Israel's New Line of Propaganda Puts Orwell to Shame

Israel is resorting to lies and deceit about the occupation and its treatment of the Palestinians to fill the void left by the death of the peace process.

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Screen shot from anti-BDS video by HaYovel: BDS or the Bible - Don't Boycott God
Screen shot from anti-BDS video by HaYovel: BDS or the Bible - Don't Boycott GodCredit: Screen capture

An all-American youngster – fair-haired, regular churchgoer – returns from his morning run and decides to join the boycott against Israel. He has heard of the BDS movement and about the oppression and occupation, so he collects everything in his home that was made in Israel or by companies trading with it – just about everything he has – and starts shooting the products. Suddenly, another young man appears and suggests he shoot the Bible, since that too was made in Israel. The shooter recoils. He gets the message that appears at the end of the video: “Don’t boycott God. Buy Israeli products.”

This video was produced by HaYovel, an organization founded by Tennessee couple Tommy and Sherri Waller. He once worked with Federal Express, she is a passionate restoration advocate – of families and “the nation of Israel,” as their website says. Their mission is to bring volunteers from America to help “the Israeli farmers,” i.e. the settlers. The organization’s website enables donations and even to pray for the settlers. Another video on the site shows U.S. veterans volunteering in the vineyard of the West Bank settlement of Har Bracha.

There are plenty of wacky rightist organizations. But the youngster who persuaded his friend not to boycott Israel said something else. “Most Palestinians aren’t oppressed. Those who are – are oppressed by their own government. Israel provides them with work, free electricity, health care and loads of humanitarian aid. I was there and saw it.”

Tons of aid or not, it is not only HaYovel that spreads these absurd falsehoods. And these tainted goods now have much more serious sellers: the Israeli government. It is doubtful whether it has more serious buyers than the grotesque U.S. veterans at Har Bracha.

The propagandist in the video says the same things Israel’s prime minister is saying. Addressing his British counterpart David Cameron, who let slip a rare word of criticism of the occupation in Jerusalem, Benjamin Netanyahu preached, “Only Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem guarantees the city’s Arab residents’ roads, clinics, workplaces and other means of normal life that Arabs across the Middle East don’t enjoy.” He said it as an insult to Cameron’s intelligence.

One may, of course, suspect that Israel’s propagandists are guiding HaYovel and similar groups. Or perhaps great minds think alike. But it’s impossible to ignore the embarrassing change that has occurred in Israel’s propaganda.

Nobody in the world speaks seriously about the peace process anymore. No one believes that the Israeli government is interested in peace, while the two-state solution is nothing but a monument. At a time like this, propaganda must reinvent itself. Israel can’t say “There’s no partner,” because it’s clear it doesn’t want to talk to the Palestinians. Israel can’t say “two states,” because it’s clear it doesn’t mean it.

But Israel must say something, so it is now resorting to the Orwellian propaganda of lies and deceit, the likes of which even George Orwell himself couldn’t have imagined; he didn’t even go so far in “1984.”

The new Israeli “public diplomacy” (hasbara) consists of three principles, at least two of which are outright lies: there is no occupation; the Palestinians are living contented lives; God giveth.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely has drafted the new line, following Netanyahu. “The occupation is not an occupation,” she said in all seriousness to Yossi Verter this weekend, adding something about a biblical right. Naturally, this is good news. According to Israel’s spokespeople, the Palestinians’ situation is wonderful, they’re neither oppressed nor occupied – joyful tidings! And there’s more: the world is stupid, and so are the Israelis. So the government finds it easy to sell them anything.

And the best news is that official Israel is pulling its rusty day-of-judgement weapon of yore out of the attic: there’s a God, so there’s no occupation. In the early days of the occupation, a few wackos used to wander around trying to sell us this merchandise. Not many were convinced. Dredging up this weapon again confirms that Israel has run out of arguments. We’re left only with the delusion and lies.