Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-accusations. [UPDATED]

The American political consultant Roger J. Stone Jr. is often credited with coining the embattled spook’s mantra, “Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-accusations”. As P.R. strategies go, it’s combative. But if your job has you frequently trying to defend the indefensible, it may be as good a credo as any.

See, I have a grudging respect for the Israeli government’s press operation. Mark Regev is almost always dealt a shitty hand of cards. But he’s the T-1000 of public relations men. He’ll make the case, however preposterous: Up is down. Black is white. Even when, say, a film crew captures Palestinian children mown down on a beach by Israeli shells, he’ll still somehow grind out a score draw. (Hamas forced us to kill those kids. This is exactly what Hamas wanted etc. etc.) His task is not always to convince the world that black is white. That would be impossible. Sometimes his task is merely to persuade a section of world opinion that black may be white. That black hereby undertakes to conduct a full and thorough investigation of itself before determining that it is, in fact, white.

By any standards, the I.D.F.’s apologists have had their work cut out for them today. Israeli special forces, armed to the teeth, rappelled aboard a ship in international waters under cover of night. When a melee ensued, they shot dead ten peace activists. Today Israel is claiming self-defence. Holy shit, even Johnnie Cochran would be embarrassed to make that case. But Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has no such qualms:

Good morning everyone [he said] I want to report this morning that the armada of hate and violence in support of the Hamas terror organization was a premeditated and outrageous provocation. The organizers are well-known for their ties to Global Jihad, Al-Qaeda and Hamas. They have a history of arms smuggling and deadly terror. On board the ship we found weapons that were prepared in advance and used against our forces. The organizers’ intent was violent, their method was violent, and unfortunately, the results were violent.

His entire statement is here.

As someone said on Twitter yesterday, it’s funny how often, when the I.D.F. is attacked, only the attackers wind up dead. The other notable remarks in that statement where:

We told [the flotilla organisers] that they will not be allowed to break the blockade, as according to maritime law we have the right to do that.

A highly subjective interpretation of the relevant legislation. Shortly followed by:

We proposed that the organizers transfer the humanitarian supplies, all of it, to Gaza, if they were so concerned with the humanitarian issue, including transferring to Gilad Shalit things that he has a legal right to receive, such as letters from home; and they, of course, refused.

Bizarre that Israel would ask activists to convey these letters to Gilad Shalit family from his parents, if those activists weren’t going to be allowed break the blockade in the first place. (Maybe because such an offer was never made.) Either way…

We know that the organizers have close, longstanding ties with agents of international terror, international Islam, Hamas, Al-Qaeda and others, and we also know that the whole intention was to provoke us and engage in violence.

In other words, if activists had agreed to transport a letter to Shalit, it would have been seized upon as proof that they were in league with terrorists.

Later the BBC had an Israeli former spin doctor dissect how the attack on the flotilla had been bungled. “Never bring weapons into the P.R. area”, she sighed. Presumably, a few hundred rogue Westerners on the high seas are adjudged to be inside the P.R. area. But that sacrosanct P.R. area does not include the homes of those 1.5m Gazans who are subject to indiscriminate bombing at the whim of the Israeli army.

UPDATE: Some interesting links from Davin O’Dwyer. Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald dissects the Israeli news blackout. (Greenwald is himself, of course, is frequent reader of this blog… Hi Glenn!) Also this entertaining piece of invective from a blogger I’m not familiar with, but whose prose I cannot help reading in Ewan McGregor’s “It’s shite being Scottash…” voice.

In the comments, “Bibi Baskin” asks whether Israel really gives a fuck about it’s international image. Of course, it does. Where it counts anyway. And the message is getting through. Conal posted a link below showing the counter narrative being reported in the Israeli press. The U.S. media too is always receptive to Israeli propaganda. Today’s editorial from the liberal Washington Post (“The Flotilla Fiasco”) makes particularly depressing reading.

While it criticises the IDF’s handling of the crisis, it has this to say about the peace activists:

We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla — a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists. Israel says that some of the organizers have ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda.

It also had this advice for the Obama administration:

The White House has been properly cautious so far in responding to the incident; it should be careful to distinguish itself in the coming days from the anti-Israeli chorus. U.S. diplomacy should aim at ensuring that the inevitable calls for an international investigation do not lead to another one-sided setup like the United Nations’ Goldstone commission, whose report on Israel’s 2008 invasion of Gaza has become another weapon in the international campaign to de-legitimize the Jewish state.

Yes, of course. An independent investigation would only produce a “report”, and that report would only “criticise” Israel, which would in turn only embolden those who believe Israel should “change it’s policy towards Gaza”. Well, you couldn’t have that – could you? And that’s from a liberal newspaper.

I’m reminded of Stephen Colbert’s line explaining why he will have no truck with reality. Reality, he decreed, has a well-known liberal bias. In the Middle East, it seems, reality has a well known pro-Palestinian bias…

P.S. Conal has just texted saying that Mark Regev is getting his ass handed to him on Newsnight. Damnit, no television!

Related posts:
Document Sets Out Minimum Calorie Intake Required by Gaza’s 1.5m Pop. (05/05/2010)
24 Hours in Gaza (24/10/2008)

June 1st, 2010.

22 Responses to “Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-accusations. [UPDATED]”

  1. Conal Says:



    Purely to provide AIPAC with enough doublethink bullet-points to drive the counter reality narrative in Washington.

  2. Paddy Says:

    “Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has no such qualms……..”

    I saw this one RTE-Do you think he was consciously bullshitting, it was the line he was taking or he believe what he was saying?

  3. Eoin Says:

    @ Paddy – I think it’s just that thing of never equivocating. Like Berlusconi, when gets caught banging a teenage hooker (or whatever), he doesn’t just deny it – he likens himself to Jesus or holocaust victims in having to endure such allegations.

    No one believes him for a second. But that’s hardly the point.

  4. Paddy Says:

    Theres no comparison, Berlusconi is a buffoon..

  5. Rory Says:

    You think Mark Regev isn’t a buffoon?

  6. Eoin Says:

    It’s not about anyone being a buffoon. It’s about having the cajones to do something ordinary mortals would shrink from doing.

    Take Ryanair’s inflight food menu, if that’s not too flippant an example. If a beggar knocked on my door, and all I had to offer him was Ryanair’s in-flight chicken roll, I’d be too embarrassed to hand it over.

    Seriously, has anyone seen Ryanair’s inflight chicken roll? I’ve seen pencil erasers that are bigger than Ryanair’s inflight chicken roll.

    Michael O’Leary, however, doesn’t does just give you the thing, he calls it the “Deep Fill” Chicken Roll, makes it look Godzilla-sized in the photo and charges Stg£6 for the thing. That takes balls of steel. That’s the part I have a grudging respect for.

  7. gueuleton Says:

    Deep fill chicken rolls aside, would it be fair to say that the myth of Israeli military invincibility is evaporating alongside the myth of Israeli PR invincibility??

  8. Eoin Says:

    Well no, I think Israel still has a hugely formidable PR machine working for it. Whatever bullshit line he’s spouting, Regev is always calm, clean shaven, appears rational and is a native English speaker. (They also have French, German, Spanish, Polish, Italian etc. native speakers ready to speak, on message, to the media when a story like this breaks.)

    The Palestinian case is usually made why what comes across (on television at least) as an angry used car salesman, surrounded by other angry used car salesmen on a street corner somewhere.

  9. Bibi Baskin Says:

    Is the Israeli PR machine really that formidable? Or do they just not give a fuck about bad PR?

  10. Eoin Says:

    Just to clarify Bibi, I don’t think PR considerations influence the IDF’s decision making processes. They clearly don’t. What I’m saying is that once the school has been bulldozed, the hospital has been bombed, or the octogenarian shot as he visits his wife’s grave (as happened last week) – after the fact, they have an incredibly formidable PR machine to explain why such action was unfortunately necessary.

  11. Susan Says:

    “Surrounded by angry used car salesmen……”

    Duh… they’re called bodyguards!

  12. meg Says:

    Duh… I think he knew that

  13. beale Says:

    I want you to protest. I want you to riot. I want you to write to your TDman, because you know what to tell them when you write. I know what to do about the repression and the obfuscation and the Israelis and the crime on the fleet.
    I know that first, you’ve got to get mad.
    You’ve gotta say, “They’re human beings, goddammit! Their life has value!”
    So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell,


  14. DD Says:

    Preferred it when Peter Finch said it in Network

  15. Bibi Baskin Says:

    The formidable PR machine wont be of any use to them when Brian Cowen unleashes the might of the Irish Navy and even the FCA upon them. How they will cower at the sight of the eight rusty tubs and crack team of overweight,camouflage-clad bouncers.

  16. sean Says:

    We should settle it peacefully through some sort of sporting contest. Gaelic football or hurling – their choice!

  17. dean Says:

    You continually mock Israel for suggesting that some of the organizers have links to Hamas etc but you never explain what’s so absurd about that. Where’s your proof it’s not true??

  18. Eoin Says:

    Phhh! Israel routinely vilifies the character and motives of it’s opponents. To get in or out of Gaza, you have to deal with Hamas. So by the Israeli rationale, I have links with Hamas.

    Besides, for all I know, maybe one or two of the hundreds of activists on board that ship were sympathetic to Hamas. That would not in itself undermine the case against the blockade.

    Some of the people who fought against apartheid in South Africa were communists. And communism is a deplorable ideology. But did that mean that apartheid was therefore justified? Of course not.

  19. gueuleton Says:

    Apartheid comparison is a good one. Theres consensus among “so called” civilised nations that Iran should not have the bomb because they’re a bunch of crazies and God knows what they’d do. Israel unofficially has the bomb, but that’s okay since they’re sensible types who can be trusted(-ish) to be sensible(-ish)


  20. Fat Tony Says:

    Regev also got ass handed to him by Jon Snow http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b06gRN_tL74

  21. Chris Says:

    Just to be a bit pedantic we no longer have the FCA it is now the new and improved Reserve Defence Force (RDF).

  22. Eoin Says:

    Do you still get a free pair of boots? I can’t remember the full story now, but I think a few of my uncles signed up when they were teenagers, took the free boots and were heard of again. (Never heard of again but the FCA, that is. They came home with the free boots of course!)

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