The National
June 2, 2010 - 12:00am

The Israeli prime minister’s spokesman Mark Regev once explained to an Australian reporter how he could chew and talk at the same time. This week Mr Regev tested his ability to speak with a foot planted firmly in his mouth.

The talking points he has parroted since Israeli commandos boarded a ship carrying aid to Gaza, killing nine pro-Palestinian activists, might make a lesser spin-doctor squirm. Not Mr Regev. As a liar for hire, there is none who can compare. Just as Mr Regev described last year’s attack on Gaza that killed more than 1,000 Palestinian civilians, hundreds of them children, as a “defensive” action, he described the commandos who killed nine civilians in international waters on Sunday as victims of “aggression”.

We are all entitled to our own opinions, but Mr Regev and the Israeli government are not entitled to their own facts. By establishing a media blackout almost as soon as they seized the ships and keeping the names of the dead from the media, the Israelis have used unverifiable facts to construct their own narrative. This time around even the silver-tongued Mr Regev is having trouble making it sound sensible.

“We made every effort to avoid this conflict on the high seas,” Mr Regev said, explaining that the Israeli force had been instructed to carry out a “police action”. Then why did they intercept a civilian vessel in international waters with an elite Israeli commando unit? Israel also says that the activists aboard the flotilla are allied to Hamas, or Al Qa’eda, or Islamic Jihad, never specifying which, or providing any evidence to support the claim.

The rhetorical gymnastics of Mr Regev and his fellow Israeli spin doctors are often for an American audience. Why else describe those on the freedom flotilla as a “lynch-mob”? The description appeals to America’s historical memory, scarred by images of white vigilantes who murdered African Americans. But who was it really that took justice into their own hands before dawn on Monday?

An Israeli commentator noted during the Gaza assault that “co-ordination is putting Israel ahead in the media war”. It is true that in an era of 24-hour media, who controls the “narrative” is important. But so are the facts. They are not on Israel’s side.

Israel has held 1.5 million Gazaens under siege for 18 months, most of whom lack access to clean drinking water, sanitation facilities, and enough food. The freedom flotilla aimed to provide assistance to these beleaguered people.

Israel has produced no evidence to indicate that those aboard the flotilla were armed or that they were “terrorists”. Even the video snippets that Israel has selectively released do not reveal anyone using anything that is not found on any other ship.The story is simpler: Israel violently attacked civilians, killing nine and injuring dozens more.

The Palestinians may not have media-saavy advocates who fail to blush under the bright lights or at the sound of their own lies. The case of the Palestinians, and of those who sought to deliver them aid, rests on the truth.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017