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Viewing the other… Israeli Propaganda and the Lebanon August 13, 2006

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Israel, Israeli - Lebanon Conflict, Lebanon, Uncategorized.

A remarkable podcast on KCRW’s To the Point [available here]. Hanady Salman of As-Safir, the Lebanese newspaper, made some telling points about the propaganda war.

Apparently the Israeli’s are resorting to leaflet drops in areas and the jamming of radio stations. But Salman had some telling criticism’s of the form of the material. The leaflets had crude and ‘grotesque’ cartoons which she described as being worse than that which her young child could draw. According to her the Communist party radio station had risible anti-Hizbullah propaganda messages superimposed by the Isreali’s instead.

She said that ‘I feel insulted because they’re not spending too much money to convince us’. And that sentiment, while perhaps somewhat strange in the overall situation, reaches a central truth of this conflict.

We’ve seen that Israeli’s did not appear to credit their adversaries with any degree of sophistication, as demonstrated by their apparent surprise at the level of technological advancement by Hizbullah, and their ability to sustain resistance over a protracted period of time.

But what comes through loud and clear here is a sense that the Israeli’s have a bizarrely distorted version of what Lebanon in general and the Lebanese are like. It is rather as if they presuppose that the population is entirely uneducated and lacking in the ability to decode visual or text based imagery.

Indeed, in the current issue of Prospect magazine [here] Tamara Chalabi, writing from Beirut quotes a Lebanese Christian who initially was antagonistic to Hizbullah more recently saying: Israel is being disproportionate. They want to destroy us. They hate us. They can’t stand the fact that we are a cosmopolitan society with different communities, who are as sophisticated as they are, and living together.”

Simply put the Israeli’s, and I’m not ascribing racialism but instead a form of willful ignorance, appear unable to see the Lebanese as anything other than puppets, dancing to the tune of Hizbullah, or responding to their own demands. They are not credited with the ability to think, decide or determine for themselves. Only the most introverted of political analyses could believe that one can bomb a people out of a belief system, or that such actions could have anything other than a unifying effect upon the general Lebanese population which is less sympathetic to Hizbullah, yet this appears to be the motive force behind the current Israeli action, because one presumes the IDF (a clever and very capable force) understands that in military terms Hizbullah will survive, but more importantly in ideological terms it is going to thrive.

Even in the broader context of the war, and the appalling actions that we’ve witnessed over the past three weeks, I think that tells us something very significant about the gulf of incomprehension on the Israeli side as to the situation they find themselves in.

Incidentally, I wouldn’t deny for a moment that at a higher level of activity, internationally and so on, both Israel and Hizbullah are putting out more sophisticated messages.

However, Lebanon is a sophisticated country with a sophisticated society. How could it be otherwise when it has had to hammer out a means of transcending the conflicts of the past by means of a careful system of checks and balances between the different ethno-religious groups?

I loath the use of the term ‘imperialism’ in these discussions. I think it’s glib, and it’s an issue I hope to return to at a later stage, but there is the whiff of ‘talking down’ to the inhabitants in such actions which leaves a sour taste. The world has changed. The Arab world is changing. While there is much to deplore in the overall socio-political situation, and much which can be laid directly at the feet of the regimes there (noted in the UN report…..), there is also great potential for democracy, prosperity and pluralism. Already contemporary communications are having a significant effect on the area.

That the Israeli’s can misjudge the nature of Lebanon, and presumably misjudge the nature of all those in the area around them, that it can with relative impunity attack the infrastructure, both physical and political of one of it’s neighbours, and more importantly one of the brightest spots in the region with a clear potential to ultimately be a friend and ally of Israel, leaves little hope for the future.


1. unitedcats - August 13, 2006

Yes, while Imperialism and Colonialism are tossed about freely, the sad thruth is that there certainly does seem to be an almost tangible belief in western and Israeli quarters that Israel is a civilized country surrounded by Barbarians. I can understand Americans not knowing that Lebanon is a complex, modern multicultural society…but Israelis? “Hezbollah is a terrorist organization” is little different that “the only good indian is a dead indian.” Times have changed, but attitudes are not keeping up. Maybe people are believing their own propaganda, I wish I knew. What a mess.


2. WorldbyStorm - January 11, 2007

Wow, this is exciting.


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