Some webloggers have launched a group weblog called Israpundit
, to defend Israel against Arab propaganda. The blog claims to be based on 'the realisation that the Arab propaganda machine has monopolised the discourse in terms of topics (you never hear about occupied Tibet, but the â€œoccupiedâ€ Palestinians are ubiquitously front and centre), as well as in the terminology used (â€œoccupied Arab landsâ€, but never â€œdisputed landsâ€, as Israelis see it)'.
This might just be one little blog, but it captures what the once-mighty pro-Israel lobby has been reduced to. Remember when those who supported Israel had the ear of the US government and were confident that the media would argue their case while vilifying the Palestinians as criminals and animals? Now those people have been reduced to challenging what their paranoid mindsets tell them is all-pervasive Arab propaganda via a blog - the outlet of the ordinary man in the street who craves an audience for his rants.
The fact that some American-Israeli groups have been reduced to complaining about the words and images used in US newspapers captures their increasing isolation from foreign policy circles in Washington. The USA is no longer the all-out supporter of Israel and Israeli interests it once was. During the Cold War, the USA backed Israel financially, militarily and politically, seeing it as its policeman in the Middle East, protecting Western interests against the threat of Soviet-backed Arab nationalism.
But in recent years, US administrations have moved away from such stalwart support - as reflected in President Bush's 'historic statement' of 4 April 2002. 'Israeli settlement activity in occupied territories must stop, and the occupation must end through withdrawal to secure and recognised boundaries', said Bush - while also stressing US support for 'the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a Palestinian stateâ€¦living side by side in peace and security'.
These recent shifts in American policy on the Middle East have impacted on Israeli groups within America and other parts of the West. Where once such groups were confident they had the ear of Washington's foreign policy men, they're now more likely to organise protests and rallies to 'send a message' to Washington's foreign policy men. 'They aren't listening to us', complained one pro-Israeli demonstrator at a rally in Washington earlier this year, 'so we're going to have to shout pretty loud'.
Increasingly isolated from the corridors of powers, American-Israeli groups have focused on the US media's coverage of the Middle East instead - making ever-more pedantic and petty complaints about the tone of the reporting. On 28 April 2002, some pro-Israeli activists complained about the use of the word 'bold' to describe Palestinian attacks, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle: 'A headline on 28 April referred to the Palestinians "bold attack on Israelis", drawing ire from those who saw "bold" as a positive depiction.'
Some pro-Israeli activists have written to newspaper editors to complain that using words like 'bold', 'audacious' and 'daring' to describe Palestinian guerrilla attacks on Israel grants the attacks a legitimacy 'they do not deserve'.
'Even when we are out in our tens of thousands, it's all Palestine, Palestine, Palestine', complained one of the pro-Israel supporters who had attended the parade.
Part of me wants to point out that the pro-Israeli lobby is now facing a similar kind of isolation, vilification and frustration to that experienced by pro-Palestinian groups over the past 30 years - but that would be churlish. Besides, the isolation of the Israeli lobby is as much the product of self-interested US policy in the Middle East as the defence of Israel was in the past.
And the people who lose out when America puts its interests first in the Middle East are the people who live there - both the Israelis and the Palestinians.