August 27, 2009

Levy on "Organ Harvesting"

Too many of our friends around here do not understand the power of truth. They don't understand that the reason Israel needs to drown criticism with endless amounts of cash is because they have no case that can be honestly defended. They see how apologists for Israel can get away with gross lies thanks to their media power, wealth and connections and draw the conclusion that truth doesn't matter. Better try to shout louder than the other side. This is short sighted.

Having truth on your side is a powerful asset. Having money and connections on your side is a different kind of powerful asset. In order to win, each side of a battle tries to move the battlefield to where it has the advantage. A naval power would prefer to fight at sea, whereas a guerrilla force would rather fight in deep forests or urban neighborhoods. Those who have night vision equipment prefer to fight at night, not because fighting at night is inherently better but because it gives them an advantage.

Since truth and fact is against them, Israeli apologists lie all the time. Their preferred battlefield is one in which truth is irrelevant. In a match of public relations prowess, one lying hack against another, they will always win, because they have more, better trained and better paid lying hacks. Put Mark Regev against Comical Ali, and the outcome is a foregone conclusion. The least outcome would be a bewildered listener who knows not whom to trust, or a disgusted viewer who says "a pox on both your houses". And these are not bad outcome at all for Israel. They are however bad outcomes for Palestinians who need actual solidarity, not just indifference and neutrality.

But put Marc Regev against a Palestinian mother from Rafeh, and it's nock-out in 20 seconds.

The people who peddle the recent Swedish bull don't see the terrain of the battle over public opinion. They think they can win by playing the game Israel wants them to play, the trading of unsubstantiated claims. The name of this strategy is shooting yourself in the foot.

Here's Gideon Levy, making a similar point.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman should have sent a big bouquet to Donald Bostrom, the Swedish photographer and journalist who wrote the article claiming that the Israel Defense Forces harvested organs from dead Palestinians. And the Foreign Ministry should write a letter of thanks to the editors of his paper, Aftonbladet. It has been a long time since such a propaganda asset has fallen into the hands of the friends of the occupation. It has been a long time since such damage has been caused to people seriously attempting to document its horrors.

The bizarre Swedish report led to a no-less-bizarre Israeli response. Bad and irresponsible journalism crossed paths with bad and irresponsible diplomacy. Instead of simply denying the report, Lieberman, true to form, acted like a bully... However, the article's damage to the fight against the occupation cannot be ignored.

Serious journalism's task is to document, investigate and prove - not to call on others to investigate, as the Swedish tabloid did. One may, for example, accuse the Swedish reporter of a crime, writing that he rapes little boys or girls, all based on suspicions and rumors, and call on the Swedish police to investigate. That's what the reporter did with his claims of trafficking in Palestinian organs.

There were cases in which the organs of Palestinians who had been killed were harvested without permission, something the Institute of Forensic Medicine has done to others in Israel, for research purposes. But it's a long way from that to suspicion of trafficking in organs based only on the fact that in 1992 a dead Palestinian was found whose organs had been removed and his body sewn back up. And 17 years later a few Jews were arrested on suspicion of trafficking in human organs. That's not professional journalism, that's cheap and harmful journalism.

The Israeli occupation is ugly enough without the contribution of Nordic fairy tales. Its wrongs are abominable even without exaggerations and inventions. We, a small group of Israeli journalists trying to document the occupation, always knew that we must not publish an unfounded report. One mistake and the whole journalistic enterprise would fall into the hands of official propaganda, which automatically denies all suspicions and is just waiting for a mistake....

Over the years, the IDF has killed thousands of innocent civilians, among them women and children. The Shin Bet security service has tortured hundreds of people under interrogation, sometimes to death. Israel prevents food and medicine from reaching Gaza. Sick people are extorted by the Shin Bet to become collaborators in return for medical treatment. Thousands of homes in the territories have been demolished for nothing. Dozens of people have been killed by special units when they could have been arrested instead. Thousands of detainees have sat in jail for months or years without trial. Is that not enough to draw a reliable portrait of the occupation? Is that not shocking enough? (Haaretz)

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