Note: The following piece appeared in the Algemeiner on May 30, 2014.
Have Palestinian propagandists lost their magic touch?
A decade ago they pulled off one of the greatest swindles of the modern era. They convinced a lot of otherwise reasonable people that the Second Intifada was all Israel’s fault and that Palestinian anti-Semitism was a response to – and not a cause of – the suffering they endured.
They accomplished this swindle, in part, by broadcasting the image of Mohammad Al Dura, a young Palestinian boy who was reportedly killed during a gunfight between Israelis and Palestinians in 2000.
Video purportedly showing Al Dura’s death, which Palestinians said was the fault of the IDF, gave people, Europeans especially, the excuse they needed to believe that Israelis were baby-killing Nazis who were no longer entitled to the world’s sympathy after the Holocaust. (It’s no coincidence that France, where the Al Dura video got heavy play, is now witnessing an exodus of its Jews intent on fleeing the anti-Semitic hate that is overtaking that country.)
Eventually, the story surrounding Al Dura’s death began to unravel when it became clear that it was highly unlikely, if not impossible that a shot capable of killing the boy came from Israeli positions on the day of the fighting. It didn’t help that the footage used to blame Israel for Al Dura’s death showed the young boy lifting his head off the ground to see what was happening after he had “died.”
Eventually, people started to learn about how Palestinian “journalists” broadcast images of staged gunfights and mock funerals to their colleagues throughout the world as part of their campaign to demonize Israel.
Now that Pallywood is part of the global lexicon, recent attempts by Palestinian intellectuals to generate sympathy for their cause have had a tougher time getting traction.
Palestinian propagandists are doing everything they can to manufacture an icon of outrage that shows the world just how terrible the Palestinians are suffering and how evil the Israelis are.
For the most part, their efforts have come up short.
Instead of showing the world just how bad things are for people living in the West Bank, they are revealing the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of Palestinian elites. They are also highlighting the antisemitic craziness that has gripped Palestinian society.
Such craziness was on full display during Pope Francis’ recent visit to Bethlehem. Prior to his visit, the Palestinian Authority decorated the buildings near Manger Square with grotesque images of modern-day Israelis and Palestinians inserted into classical paintings of Biblical scenes.
One of the most off-putting and disgusting of these images showed an Israeli soldier with his hand on the mouth of Isaac during his binding at the hands of Abraham.
This and other posters provoked legitimate criticism about how the people who made them were trying to invoke imagery from the Bible to demonize the Jewish state. But as offensive as these images were, it is pretty unlikely they generated any real sympathy for the Palestinian cause.
They were just too wacky, tacky and over-the-top.
To the average person, the images offered a very clear message, “This city is under the control of lunatics. Enter at your own risk.”
Who in the world thought displaying images like this was a good idea? They might arouse the sensibilities of Palestinians who have been exposed to a generation’s worth of anti-Semitic imagery on Palestinian Authority and Hamas-run television, but for people outside the region, images like this reveal more about the people who produced them, not the people they were intended to demonize.
They were disgusting. This is not how responsible and reasonable people present their city to one of the most important personages in the world.But it is how the PA operates.
And then there was the image of Pope Francis praying by the security barrier alongside a bit of graffiti that declared that Bethlehem looked like the Warsaw Ghetto. As it turned out, this graffiti was spray painted on the wall soon before Pope Francis showed up to pray.
Again, it offended Israeli and Jewish sensibilities (as it was intended to do), and lifted the spirits of Palestinians who have been encouraged to hate Jews and blame Israel for their suffering. But the notion that Bethlehem is another Warsaw Ghetto and that the Israelis are the new Nazis is not just anti-Semitic, it’s crazy. Simply crazy.
It is no surprise that the photo was staged very close to the Aida Refugee Camp, which home to Al Rowwad Cultural Center. I spoke to a staffer at this camp in 2012. During our conversation, he said that the center teaches Palestinian children how to use art to resist the occupation. “Beautiful Resistance” they call it.
The camp taught children in Bethlehem about Beautiful Resistance, he said, because it was the only way they could get their message out because Israelis controlled the media.
Another attempt to create an icon of outrage manifested itself last week when the father of a young man allegedly shot by an Israeli soldier at Betunia on Nakba Day –May 16, 2014 – held up an shiny bullet and told a reporter from CNN that this was the bullet that killed his son.
It was a powerful image, but it wasn’t true. There was no way a bullet could go through someone’s chest, and come out intact as the boy’s father indicated it did. A bullet that has gone through someone’s chest would be misshapen and broken.CNN got played.
The usual suspects are pushing the story and video of the alleged killings has gotten a huge number of hits on YouTube, but it’s pretty clear that something is amiss with the story the Palestinians have told the world about what happened at Betunia.
Consequently, the story is not getting the traction it would have gotten during the Second Intifada.
Gone are the days of Mohammad Al Dura, when Palestinian propagandists can stage a shooting and broadcast an image that sets the world on fire with anti-Israel hate.
These days, Palestinian anti-Israel messaging doesn’t resonate like it used to. Part of it is that other crises – such as Assad’s gas attacks in Syria, the kidnapping of 300 young girls by Boko Haram in Ni
geria and Putin’s misadventures in the Ukraine – have captured peoples’ attention.
The notion that the Palestinians are the hobbits of the Middle East whose suffering represents a great insuperable wound on humanity’s conscience is simply no longer tenable.
Another factor is that a growing number of people are starting to realize that Palestinian suffering is largely self-inflicted.
This isn’t to say that decades’ worth of anti-Zionist (and antisemitic) propaganda hasn’t had its impact. Ongoing attacks on Jews in Europe is the harvest of the hate broadcast by Palestinian elites before, during and after the Second Intifada. The fire that was started by Palestinian propagandists the last decade continues to burn, and spread, with lethal consequences.
To be sure Palestinian propagandists from the West Bank had their helpers in the West. For example, Charles Enderlin, the man who helped broadcast the Al Dura video to French viewers in 2000, has a lot to answer for. Jews are fleeing the hate he helped promote.
But nowhere is this harvest of hate more evident than in Palestinian society itself. In lying to the world about the cause of their suffering, Palestinian elites are lying to themselves and the people they lead.
The anti-Israel and anti-Jewish messaging that Palestinian elites have promoted to Westerners for the past few decades reveals that the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are a long way off from establishing and maintaining a democracy, making peace with Israel and coming to grips with the modern world.
They live in a demon-haunted world of their own making. The end result will be disaster for the Palestinians and possibly for the rest of the world.
Dexter Van Zile (@dextervanzile) is Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (@cameraorg).