Israel’s misleading storyline: Women activists as terrorists

19 Oct

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Projecting unarmed, peaceful women activists as potential threats is yet another instance of the Zionist state spreading lies and misinformation to deceive the world. Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

By Ramzy Baroud, Gulf News, 19 October 2016

‘We told them that we don’t have guns on board. We don’t even have food or money to take to the people of Gaza. This is not a humanitarian boat. All we are doing is taking hope to the devastated people of Gaza.”

These were the words of former Olympian and current PhD scholar, Leigh-Ann Naidoo from South Africa, describing her ordeal as she and 12 other women tried to reach Gaza on a small boat.

Their boat, adorned with Palestinian and international flags, was intercepted and boarded by Israeli navy commandos, who had succeeded thus far in ensuring that the air-tight siege on impoverished Gaza is a splendid success.

Gaza’s population, which has officially reached the two million-mark, is enduring under a decade-long siege. Not only is the population there suffering from lack of food and medicine, and students being denied access to their universities outside the region, but, according to recent research, 30 per cent of the population of the Strip suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“The most heart-breaking moment was as we approached the shore and people pointed out Gaza to us. You could see all the lights on the Israeli side, but on the Gaza side it was pitch black. Just complete darkness,” Naidoo said at a press conference at Johannesburg airport after she and her women comrades were released from Israeli custody.

Israel has repeatedly bombed Gaza’s electric grids and the siege has prevented sufficient supplies of fuel from reaching the blockaded area.

Naturally, Israel promoted an alternative reading of the same story.

In response to the Israeli navy interception, arrest and deportation of the women, Israel’s Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, connected the non-violent activists with something entirely different. “We will not accept any (rocket) fire, any provocation, against the citizens of Israel by whoever it might be, or any attack on Israel’s sovereignty. Not rocket fire and not a flotilla,” Lieberman said in an army ceremony on October 7.

The activists aboard the Zaytouna-Oliva included Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mairead Maguire, of Northern Ireland. In Lieberman’s logic, Maguire’s act to end a decade-long blockade on an impoverished region is equivalent to the firing of a rocket.

Such parallels, between activists and armed fighters and even terrorism may strike some as peculiar and perhaps even irrational. However, according to the Israeli logic, the comparisons are not only portrayed as ‘reasonable’, but even as morally defensible. In fact, such muddled associations are precisely what define the entire Israeli official narrative and its position within its conflict with the Palestinians.

In support of this view, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the United Nations on September 22:

“Ladies and Gentlemen: Israel fights this fateful battle against the forces of [militancy] every day. We keep our borders safe from Isis [Daesh, or the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], we prevent the smuggling of game-changing weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, we thwart Palestinian terror attacks in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, and we deter missile attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza.”

In just a single paragraph, Netanyahu has chosen to create an alternate reality laden with a hyperbolic sense of geopolitics and biblical references.

While Netanyahu’s statements may not be deemed as lies per se, the selection of these statements, without date or time-references, devoid of context and lacking in any Israeli accountability or even introspection, renders them grossly untrue, and in fact, utterly confusing as well, especially for those who rarely understand the nature of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians and its other Arab neighbours.

Netanyahu’s language at international forums are quite distinctive, if not predictable, being not only typical of him as a statesman, but of generations of Israeli leaders, both and present.

Former Israeli prime minister and president, Shimon Peres, who died late last month, had mastered this Israeli style. Despite being the architect of the Middle East’s first and only nuclear bomb, he was eulogised by western governments and media, including many in the Left, as a peacemaker, a heroic figure and statesman.

Following in the footsteps of Peres, Netanyahu’s diplomacy is as violent as is his conduct on the ground. He seems fearless in so far as his confidence in his benefactors — namely the United States government, which has recently pledged to Israel another $38 billion (Dh139.76 billion) in unconditional military aid over the course of ten years.

With no legal or political accountability whatsoever, and with unwavering US backing of Israeli actions, no matter how destabilising or destructive, Netanyahu’s logic, however lacking, is prevailing.

But considering that Israel is achieving precisely its intended goals — expanding its illegal colonies, sustaining its occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, constantly building up its armament and advancing its strategic interests at the expense of its neighbours — why does it always feel as if Israel is besieged and embattled?

Netanyahu’s words give the impression that his country’s very existence is in a state of constant peril. In fact, this is the same rhetoric that is constantly emanating from most Israeli circles — official, media, academic and even ordinary people.

It seems that the stronger Israel becomes, the larger in size and more destructive in its military capabilities, the weaker and more threatened it perceives itself.

Besieged, bombed out and impoverished tiny Gaza maintained its standing as a major cause for alarm and one of the greatest threats to Israel’s security. But even the civil society-led non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) has quickly been pushed to the top of the ‘existential threat’ pyramid. The language used against Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and others is now being utilised against BDS as well. In a conference organised by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in New York last month, Israeli Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, called BDS a ‘terrorist organisation’.

“BDS is the new face of terror,” she said. “While in Gaza (terrorists) are digging underground tunnels into Israel, the BDS movement is digging tunnels to undermine the foundations and values of Israel. We have to stop these tunnels as well.”

Regardless of the type of criticism Israel faces and the tactics used to end its Occupation of Palestine, Israel will always connect the proverbial dots to produce the same outcome: Israel’s existence is at stake, all acts of resistance, however symbolic, are terrorist.

Gaza, which is speculated to be uninhabitable by the United Nations come 2020, hardly threatens the existence of Israel, nor are BDS activists, who demand accountability, vile terrorists. Needless to say, a group of women on a small boat, embarking on a symbolic journey to Gaza were not about to take the Middle East’s only nuclear power down.

“The Israeli army then took over the boat. The women showed no resistance as they wanted to emphasise that their mission was peaceful. The women cried because they could not reach Gaza,” Al Jazeera reported.

According to Israel, these women were also “terrorists”. Thanks to western media that is largely sympathetic towards the Israeli storyline, many are driven to believe such drivel.

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Dr Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. Ramzy addressed the NZ Conference on Palestine via video link earlier this year.

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