trap” by Palestinians. Michael Oren who can spin anything can’t spin this one.

Michael Oren, for one, the deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office who is responsible for diplomacy, said Israel was patently unprepared for the crisis on the diplomatic and media battlefield, and that the word he was getting from abroad was that the Israeli narrative is losing “big time” to the Palestinian narrative.

A crisis indeed. Usually-vehement Israel defenders in the U.S. are keeping quiet. They surely hope this will blow over. Bill Kristol has nothing to say about the killings. Neither does the voluble Bret Stephens. Jennifer Rubin has been silent on twitter.

The liberal Zionist group Ameinu sent out a Passover greeting today with talk of the African refugees, but not a word about the killings. As for J Street– bupkus on twitter. Nothing on the blog either.

Jacob Magid of the Times of Israel dismisses the effort by the Israeli government to justify the killings by saying the army identified 10 of the 15 killed as “Hamas activists.” As if “this in and of itself was enough a reason to shoot them dead,” he said.

If the IDF wants to put out a statement saying the men were in the middle of carrying out an attack when soldiers engaged, that’s one thing but saying they were “Hamas activists” means little

The Republican Jewish Coalition is also reduced to slinging pathetic, patently-false story-lines. It tweets:

Gaza March Used Civilian (Including Children) Human Shields to Trap Israel

While AIPAC tweets an article by David Horovitz in the Times of Israel that brims with Israeli paranoia:

Gaza’s terrorist rulers make no secret of their agenda. They are out to destroy Israel. Suicide bombers, rockets, and tunnels have failed. So now it’s mass marches on the border.

It is a sign of the discourse shifting that the Republican Jewish Coalition is now fastened on–Bernie Sanders.

Violent, militarized “protesters” were attempting to cross the Gaza border fence, but would have the Israeli’s sit back and take it. That isn’t leadership, it’s cowardice.

You’d think Sanders would be beyond the pale But no, the moral leader of the left in the U.S. is at center stage. Sanders took a little while to condemn the killings, but he has been extremely strong. Here is Ynet’s report:

Sanders attacked Israel on Saturday with a tweet, saying, “The killing of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli forces in Gaza is tragic. It is the right of all people to protest for a better future without a violent response.”

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Sanders was asked if he accepted Israel’s version that most of the Palestinian dead were terrorists who directed attacks against Israel under the cover of protesters.

“No, I don’t,” Sanders responded. “My understanding is you have tens of thousands of people who were engaged in a non-violent protest. I believe now 15 or 20 people, Palestinians, have been killed, and many many others have been wounded. So I think it’s a difficult situation, but my assessment is that Israel overreacted on that.

Yet more evidence of the fact that Israel is getting thrashed in the international response is, the New York Times op-ed page has had nothing to say about these atrocities, while a Washington Post foreign affairs writer, Ishaan Tharoor, is condemning them outright: “For Israel, there’s little political cost to killing Palestinians.”

Tharoor’s article is clear about the moral outrage here, and about the reason, Israel’s impunity.

“These are the predictable outcomes of a manifestly illegal command: Israeli soldiers shooting live ammunition at unarmed Palestinian protesters,” said Amit Gilutz, a spokesman for B’Tselem, a Jerusalem-based leftist organization that monitors human rights abuses in the occupied territories. “What is predictable, too, is that no one — from the snipers on the ground to top officials whose policies have turned Gaza into a giant prison — is likely to be ever held accountable.”

The Israeli leadership had reason to feel comfortable in its defianceThe most vocal criticism from abroad came from Iran and Turkey; censure from either country is more likely a source of relish for Netanyahu than unease. And at the United Nations, the Trump administration blocked the Security Council from issuing a statement that called for an “independent and transparent investigation” and affirmed the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest.

Tharoor links to Eric Umansky, deputy managing editor of Pro Publica, who has produced a lacerating and eloquent series of tweets on the optics of the murders:

1/ I know our capacity for outrage has been sapped, but the images coming from Gaza are truly shocking. 2/ Here’s a video —shared by the Washington Post—of a young man shot and killed as he was *rolling a tire away from the border* 3/ Here’s a video of a man shot as he was praying with others 4/ Israel says videos are fabricated. Except multiple videos show same thing. 5/ Here’s another young man who was shot in the head as he was watching the protests and puffing a cigarette. 6/ Sixteen Palestinians were shot to death, hundreds more wounded. You’ve heard of Bloody Sunday, right? That’s when British troops killed 14 protesters in N. Ireland. I wonder how history and we will remember Gaza, if at all. 7/ There may be plenty left to know about what happened. But Israeli officials aren’t interested in finding out. An investigation? Defense Minister Lieberman said, “There won’t be one” He said “all the soldiers deserve a medal.”

Finally, even mainstream Israeli figures are jumping ship. A leading radio host might be fired for saying he’s “ashamed to be Israeli.” Haaretz:

Top Israeli radio host Kobi Meidan has been silenced on Army Radio after posting on Facebook that he’s “ashamed to be Israeli” after 15 Gazans were shot dead during mass Gaza protests along the Israel-Gaza border last week.

After talking with the media personality, Army Radio commander Shimon Elkabetz ordered the station to no longer broadcast Meidan on the air, but it remains to be seen whether temporarily or permanently.

We will of course be closely monitoring the international response to the killings, including in official forums. But the media narrative is hardening, Israel went way too far. No wonder a local friend asked me yesterday, Has Israel lost its mind?

Thanks to Ofer Neiman, James North, and Todd Pierce.


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Their minds have been lost for a long, long time. The only difference is that more people are finally waking up. Hopefully. Last night I read these articles from Haaretz: “Gaza Border Protest Organizer: Israel Portrays Us as Savages. But All We Seek Is Freedom One Gaza resident says the… Read more »

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“Apartheid Israel can be defeated, just as apartheid in South Africa was defeated”.
–Winne Mandela, 9/6/36  – 4/2/18 .

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