Chesler Chronicles

War: The Film. Cellphone Cameras on the Mediterranean


I’m no techie. Ask anyone. I was a trekkie—an ardent follower of Star Trek—but that was long ago, when television was still beamed up in black and white. I like to think of myself as a “visitor” to the future. Still, even I know that technology is what’s happening.

Political campaigns are being won or lost, products sold, fortunes made, on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter; so, too, are wars.

In my book The New Anti-Semitism I first wrote about the importance of technology in the propaganda wars, about the Palestinian and Islamist use of staged, doctored, faked murders and masscres (Mohammed Al-Dura, Jenin, etc.), the fictionalization of Blood Libels against the Jews which were being seen and believed by billions of people around the world. This phenomenon has been ably studied by Richard Landes, Philippe Karsenty, Nidra Poller, Pierre Rehov. I wrote that “Pallywood” (Landes’ phrase) went far beyond what Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, could ever hope to accomplish.

Thus, this latest Turkish-Palestinian terrorist attack on Israel, disguised as a “peace” or “humanitarian” mission, was televised live—first, by the attackers, but also by the Israelis. In truth, the terrorists on board the attack-ship or those who planned the flotilla assault had ties to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbullah, the Islamic Movement in Israel, and Al-Qaeda, and came from Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, etc. (One passenger on the Mavi Marmara was Bishop Hilarion Capucci who was convicted and imprisoned in Israel for smuggling weapons from Lebanon to the PLO). We also know that they came equipped with live weapons: stun guns, knives, sharpened weapons, rocks, smoke bombs, slingshots, large metal poles—and the most important weapon of all: cellphone cameras. The terrorists livestreamed what was happening as it was happening. They actually got the jump on the Israelis who had planned—but failed–to jam the airwaves. At least, this is what Noach Shachtman, writing in Wired, claims.

This time, the IDF did not merely embed a film crew in order to document that its troops did not commit any “war crimes.” This time, cameras were also used, and rather successfully, as weapons. Thus, we were able to click on YouTube to see how the “peaceful” passengers were  beating up Israeli troops. An hour later, one could see a clip of the “knives, slingshots, rocks, smoke bombs, metal rods, improvised sharp metal objects, sticks and clubs” found on board the Mavi Marmara. Thereafter, the IDF showed how it was unloading “humanitarian cargo” from the ships and into Gaza. All along,  the IDF provided a stream of Twitter updates and blog posts to “reinforce its position.”

However, this did not reach YouTube viewers until many hours after the battle was over.

According to Shachtman, the other side live-streamed the battle as it was happening. (Please, don’t hesitate to inform me if this is inaccurate).

I do not agree with Shachtman that Israel lost this battle. On the contrary. To some extent, the IDF footage neutralized some public opinion. This is a major “win” for Israel given how it has been demonized and isolated. No, not all media outlets are open to logic or to what their own eyes tell them. (See Barry Rubin’s analysis of the New York Times on this). However, some of the mainstream media in the West did not immediately condemn Israel for committing a “massacre,” a “war crime,” or an “atrocity.” Such behavior is standard operating procedure among the Fourth Estate.

In addition, American Vice President Joe Biden called the Israeli operation “legitimate” and insisted that Israel “has an absolute right to deal with its security interest… it’s legitimate for Israel to say ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship, these guys are dropping [thousands of] rockets on my people…Israel is at war with Hamas and has the right to know whether arms are being smuggled in.”

C’mon, Mr. Shachtman, this does not add up to an utter loss, does it? Nor does this mean that the Flotilla Fiasco has cooked Israel’s goose but good.

I do not agree with Shachtman’s critique that Israel no longer cares about public opinion. There is a difference between “not caring” and deciding not to cater to a very hostile public opinion; a difference between “not caring” and concluding that the truth cannot hold its own against the Big Lies; a difference between “not caring” and making a military decision not to allow journalists into the battle.  Yes, I know: This, in part, became the basis for Goldstone’s one-sided report about Operation Cast Lead, but please recall that journalists are only allowed into the Palestinian territories when and if they follow the Big Lie Party Line exactly, with absolutely no variations.

But Shachtman does make an interesting point. He tells us that the very popular IDF YouTube website was not started by the IDF.

“A young Israeli soldier — born in a small town in Hawaii, and converted to Judaism at Yale — got together with another American Israeli who thought it’d be cool to share some of videos online. That became the IDF’s official YouTube channel, unexpectedly generating millions and millions of views.

Generations Y and Z are used to experiencing reality as a viewer experience. Look: BP and the American government have just turned to James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar, to help them solve the terrible oil spill off the coast of Louisiana. Who knows? Maybe he can do it.

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