Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Battle for the Internet

In today's age of the world wide web, information can be exchanged at the speed of light. We are filled with plenty of mediums for journalism and now that the internet has exploded into phenomenon that we now take for granted, it's getting more and more difficult for the truth to be suppressed. Back in the days of newspapers and television broadcasts, you had editors and CEOs to answer to and with the way the mutlinationals are currently falling under the rubric of capitalist cronyism, we only get the pathetic middle-of-the-road-offend-no-one (or more to the point, offend none of your advertisers and funders) that aims to pass as hard-nosed journalism. Although the days of Bob Woodward and Seymour Hersh exposing fiascos, atrocities and corruption are dwindling away being taken over by James Gannon-nites and sleazy spin stories of how the "surge is working", the internet is a great platform for many of today's truthseekers to find an audience with the alternative media. While you still get the odd piece in the paper that might reveal a nugget of truth, lately we have been bombarded (no pun intended with the Iraq war) with propaganda that pleases the good men in the seats of power and prestige. The internet is alot harder to police because it is open to anyone who has a computer and an internet connection. Even with that handicap where we cannot speak to those too poor to voice their struggle on the web, you have many brave journalists covering their story because it is in the world's interest to know of how other people are being treated. And the Israel-Palestine conflict is of vast importance, with all the implications and degrees that relate to many in the West and the Diaspora of Jews and Palestinians together. Sitting in front of the TV won't get you to know what life is like in the Occupied Territories and that's the beauty of the internet. We are connected to those who are too desperate to even speak out. (But thankfully, a few do make it with their blogs: namely Philip Rizk, Bernard Avishai, Anna Baltzer, Laila El-Haddad and even the groundbreaking blog of Gaza and Sderot friends.)

Now the coverage is getting too troubling for little old Israel. I say old because it is nearing its sixtieth anniversary and what a historic achievement it is. To this day, I don't think many are aware of how Israel camw to being and that's a real shame. Americans are well aware of the birth of their nation: on the ruins of Natives and their corpses. Israel are still unwilling to let the nugget of truth that they cleansed Palestine and made refugees out of the indigenous people. But the iron wall is starting to crack in some societies: in Australia, there is a split in Labour over the celebration of Israel's birth sixty years on. Antony Loewenstein covers it extensively. Here's the precise:

"A bipartisan motion congratulating Israel on 60 years of statehood has provoked division in federal Labor, with one government MP threatening to boycott the vote and union heavyweights accusing the Jewish state of racism and ethnic cleansing.

The parliamentary motion is due to be passed by MPs today, commemorating 60 years of friendship between Australia and Israel.

The motion provoked a clash between Kevin Rudd and Labor MP Julia Irwin yesterday after Ms Irwin questioned why the Government was supporting the gesture, given Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians."

All applauds go to Ms Irwin, who even identified that there is such a thing as the "Nakba".

"We, as informed and concerned Australians, choose to disassociate ourselves from a celebration of the triumph of racism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the al-Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948."

These are truths that Israel has been trying to suppress, along with their heinous violations of human rights. What really irks the apologists for Israel's crimes is the daily Ha'aretz, which is Israel's most liberal publication. It is home to dissidents such as Gideon Levy and Amira Hass and along with Akiva Eldar, we have a very left voice of Israel criticising the state when Americans won't even touch the subject of Israel doing anything wrong. They've decided that enough is enough and instead of ending the occupation which is what a logical person would do, they go on the offensive (since when DON'T they do that?) and attack on the stage that seems to hurt them the most: the internet.

Because of the Ha'aretz English feature, more and more people who are curious about to what really makes Israel click can see the inner workings of the Knesset members (banishment of Israeli Arabs) and what they support (more settlement construction, no Palestinian state and no Hamas). It's hard to put a positive spin on this no matter how many times you invoke the "demographic bomb" that Netanyahu reiterates ad nauseum. So Israel takes the backlash effect and tests their mettle on the rotunda of the world wide web. Richard Silverstein highlighted the tactics of Israel back in early February:

"They are wreaking vengeance against Israel's enemies by blogging about the worst, most scandalous news about their home countries. I kid you not. Hate those baddies at the Guardian? Tell the world about England's violent drunk teens. L.A. Times got you down dissing Israel? Tell the world about the latest drive by killing. The idea seems to be if you want to smear Israel I'll smear you back. If this isn't the most lame-brained idea I've heard in ages I don't know what is. Instead of damaging the reputations of the countries portrayed, it damages the reputation of Israel that its defenders behave in such a fashion. If you wanted to think of the wackiest pro-Israel propaganda venture could you have thought of this one in a million years?"

The source of his astonishment is the Ha'aretz article that has bloggers trying to counter bad press about Israel on the net. Talk about some sour grapes: you cannot handle the truth so what do you do? You go and smear who's smearing you. Perfect logic here. No, those Palestinians have no grievance at all. It's all fabricated. What? There's good things about Israel? Of course there is. But you could forgive a Palestinian for not sharing that sentiment with you. Here's more of the examples:

"Over the past months, seven activists from Israel and elsewhere have been exposing online readers to scandalous yet accurate reports from media in Britain (violent drunk teens), France (high homeless mortality), Norway (serial child molesters), Finland (sexual harassment in parliament), Sweden (soaring suicide rates), The Netherlands (menacing Muslim unrest), Mexico (rampaging flood victims) and Los Angeles (drive-by killings)."

I love how "menacing Muslim unrest" is a smear. Aren't the Dutch responsible for reprinting that terrible cartoon of the prophet Mohammed that offended millions of Muslims worldwide? I guess that "smear" works for Israel too considering they have "menacing Muslim unrest" being fueled there. What is rather hypocritical is that most states are guilty of these misdemeanors that the bloggers are pinpointing. Which Western nation doesn't have high homeless mortality? Aren't there serial child molesters in Canada too? What about the US who is the country with the most people in prison per capita? What is missing from all of these are how many UN Resolutions they are in violation of, and that NONE of these nations (except for the US) are currently occupying another people. Well Britain and France with NATO involvement but that is a little too technical. The point is, Israel is committing egregious crimes that do not even compare with these petty crimes of the other states.

If all of this is not absurb enough for you, the battle has found its place on Facebook, a social site that lets people interact with "friends" which is more or less a popularity contest. Now I kid you not: the Israel-Palestine conflict is being waged on Facebook of all places. Facebook!

It all began when settlers in the West Bank who are members complained that they are not living in Palestine and that they are Israeli citizens, hence that their country of origin should read "Israel". They claimed that the Facebook creators had bias. Now these citizens of Israel living in illegal settlements of "Maale Adumim, Ariel and other large Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank" are not currently living in Israel, perhaps making that the reason why the country of origin was automatically labeled Palestine since this is the area where there is a proposed Palestinian state. What is sad is that these settlers put up a stink about it because they don't recognise that what they are living on is Palestinian land: THAT'S WHY IT DID NOT SAY ISRAEL. How much can we stress that for it to sink it? This land is not your's and was never your's to begin with. You moved here with the belligerence of Israel's leaders and made peace impossible because you refuse to admit that your presence is in direct violation of international law which is adhered by ALL STATES of the world, including the US.

This offensive is just following Shimon Peres' orders that the battle be taken up in Facebook.

"You can fight anti-Semitism using social networks, like Facebook."

Calling the occupied territories Palestine is not anti-Semitism no matter how much you scream it is. Peres sees no folly in this and he is spearheaded the backlash against Palestinian solidarity which gains more strength whenever Israel bombs and kills civilians. We cannot make this stuff up people and because the root causes of the conflict are being covered more and more and getting more debate on networks such as Facebook, Israel cannot police these thoughts from permeating other non-suspecting citizens who might be molded into thinking that Israel isn't all its cracked up to be. The real shame is the campaign to silence these debates and these criticisms when Israel should be learning from their mistakes and taking into account every dissident voice who claims that Israel is on a path of self-destruction when they refuse to deal with reality.

There can be no real security when such a power disparity is in effect between two opposing nationalist movements. Israel needs to find out that only equality will quell the hatred that is brewing between the two populations and an open debate about it needs to happen if understanding can be met during our lifetime. The battle of the internet is only going to get uglier but the truth in the end shall prevail. If you encounter these zealouts, be not afraid to call them out and take them on for you have the truth on your side. I know I am itching for an encounter.

PS: the Shin Bet has created their own blog. As Norman Finkelstein put it: "Read how Israel tortures and murders Palestinians in real time."

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