Israel: Hasbara, Lies, and Videotape

06/04/2010 10:15 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

As thousands of outraged demonstrators poured into the streets of Ankara and several capitals across the globe in the aftermath of Israel's bloody attack on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip early Monday, an Israeli sergeant stood in front of reporters claiming that the activists on board "were armed with knives, scissors, pepper spray and guns." He said he was armed only with a paintball rifle.

"It was a civilian paintball gun that any 12-year-old can play with," he said; yet, at least nine activists were killed, including a 19-year-old American who was shot in the head four times, and scores were injured.

Soon after, a video was released on the official website of the Israel Defense Forces and was made available to the media. It showed Israeli paratroopers jumping onto the international Gaza aid flotilla; a clip showing IDF commandos being beaten as they boarded the ship and one thrown overboard was looped endlessly. The military video did not show how and when the activists were shot, although the Israeli helicopters' infrared cameras would have easily recorded the flashes caused by gun discharge. Instead, the IDF has selectively released only a portion of the tape that showed its commandos under attack but has omitted the killings. Both Al Jazeera and reporters from Turkish TV news channels were reporting that the Marmara was under gunfire.

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The "lynch" scenario came next. The victims were not the nine dead activists, nor the dozens of internationals who were beaten, humiliated, and dragged against their will to the Israeli port of Ashdod, instead they were the IDF's finest. What a departure from the days of Entebbe, when Hollywood made legends out of Israeli commandos.

Israel's Foreign Ministry then started showing pictures of sticks, knives, slingshots, and bottles which they said were the activists' weapons. The message is that several hundred activists gathered from all over the world to confront one of the best equipped and trained militaries in the world with these. But we are then told that the activists weren't really activists at all, but rather terrorists with ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda.

Yediot Ahronoth, one of Israel's most widely circulated papers broke with the headlines, "A Brutal Ambush at Sea." Arutz Sheva, the official news site of the settler movement attacked Associated Press for its "biased" reporting with an article entitled "Media War on the Flotilla Clash: AP Anti-Israel Bias Exposed." And the IDF website had this blaring story: "Attackers of the IDF soldiers are found to be Al Qaeda mercenaries," later to be reported in the Jerusalem Post as, "IDF: Mercenaries to blame for violence."

Israel's hasbara at its best. But is it working?

"Hasbara is only succeeding in Israel," says veteran journalist David Michaelis.

Michaelis believes that there is a disconnect between the way Israel sees itself and its actions, and the way they are viewed by the rest of the world.

"That was not a love boat. That was a boat of hatred," said Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A nice sound bite for FOX News, and headlines for the New York Post but this time hasbara is not working...not after the War on Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and a Mossad assassination caught on tape in Dubai.