Antisemites, Israel Critics Adopt a New Propaganda Ploy
The campaign to demonize Israel and the Jewish people is not new. And to give credit where it is due, the detractors of Israel and antisemites have had some success in appropriating terms used by Jews and Israel’s supporters, thereby using language to distort reality and introduce formulas that create a bias against Jews and Israel.
The propagandists have now latched onto a new approach — the accusation of incitement to violence — which they have also learned from their opponents.
To give one example of appropriation, the Palestinians now refer to those outside Palestine as the “diaspora.” In the case of the Jewish people, the Diaspora was a result of being exiled from their homeland in Eretz Yisrael, and expelled from many of their adopted homelands.
Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians live in “Palestine,” most in their original homes. A handful were expelled, but the majority remain in self-imposed exile or persecuted by their Arab brethren. Suggesting there is a Palestinian diaspora is an effort to falsely equate their plight with the Jews.
References to “Islamophobia” are meant to serve what propagandists see as a corollary to antisemitism. They are convinced Jews silence opponents by accusing them of antisemitism, and they hope using the Muslim equivalent will shield Muslim antisemites and eliminate or deflect criticism of radical Islam and Muslim terrorists.
The propagandists’ greatest success may be in convincing the media and the international community to adopt pejorative language that puts Israel on the defensive, by falsifying or slanting history, law, and policy. Thus, for example, you have the expulsion of Palestinian refugees myth, the Orwellian attacks on Israel at the UN, and comparisons of Israeli actions with apartheid in South Africa.
The age-old regions of Judea and Samaria have been turned into reference points re: the Jordan River. Calling them the “West Bank” is meant to erase their Jewish history and character.
“Settlers” and “settlements” are terms applied to colonists and usurpers. Think of how different the impression of them would be if they were more accurately called “Israeli citizens” and “Jewish communities.”
Perhaps the greatest propaganda victory has been “occupied territories.” Israel does not “occupy” territory that once belonged to a Palestinian state. The correct term is “disputed.” The State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights has finally set the record straight by removing the term from its annual report on the region.
The media has been complicit in adopting this language, and has gone further, eschewing the word “terrorist” for Palestinian murderers. For much of the press, a killer of children in the United States is a terrorist, but a suicide bomber blowing up children in Israel is a “militant.” Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization; Hamas is a “militia.”
Then, of course, you have the “Big Lie” tactic: If you repeat an outrageous claim often enough, people may accept it as the truth. Examples are comparing Israelis to Nazis (also a technique for turning victims into victimizers) and accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing.”
The anti-Israel propagandists do not always win. Israel, for example, has been more successful in accurately labeling its barrier a “security fence” than antagonists portraying it as an “apartheid wall.” Pro-Israel activists are also becoming more successful in truthfully defining the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as antisemitic.
Jews and Israelis did not recognize, or failed to blunt, the impact of some of the aforementioned propaganda, and have been forced to adopt it themselves. Use of the term “West Bank” is commonplace, even though we know better, because the detractors have succeeded in portraying those who say “Judea and Samaria” as extremists who oppose peace and seek “Greater Israel.”
Periodically, I get into arguments with Jews who want to roll back the clock. They think that if we stick to our guns, we can regain the rhetorical upper hand. Alas, we cannot refight lost battles. The goal now is to prevent Israel’s detractors and antisemites from shaping future discussion by manipulating language.
This brings me to the latest propaganda line, mimicking Israel and its supporters who have put the Palestinians on the defensive by documenting how Palestinians incite violence through the media, education system, and public policy (e.g., “pay-to-slay”).
Those seeking to shield Israel’s detractors and antisemites have begun accusing critics — without proof — of inciting violence and putting lives in danger. This tactic was rolled out after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) made her antisemitic remarks in March. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), for example, admitted that Omar may have used antisemitic tropes, but condemned Republicans for “inciting violence.”
A few weeks later, after Omar’s comment that “some people did something” on 9/11 set off a firestorm, she accused her critics of engaging in “dangerous incitement.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) defended her, and accused Trump of “inciting violence against a sitting congresswoman” when he denounced her.
After Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) tweeted about the formation of a bipartisan Congressional Black-Jewish Caucus, Linda Sarsour’s response was: “Meanwhile, you target and attack the Black Muslim Congresswoman & Palestinian Muslim Congresswoman putting their lives in danger.”
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach took out a full-page ad in The New York Times pointing out the speciousness of Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) comment that Palestinians lost their land, dignity, and lives “in the name of trying to create a safe haven for Jews, post the Holocaust.” Predictably, an uproar ensued with the usual suspects defending Tlaib. One of the most vitriolic critics of Israel, James Zogby, tweeted:
This is a dishonest & dangerous assault on @RashidaTlaib by far-right Shmuley Boteach. He funnels dark money into attack ads like this that distort the truth & put people’s lives at risk. It’s not an ad, it’s incitement. Shame on @nytimes for running it. #handsoffRashida.
Anyone who dares to criticize antisemites can now expect to be accused of inciting violence. It is especially alarming to see political figures who should know better using this ugly tactic. This is one of the most nefarious strategies adopted by anti-Israel, anti-Jewish propagandists, and it cannot be allowed to become an acceptable norm for silencing critics.
Mitchell Bard is Executive Director of AICE and Jewish Virtual Library.