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Israel’s PR Crisis

June 10, 2010

Without delving (completely) into the maelstrom that is the Mid-East crisis, I’d likely to simply touch on the following. I don’t understand why is it that when Israel does something like sending commandos to attack an unarmed vessel with humanitarian aid (regardless of any blockade or not) that it’s a “public relations” problem and not say a starter for a conversation about why there’s a blockade of gaza, the severity of the crisis in the Middle East, or say some tough questions about international law. Can you imagine painting other such international crisis-like event in the same terms?

Check this out: “N. Korea fires torpedo destroying S. Korean vessel and killing 46 sailors. How will N. Korea handle this public relations problem?” You’d probably say, that’s ridiculous, since blatant provocations and murder along those lines are the definition of an international crisis and not a PR predicament. By calling something a PR crisis you are denying there’s even room for valid debate and closing off all discussion. But I guess such is the rationale when dealing with democratic societies like Israel.

In recent week, much debate has moved from how to handle to the PR crisis to the argument over whether there is actually a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The good news is that we learned from such sources as the NYT, FOX News, and the lover of humanity known as Joe Lieberman, that is there is, in fact, no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Many on the left and those who generally don’t like seeing children starving to prove political points, have been outraged at the denial of the dire conditions in Gaza. Given the history of the problems, this probably falls on the not-as-egregious-end of things that have been said or done. But, as the Jewbonics blog author points out as well, debating the merits of a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza is not the point either:

Gaza isn’t a humanitarian crisis only because people are not starving to death, and when you define humanitarian crisis as post-earthquake Haiti, you arrive at the understandable conclusion that there’s no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. What would be more correct to say? That Gaza is a carefully managed political crisis, modeled after a concentration camp, complete with per-person calorie allotments adjusted for height, weight age, and the rest, a crisis managed through UNRWA food distributions, with the assistance of a tenuous tunnel economy. You can’t manage an urban population of 1.5 million people on an ad hoc emergency basis in perpetuity. Is it a “humanitarian crisis” that Gazans feel despondent and hopeless, that they think the world does nothing while Israel imprisons them? Is it a humanitarian crisis that young men and women feel that they will die without seeing the world? Or that they go to die in forays beyond the border because they feel that life isn’t worth living? A humanitarian crisis when cancer patients die because there’s inadequate treatment in Gaza for cancers? Are we suddenly nutcase dictionary lawyers, debating what the appropriate slot for Gaza is just because there are a couple nice restaurants in Gaza and the lucky-ducky Gazan upper-class has nice food in the bin?

In short, Gaza is a political crisis and no matter how many ships show up or don’t show up is not the point, nor the solution to this crisis. As long as a people are denied their humanity, that is a right to work and provide and care for themselves (no matter whether you want to blame Hamas or Israel for this), you’ll be hardpressed to find a long-lasting solution.

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