Jenin and the 'Twinkie Defense'

Wanted: A Great Jewish Spin Master

JAFFA—OK, I know you're all really mad at us. I watch the TV news too and I'm not exactly overcome with joy at what's going on, either.

With the world on our case, it sure is hard to be an Israeli these days. Words like "pariah" and "leper" are the most printable things we are being called. In fact, the mildest epithet I've heard is "bunch of big bullies."

What hurt the worst was the way the world bought Yasir Arafat's bullshit about our soldiers brutally murdering hundreds of civilians and burying their corpses in a mass grave. Give me a break. Anyone who believed that does not know Israelis.

So, we gave a sigh of relief when two major international human rights delegations—Amnesty International

and Human Rights Watch—pooh-poohed the "massacre in Jenin" tale and said there was evidence of no such thing. It didn't get much play, of course, because tales of demonic slaughter are so much more newsworthy.

More than 50 Palestinians and 23 Israelis died in the Jenin fighting. We probably won't have a firm count for a long time because the Jenin authorities reportedly saved a few rubble-covered bodies to unearth for any fact-finding mission that shows up. It will make great TV.

There was no carnage, but there most certainly was dishonorable conduct by some Israeli soldiers. The Israeli army has begun criminal procedures against some soldiers suspected of looting.

And the vandalism was equally shocking. Wanton destruction with seemingly no reason except destruction itself. What drove these young soldiers? A longing for revenge? Hatred?

Loud voices in Israel are calling for a thorough, independent investigation of the documented vandalism, insisting that those responsible be tried and punished severely.

If that ever happens, the army could always resort to the "Twinkie Defense." You remember the Twinkie Defense. According to legend, lawyers for Dan White, who murdered popular San Francisco mayor George Moscone, got the charge reduced by arguing that pigging out on Twinkies and other junk food had seriously diminished his capacity for reason. It didn't really happen that way, but the myth was better than the real story, so the legend stuck.

Well, it turns out that when the Israeli government called up 31,000 reserve soldiers to go fight on the West Bank, it didn't have enough food stocks to feed them all. So a lot of these guys went for a whole week living on nothing but the candy they could buy at the canteen. We don't have Twinkies in Israel, but they probably could mount something like the "Kit Kat Bar Defense."

I wouldn't be surprised if we tried it. Our government does not seem to care what kind of impression we give to the world.

Israel can soundly defeat the Arabs on the battlefield, and has done so more than once. But when the battle is on the airwaves, the Arabs make mincemeat of us. They are so much better at getting their side across, it makes me sick.

Where are all those great Jewish masters of spin when we need them?

It would be nice if we didn't give our critics so much ammunition. Palestinian terrorists can relax at home; we Israelis do more damage to ourselves than they could possibly inflict.

Our relations with the media are one example of how we regularly shoot ourselves in the foot.

We went into Jenin to shut down the terrorist production line that turned out at least 25 of the more than 100 suicide bombers who have killed scores of Israelis in the last year. The army encountered incredibly strong resistance and many soldiers were killed in an unexpected maze of booby-trapped houses.

This is when it is nice to have the media along, as the Americans learned in Afghanistan. Not us. We not only failed to facilitate press coverage, we banned journalists from the area.

The government simply doesn't get it—refusing to give journalists access to a story will always be construed as a sign that one has something to hide. But that was not the first time we crossed the media.

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) recently criticized both Israel and the Palestinians for their treatment of journalists since the current intifada began.

"Throughout the conflict, journalists have been subject to targeted shootings, beatings, harassment, censorship, threats and obstruction in carrying out their profession," IPI said.

"At least 81 percent of the violations against press freedom were perpetrated by Israelis," IPI added.

Cute, huh? And then we wonder why we get such bad press.

Our international image as an open and democratic society is suffering as well.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai recently ordered border officials to deny entry to anyone suspected of being a Palestinian supporter. The officials at Ben Gurion Airport have taken that literally, and we have seen delegation after delegation of doctors and human rights activists turned away.

"Now Israel is . . . throwing out guests who don't agree with its policies," wrote columnist Gideon Levy in the daily Ha'aretz. "This is not the behavior one expects from an open country that takes pride in being a democracy."

Our attitude toward human rights is also winning us a lot of fan mail. The government makes it clear that it considers "human rights" an annoying impediment in the battle against terrorism.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
 
Loading...