Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gaza ground, PR campaigns begin

Earlier this afternoon, Israel began its expected invasion of the Gaza Strip. So far the details are sketchy as to what's going on inside Gaza (thanks to a news blackout), the news channels keep showing the only same loops of film of Israeli soldiers, glowing green and wraith-like in the nightvision scopes the camera crews used, along with massive explosions giving a hellish cast to the Gaza skyline.

Aware of how these images look played over and over on TVs around the world, the Israeli government also launched a full-scale public relations campaign, their spokespeople offering up the same lines again and again - that Israel wants peace with the Palestinians, that Israel is only acting in self-defense and that they were doing their utmost to avoid civilian casualties. Though the death totals to this point in the conflict - four Israelis to four hundred (and counting) Palestinians make that last one a bit hard to swallow. That's why I thought this piece from the Foreign Policy Journal "Top 5 Lies About Israel’s Assault on Gaza" was a good counterpoint to the spin cycle on the cable news channels. Hamas is far from blameless in this current mess, but Israel deserves their share of the burden as well - for example while Hamas never completely stopped lobbing rockets into southern Israel during the six-month cease-fire, Israel also failed to live up to their end of the bargain by not lifting the embargo it had slapped on Gaza and only allowing a trickle of goods and humanitarian supplies into the territory.

The example of last August’s Russia-Georgia conflict is a good one to keep in mind at a time like this. The early story (in the US media at least) was one of big, bad Russia attacking little, democratic, peace-loving Georgia. As time went on though, we learned that Georgia deserved more than their fair share of the blame for the conflict. In the days to come there will be a lot of spin put on the Gaza conflict, spin best viewed with a skeptical eye.

One final note - yesterday Pres. Bush condemned Hamas' rocket attacks as an act of terror against Israel, mentioning their use of Grad rockets in particular. The Grad (a crude, unguided weapon) was also the missile Georgian forces used when they attacked Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, in the middle of the night, igniting the conflict last August, which begs this question to Pres. Bush - doesn't that make our allies, the Georgians, guilty of a terrorist act as well?
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