Yesterday’s blunder by the Israel in Ireland team was just the latest in a series of inflammatory posts designed to spread that dash of xenophobic sectarianism on their social media channels. I agree favorably here with Ami Kaufman when he states that the idiot who wrote the status update on the official Facebook page of Israel in Ireland should be removed from his post. However I also think that the tactics used by some official Israeli government channels are far from idiotic, but rather intelligently designed.
For those of us who occasionally monitor the Israel in Ireland facebook page and those associated with it, there can be said to have been a noticeable change in the way the embassy approached social media since around August 2012. Indeed in contrast to back when the page had less than 1000 ‘likes’, a radically different method of hasbara has been employed, which in my opinion, hasn’t been too dissimilar to how Christians United for Israel or the British Israel Coalition utilize their online pages.
Understanding how language is used in the current example provided can be interpreted by supporters of Israel is important. The first impression that I got from it, which those who may have misconceptions or unashamed hate towards Palestinians certainly perceived, is that the post justifies Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank along with its present day ‘security’ activities.
I would add that despite the obviously repugnant update, there is certainly a need to recognize tactics like this as being in part highly effective in delivering a fantasy idea to the minds of blind followers, impressing upon them that Jesus was and is somehow pro-Israel, that Palestinians are anti-Christian and that Jews will be lynched if they were to enter Bethlehem today.
Inevitable circular rhetoric designed to sectarianize radical elements of the Pro-Palestinian world on an international level soon becomes apparent. Almost immediately we saw responses from some groups claiming that Jesus was a Palestinian or the more disturbing libel that the ‘Jews killed Jesus’. I hardly think that I need elaborate further than to say that the categorization of key Christian figures as directly relating to Israel and being ‘Jewish’ in nature whether true or not (Jesus for most people certainly is regarded as Jewish) opens the door for anti-Semitic commentary to flow back thus the propaganda is self-justifying and in a way looks after itself due to distraction of debaters.
So we have the sectarian element where different religions start making claims to particular points, this adds a religious dynamic to the discourse that is very difficult to shake off. Additional dynamics include the direct link to the bible which considering the religious audience available in Ireland allows for the blurring of lines between Israel the biblical kingdom and the modern state of Israel.
Racism is clearly displayed in the fact the post categorises all Palestinians as hostile people, all of whom of course want nothing better than to harm Jews and all others not of their particular tribe. Such a suggesting is clearly libelous and racist to many folk however still some people actually believe this crap!
In the context of this being the Irish embassy we also witness another area of sectarianism in the form displayed in the image below:
For those who do not know, the flag on the far right is a hybridization between the Ulster Banner (A flag used to represent loyalist and unionist communities in Northern Ireland) and the Israeli flag. These flags are never usually shown beside the Irish tricolour. If you were to look at the Northern Ireland conflict for a moment as the NYT blog post did, you may note that Israel has a substantial level of support amongst conservative unionist communities and political parties. The Democratic Unionist and Ulster Unionist parties are typically known as Pro-Israel whilst Palestine has support amongst Irish Nationalist and more radical republican groups mostly linked with the IRA.
Of course these are just stigmatized stereotypes, if we research then we discover they don’t always hold true. I myself have proven during the past two years, with my work on Israel – Palestine, that even members of protestant – unionist communities can robustly support Palestinian human rights whilst having a fairly honest/objective viewpoint on the Middle East conflict.
Alas Israel figured out very early on that if they conflate two very different conflicts (Northern Ireland and Palestine/Israel) you can find a position where it becomes possible to polarise the topical issues between groups on either fringe. A result of which is the total apathy of those caught somewhere in the middle and a constantly raging discourse that allows Israel to go unchallenged and the status quo remain intact.
Yet another aspect is found when looking at the rest of the Dublin embassy’s Facebook page. I have witnessed and indeed the NYT article acknowledges that the embassy has sustained aggressive attacks against Israel’s perceived enemies. A brief example of such I covered on in a previous post by pointing out the disparity in the attack on Amnesty International and the use of one human rights abuse to obfuscate from another.
After all this has been said I still regularly find that a closer look and comparison between Israel’s foreign PR efforts and those of other nations shows how different and unprecedented Israeli social media usage actually is in this regard. Compare the IDF spokesperson for instance to that of the British Army page you will notice a markedly different approach, you would also never see the Australian foreign ministry attacking or slandering legitimate human rights organizations or specific groups within another nations population like Israel does towards Irish people who stand in solidarity with Palestine.
To finish off this expose I hoped to show exactly how much of a screw up Boaz Modai’s team actually made with yesterday’s update alone by featuring some of the now deleted comments from Jewish and Israeli facebook users left under the venomous Christmas message:
Ela Greenberg: As an Israeli, I find this totally offensive and unacceptable!
Kyle Petit: This is an absurd post. I’m Jewish and spent 2 months living in Bethlehem in the summer of 2011. I received nothing but the upmost hospitality from my ever-gracious Palestinian hosts.
I was repeatedly thanked by Palestinians for visiting the West Bank, since mindless propaganda such as the nonsense posted above, does succeed in turning people away.
What a joke this posting is.
Michal Raz: An offensive and irresponsible post designed to fuel hatred rather than peace, particularly repugnant to package it as a “Christmas” post.
Dan Peguine: Sorry, Ireland… this is not how all Israelis think.
Jane Moon: This shows a woeful ignorance of the relevant conditions and attitudes.