US and World Politics

Lifting the Veil: Demystifying Israel

By M. Reza Behnam

Israel has, for decades, created many versions of itself—Israel in politics, in history, in the United States, in books, in movies and on television. The real Israel, however, has been shrouded behind a veil of deception. After October 7, 2023, the undisguised course of Israel has revealed itself.

For years, Israel has made sure that Palestine, with its 4,000-year history, remained hidden; that the world would see it as a terrorist haven.

The fictional world Israel has stage managed, with Washington in the wings, has begun to fall apart as it carries out its genocidal plan in Gaza. Consequently, both are doing whatever it takes to control the narrative.

As the United States and Israel maneuver to minimize, distort and promote a “nothing out of the ordinary” story line about Israel’s war on the indigenous people of Palestine, I remembered the 1998 film classic, The Truman Show, which explores the manipulation of reality for entertainment and profit.

So much in director Peter Weir’s powerful satire of how reality can be shaped and sold speaks to the unreal world Washington and Tel Aviv have produced and marketed over eight decades. It also speaks to how they have intensified those efforts since the Palestinians of Gaza broke free from their controlled world eight months ago.

The fictional world

In the film, the central character, Truman Burbank, grows up believing that he is an everyday man living an ideal suburban life on Seahaven Island. Unbeknownst to him, he is the star of a reality TV series where everyone around him are actors. His every move is tracked by 5,000 cameras and watched by a captivated global audience.

The media corporation in charge of his fantasy life makes sure that Truman remains oblivious to his simulated reality, governed by the script and Christof, the show’s creator and director.

Although aware of the program’s fictional nature, the actors fail to see the ethical and moral issues surrounding their participation. Blinded by success, they become comfortable with and buy into the fake reality, which outweighs their values.

Realizing that his entire life was built on lies, Truman attempts to sail away from Seahaven. He barely survives the automated violent storm the diabolical director, Christof, sets off to get him to turn back.

Faced with a choice between a secure life governed by external powers or an authentic life filled with uncertainty, Truman chose to walk through the exit door of his TV prison to freedom.

Americans, like Truman Burbank, have for decades been victims of a cruel deception. The heroic, noble, democratic faux Israel story has been methodically insinuated into the American psyche by the Israeli state hasbara (explaining and propaganda) machine, while the historic and noble story of the native Palestinians has been methodically withheld.

The Israeli script, like that of Seahaven, has entered into the American ideological landscape. In Israel’s constructed world, colonizing, occupying and exploiting Palestinians have been written and staged as acts of a democratic state and a genocidal war is characterized as “defense.”

As the star of a mass-market TV show, Truman was capitalized on for commercial gain. He was the brand through which products—incorporated into the narrative—were advertised and sold. He was the essential commodity that kept the show afloat.

Israel has exploited Palestinians in much the same way. They have no identity in the Israel story. Palestinians fighting for freedom, are written into the Israeli script as terrorists and threats to the country’s security; and individuals defending Palestinians’ right to freedom and self-determination are the antisemites.

Absent the terrorist threat narrative, Washington’s huge investment in Israel’s “security” would end. Absent its star, The Truman Show, which was meant to go on indefinitely, would cease to profit its corporate creators.

Since the Palestinian prison break, the directors of the U.S.-Israeli show have done their utmost to mainstream the abnormal and manipulate the story in Israel’s favor.

Like the creators of The Truman Show, they are counting on the public’s willingness to accept the reality of the world that has been presented them; to put questions and doubts aside as Truman had for most of his life.

To assuage uncertainty, corporate media outlets have presented the crimes against humanity that have shocked the conscience as merely another news story—one covered briefly between commercials, news reports of collapsed bridges and the former president’s trials.

Like the actors in the TV series, many political, corporate and media figures have committed themselves to the artificial reality created by Israel. They, too, have grown attached and comfortable operating within a staged reality that has benefitted them for so long.

Palestinians never gave up the fight

Interestingly, the Palestinians, who are under Israel’s physical occupation, have never internalized, accepted or given up the fight against the false reality called Israel.

Even the script regarding Israel’s establishment in 1948 has been convincingly managed. The government in Tel Aviv declared itself a state on May 14 shortly after the United Nations General Assembly “recommended” partition of Palestine into two unequal states. Assembly Resolution 181 was never considered nor approved by the Security Council—the only UN body with the power to pass legally-binding resolutions.

Consequently, Israel exists by its own “declaration” and because of official recognition by then U.S. President Harry S. Truman.

Like Israel, Palestinians could write their own script. They could simply declare statehood based on a UNGA recommendation. They could use the May 10, 2024 General Assembly recommendation that the Security Council consider favorably Palestine’s full membership in the United Nations.

Those who continue to embrace the Israeli reality show are hell-bent on insuring it continue. Take for example, a recent Washington Post investigation (May 16). It revealed that a group of billionaires and business leaders secretly formed a chat group shortly after October 7 with the goal of creating a narrative favorable to Israel.

Numbering about 100, the group, started by billionaire real estate magnate, Barry Sternlicht, included business leaders such as Michael Dell, founder/CEO of Dell; Joseph Sitt, real estate investor and retail magnate; Daniel Labetzky, founder of the snack company, Kind; Joshua Kushner, founder of Thrive Capital, brother of Jared Kushner and son-in-law of former President Donald Trump; Howard Schultz, former Starbucks CEO; and hedge fund managers, Daniel Loeb and Bill Ackerman.

The billionaires’ propaganda and action campaign

The group’s mission was outlined in a chat message from Sternlicht, who communicated through a staffer. It read: “While Israel worked to win the physical war, the chat group’s members would help win the war of U.S. public opinion by funding an information campaign against Hamas.” Sternlicht initiated a $50 million anti-Hamas media campaign with various Wall Street and Hollywood billionaires.

Their activities stretched into the highest levels of the Israeli regime, the U.S. business world and elite universities. Their messages offered a window into how they used their money, influence and power in an attempt to make genocide appear acceptable.

Members attended private briefings with and sought guidance from high-ranking officials in the Israeli regime. With them, they arranged screenings of the Israel Occupation Forces propaganda film depicting the attack of October 7 to audiences in New York City and on university campuses. A private screening, arranged with Israeli help, was held for members of the print and electronic media.

The group was also instrumental in quashing and discrediting the pro-Palestinian movement at Columbia University. They secretly enlisted New York City mayor, Eric Adams—with discussions of political donations—to deploy the police to remove protestors from their campus encampment and to use private investigators to handle the protests. Pressure was exerted on Columbia’s president and trustees to permit the mayor to send in police.

Like the creator of The Truman Show, the United States and Israel have, over many decades, been working to construct a Middle East reality dependent upon and servile to their interests.

The Palestinian insurrection, however, was not part of their scripted plan to officially normalize relations between Arab states and Israel, described as the Abraham Accords, to secure recognition of Israel. The 2020 Trump era agreement which includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan and Israel, was criticized for its indifference to the Palestinian cause.

The White House has continued to give the accords priority Amidst the horror of Israel’s atrocities, the Biden administration has refused to give up on its scripted plan to bring Saudi Arabia into the Abraham Accord fold.

In addition, Israel has been plotting a future for Gaza sans Palestinians. In May, Tel Aviv revealed its Gaza 2035 scheme to rebuild the Strip after the war—to turn the captured enclave into its version of Dubai.

Under the plan, Israel would retain control—confining Palestinians to what are described as “safe zones,”—as it constructed “new” modern cities. After numerous stages, in which Gaza would be “demilitarized,” power would be transferred to Palestinians only after they had been successfully “de-radicalized” and “reeducated,” and once they had agreed to join the Abraham Accords.

The parallels between the fictional story of Truman Burbank and the world that Israel and the United States have planned for Palestine and the region as a whole are striking.

Like Truman, who slowly uncovered the dissembling, many Americans have begun to recognize the contradictions and mendacity that Israel and the United States have constructed to maintain their economic and military dominance.

President Biden’s red-line regarding the southern city of Rafah and his rejection of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) application for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders are merely two examples of the many contradictions and illogic of the White House.

For weeks, Biden has been warning Israel not to pursue a ground invasion of Rafah—the last refuge of millions of beleaguered Palestinians seeking safety from Israel’s daily airstrikes. While pontificating about a red-line in Rafah, he [Biden] has authorized the shipment of lethal weapons to Israel to conduct air and ground attacks; and when they bomb the city, killing and maiming innocents, he has remained silent.

While Israel commits genocide before the eyes of the world, President Biden denounced as “outrageous” the ICC’s announcement on May 20 of its intention to seek arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, charging them with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Like Truman Burbank, whose every movement in the artificial world of Seahaven was controlled by corporate media, every aspect of Palestinian life in Gaza, until October 2023, had been managed and controlled by Israel.

Truman chose to escape from his sealed prison, from the world that its creators believed timeless. Like him, Palestinians sought liberation from the walled-up futureless world of Gaza that Israel believed unending.

Many Americans, too, have been liberated from the uncontested hasbara mindset.

They are seeing firsthand the havoc and shameful policies and actions this false reality has rendered. Gaza has made it impossible to ignore the noxious Israeli script; to look away from the reality and immorality of occupation and genocide.

CounterPunch, May 24, 2024