The revelation that a pro-Palestinian UN official posted and circulated faked photos of victims is no longer startling.
(The image, while graphic can be viewed here.)
We know that pro-Palestinian groups have staged and filmed fake videos, and do so with impunity. On a token scale, pro-Israel activists have done the same.
A Rabbi-friend of mine just sent me a Richard Landes video debunking faked Palestinian films (an “industry” Landes calls “Pallywood”) along with a request to parse the truth about Landes’ claims.
To Landes, something about these films doesn’t add up. He points out “ever ready” ambulances, the presence of cameramen and poor acting as evidence of a wider conspiracy. Landes is right on some counts but misses the mark implying that on-the-scene cameramen prove something fishy. Palestinian media, much like the world press, rushes to the scene of violence – it’s called reporting.
In the video, Landes (as have many video debunkers) asserts that the presence of families, women and children imply fraudulent media. As someone who has observed and avoided Israeli/Palestinian gunfire, rocks and moltovs, I can say that women and children are often unwittingly (and wittingly) caught in the violence. When under fire, rioters and soldiers alike don’t have much regard for their presence, especially around Qalandiya, the main checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem—traversed by school children, working mothers and prayer-goers daily.
In writing this all out to the Rabbi, I realized that my response totally missed the mark. Landes’ video and all like it, merely take their place among most hasbara efforts: reactionary, defensive and in the end, failing.
This was the message I wanted to tell my friend: You can put every “Palestinian” video through the wringer and debunk it, but it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter as long as even one video exists showing real abuse at the hands of the IDF. It is true that the world holds Israel to an impossible double standard. It is true that awful things happen in a time of war.
But, every time the Israeli government is less-than-stern dealing out punishments for checkpoint abuse, unnecessary civilian deaths and violence against women and children, a rhetorical cover is formed for the fraudsters, liars and media manipulators.
A good analogy would be to Afghanistan, where a perhaps noble mission has been completely undermined by Quran burnings, corpse abuse and finally, the massacre of Afghan civilians by a US serviceman.
If anything, these fake videos should teach us a new lesson about Israel advocacy. Perception is king. Whether in the realm of university campuses or politics, the side that masters media with speed and diligence will win. We must adopt their finesse in film, social networking and distribution, less their deceitful tactics.
To detractors who say “the facts should be enough,” I say, “when will you learn?” The use of the word “hasabra” to describe Israel advocacy illuminates its failures. It comes from the root meaning, “to inform.” Information is not enough.
The facts haven’t been enough for 2300 years. Aristotle understood that the facts are but one part of persuasion. McLuhan said, “Medium is the message.”
When will it click, for us and our cameras?