File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 47

Date: Sat, 15 Sep 2001 13:19:17 -0400
Subject: Re: Commentaire sur le guerre

boy this is of poor taste considering all of the paleistenians who were
waving flags after the bombing of the world trade center

On Mon, 3 Sep 2001, guillame debord wrote:

>      Propaganda and war
>      The first step is to restore the Palestinians'
> history and humanity, writes Edward Said 
>                    Never have the media been so
> influential in determining the course of war as during
> the Al-Aqsa
>                    Intifada, which, as far as the
> Western media are concerned, has essentially become a
> battle over
>                    images and ideas. Israel has
> already poured hundreds of millions of dollars into
> what in Hebrew is
>                    called hasbara, or information for
> the outside world (hence, propaganda). This has
> included an
>                    entire range of efforts: lunches
> and free trips for influential journalists; seminars
> for Jewish
>                    university students who over a week
> in a secluded country estate can be primed to "defend"
> Israel
>                    on the campus; bombarding
> congressmen and -women with invitations and visits;
> pamphlets and,
>                    most important, money for election
> campaigns; directing (or, as the case requires,
> harassing)
>                    photographers and writers of the
> current Intifada into producing certain images and not
> others;
>      lecture and concert tours by prominent Israelis;
> training commentators to make frequent references to
> the Holocaust
>      and Israel's predicament today; many
> advertisements in the newspapers attacking Arabs and
> praising Israel; and on
>      and on. Because so many powerful people in the
> media and publishing business are strong supporters of
> Israel, the
>      task is made vastly easier. 
>      Although these are only a few of the devices used
> to pursue the aims of every modern government, whether
>      democratic or not, since the 1930s and '40s -- to
> produce consent and approval on the part of the
> consumer of news
>      -- no country and no lobby more than Israel's has
> used them in the US so effectively and for so long. 
>      Orwell called this kind of misinformation
> newspeak or doublethink: the intention to cover
> criminal actions, especially
>      killing people unjustly, with a veneer of
> justification and reason. In Israel's case, which has
> always had the intention
>      to silence or make Palestinians invisible as it
> robbed them of their land, this has been in effect a
> suppression of the
>      truth, or a large part of it, as well as a
> massive falsification of history. What for the past
> few months Israel has
>      successfully wanted to prove to the world is that
> it is an innocent victim of Palestinian violence and
> terror, and that
>      Arabs and Muslims have no other reason to be in
> conflict with Israel except for an irreducibly
> irrational hatred of
>      Jews. Nothing more or less. And what has made
> this campaign so effective is a long-standing sense of
> Western guilt
>      for anti-Semitism. What could be more efficient
> than to displace that guilt onto another people, the
> Arabs, and
>      thereby feel not only justified but positively
> assuaged that something good has been done for a
> much-maligned and
>      harmed people? To defend Israel at all costs --
> even though it is in military occupation of
> Palestinian land, has a
>      powerful military, and has been killing and
> wounding Palestinians in a ratio of four or five to
> one -- is the goal of
>      propaganda. That, plus going on with what it
> does, but seeming to be a victim just the same. 
>      Without any doubt, however, the extraordinary
> success of this unparalleled and immoral effort has
> been in large part
>      due not only to the campaign's carefully planned
> and executed detail, but to the fact that the Arab
> side has been
>      practically non-existent. When our historians
> look back to the first 50 years of Israel's existence,
> an enormous
>      historical responsibility shall rest damningly on
> the shoulders of the Arab leaders who have criminally
> -- yes,
>      criminally -- allowed this to go on without even
> the most meagre and half-hearted response. Instead,
> each of them
>      has fought each of the others, or has relied on
> the hopelessly self-serving theory that by trying to
> ingratiate
>      themselves with the American government (even
> becoming clients of the US) they would assure
> themselves of
>      longevity in power, regardless of whether Arab
> interests were being served or not. So deeply
> ingrained has this
>      notion become that even the Palestinian
> leadership has subscribed to it, with the result that
> as the Intifada rolls on,
>      the average American hasn't the slightest inkling
> that there is a narrative of Palestinian suffering and
> dispossession at
>      least as old as Israel itself. Meanwhile Arab
> leaders come running to Washington begging for
> American protection
>      without even understanding that three generations
> of Americans have been brought up on Israeli
> propaganda to
>      believe that Arabs are lying terrorists and that
> it is wrong to do business with them, let alone
> protect them. 
>      Since 1948, Arab leaders have never bothered to
> confront Israeli propaganda in the US. All the immense
> amounts of
>      Arab money invested in military spending (first
> on Soviet, then Western arms) have come to nought
> because Arab
>      efforts have been neither protected by
> information nor explained by patient, systematic
> organising. The result is that
>      literally hundred of thousands of lost Arab lives
> have gone for nothing, nothing at all. The citizens of
> the world's only
>      superpower have been led to believe that
> everything Arabs do and are is wasteful, violent,
> fanatical and anti-Semitic.
>      Israel is "our" only ally. And so $92 billion in
> aid since 1967 have gone unquestioningly from the US
> taxpayer to the
>      Jewish state. As I said earlier, a total absence
> of planning and thought vis--vis the US political and
> cultural arena is
>      hugely (but not exclusively) to blame for the
> astounding amount of Arab land and lives lost to
> Israel (subsidised by
>      the US) since 1948, a major political crime which
> I hope the Arab leaders one day answer for. 
>      I recall that during the siege of Beirut in 1982,
> a large non-governmental group of very successful
> Palestinian
>      businessmen and prominent intellectuals gathered
> in London to establish an endowment to help
> Palestinians on all
>      levels. With the PLO trapped in Beirut and
> incapable of doing much, it was felt that a
> mobilisation of this sort might
>      help us to help ourselves. I also recall that as
> the funds were quickly gathered, a decision was made
> after much
>      discussion that fully half the money would go for
> information in the West. It was felt that since -- as
> usual --
>      Palestinians were being oppressed by Israel with
> scarcely a voice lifted in the West to support the
> victims, it was
>      imperative that money should be spent for
> advertisements, media time, tours and the like in
> order to make it more
>      difficult to kill and further oppress
> Palestinians without complaint or awareness. This was
> especially important, we
>      felt, in America, where taxpayers' money was
> being spent to subsidise Israel's illegal wars,
> settlements, and
>      conquests. For about two years, this policy was
> followed; then, for reasons I have never fully
> understood, efforts to
>      help the Palestinians in the US were abruptly
> terminated. When I asked why, I was told by a
> Palestinian gentleman
>      who had made a fortune in the Gulf that "throwing
> money away" in America was a waste. The philanthropy
> now
>      continues exclusively for the occupied
> territories and Lebanon, where this association does
> much good, but very little
>      in comparison with the projects funded by the
> European Union and numerous American foundations. 
>      Some weeks ago the American Arab
> Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), by far the
> largest and most effective
>      Arab-American organisation in the United States,
> commissioned a public opinion poll on current American
>      perspectives on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
> A very wide and deep sample of the population was
> polled, with quite
>      startling, not to say disheartening results.
> Israelis are still believed to be a pioneering
> democratic people, even though
>      no Israeli leader did very well in the poll.
> Seventy-three per cent of the American people approve
> of the idea of a
>      Palestinian state, a very surprising result. The
> interpretation of that statistic is that when you ask
> an educated
>      American who watches television and reads elite
> newspapers whether s/he identifies with the
> Palestinian struggle
>      for independence and freedom, the answer is
> mostly yes. But if the same person is asked what his
> idea is about
>      Palestinians, the answer is almost always
> negative -- violence and terrorism. Images of the
> Palestinians seem to be
>      that they are uncompromising, aggressive, and
> "alien," that is, not like "us." Even when asked about
> the
>      stone-throwing young people, whom we believe are
> Davids fighting against Goliath, most Americans see
> aggression
>      rather than heroism. Americans still blame the
> Palestinians for obstructing the peace process, Camp
> David most
>      particularly. Suicide bombing is viewed as
> "inhuman" and is condemned universally. 
>      What Americans think of Israelis is not a great
> deal better, but there is a much greater
> identification with them as
>      people. The most disturbing thing is that hardly
> any of the questioned Americans knew anything at all
> about the
>      Palestinian story, nothing about 1948, nothing at
> all about Israel's illegal 34-year military
> occupation. The main
>      narrative model that dominates American thinking
> still seems to be Leon Uris's 1950 novel Exodus. Just
> as alarming
>      is the fact that the most negative things in the
> poll were what Americans thought and said about Yasser
> Arafat, his
>      uniform (seen as needlessly "militant"), his
> speech, his presence. 
>      Overall, then, the conclusion is that
> Palestinians are viewed neither in terms of a story
> that is theirs, nor in terms of a
>      human image with which people can easily
> identify. So successful has Israeli propaganda been
> that it would seem
>      that Palestinians really have few, if any
> positive connotations. They are almost completely
> dehumanised. 
>      Fifty years of unopposed Israeli propaganda in
> America have brought us to the point where, because we
> do not
>      resist or contest these terrible
> misrepresentations in any significant way with images
> and messages of our own, we
>      are losing thousands of lives and acres of land
> without troubling anyone's conscience. The
> correspondent of the
>      Independent, Phil Reeves, wrote passionately on
> 27 August that Palestinians are dying or being crushed
> by Israel
>      and the world looks on silently. 
>      It is therefore up to Arabs and Palestinians
> everywhere to break the silence, in a rational,
> organised and effective
>      way, not by shooting off guns or by wailing or
> complaining. God knows we have reason to do all of the
> above, but
>      cold logic is necessary now. In the American
> mind, analogies with South Africa's liberation
> struggle or with the
>      horrible fate of the Native Americans most
> emphatically do not occur. We must make those
> analogies above all by
>      humanising ourselves and thus reversing the
> cynical, ugly process whereby American columnists like
> Charles
>      Krauthammer and George Will audaciously call for
> more killing and bombing of Palestinians, a suggestion
> they would
>      not dare do for any other people. Why should we
> passively accept the fate of flies or mosquitoes, to
> be killed
>      wantonly with American backing any time war
> criminal Sharon decides to wipe out a few more of us? 
>      To that end I was pleased to learn from ADC
> President Ziad Asali that his organisation is about to
> embark on an
>      unprecedented public information campaign in the
> mass media to redress the balance and present the
> Palestinians as
>      human beings -- can you believe the irony of such
> a necessity? -- as women who are teachers and doctors
> as well
>      as mothers, men who work in the field and are
> nuclear engineers, as people who have had years and
> years of
>      military occupation and are still fighting back.
> (Incidentally, one astounding result of the poll is
> that less than three or
>      four per cent of the sample had any idea that
> there was an Israeli occupation in the first place. So
> even the main fact
>      of Palestinian existence has been obscured by
> Israeli propaganda). This effort has never before been
> made in the
>      US: there have been 50 years of silence, which is
> about to be broken. 
>      Even though it is modest, the announced ADC
> campaign is also a major step forward. Consider that
> the Arab world
>      seems to be in a state of moral and political
> paralysis, its leaders encumbered by their ties both
> to Israel and, more
>      important, to the US, their people kept in a
> state of anxiety and repression. As they and their
> brave Lebanese
>      comrades did in 1982 when 19,000 were killed by
> Israeli military power, Palestinians in Gaza and the
> West Bank are
>      dying not only because Israel has the power to do
> so with impunity, but because for the first time in
> modern history,
>      the active alliance between propaganda in the
> West and military force worked out by Israel and its
> supporters, has
>      enabled the sustained collective punishment of
> Palestinians with American tax dollars, $5 billion of
> which go to Israel
>      annually. Media representations of Palestinians
> show them with neither history nor humanity, as
> aggressive
>      rock-throwing people of violence, and have made
> it possible for the dim-witted but politically astute
> George Bush to
>      blame the Palestinians for violence. This new ADC
> campaign sets out to restore their history and
> humanity, to show
>      them (as they have always been) as people "like
> us," fighting for the right to live in freedom, to
> raise their children, to
>      die in peace. Once even the glimmerings of this
> story penetrate the American consciousness, the truth
> will, I hope,
>      begin to dissipate the vast cloud of evil
> propaganda with which Israel has covered reality.
> Since it is clear that the
>      media campaign can only go so far, then the hope
> is that Arab Americans will feel empowered enough to
> enter the
>      political battle in the US to try to break,
> modify, or fray the link that binds US policy so
> tightly to Israel. And then, we
>      can hope again. 
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