Assuming you haven’t left planet Earth in the past two weeks, you know the 2010 World Cup is well underway in host nation South Africa. Even the uninterested have heard the unmistakable “buzz” emanating from its stadiums, as if a massive swarm of bees had descended.
The vuvuzela, or African horn, is the source of the reverberating sound and blowing it is the proud tradition of South African football fans. Although it may be causing consternation among players (and hearing loss among spectators), FIFA has dismissed calls to ban it. Indeed, the raucous chorus of vuvuzelas has been the hallmark of this year’s World Cup and—respectively putting South African sporting sensitivities aside—one of its great distractions.
To that end, blowing their own proverbial vuvuzela has been the hallmark of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.
Take, for example, the allegation that passengers aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla were al-Qaeda terrorists (one of many pretexts used to justify the May 31 assault). It was a patently ridiculous assertion, of course, yet an integral one in the very calculated, concocted narrative.
Investigative journalist Max Blumenthal has systematically exposed this and other lies promulgated by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) following the raid. After being questioned by Blumenthal and colleague, the Israeli Army admitted there was “no evidence” that al-Qaeda members were on board or had any links to the convey. As a result, the IDF retracted the claim and changed their press release. Those “al-Qaeda mercenaries” suddenly became persons “without identification papers.”
The activists were also portrayed as “anti-Semites” after an audio clip released allegedly had them telling an intercepting Israeli vessel to “go back to Auschwitz.”
This type of subterfuge was nevertheless successful in shifting the spotlight away from the flotilla’s humanitarian mission and why it had set sail for Gaza.
Netanyahu is no stranger to such obfuscatory practices. Demands to lift or at least “ease” the Gaza blockade after the deadly attack on Mavi Marmara caused his cabinet to announce they planned to do so. Or not—depending on what language you read the news.
As the subheadline of the Haaretz report stated: “Prime Minister’s office issues two statements, one in English announcing plan to ease blockade, one in Hebrew omitting to mention the decision.”
The conversation has since moved on to the type of list Israel is expected to produce regarding the flow of goods into Gaza. Will it be one of restricted items? Or permitted items? Will it finally include heretofore banned materials like cement, steel, metal pipes and spare parts?
This is all background noise.
Netanyahu and Israeli prime ministers past have succeeded in making Gaza the region’s crippled step-child. One-and-a-half years after the December 2008 invasion, more than 80 percent of the enclave’s 1.5 million residents remain dependent on food aid. Debate centered on the degree of adequate sanitation, nutrition, health care, clean water or what should or should not be allowed in deflects attention away from Israel’s quiet, ongoing expropriation of Palestinian land.
This intentional and endless dithering over whether Gazans should be permitted to have pencils for instance, insidiously abets the annexation process.
Framing the discussion around the flotilla’s activists instead of their mission or how many bags of cement will be allowed into Gaza, is deliberately meant to preoccupy the international community so they ignore matters of far greater consequence: occupation, collective punishment, the demolition of homes and establishing a contiguous, viable, independent Palestinian state.
Don’t let the vuvuzelas blaringly blown by the Israeli government distract you from recognizing Palestine’s real issues.
RANNIE AMIRI is an independent Middle East commentator. He may be reached at: rbamiri [at] yahoo [dot] com.