How Israel's Propaganda Machine Works

As in past Mideast conflicts, both the media story line and political commentary here in the U.S. has closely followed Israel's talking points on the war. This has been an essential component in Israel's early success and in its ability to prolong fighting without U.S. pushback. Because it recognizes the importance of the propaganda war, Israel fights on this front as vigorously and disproportionately as it engages on the battlefield.
 Here's how they have done it:
  1.    Define the terms of debate, and you win the debate. Early on, the Israelis work to define the context, the starting point, and the story line that will shape understanding of the war. In this instance, for example, they succeeded by constant repetition, in establishing the notion that the starting point of the conflict was December 19th, the end of the six-month ceasefire (which Israel described as "unilaterally ended by Hamas"). In doing so, they ignored, of course, their own early November violations, and their failure to honor their commitment in the ceasefire to open Gaza's borders. They also ignored their having reduced Gaza into a dependency, a process which began long before and continued after their withdrawal in 2005. Because they know that most Americans do not closely follow the conflict and are inclined to believe, as the line goes, "what they hear over and over again," this tactic of preemptive definition and repetition succeeds.
  2.       Recognize that stereotypes work. Because, for generations, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been defined with positive cultural images of Israel and negative stereotypes of Palestinians, Israel's propagandists have an advantage here that is easy to exploit. Because the story has long been seen as "Israeli humanity confronting the Palestinian problem," media coverage of any conflict begins with how "the problem" is affecting the Israeli people. As Golda Meir once put it, "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we can never forgive them for making us kill their children." And so, it was not surprising that, despite the disproportionate suffering of the Palestinians, media coverage attempted to "balance" the story, giving an extensive treatment, with photos of anguished and fearful Israelis and the impact the war was having on them. Early on, when media treatment mattered most, Palestinians were reduced, as always, to mere numbers or objectified as "collateral damage."
  3.       Anticipate and count on your opponent's blunders. Hamas' stupidity played into Israel's strategy. From the outset, Israel could count on the fact that Hamas would launch rockets and issue the kind of threats that Israel could then parley into sympathy in the West. Knowing that these would most certainly come, and could be exploited, was an advantage in their propaganda war.
  4.       Be everywhere, and say the same thing  -- and make sure your opponents remain as invisible as possible. Israel begins each war with a host of English-speaking spokespersons (many born in the West) available at any time for every media outlet (it's no accident, for example, that Israel has an "Arab" Consul General in Atlanta - that's where CNN is). The work of their propaganda operation, which spreads multiple spokespersons in venues across the United States with consistent talking points, guarantees success. At the same time, they are able to deny media access to Gaza, only allowing the Western reporters to operate near the war zone under IDF supervision, guaranteeing Israel the opportunity to shape every aspect of the story while removing the possibility of independent verification of the horror unfolding in Gaza.
  5.       Give no ground. Since half of the story will be determined by what political leaders say and do, the political apparatus in Washington is also pressed into service, ensuring that White House and Congressional leadership will "toe the line." Statements issued by Congress, therefore, reflect the talking points and, together, the Israeli spokespersons, the political commentators, and the Congressional statements serve as echoes of one another
  6.       Deny, deny, deny. When events and reality break through, contradicting the Israeli-established narrative, creating stories that run counter to the imposed story line, the propaganda machine works overtime to deny, deny, deny (saying quite boldly, "Who do you believe, me or your lying eyes?"), and/or concoct a counter-narrative that shifts the blame ("We didn't do it, they made us"). In this instance, that means asserting that the death of Palestinian civilians is always the fault of someone else, or that reporters or their opponents are staging the photos of grief (as if to say, "Arabs don't really grieve like we do").
  7.       The last refuge.... When all else fails, point to a few examples of outrageous anti-Semitism, generalize them, suggesting that that is what motivates critics. It stings, and may be over-used, but it can silence or put critics on the defensive.


by Arab American Institute President James Zogby.

Comments (7)  

El Younsi M.
0 #1 Arabs agreed to desagreeEl Younsi M. 2009-01-13 16:40
Mr. Zogby,
I might also add:
8. They (Israelis) understand perfectly the political landscape in the arab world, and the arab mindset, which undoubtedly helpt them achieving their objectives in every conflict!

9. lack of interest of the arab governments to learn from their mistakes, and at least to tackle down real issues that could in long term change the image of the arab society, suchas: employment, health, modern education, economy, and most important of all, democracy, freedom, and respect of human rights!

10. Lack of vision of the arab rulers,their ignorance of the reality in the arab streets, and their love for dreaming big! This is the reason why the world leaders don't really pay much attention to what they say or do! The arab governments are there to protect their own interest only! They don't give a..... about the arab people! I am not talking about Hamas, or Hezb Allah, this is another issue! However, I would like to say that practice in the arab world, has been established as to, if a president dies, his son (if he has one) will take over! The same can be said regarding their governments also! Figures in any government are there for life! They don't want to give chance to others, especially young, and women! You've got members of governments for instance, who are as old as they don't even remember what they had for dinner last night, but they are glued to their positions!This does not exclude the Arab League either! Frankly, except for Lebanon, I don't think there is any democracy in this world! Show me a president in the arab world who left the Office after his political term! None! This is unfortunately the big problem of the arab societies! Unfortunately, this how this world will remain! Ibn Khaldoun have said it centuries agao:" The Arabs agreed to desagree"!It is a shame! By the way Mr. Zobby, I have lots of respect for you. You are doing great job in the institute, keep up with the good job!
Thank you for sharing with us your thoughts.
Houcine Diouri
0 #2 COMMENT_TITLE_R E How Israel's Propaganda Machine WorksHoucine Diouri 2009-01-14 03:12
Until Arabs (and Muslims) begin to value the life of their own the same way Israelis and Westerners do, Israel will win this battle. It seems to me that death has become more valuable than life in the Arab (Muslim) world.
Hassan Barghouti
0 #3 COMMENT_TITLE_R E How Israel's Propaganda Machine WorksHassan Barghouti 2009-01-14 04:29
You hit the nail on the head. You could not have phrased it better.

You stated the problem and we would be interested to hear your or anyone else's thoughts about a solution.
Angry Arab Woman
0 #4 COMMENT_TITLE_R E How Israel's Propaganda Machine WorksAngry Arab Woman 2009-01-14 11:34
A great king once said: \"In order to win the battle against your enemies you must use their own weapons against them\" let\'s use the same Israeli weapons:

-let all of us Muslims send between 13 and 27% of our yearly salary to Palestine to build an army
-let all of us Muslims send both our sons and daughters to the army for 4 years as soon as they\'re 18 yrs old to fight for Palestinians
-let\'s tell our beautiful Muslim wives to refrain from shopping, massages, hair, nails etc etc etc.....and send that unnecessarily spent money to Palestine for food
-let\'s tell those same wives to cut on Botox, Restylane, Liposuccion treatments and send that unnecessarily spent money to Palestine for health care
-let\'s tell our nice brothers in Dubai to stop the lavish, opulent, pretentious luxury constructions and go build housing for Palestinians
-let\'s tell our generous Saudi brothers (you know the ones with our Holy Mecca?) to send money to Palestine instead of spending it on North African and East European prostitutes

But most importantly, if we really care about Palestine well then let\'s REALLY do something about it.
Because sending hateful racist chain emails and/or posting messages on Facebook only makes you feel good about yourself and makes you look good in front of people,

(I did! I sent $120 to the Gisha Org....what do YOU do????)
boawda jamal
0 #5 COMMENT_TITLE_R E How Israel's Propaganda Machine Worksboawda jamal 2009-01-15 05:09
For the first time i felt good reading something from MAP. Here it is and everyone should read it:

King Mohammed VI not to participate personally in Doha, Kuwait Arab summits
Fez, Jan. 15 (MAP) - King Mohammed VI has decided not to attend in person the proposed extraordinary Doha Summit, to be exclusively devoted to the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, and the Arab economic Summit, planned long beforehand, and which will address various issues, particularly the situation in occupied Palestine.

A press release of the king's office said on Wednesday the decision is due to objective reasons and sad considerations relating to the depressing Arab situation, whose deterioration has reached an unprecedented level in the history of Arab joint action.

The mere fact of proposing the convening of an Arab summit now gives rise to squabbling and outbidding tactics, even disputes between Arab countries, the release said, noting that sadly, these secondary disagreements eclipse the vital causes of the Ummah, particularly the Palestinian question, and obscure the very essence of the conflict in the region and play into the hands of the true enemies of the Arab world.

The communiqué notes that this atmosphere of disunity gives the Arab public opinion the impression that there are attempts to secure exclusive leadership of the Arab world or create specific axes or zones of influence, a prospect Morocco has always sought to avoid.

Instead of being about specific strategies, the current disputes unfortunately concern personal disagreements, exception among some wise leaders who are known for their balanced stances, it read.

Worse still, the release went on, some parties almost reduce Arab summits - as important as they may be - to their mere convening, or simply to the media coverage accompanying them. As a result, the stakes are reduced to nothing more than arguments about the summit’s venue, or timing, or subject, or again to the mere nature and level of participation; energies are thus wasted on reciprocal reproaches, which cause rifts to deepen further, it stressed.

Sadly, the press release of the king’s office deplores, this gives the adversaries of the Arab nation the opportunity to portray an image of Arab uncertainty, immaturity and irresponsibilit y, even the triviality of Arab meetings.

Beyond the magnitude and impact of the external aggression, we ought to recognize that the problem lies with the Arabs themselves; therefore any solution to the problem is to start with them, it said.

If the Arab world fails to reach solutions to inter-Arab problems, which are exhausting our resources, it will not be able to solve any external conflict. This is evidenced by the bitter reality of Arab stances toward the Israeli aggression against the brotherly Palestinian people.

It should be pointed out, for the sake of history and the truth, the communiqué underscored, that Morocco, pondering with deep sadness on the implications of the current critical situation, believes the sanctity of the Palestinian cause and the seriousness of Arab problems and dissensions require that we all show the highest degree of responsibility and rise to the historic moment.

It deemed that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict requires a precise Arab strategy, efficient and rational action, concrete solidarity as well as a unified stance and the rejection of divisions and narrow interests.

This is the course of action to which Morocco has always been committed. It has remained in the forefront of those who have been defending, with wisdom, sincerity and commitment, the Palestinian cause as well as all other just Arab causes, both under late King Hassan II, and during the current reign of King Mohammed VI, the communiqué read.

It underlined that Morocco, its King, government and people, will continue to support the Palestinian cause, which our country considers to be just as sacred as the question of our territorial integrity.

At this critical juncture, and as the tragic situation in the Gaza Strip is calling out to the conscience of the Arab nation and, indeed, to mankind, the Moroccan people will proudly continue, as in the past, to support our Palestinian brothers, who are currently subjected to a brutal Israeli aggression.

Thus, and further to instructions by the sovereign, there have been various forms of uninterrupted support and assistance, as reflected by the emergency humanitarian airlift, the material assistance provided by the Moroccan State, and the solidarity and donations granted by all Moroccans.

In the same spirit of commitment and solidarity, it went on, Morocco will continue, under the leadership of King Mohammed VI, Chairman of the Committee of Al-Quds Al-Sharif, to focus all its efforts and action, at all levels and in various forums - be they bilateral, regional or international - on seeking a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict; a solution that will necessarily require the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital, based on the Arab Peace Initiative and the resolutions of international legitimacy, which provide for the coexistence of a Palestinian state and an Israeli state, living in security and peace.

Building on these honest, sincere foundations, the source concluded, Morocco, together with all good willing Arab sister nations, wishes to reiterate its strong, enduring commitment to any Arab joint action, at all levels and in all sectors.

The Kingdom of Morocco will therefore take part in the forthcoming Arab Summit to be held in the sister nation, the State of Kuwait.
0 #6 COMMENT_TITLE_R E How Israel's Propaganda Machine WorksGwendilan 2009-01-17 05:54
I would like to express my thoughts on what has been happening in Gaza.

I think it is high time that the international community must bring Israel to Court to be punished for their war crime. ?All those soldiers who had killed innocent civilians should be brought to justice as well as their leaders.?

Palestine must be established as its own country and never to be under the biased ruthless control of Israel. ?United Nations should rise to this and meet all humantarian needs and bring about an independent state of Palestine. ?Palestine must never be patrolled by Israeli soldiers who have blood on their hands.

High time this issue be solved with careful considerations on the underlying pains and sufferings of the Palestinian people otherwise peace would be difficult.

Egypto-American Jew
0 #7 Is a counter PR war what is really best for the PaEgypto-American Jew 2009-01-27 14:55
You have said a number of things but it is unclear what your objective is with this article.

Israeli Arabs have more rights than Arabs do anywhere else in the world. Palestinians in Gaza are subjected to strict religious law (You can be beaten for singing in Gaza from what I understand) thanks to Hamas.

The rest of the Arab world could help the Palestinians and Gazan's out of poverty in a matter of months if they wished. Refugee camps could become towns just as 250,000 Jewish refugees from the Arab world were resettled into Israel after independence when they were forced to leave their home countries just as my Mother was. She doesn't live in a refugee camp. I am not a refugee. and my grandchildren will not be why so with the Palestinians?

Maybe instead of trying to encourage supporters of the Palestinians to learn better PR techniques you can encourage a shift in thinking. You could help Palestinians realize that each time they have been offered a deal in the past and turned it down because they wanted more things have gotten worse for them. Each time they have attacked they have lost lives and land. These are the prices that have come with strategic errors. There is no rewind button in the real world. Encourage the Palestinian people to take what they can before the next offer becomes even less so their children's children might have the hope of a better life and encourage the moderates to speak out against the radicals who make life miserable for everyone Israelis and Palestinians alike.

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