Saturday, January 10, 2009

Palestinians and PR

Barefoot Bum has a post about why there is no moral equivalence between Hamas's desire to destroy Israel and what Israel is doing, because Hamas is relatively powerless. I don't disagree with that premise.

What I do think is that it is not particularly helpful to express such a desire in the PR sense, as I commented in that thread. I think this got misconstrued somewhere along the way, so I posted a longer comment, which was so obnoxiously long I decided to make it part of a post here. Here it is:

BB: I think you missed my point. I'm not saying that Palestinians don't need protection and I'm not saying that Israel isn't in the wrong. They do and Israel is. Israel needs to stop this immediately. I'm not saying the Palestinians deserve to be attacked for what they say.

I just think it fails to help the Palestinian cause to have the official government of Gaza declaring they will kill all Israelis and erase Israel from the map. It wins no one to their cause and it reduces the level of sympathy people feel for them, which is rather counter productive.

And I'm sorry, it is just stupid. It is morally justified for Palestinians to want justice against those who are killing them right now. It is NOT justified for them to want to kill lots of additional, innocent people on top of that.

Personally, I wish we would butt out of Israel - it is disgusting that we send so much military aid to them and on top of that, despite large numbers of people who object to this latest offensive and to Israel policy in general, there are no politicians in this country who will speak out against Israel - it is instead unconditional support no matter what atrocities they commit. Glenn Greenwald has a post on this where he wonders if there is any other issue on which there is unanimous agreement in the ruling class that is totally unrepresentative of the population at large.

While we share responsibility for the mess there because of the military aid and support we give, and so this explains some of our interest, I also find it rather disgusting that Israel and Palestine get so much attention while other areas of the world where there are even greater atrocities being committed (some with aid from us) are totally ignored in the media.

Finally, just to make sure I'm totally clear as apparently I wasn't the first time around - I never said that the Palestinians need to disarm or not defend themselves, I never said that we should not speak out against what Israel is doing. All I said was that it was not helpful for the Palestinians to have their government in Gaza have an official policy of wanting to kill all Israelis and wipe the nation off of the map. I don't think the fact that they do have this policy means we don't try to stop this stupid Israeli war or that we don't try to protect them, give them their own state, and everything else that needs to be done.

To get to my silly example, I wasn't saying that I should not be rescued from being kidnapped and tortured or that the torture was justfiied. I was saying that I'm probably going to find a lot fewer people willing to rescue me if I talk about murdering innocent people once free to do so. And while maybe a PR Factor like that is irrelevant in an individual kidnapping, it is very relevant when the issue is on the world stage and requires other nations to take action than your own (refering to the Palestinians).

PR matters. Which is why their position, while somewhat understandable, is still stupid. Especially when they are pretty much powerless, so all they have as ammunition in this fight are their words.

You mention the fact that I'm a lawyer - well, with real cases, often the most relevant factor is how sympathetic your client is. If the facts and law are on your side but the jury sees your client as a totally unsympathetic asshole, you can lose just based on that. Which is why any good lawyer does his or her best to make the client look as sympathetic as possible. Think of this as my attempt at legal advice. You don't get any sympathy points for calling for the deaths of innocents - you lose them.

I think the facts and the law are on the side of the Palestinians in this - I see Israel's attack as basically evil. It can only help the Palestinians in this to also seem as sympathetic as possible.

In any discussion on this, the side that is unconditionally supporting Israel just pulls out all of the death to innocents rhetoric from Hamas to justify it. Why not take that away from them? It gets a lot harder to justify it- not that I have any illusions that the rabid right would change their mind, but maybe without such statements we could find some politicians who would go the other way.

As a final thought, I understand what BB means when he says that until I get down and fight in Gaza, perhaps my opinion doesn't mean much. Point taken. But at the same time, this needs to be discussed. If I'm wrong, how else would I find out I'm wrong except by discussing it and working it out? Really, what I think is irrelevant even if I did grab a gun and went to Gaza. I'd probably just be killed and the destruction would continue. Probably I have more chances of making a change by words than with a gun, given who I am. And that still isn't much of a chance.

Ultimately, perhaps I should have just kept my big mouth shut. McCardle's post on this comes to mind.
UPDATE: I have since seen BB's response to this rather too-long comment. I think he is right that PR shouldn't matter. But it does, all too often. It is, at the very least, a tool available to use. Is it really any worse than a gun or a rocket when it comes to tools used to fight oppression?

1 comment:

hedera said...

I'm on your side in this one, at least somewhat. I regard both sides in this as grossly at fault. You're spot on that Hamas' incendiary rhetoric makes it very difficult to portray them as the innocent victims they'd like us to think they are. Every time someone complains about Israel's over-the-top response, I have to wonder: are they supposed to sit there and let Hamas shoot at them?? Would we?

On the other hand, I agree that Israel is over the line, and their actions are indefensible. The real problem with the whole situation is that both sides consider that God/Allah is on their side. As an agnostic, I'm not even sure God exists; I'm damn sure he's not on my side or anybody else's.