In 2001 (before 9/11), Belgian historian Anne Morelli (fr) published a book analyzing the basic principles of war propaganda. Unfortunately and as far as I can tell, it was never translated to English (only in German). She credits the work of Lord Ponsonby, an amazing and unfortunately somewhat forgotten character. He stood, largely alone, in the Commons opposing WWI before it started, predicting not just the massacre it was going to be, but more interestingly for our purpose, how it was going to be sold to the masses.
Morelli enumerates it as the following principles:
1. We don't want war, we are only defending ourselves
2. The other guy is the sole responsible for this war
3. Our adversary's leader is evil and looks evil
4. We are defending a noble purpose, not special interest
5. The enemy is purposefully causing atrocities; we only commit mistakes
6. The enemy is using unlawful weapons
7. We have very little losses, the enemy is losing big
8. Intellectuals and artists support our cause
9. Our cause is sacred
10. Those who doubt our propaganda are traitors.
There is no value judgment in those principles; we can verify that they apply regardless of the evilness of the belligerent we evaluate through them. They may also be true. They applied to revanchiste France in 1914 as well as Britain, they applied to Nazi Germany and to the United States in WW2. They applied to colonial powers and to Gulf War I allied. They undeniably apply to current Afghanistan and Iraq.
- We don't want war, we are only defending ourselves
- "right to defend itself", which, strangely, is never invoked for Palestine
- The other guy is the sole responsible for this war
- Hamas launched rockets (never mentioning the blockade, the wall, the checkpoints,
the harassment, and so on)
- Our adversary's leader is evil and looks evil
- Usually the main point of the propaganda arsenal, this has taken a backseat in this conflict.
- We are defending a noble purpose, not special interest
- Even the worst murderous dictators can find a remotely plausible cause to justify their aggressions.
- The enemy is purposefully causing atrocities; we only commit mistakes
- This is clearly what is the most shocking right now; schools being destroyed by IDF are mere mistakes -- even though Israel barely apologizes, if at all. But when Hamas scratches one civilian, they bear full responsibility.
- The enemy is using unlawful weapons
- While Israel is currently using Phosphorus, and is not even in fact denying it, we've all heard -- repeatedly -- about the horrible rockets. How bad are they? They're inaccurate, conventional and not very powerful. But they're supposed to be illegal and unfair.
- We have very little losses, the enemy is losing big
- Today this is not exactly a talking point, more of a sad fact.
- Intellectuals and artists support our cause
- Cue the endless march of neo-con "thinkers" on TV
- Our cause is sacred
- It's in the Bible, you can't get more sacred
- Those who doubt our propaganda are traitors.
- Self-loathing antisemitic jew. 'nuff said.
Perhaps what's more interesting is when they don't apply. I'm reminded of a conversation I had about 10 years ago with a Jewish friend, who was quite unabashedly pro-Israel. He ended up claiming that Palestinians were manipulating European medias and were, in his words, "excellent at public relations."
I was shocked. The statement immediately struck me as stupendously yet ironically conspiracy theoristy. Wasn't that what was said of Jews by antisemites? "Oh yeah and they control some banks, too" I asked jokingly. "Oh sure, they have the Saudi money, but it's really disgusting how they get all the coverage on the public media."
Trying to apply those principles to the Palestinian side as it currently stands doesn't quite work:
- Gaza is not even defending itself to any significant extent, as evidenced by the body count where Israeli friendly fire is almost the majority.
- Everybody on the Palestinian's side admit that Hamas bears at least some responsibility.
- Israeli leaders have not been cartoonized in any significant way to server as the figurehead of the bad guy
- Nobody invokes much of a higher purpose for the struggle but the lives of the Palestinians themselves
- Gazans are losing big, and don't try to claim otherwise
- No appeal to the sacred; the land wasn't given to Palestinian by $DEITY, or at least that's not part of the argument against Israel's actions, while it's very much a part of the argument in favor of settlements
- Those who DON'T doubt Hamas' every single statements are dubbed traitor within 5µs
That leaves: intellectuals and artists are supporting our cause. Not that many, though.
Those principles could have been found to apply to a larger extend to the Palestinian struggle at an earlier time. Today they don't apply, because they are simply being viciously attacked. Despite the delusions of my friend, they have no dedicated mouthpiece in Europe or in the US. At best, their plea for justice is relayed by real journalism outlets such as Democracy Now!; but those are not the mere opposite of airtime delivery devices such as Fox News or CNN.