Award-winning American investigative journalist Max Blumenthal says that Israel is losing the battle to win US public support for its attack on Gaza - despite an unprecedented PR effort - and President-elect Barack Obama's silence on the war is a good thing.
Blumenthal, who is Jewish, told The-Latest: "If you look at Al Jazeera and the online media there are a variety of voices and opinions about the Gaza offensive. But in the American mainstream media there is an almost exclusive chorus of voices supporting Israel's assault on Gaza. If you look at the editorial pages of the three major papers in the US (the Washington Post, New York Times and Los Angeles Times) you will have seen probably only one editorial calling for a ceasefire and even that, by Israeli author David Grossman, failed to acknowledge Palestinian casualties."
Blumenthal added: "At the same time on cable news Israel has mounted a very sophisticated strategy, under a new agency it created after its war in Lebanon, to get its message out. They (the Israelis) have been very aggressive about this. According to an Israeli Foreign Ministry survey, they have been dominating the airwaves, compared to the Palestinians, 3:1."
But, said Blumenthal, the question is "are the Israelis winning the public relations battle?" He noted that: "American public opinion, according to a December 31 poll by the reputable Rasmussen company, suggests that, while Americans overwhelmingly support Israel, they don't overwhelmingly support Israel's assault on Gaza. In fact, American public opinion was split evenly on whether Israel should attack or there should be diplomatic efforts to solve the conflict."
The New York-based journalist said that an even more startling finding was that only 34 per cent of US Democrats supported Israel's invasion of Gaza. Blumenthal remarked: "That's remarkable when you consider that almost every Democratic senator (in Congress) has issued statements supporting the attack."
Is that because US politicians genuinely believe that what Israel does is in the America's strategic interests in the Middle East and should not therefore be questioned?
Blumenthal said: "Well, certainly there are severe consequences for certain people if they criticise Israel. I have spoken to a Democratic political consultant who hoped to publish an editorial comment of his own about Barack Obama's silence on the matter but he fears for his job."
Israel's PR efforts are failing to sway the American public, Blumenthal believes, because the same people who are supporting its strike against the Palestinians, in editorial pages and on the airwaves, also backed the unpopular and discredited Iraq war.
Added to that, George Bush is one of the most unpopular American Presidents in history so he is the worst spokesperson for the attack on Gaza. "He is really harming Israel's PR efforts," said Blumenthal.
What of Obama's silence at a time when many people in the world would like him to speak out about the Israeli war on Gaza?
Blumenthal thinks that Obama staying tight-lipped might actually be reassuring for people who take a sceptical view of Israel's military operation in Gaza "because I'm sure the pressure is mounting in Washington for him to issue a statement supporting Israel, as he did last summer when he visited the country and said that if (Palestinian) rockets were coming through his window he would respond".
Obama's "message manager", David Axelrod, had made "a very measured statement compared to Bush," said Blumenthal.
He added: "Obama isn't President yet and when he is inaugurated on January 20 the question will be whether Israel's attack on Gaza has weakened the moderates and doves in his foreign policy team or strengthened the hand of the hawks like Dennis Ross."
* See also statesman-blames-us-for-gaza-war