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Israeli propaganda creates obstacles to peace over Jerusalem

March 28, 2001

In a timely Comment in The Nation, 3/28/01, "Middle East Peace Talk, John V. Whitbeck examines misleading terminology in discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Whitbeck challenges the use of the term "concessions" to describe compliance with international law and UN resolutions which have for decades declared the "Occupied Territories" to belong to the Palestinians. He points out that yielding to the requirements of the law is not making concessions. Use of the term "concessions" to mean Israel's forsaking occupation of all or part of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem is a misleading use of language and a form of propaganda (although Whitbeck does not use the latter description).

Right wing Israeli politicians, Prime Minister Sharon in particular, have also made much propaganda with their hard line about "retaining" sovereignty over Jerusalem, insisting that "Jerusalem must remain united under Israeli sovereignty." Whitbeck disputes their use of the word "sovereignty." In fact, legal sovereignty over Jerusalem has been denied to Israel by the international community. No country recognizes Israel's claim over Jerusalem. This denial is explicitly stated in United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 242 and 338.

Whitbeck continues on to point out that an internationally recognized sovereign authority over Jerusalem can only come to Israel through a deal with the Palestinians, a deal which can only happen with the support of Israeli public opinion.

Concerning the isssue of public opinion, Whitbeck makes an important point that to Israeli Jews and the Israeli media,

There is a world of difference between being perceived as the Israeli leader who achieved sovereignty over Jerusalem for the first time in 2000 years and being perceived as the one who relinquished some degree of Jewish sovereignty over the city

Just so, the right wing misuse of the word "sovereignty" has put a significant obstacle, distorted public opinion, in the way of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over Jerusalem.

Whitbeck softpedals the "misuse of language" and does not accuse those in media who disseminate it of propaganda. Nevertheless, the mainstream Israeli and US press continuously repeat the hackneyed slogans and provoke the orchestrated public responses.

Another example of how Whitbeck pulls up short in his criticism is his failure to examine how the word "terrorism" is routinely used - to describe attacks by Palestinians on Israeli civilians. Whereas, Israeli violence, whether from tanks, helicopter gunships, or settler's automatic rifles, is never called terrorism, no matter how random or reckless.

The very same press that told us in 1970 that it was necessary for the US military to destroy villages in View Nam in order to save them from Communism, is again telling us that we are too stupid to recognize lies and hypocrisy and propaganda. The historical lesson here is that 30 years ago we listened to each other and tuned the corporate press out. But since Viet Nam, the mega-media has become ubiquitous - inspired by Viet Nam in fact - so who knows if we can still tune them out now?

This general point is, of course, relevant to far more than just lies and hypocrisy about the injustices done to Palestinians by Israeli Jews - with the support of US money and the international political strength of the world's only renaining superpower. All US foreign and domestic policy is repleat with contradiction and self-serving duplicity. Likewise, the major media are full of lies and propaganda, sometimes even from conflicting sources.