This is not the first time, and will not be the last, that Israel finds itself at the centre of a raging storm, with words of condemnation from around the world heaped upon it.
It is precisely because of such experience that the Israelis will be thinking they can tough this one out, as they have toughed out so many storms before.
They have already had a victory of sorts, with the Americans blocking UN Security Council demands for an international inquiry into the assault on the Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza. Instead the US believes any such inquiry can he carried out by the Israelis. Cue widespread scoffing from all those who have condemned the action that led to the deaths on board the ship.
In any event, remember the Israelis’ often dismissive and angry response to previous international inquiries – they hold the line whatever the outcome, it is fair to say – and remember that in Israel the pressure is as much about why the troops were put in harm’s way without proper preparation than about the violence that led to nine deaths.
Much is made of the ‘powerful pro-Israel lobby’, and so it should be. But equally powerful is their media management.
As the condemnation mounted, they nonetheless managed to push out their version of events with real force, not least by incarcerating the Palestinian supporters on board, and then yesterday swamped the airwaves with articulate and unyielding spokesmen defending their actions, alongside hospital-visting pictures of Binyamin Netanyahu. This all helped consolidate public opinion at home while pumping out their message abroad. Pretty it is not, but the Israeli PR machine in crisis management mode does not do pretty. It does brutal, hard-headed, by its own lights effective.
Meanwhile the words from abroad cranked up and up and up, but within no time the sense was of a dialogue of the deaf. Up pops an Israeli to say the expected. Up pops a Palestinian. Up pops an outside politician with words blunted because they give the clear sense from the speaker that they are to a great extent going through motions. They are motions that have to be gone through, but motions nonetheless.
And therein lies the real damage; that every time a spark flies – and this is a big spark – Israelis and Palestinians alike retreat to well worn lines of hatred and misunderstanding, much of it deliberate, and the outside world has to say the same old same old again and again. .
Yet words are all the fabled ‘international community’ really have. The words of condemnation will fade. But ultimately the words of persuasion are those that have to be returned to again and again and again, in the hope that from every step back there might emerge the mood and the moment to engineer a step forward.
But it feels a long way from that today. And meanwhile none of the words on either side are doing much to improve life for the 1.5 million Palestinians living under the Israeli blockade.
*** The book rounds take me today to see Eamonn and the lovely Ruth on ITV’s This Morning. They clearly have something unexpected lined up because when I tweeted last night that Philip Dodd of Radio 3’s Nightwaves was a ‘proper interviewer’ – I think the interview goes out tonight – Eamonn tweeted up with a ‘watch it’ kind of message, as though my saying one interview was ‘proper’ meant all others weren’t.
Not so … just that Philip Dodd did that old fashioned thing of having interesting questions – some of which I had not been asked before – and then listening to answers before coming back with another interesting question. I’ve done so many briefings and interviews that it is always nice, even if some of the questions make you feel a bit uncomfortable, if you are made to think on the spot by being asked things you’ve not really been asked much before.
And so to two book plugs … 1) Prelude to Power … http://www.amazon.co.uk/Diaries-One-Prelude-1994-1997-Campbell/dp/0091797268
And 2) Signed copies of The Blair Years which raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.
Ps, JPHowarth came on with a message to celebrate his winning #neverhappenedunderlabour entry. But he did not leave an address where we can send his signed copy of Prelude to Power