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Jun-02-2010 19:14printcomments

Goldstone II: UN Rights Council Launches Probe of Israe's Gaza Flotilla Raid

The United States should also join the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, France, Russia and China — in urging Israel to permanently lift the blockade.

Barack Obama
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(LOS ANGELES) - Goldstone II: UN Rights Council Launches Probe of Israel’s Gaza Flotilla Raid By EILEEN WHITE READ

U.S. President Barack Obama stepped in to save Israel yesterday at the United Nations Security Council from an independent probe of Tuesday morning’s Gaza flotilla raid that resulted in the Israeli navy killing nine civilians. Hopefully, Israel will express its gratitude to our nation by continuing its freeze on settlements in the West Bank and negotiating seriously with the Palestinians toward an end to the occupation and a solution for Gaza.

But a U.S. ‘no’ vote could not halt another U.N. body, the Human Rights Council – the group that commissioned the Goldstone Report – from today launching its own probe of the botched Israeli move to halt a civilian humanitarian aid operation for Gaza. Hasbarans around the world, might as well convene your PR advisors now, because the council’s draft resolution already condemns Israel for violating international law when it boarded the Turkish and other ships in international waters.

Get ready for Goldstone II, the sequel.

Hasbara, or Israeli political spin, is actually already underway – a multi-million-dollar PR machine, involving government employees, academics, friendly journalists, consultants, and activists around the world. CNN reports that, after displaying “a willful indifference to public opinion for years,” the Israel Defense Force is trying hasbara on the convoy killings story, posting a series of heavily-edited short videos of the situation aboard ship on YouTube, showing only soldiers being hit as they arrived on board – no footage of the soldiers killing nine civilians.

Israel-related media around the world are running stories about the commandos landing and shooting their paintball guns – with zero reference to the fact that their real guns killed nine people. From a Yediot Ahronoth piece entitled ‘A Brutal Ambush at Sea:’

However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests…., The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up.”

Two boys hold up pictures during a pro-Palestinian protest in front of the
European Commission Building in Brussels, Wednesday, June 2.
AP photo via Daylife.

Hasbara means going to any length to paint your opponent as a terrorist. The IDF website is blaring a story: ’Attackers of the IDF soldiers are found to be Al Qaeda mercenaries.’ The Jerusalem Post runs this claim without even a hint of journalistic skepticism about the lack of an offer of proof. Neocon writer Lee Smith, in the Tablet magazine, picks up the spin and runs with it, labelling Turkey a state encourager of ‘terrorism’ and calling on the U.S. to seek the overthrow of the Turkish government. More from Fox News, the Washington Times,  and Yediot, which referred to the dead on the humanitarian aid convoy as ’flotilla lynchers.’

And my personal favorite from Arutz Sheva, the official news site of the settler movement. [I wonder what American billionaire underwrites its operations?] The title: ‘Media War on the Flotilla Clash: AP Anti-Israel Bias Exposed.’

But how effective is hasbara? You can’t ’spin’ the flotilla death statistics any more than you can ’spin’ the chilling death statistics from Israel’s 2008-09 Gaza operation, which left one hundred times as many dead Palestinians as it did dead Israelis. Especially in the United States, where the Jewish community is overwhelmingly liberal and, like most Americans, skeptical of a foreign policy that seems to depend so much on violence. The New York Times this morning reflects this disconnect between hasbara and reality.

A Times editorial, ‘Israel and the Gaza Blockade,’ has this to say:

On Tuesday, President Obama expressed his “deep regret” over the flotilla incident. He is doing Israel no favors with such a tepid response. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown time and again that he prefers bullying and confrontation over diplomacy. Washington needs to make clear to him just how dangerous and counterproductive that approach is.

Mr. Obama needs to state clearly that the Israeli attack was unacceptable and back an impartial international investigation. The United States should also join the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, France, Russia and China — in urging Israel to permanently lift the blockade.

That would lessen the suffering of the people in Gaza. And it would give the United States more credibility as it presses both Israelis and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to negotiate a peace deal.

Eileen White Read is a Los Angeles-based journalist focusing on foreign policy.

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