Al Jazeera spoke with a self-assured young man from Connecticut about the war in Gaza during the most recent “March for Israel” in Washington, DC. Charlie appeared prepared to respond to any query while wearing an Israeli flag.
He made it abundantly clear that the current conflict is not between Israel and Hamas, but rather between all of humanity. He expressed regret over the deaths of his children and his prayers for those who were innocent. But he was certain that someone was to blame for the civilian deaths in Gaza. He claimed that despite Israel’s best efforts to prevent civilian casualties, Palestinian terrorists supported by Iran bomb their own hospitals, use civilians as human shields, and even station children next to rocket launchers. He continued by saying that all evil in Palestine and the surrounding area is caused by Iran and its agents.
Charlie has undoubtedly done his research. He memorized the lines from the “Global Language Dictionary]PDF] published by the Israel Project, repeated them verbatim, and did so without missing a beat. In order to advise Israel’s supporters on how to approach the media about the conflict, the playbook was developed in 2009. This was the year that Israel launched its first war on the besieged Gaza Strip. It is aimed at young activists as well as politicians, pundits, journalists, and more. It was inspired by Israel’s top spin doctors like Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu. It alerts its readers to words that should be used and others that shouldn’t as it instructs them on what to say and what not to.
Avoid discussing borders in terms of pre- or post- 1967, as it only serves to remind Americans of Israel’s military history, is one of my favorite quotes from the playbook, which I wrote back in 2014. This hurts you, especially on the left. The playbook emphasizes that “it is a tragedy that Iran-backed Hamas shoots rockets at our civilians while hiding in their own” and that this “causes tragic deaths on both sides” when civilian casualties increase during wartime in Gaza.
Sounds familar, right?
I’ve read the spin playbook, just like Charlie, but for different reasons. I can more easily spot the spin in writings, speeches, and interviews thanks to the playbook.
Consider the CNN interview Chris Christie, a Republican candidate for president of the United States, gave the day following the “March for Israel.” He used less tact when reciting the same soundbites that Charlie had used the day before. Having had forgotten to mention “evil Iran” in his answers, he clumsily rushed to insert it before the end of the interview, as if he was being tested.
Like Charlie and Chris, Joe also loves the playbook. President Biden and his minions in the US administration have eagerly embraced its recommendation to highlight Israel’s “right, indeed obligation, to defend itself” against the attacks of a “terrorist” organisation at every opportunity. Since October 7, the United States president has regularly deflected criticism of US complicity in the killing of thousands of Palestinian children, by accusing Hamas of, you guessed it,  ,  , “using civilians as human shields”, and even repeating false Israeli claims about Hamas “cutting babies ‘ heads off” and “burning women and children alive”.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken went further, insisting that US officials stand behind , Israel’s claim that , Hamas is using civilian facilities such as al – Shifa hospital in Gaza as “command centers”, and adding that “What we know across the board is that Hamas embeds itself in civilian infrastructure – in and under apartment buildings, in and under hospitals, in and under schools – and it uses people as human shields”, and hence, incriminating tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, teachers and others in war crimes.  ,  , All of which has thus far proved to be no more than propaganda used by Israel to justify its bombings of hospitals and schools.
On Saturday, in an opinion article on the US vision for post – conflict Gaza published in the Washington Post, Biden wrote to the spirit and text of the playbook. The president omitted any mention of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, the siege of Gaza, or any single part of the tortured history of Palestine in favour of more and more of the empty old rhetoric about “shared future” and “two states” that obfuscates the reality on the ground, and serves to justify the unraveling collective punishment and genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza.
Mind you, the playbook actively encourages its readers to talk in favour of the “two state solution”, and repeat the mantra “two homes for two peoples”, because, “given the overwhelming American support for a two – state solution, it will make support much easier and faster if you set the tone for all discussions by articulating Israel’s shared vision for the ultimate goal of two peoples, living side by side in a lasting and secure peace”. But then again, and here comes the punchline: “In the name of gaining credibility for why you might later say that ‘ a two – state solution isn’t achievable overnight’, you should start with language]that signals] how your goals align with the public’s”.
President Biden is not the only world leader who appears to be following Israel’s 2009 playbook to a T. Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has also been very careful not to sway far from the guidelines issued by Israel’s spin doctors. Asked by an opposition MP whether he would urge Israel to end its “collective punishment” of civilians in Gaza, Sunak responded:
“I actually believe that we should support Israel’s right to defend itself and to go after Hamas and recognising that they]Israel] face a vicious enemy that embeds itself behind civilians”.
For his part, United Nations Secretary – General Antonio Guterres , did not toe the line as blindly as the US president and British PM, and was slammed for it. After condemning Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, he ventured to , remind the UN Security Council attendees that, “It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation”.
Oh! The nerve, the audacity! How dare the UNSG state the obvious, “in what world” does he live? He must “resign”, or so the Israeli diplomats shot back, in accordance with the Israeli playbook, which clearly states, “the primary Palestinian public relations goal is to demonstrate that the so – called ‘ hopelessness of the oppressed Palestinians ‘ is what causes them to go out and kill children. This needs to be vigorously, immediately, and directly contested.
When it comes to Palestinians, history has no place in the political discourse of today. The spinners are inconvenienced by their tortured past and present, which must be avoided at all costs.
President Biden expanded on his earlier, perilous theological assertion about Hamas’ “pure, unadulterated evil,” which can only be explained by its very nature, in his warmongering Washington Post opinion piece. Come what may, it must be disregarded and ignored that Hamas is a result of Israeli occupation, which was established in response to Israel’s decades-long repression and disposition.
According to cynics and spinners, Israel has the right—indeed, the obligation—to defend itself and its racist occupation, as well as its military occupation and racist apartheid. However, Palestinians do not have this right to defend themselves, much less resist their occupiers through any means, including the most nonviolent ones like boycott and divestment.