A Tale of Two Videos: Two Ways to Make an Argument About Gaza

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The release of another fabulous video by Gisha, a small Tel Aviv nonprofit that champions freedom of movement for Palestinians, points to what a professor of rhetoric might term the vital importance of tone when making a persuasive argument. If your field is advocacy, it never hurts to assume your audience wants to at least pretend to have an open mind, and is thus vulnerable to persuasion through facts, reason and perhaps some appeal to fellow feeling.  The new vid, “Gaza Reels,” calmly makes the case for lifting the continued Israeli embargo and other restrictions on the Gaza Strip and the 1.5 million people living there.

It was created by animator Anna Shevchenko  in the style of the “Geva newsreels” that Israelis, at least, might know from movie theaters in the 50s and 60s. But the appeal is pretty universal, and makes learning nearly as diverting as the Safe Passage online game the organization posted last year. In that one, the reader can pretend to be a Palestinian ice cream maker, or university student, or father trying to get from the Strip to the West Bank, or vice versa. It’s just the facts, but animates in more ways than one the reality of life in the enclaves separated by not even 30 miles on the map but many more of red tape. Both Gisha links are timely not only because Egypt just opened its border to Gaza but because Turkish activists are preparing for another “flotilla” to Gaza next month. (May 31 marked the one-year anniversary of the Israeli raid on the first “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” — nine people were killed then.)

Which calls to mind, by way of contrast, a pair of other videos that assumed nothing except that the viewer surely is already on the side of the people making them. “We Con the World” smugly mocks the notion that the passengers who were killed by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara were humanitarians.  At about the same time, the website of the Israel Defense Forces posted a video with a clearly doctored soundtrack. The mashup pushed together a video image of a IDF sailor warning the flotilla away from Gaza with ostensible replies from the ship: a static-y  “shut up, go back to Auschwitz” and, in another voice, “don’t forget 9-11” in almost digital clarity.  The IDF eventually sorted it all out on a blog post that appeared to make a good faith effort to account for itself, but one year after the Flotilla Fiasco there’s no evidence ordinary Israelis see what happened on the ferry as anything but an ambush on their best and bravest.