Citizen Action Monitor

How Mark Regev, Israel’s master spin doctor, bamboozles media correspondents

A content analysis of a Regev interview reveals how this enemy of the truth helps Israel get away with murder

No 1121 Posted by fw, August 14, 2014

“Political language is turned on its head, the truth is expunged, and we are all corrupted”John Pilger paraphrased. (Source: Truth is dead – Long live deceit)

According to a report from the UN News Centre, on July 24, 2014 witnesses reported that Israeli military shelling hit a clearly marked UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun in broad daylight:

This attack on a clearly marked UN installation, for which the occupying Power had the exact coordinates and information that the school was sheltering civilians, resulted in the killing of at least 17 Palestinians and the injury of more than 200 people who were among the displaced persons sheltering there.  This is the fourth time in two days that Israeli occupying forces have bombed schools serving as shelters in the besieged Gaza Strip, including the firing on a girl’s school in the Maghazi refugee camp, where hundreds of displaced Palestinians had been sheltering.

That same day, Mark Regev, spokesman for President Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke to BBC news correspondent Emily Maitlis and responded to her repeated declarative assertions that the Beit Hanoun attack specifically, and the bombardment of Gaza generally, targeted civilians.

Below is an embedded video of the fractious 6:45-minute interview. Try to pick out the techniques Regev uses to deflect the interviewer’s repeated attempts to pin him down.

Following the video is my transcript of the interview along with my critical analysis of Regev’s answers to Maitlis’ questions. The analysis reveals, among other things, how well scripted Regev is. And, as well, it unveils his favorite words and phrases for denying blame, deflecting attention, ascribing blame, and for dehumanizing Hamas forces. Specifically, I have noted the similarities between his answers and the guidance provided in Israel’s propagandist’s handbook, The Israel project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary. It is referenced through my analysis by the abbreviation GLD (Global Language Dictionary).

The interview also reveals how poorly prepared media correspondents appear to be for interviews with Israel’s denialists.

Here’s the YouTube video entitled, Israel’s Mark Regev grilled on Gaza school deaths – BBC Newsnight, published July 24, 2014

 

For the purpose of this post, the interview transcript has been divided into 15 TRANSCRIPT SEGMENTS, and each segment if followed by my ANALYSIS.

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT

Maitlis – Just before we came on air I spoke to Mark Regev, the Israeli government spokesman.

Regev – This is a tragedy, obviously, to see pictures like this and you can’t help but be moved. Israel does not want to see any civilian casualties in our operation, not one. And, of course, these deaths are indeed tragic. It’s not yet clear to us exactly what happened in this location. There are a number of different explanations, but we’ll get to the bottom of it.

ANALYSIS 

1/ “Israel does not want to see any civilian casualties” — Following the GLD script to a tee, Regev immediately applies the “Think Pro-Palestinian” rule (p30-31): “I particularly want to reach out to Palestinian mothers who have lost their children. No parent should have to bury their child. // The most effective advocates for Israel are also pro-Palestinian // And Rule 1 (p4): Show how much you care; show empathy for both sides. [Empathy also builds] the credibility you will need for your audience to empathize and agree with you. (p.4) The great Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, might characterize Regev’s phony empathy as “sadism masked as compassion

2/ “it’s not yet clear” — Regev manufactures uncertainty three times in his response by using various words and phrases in order to raise doubts about what “may be true”, “what is certain”, and “what cannot be true” concerning what is / is not happening in the conflict. He does this for two reasons: 1) to create uncertainty and confusion in the minds of the viewing audience and 2) to intimidate or perplex interviewer Maitlis by challenging the validity of her questions and comments. Right from the outset, Regev uses 3 of these phrases: “not yet clear”, “different explanations”, and “we’ll get to the bottom of it” (which of course they either never do or it’s a whitewash). Here are some of his other favorites: “we don’t know exactly what happened”; “we don’t know that for a fact”; “how do you know?”; “you’re making presumptions”; and “difficult combat situation”. The “difficult combat” remark comes right out of the GLD propagandist’s handbook, No. 23 p17 — Acknowledge the complexities of the situation and attempt to simplify and clarify.

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT

Maitlis – But you accept Israel could have been responsible for these deaths?

Regev – I, I, I accept that it could have been Israeli fire. It’s not clear yet. At this stage there were UN reports saying that Hamas was shooting rockets that were landing in the Beit Hanoun area, so we can’t exclude that possibility that it was Hamas rocket fire. It could also have been our fire, because our forces were receiving fire from that area, from the immediate vicinity of the hospital, and it’s possible that if our forces returned fire to that, that it could have been our fire as well. But we have to investigate exactly what happened.

ANALYSIS 

1/ “I accept it could have been…” – another reply right out of the GLD propaganda manual: Rule 5 (p7) — Don’t pretend that Israel is without mistakes or fault. It’s not true and no one believes it. Pretending Israel is free from errors does not pass the smell test.

2/ “it’s not clear yet” – Once again, Regev plays the uncertainty card

3/ “it was Hamas rocket fire” – Never miss an opportunity to blame Hamas especially when there is no irrefutable evidence available to the contrary.

4/ “our forces were receiving fire” – First Regev admits “it could have been Israeli fire” but then, almost as an afterthought, he justifies that Israelis “returned fire”

5/ “we have to investigate what happened” – Plays the uncertainty card again

6/ Missed opportunities to nail Regev — Maitlis missed two golden opportunities to force Regev to respond to more substantive issues: First, Israel failed to comply with the laws of war under the Geneva Conventions. Merely trying to prevent the rocket attacks doesn’t justify deliberately targeting civilian structures, using methods of warfare that are indiscriminate, targeting militants when there are many, many civilians around so there will be disproportionate costs to civilians. These are all war crimes. Not knowing for certain whether or not civilians are nearby is an excuse, not a legitimate defence. Second, as international jurist John Dugard explains, “The rockets fired by Palestinian factions from Gaza must thus be construed as acts of resistance of an occupied people and an assertion of its recognized right to self-determination.Regev would have us believe that only Israel has the right to use military force. 

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT

Maitlis – You have the precise coordinates of that shelter. A UN spokesman tonight has said over the course of the day the UN tried to coordinate a window with the Israeli army for civilians to leave. It was never granted. Do you accept that?

RegevNo, I do not. We accept it that there be a humanitarian corridor to allow people to leave between 10:00 AM local time and 2:00 in the afternoon. We accepted that. Our information is that… [Talk Overlap]

ANALYSIS 

1/ “No, I do not…Our information is that…” – Maitlis made the mistake of making a declarative statement of fact — “It was never granted” — without backing it up with irrefutable, rock solid evidence, preferably in the form of reliable, impartial eyewitnesses.” With little more than hearsay evidence from an unnamed UN spokesman, Maitlis’ declarative statements leaves Regev a big opening to DENY her version of events, and deflect attention to his version “Our information is that…” which he does (see next exchange below).

Of interest, Rule 22 in the GLD handbook advises: Never, never, NEVER speak in declarative statements. Never. Soften the tone just a little bit and you’ll keep them [the audience] tuned in.

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT

Maitlis – So why didn’t the army get that right?

RegevNo, no. Our information is that actually the Hamas terrorists acted to prevent people to leave – which actually is consistent with a consistent pattern of behaviour that we’ve seen in other places like Shejaiya where we requested people to leave because there’s going to be a combat zone, and we don’t want to see innocent civilians caught in the crossfire… [Talk Overlap]

ANALYSIS 

1/ “No, no. Our information” – Regev summarily rejects Maitlis’ assertion that the Israeli army is to blame and now begins to offer his opposing account of what really happened. And who’s to prove which version is true?

2/ “Hamas terrorists” – Regev’s first use of the word “terrorists”. He will go on to use “terrorists” or “terror” at least 10 times in all in the interview to make a clear distinction in the minds of the audience the difference between Hamas “terrorists” from Israel’s “defence forces”.

3/ “consistent pattern of behaviour” – Note how quickly Regev changes the topic and judgement of which side is right and which is wrong. Maitlis started with a negative about Israel,why didn’t the army get it right?” and Regev immediately countered with a tit for tat negative about Hamas terrorists, “negative consistent pattern” of behaviour, followed by another positive about “Israel requested people to leave because they didn’t want to see innocent civilians…”

4/ Here again, Regev has followed the GLD script: Rule 12 (p12) states: No matter what you are asked, bridge to a productive pro-Israel message. When asked a direct question, you don’t have to answer it directly. You are in control of what you say and how you say it. Remember, your goal in doing interviews is not only to answer questions—it is to bring persuadable members of the audience to Israel’s side in the conflict.

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – Just to clarify – Did you know that that building had not been evacuated? Did you know that that building had not been evacuated? Did you know it had not been evacuated?

Regev – At the time, I don’t know exactly what we knew. A difficult combat situation when our people were receiving fire. We’d been calling for 3 days for civilians to vacate that facility because that facility was being abused by terrorists who were shooting from that facility on our people. Let’s be clear, the UN has… [Talk Overlap]

ANALYSIS 

1/ “I don’t know” – Here comes the uncertainty card again, not just once but three times, when he goes on to refer to “a difficult combat situation” and then “Let’s be clear…” Regev would have us believe that he alone knows what is/is not known.

2/ “We’d been calling for 3 days” – Regev’s use of the past perfect continuous tense of the phrase beginning “We’d been..” is a sure clue that the old switcheroo is coming. And sure enough he conveniently transfers blame to the “terrorists” with a declarative statement of his own, “that facility was being abused by terrorists” – omniscient clarity again whenever it suits him.

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – Did you try to find out whether there were still children in that building before you fired?

Regev – First of all, we’re not clear it’s our fire. I mean you’re jumping ahead of what the reality is to see what exactly happened… [Talk Overlap]

ANALYSIS 

1/ “we’re not clear”, “you’re jumping ahead” and “what exactly happened” – No surprise here, Three times he manufactures uncertainty. The repetition is likely another intentional snub directed at Maitlis, implying she’s not impartial, therefore can’t be trusted, which plays particularly well with pro-Israeli sympathizers.

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – But you issued a warning to evacuate the building.

RegevCorrect.

Maitlis – Presumably you issued a warning because you were going to fire on the building. Did you check whether it had been evacuated?

RegevLet’s be clear here. We don’t know exactly what happened. I don’t know exactly what happened. Neither do you. So one has to be a bit more judicious before making that sort of assumption. And I say the following though, if you’ll allow me please? There are two examples – not that Israel says so – there are two examples of UN facilities being used by Hamas to store munitions for their terrorist war machine, to fire their rockets into Israel. The UN Secretary General himself released a statement, and I can quote, if you’ll allow me – he said, specifically “That those doing so are endangering the lives of innocent civilians.” If Hamas is turning UN schools into areas where it conducts its war machine, its terror war machine against Israel… [Talk Overlap]

ANALYSIS 

1/ “Correct” – An easy question for Regev to agree with.

2/ “Let’s be clear”, “We don’t know”, “I don’t know exactly”, “Neither do you”, “that sort of assumption” – Wow. Five put-downs in a succession. Regev is on a roll. He smells blood. He senses he has Maitlis on the ropes.

3/ “If you’ll allow me please” – Notice the polite “please” Regev uses, smacking of insincerity, then rudely implies that Maitlis keeps interrupting him (as indicated by at least 9 instances of Talk Overlap where the speakers were interrupting each other).

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – And the UN also said…

Regev — …the UN Secretary General…(Regev completes his point right after Maitlis tries to finish her thoughts) [Talk Overlap]

Maitlis – …over the course of the day…

Regev — …said the ultimate responsibility rests with those terrorists. We don’t want to see any fighting around UN facilities. Unfortunately the terrorists have forced their fight upon us.

ANALYSIS 

1/ “ultimate responsibility rests with those terrorists” – Did the UN Secretary General (UNSG) really ascribe complete responsibility to Hamas fighters and did he call them “terrorists”? Regev would like you to believe that. He conveniently omitted what critical remarks the UBSG might have uttered about Israeli forces.

2/ “terrorists have forced us” – Again with the terrorists shtick. And notice how he absolves Israel of any responsibility – Hamas forced us to kill all those innocent civilians, including hundreds of children, implying again that they didn’t have any choice.

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – Okay. The UN told us [the BBC] that it tried to coordinate a window with the Israeli army for civilians to leave and that was never granted. Now either the Israeli army’s not speaking to the government or else you’re calling him [the UN spokesperson] a liar. Which is it?

Regev – Well first of all let’s be fair. In a combat situation, there are [unintelligible] realities [unintelligible] very difficult. Anyone in the army can tell you, anyone who’s seen combat can tell you that. My information is that Israel agreed to a 4-hour period for a humanitarian corridor and that, that was disrupted by the Hamas terrorists themselves who didn’t want to let the terrorists leave… [Talk Overlap]

ANALYSIS 

1/ “let’s be fair”, “in a combat situation” – In an all-too-familiar pattern, Regev challenges Maitlis’ version of events, creating uncertainty in viewers.

2/ “My information” – After putting down Maitlis’ version, Regev goes on to imply that he has the inside story about what really happened in Beit Hanoun

3/ “disrupted by the Hamas terrorists” — It’s blame the Hamas terrorists time again for the umpteenth time.

4/ “didn’t want to let the terrorists leave” – Seemingly impatient to finish his blame-game pitch, Regev makes a mistake and repeats the word “terrorists” when he obviously meant “civilians”.

Maitlis is partly at fault for allowing Regev to out-maneuver her. Having lost out in this exchange the first time around, she’s going to give her declarative “UN told us” statement another shot. This is a dead-horse issue. She should have let go of this minor “they-said, you-said” spat and moved on to more substantive but not unrelated issues.

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – But you knew the children…

Regev — …that is a consistent pattern of behaviour by the terrorists who deliberately want to leave civilians to protect their terrorist machine… [Talk Overlap]

ANALYSIS 

1/ “consistent behaviour by the terrorists” – by repeating “terrorists” over and over again, Regev is counting on a sympathetic portion of the audience accepting that Hamas fighters are terrorists

2/ “leave civilians to protect” – Regev seizes the opportunity to introduce a frequently repeated Israeli allegation – that Hamas terrorists are using civilians as human shields.

Maitlis appears to be so focused on her “did you know” line of questioning that she misses a precious opportunity to challenge Regev on his allegation, using one of his own favorite argumentative devices – “How do you know?” And there is evidence that Israeli forces have used Palestinians as human shields in this conflict, but she may not have been aware of that.

*****
TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – But you knew there were children inside that building.

RegevI don’t know that. I don’t know that and you don’t know that. I’m sorry, that’s not correct.

ANALYSIS 

1/ “I don’t know that. I don’t know that and you don’t know that. I’m sorry, that’s not correct” – Here we go again. Maitlis has just provided Regev with another opportunity to create confusion and doubt in the audience. And notice how polite he is — “I’m sorry” — with his rude put-down. Right out of Israel’s GLB propagandist’s playbook.

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – You knew that that was being used as a shelter be people fleeing the fighting in northern Gaza. You knew there were women and children who had come there to take shelter.

Regev – And we’d been asking people to leave. We’d been asking people to… [Talk Overlap]

Maitlis – And you knew they hadn’t been able to leave that building.

RegevYou are making presumptions based on information that you have or have not…or what you’re suggesting that information you have…we don’t know that for…

Maitlis – But you said you were going to hit it. You hit it. You killed them. You knew there were children in that building.

RegevSorry. How do you know? The UN itself reported that there was Hamas rocket fire falling in Beit Hanoun. How do you know it was Israel? I mean I’m not excluding the possibility but it’s a difficult combat situation and you have all the answers.

ANALYSIS 

1/ “you are making presumptions”, “we don’t know”, “How do you know?”, “How do you know it was Israel” etc., etc. Denial after denial after denial. And we’re right back where we started at the beginning of this “interrogation”. It plays like a movie scene right out of a cheap courtroom drama. And notice how Regev tucks a little “Sorry” in there for good measure.

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – If after the fog of war has passed this does turn out to be the fault of Israel, will you pause, will you reset your rules of engagement tonight?

Regev – Our rules of engagement are very clear. One does not target civilians. One does not target civilian infrastructure. That is clear and we hold ourselves to the highest standard.

ANALYSIS 

1/ “we hold ourselves to the highest standard” – Another page out of the Israel’s GLB propagandist’s playbook: No. 4 (p7) — There is NEVER, EVER, any justification for the deliberate slaughter of innocent women and children. NEVER. And any charge to the opposite “…must be challenged immediately, aggressively, and directly…. civilized people do not target innocent women and children for death.

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – But that’s not working, is it? If it’s not designed to hurt civilians your strategy is manifestly not working.

Regev – We are trying to be as surgical as humanly possible in a very difficult combat environment. But I’d ask you, if you say we cannot return fire, that it is forbidden for Israel to return fire because Hamas has adopted these tactics, you’re saying that Israel has no right to defend itself in the face of these hundreds, thousands of rockets fired at our people. Now we are trying to be as surgical as is humanly possible in that difficult combat situation. But don’t deny my country the right to defend itself from those terrorists who are shooting rockets indiscriminately… [Talk Overlap]

ANALYSIS 

1/ “you’re saying that Israel has no right to defend itself” Regev finally plays his trump card – Israel’s right of self-defence

2/ “we’re trying to be as surgical” – From the GLB manual (p 48-49): Frank Luntz, the author, conducted a national survey of Americans and found that 68% of respondents agreed that “Israel has a right to defend itself from missile attack regardless of where the missiles are located. If Hamas puts those missiles near civilians, it is still Israel’s right to remove them militarily” compared with only 25% who agreed that “Regardless of the circumstances or the rationale, it is always wrong for Israel to bomb Palestinian military targets that are located near civilians. The protection of innocent civilians is more important than military advantage.” With this in mind, Regev probably felt quite confident that Americans would agree with his response.

Had Maitlis been better informed, she could have immediately challenged Regev’s right of self-defence claim. For as international jurist John Dugard points out: “The present operation in Gaza…must therefore not be seen as an act of self-defense by a state subjected to acts of aggression by a foreign state or nonstate actor. Instead, it should be seen as the action of an occupying power aimed at maintaining its occupation — the illegal occupation of Gaza. Israel is not the victim. It is the occupying power that is using force to maintain its illegal occupation.” Of course Regev would reject this evidentiary-based statement. But who do you believe, an expert in international law or Netanyahu’s propagandist puppet?

*****

TRANSCRIPT SEGMENT 

Maitlis – You have a very effective defence system…

Regev — …at our cities.

Maitlis – … It’s called the Iron Dome. It stops you, for the most part, being hit. They [Palestinians] don’t and they’re paying the price with their dead children.

Regev – No. Hamas is responsible for the Israeli casualties and for the Palestinian casualties. Because Hamas said no to a ceasefire a week ago. A ceasefire proposed by Egypt and supported by the UN and the Arab League. Why is this conflict persisting? Because Hamas refuses to accept an Arab League ceasefire proposal.

Maitlis – Alright. Mark Regev, thank you very much.

ANALYSIS 

1/ Hamas is responsible for the Israeli casualties and for the Palestinian casualties – Regev repeats himself again. He quickly rejects Maitlis insinuation that Israel is responsible for the deaths of Palestinian children, implying that “Hamas made us do this.”

Again, Maitlis is handcuffed by inadequate preparation and lack of knowledge. Otherwise, she might have been prepped to squeeze in the last word by quoting Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch who recently stated: “Israel itself is committing the war crimes that I outlined: deliberately targeting civilian structures; in some cases, deliberately targeting civilians; aiming at militants at moments when they’re surrounded by civilians, and you know that the civilian harm will be disproportionate; and using certain weapons, like heavy artillery, in densely populated areas…”

*****

SEE ALSO

  • Israel and the Erosion of International Humanitarian Law – An Analysis by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis, August 5, 2014 – “It is not an exaggeration to say that Israel’s acclaimed “Defense Forces” have become expert in violating human rights: murder and ethnic cleansing, illegal confiscation of occupied land, destruction of civilian housing, destruction of civilian infrastructure (water, electricity, sanitation, etc.), attacking of medical facilities, torture both of adults and children, the use of banned weaponry, the mistreatment of prisoners and more. And they have done it all quite openly.”
  • Deconstructing the Zionist View of Gaza’s Horror – An Analysis by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analysis, July 28, 2014 – “…outside Israel, Washington, D.C. and various other Zionist strongholds, [American Jewish Congress, executive director] David Harris’ worldview is crumbling. And, as the numbers of those who share his viewpoint shrinks, other counter-groups, such as the boycott Israel movement, grow in number. Sooner or later a tipping point will be reached and then things will change and probably do so rapidly.”
  • US law professor summarizes Israel’s extensive war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity posted August 8, 2014 – ““There is growing evidence that Israeli leaders and commanders have committed…war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity as defined in the Rome Statute for the ICC. US military aid has aided, abetted and assisted the commission of these crimes by providing Israel with the military means to commit them…. Although the Israeli and US governments continue to maintain that Israel has only acted in self-defense against Hamas’ terrorism, the weight of world opinion points in the opposite direction. There is overwhelming opposition to Israeli aggression in Gaza and calls for justice and accountability. Both Israeli and US leaders must be criminally prosecuted for committing and aiding and abetting these crimes.”

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