Priceless propagandaThe week-long visit would have provided Israel with priceless photo opportunities of happy, smiling Gaza orphans at the zoo in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, as well as several Israeli settlements.
An Israeli initiative to exploit a group of Palestinian orphans from Gaza to burnish Israel’s blood-soaked image backfired on Sunday when Hamas, the Palestinian political and military resistance movement, put a stop to it.
A group of children whose parents were killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza last summer and several adult chaperones were about to pass through the Erez crossing into Israel on Sunday to be greeted by Israeli officials and a media throng.
But Hamas officials halted the visit. According to a statement posted on Facebook by the interior ministry in Gaza, security services stopped “37 children of martyrs from departing to the lands occupied in 1948 [Israel] for a suspicious visit to several settlements and occupied cities.” It said the step was taken “to protect the culture of our children and our people and protect them from the policy of normalization.”
But it appears the children – though they were the props – were not the target.
The visit was the brainchild of an Israeli operative deeply involved in settlements in the occupied West Bank, working closely with the Israeli government.
It involved Palestinian counterparts in Israel with ties to the ruling Likud party and the Zionist political establishment.
Media have identified the organizer of the initiative as Yoel Marshak, an official of the Kibbutz Movement. Kibbutzim are Zionist communal settlements whose influence and popularity peaked in the mid-twentieth century.
Although they took over much land from Palestinians ethnically cleansed in 1948 – atrocities in which many kibbutz members participated – kibbutzim long enjoyed a progressive, or even socialist image in the West due to their collectivist ideology. This was used for years to effectively market Zionism to a poorly informed or credulous international audience.