Have you heard of Kilinochi? I thought not! Kilinochi is the town in northern Sri Lanka that is the HQ of the Tamil Tigers. They have been fighting for 25 years for an independent Tamil State to be called Tamil Eelam. After years of fighting the Sri Lankan Army (which is Buddhist) have surrounded Kilinochi and are on the point of capturing the town. Kilinochi is where the Tamils (who are Hindus) have their administrative center and although loss of the town would be a heavy blow to their separatist endeavor, they will continue to fight in the jungles of northern Sri Lanka.
One reason why you haven’t heard of Kilinochi, even though the fighting there is just as dramatic, bloody and newsworthy as Gaza, is that Jews and Palestinians are not involved. Whatever happens to the Palestinians is considered the prime news item and everything else is secondary. So if you happen to be a Sri Lankan or a Tamil, too bad! I haven’t seen any left-wing demonstrations or emotional statements on behalf of the Tamil civilians as there are for the poor Palestinians. Certainly being in Gaza now is not pleasant, but ca. 60 civilian casualties after 7 days of bombing is hardly a massacre and shows that the IAF is deliberately avoiding civilians. Also, today they interviewed foreign citizens leaving Gaza to Israel, and they all said how bad things were, but all of them looked healthy and well-fed.
The coverage of the fighting in Gaza has been extensive, and it certainly is newsworthy. But, while the barrage of rockets into Israel has received some coverage, it has not been as much as that of the aerial bombardment of Gaza and the suffering of the civilian population. Nevertheless, on this occasion the Israel Govt. PR has been much better than ever before. First of all this is the first war when Israel has had a coordinator of Govt. press relations, so that each division of the Govt., the PM’s office, the FM, the Defense Ministry, the Army, etc. have not been operating independently. One other change in Israeli PR is the use of the internet, e.g. Facebook and greater openness, e.g. releasing the photos from plane cockpits that are a favorite of news editors for visual images
Also, although there have been some differences, such as whether or not the main aim of Operation Cast Lead is to stop the rockets or destroy Hamas, in general the various spokesmen have done a good job. Particularly FM Tzipi Livni has distinguished herself for good short direct statements that fit into news bites and tell the Israeli story. By immediately flying to Paris and meeting with Pres. Sarkozy she showed that Israel is not afraid of a ceasefire and wants to discuss its contents, but the time is not yet ripe for one while Hamas rockets are hitting major cities in southern Israel.
However, the star of the Government’s PR campaign is leader of the Likud opposition, Bibi Netanyahu. He has been so successful, with his ready American style and slight grin at the inanity of some of the journalist’s questions, that he has been dubbed Israel’s “BiBiC.” No doubt these appearances by Bibi and Tzipi will affect the public’s evaluation of them in the run towards the general election due here in February (as long as it is not postponed due to the war). In fact, a recent poll shows that Likud has increased its lead now to 29 seats, while Kadima has gone down to 21.
At the moment after 7 days of war, the IAF is running out of prime targets. The killing yesterday of Sheikh Nizar Rayan, the third man in Hamas, is an indicator that Israeli intelligence is still excellent, and the other Hamas leaders must be very worried. There are reports that some of them are hiding in the maternity wards of hospitals since they know that the IAF will not target these. So now we are either on the verge of a ground invasion or of a ceasefire. I think the former, but the Government once again, as in the Lebanon war, is delaying this action far too long, and losing the momentum. Too long a delay allows the Hamas Army to re-organize and prepare defenses.
So keep your ears open for “Kilinochi.” When you hear it it will mean that the fighting in Gaza has diminished.