Friday 8 July 2011

The delegitimization of the delegitimizers.

This year's version of the Gaza flotilla is dead in the water. Sunk by a changed perception of them by public opinion, and European authorities who are fed up with them.
Last year they were flavor of the month. Their mission hit headlines with the action that took place on the Turkish "Mavi Marmara" ship. The world forgot that five other ships were tamely towed into Ashdod port and the passengers deported.
What was behind the utter failure of the Gaza flotilla exercise?
Following the refusal of the Turks to not only allow the "Mavi Marmara" sail, but also to disallow their ports to be used as launch pads for yet another anti-Israel exercise, the organizers decided to base their fleet in a Greek port before setting out on their provocative cruise to Hamas. Big mistake!
They did not take into consideration the warming of ties between Greece and Israel. This diplomatic embrace suits both countries. Israel, following violent verbal and physical confrontation from an increasingly Islamic Erdogen government, turned to Greece as a convenient and useful counter. Greece, struggling with a serious economic crisis, welcomed Israeli advances with open arms. Increasing Israel investment and tourism into Greece will significantly assist the Greek economy. Israelis share a love of Greek culture. It was a natural fit.
Past Greek governments had been quite radically left wing but recent trends have made the current government much more pragmatic. So, when the Gaza flotilla fly approached the Greek spider's web, Israel requested the Greek authority to recognize the ships as representing a provocative act against a friendly country. The Greeks obliged by refusing to grant sailing permits to the boats. When a number of them tried to sneak out of port the Greek coast guard chased them down, returned them to port, and arrested the captains.
Gradually, the number of passengers drifted back home as defeat stared them in the face.
The Israeli Government had learned from last year's events. This time they employed a great deal of diplomatic effort and succeeded in showing several European leaders the false flotilla propaganda pretense to the extent that a number of countries, apart from Turkey, refused to accept the flotilla and did nothing to assist them when the radicals asked for their help. The diplomatic cooperation was a success for Israeli governmental ministries involved in strengthened ties with their counterparts in mainland Europe. Not only did the Gaza flotilla fail to increase the delegitimization of Israel, by their action they affected a public legitimization of the Jewish state by many southern European nations who displayed common sense and close cooperation with Israel.
Not only was the Gaza flotilla circus a victory for Israeli diplomacy it was also a stunning success for the massive social media efforts of a small group of volunteers. An office and computers were provided by the Interdisciplinary Center in Israel's Herzlia and a team of savvy people created the architecture of a grassroots organization that pumped out facts, information, articles, videos, discrediting the message of the flotilla organizers. They set up a website,Twitter accounts, and numerous Facebook groups made up of pro-Israel lawyers, doctors, teachers, activists, NGOs, bloggers. The team translated material into various languages and attracted pro-Israeli activists in their own mother tongue. The network grew rapidly. Feedback clearly indicated that the general public was prepared to listen to their case and be persuaded that the flotilla narrative was a lie, that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, except in the case of Gilad Shalit, and that these so-called "human rights activists" refused to help a person held for five years in isolation by the Hamas authority that they wished to embrace. This hypocrisy turned public opinion against them.
The social media structure that has connected millions of people in record time has been described as a pro-Israel Facebook revolution, though other forms of social media, apart from Facebook, were operated with successful results.
An added value to their success was the cooperation between this small group of grassroots volunteers and the authorities.  Research exposed names, organizations, and links that led to hundreds of extremists being prevented from flying into Israel to cause chaos and disruption. The material found will be a rich source of intelligence that can be used to identify the money trail back from the radical groups to the donors. It could cause embarrassment for a number of countries, foundations, and other official bodies.
If the social media was responsible for the Arab Spring, the same tools were used in this Israeli Summer. The structure is on place to be used by groups on an ongoing basis. More importantly, it has become a powerful communication instrument to reclaim the Israeli narrative and allow Israel to take the moral high ground where it rightly belongs.

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