Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Two IDF’s

Here's an imaginary dialogue (well, not so imaginary…Yossi Gurvitz actually had some of it) between a serious reporter and the IDF Spokesperson's Office.

-- What, according to the IDF, caused the death of Jawahir Abu Rahmah from Bil'in?

-- The matter is still under investigation.

-- Wait a minute; today is January 20. Yesterday it was reported that the investigation was completed and that she died of poor medical treatment at a Ramallah hospital.

-- No, the investigation has not been completed yet.

-- So you deny that she died of an honour killing, leukemia, or atropine in big doses?

-- We are still investigating.

-- But all the media have reported these causes of death, based on IDF statements.

-- They are not coming out of this office.

-- But are IDF soldiers allowed to speak with the press?

-- With prior clearance.

-- When will the investigation be completed?


For further comment on the IDF contradictions, please read Noam Sheizaf's post here.

Yesterday, a reader left this comment on my post:

I want you to ask yourself honestly what the IDF should do in these situations. They could tell the truth and say, "We don't know, we're looking into it," but then by the time they reach their conclusions, the PR battle is lost (and you're well aware that the PR battle is very much a real part of the battle). Granted, it could be that this poor woman died from tear gas inhalation. It could also be that she's the next Muhammad al-Dura, Jenin, or number of civilian casualties during Cast Lead. The unfortunate reality is "bari ve-shema, bari adif" - the media will gravitate toward the firm story, and by the time the IDF achieves any sort of certainty, they've lost, even IF the story was entirely fabricated.

I kept in the mistaken references to Muhammad al-Dura (whose death by the IDF, initially admitted to by the IDF, has not been disproved), Jenin (where initial reports of a massacre, because men had been rounded up and detained elsewhere, were later denied by the Palestinian Authority), and the number of civilian casualties in Gaza (which is only disputed because of the question who constitutes a civilian), because these are the myths circulated by the hasbaritas in order to cast doubt on Palestinian credibility. But the point he raises is a telling one: what is the IDF to do in order to get out a counter-narrative?

The IDF's answer apparently is: talk out of different sides of their mouth. The IDF Spokesperson's office is the "good cop"; no comment until the investigation is completed. The IDF Central Command CO Avi Mizrahi is the "bad cop" – have " background conversations with willing bloggers and media in order to raise doubts and tell whoppers in an effort to create the illusion of "counter-narratives".

The good cop has deniability; the bad cop has no responsibility. It's a neat system.

If the real issue here is not the death of a woman by tear gas, but a PR battle, then it doesn't really matter what happened; what matters is how it makes the IDF look. Let's say that Abu Rahmah died of tear gas inhalation. For Israel to admit this would not only be a PR nightmare; it would involve having to make decisions at the operational level. So at all costs it is important to win the battle.

The difficulty is that when you are caught in a web of lies, the only people who take the IDF seriously are the hasbaritas , if indeed they take it seriously at all.

Perhaps the most deeply disturbed of the hasbaritas is Elder of Ziyon, who, following the lead of Fresnozionism, theorizes that Abu Rahmeh was treated with atropine (how do they know?) because she was suffering from "organophosphate poisoning", which was brought on by…the improper storage of banned pesticides in her home! Of course, there are contradictions between this "theory" and what Mizrahi leaked to the media (which EofZ mislabels, "the latest report") – Mizrahi said that she inhaled tear gas and was mistreated with atropine, whereas ElderofZiyon leaves the tear gas out of his "narrative," since he would be hard-pressed how to explain the tear-gas inhalation and the fertilizer poisoning at the same time – and at the time of the demonstration, where it was tweeted that she was taken to the hospital after inhaling tear gas.

But does any of this matter to ElderofZiyon and his ilk? They aren't there to report what seems reasonable; they are there to win the PR battle. So if it means lying, inventing, casting doubt – it doesn't matter.

If this and much worse is what is necessary to keep a Jewish state afloat – what moral person is prepared to support it? And how much self-delegitimization are Israel and its supporters willing to inflict?

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