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Shifting Blame on the High Seas and on YouTube: The Narrative Failure of Israel's Flotilla Cyber-Diplomacy

Abstract

This paper uses Walter Fisher’s narrative paradigm to examine Israel’s efforts to shape the narrative of the violent confrontation and loss of life of activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza “Freedom Flotilla,” in May 2010. In an exploratory application of Fisher’s narrative paradigm to cyber-diplomacy, this research argues that Israel could not shift blame largely because its concerted and sustained YouTube campaign failed the tests of narrative logic: narrative probability and narrative fidelity. Viewed through the lens of narrative logic, Israel’s cyber-diplomacy rhetoric failed in three main claims: that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza; that acting against the Flotilla was a “last resort”; and that the Mavi Marmara was filled with terrorists or “terrorist sympathizers”. As a result, Israel’s narrative failure may have exacerbated an already damaging public relations crisis, adversely affecting the public support of even its staunchest ally, the Unites States. This paper demonstrates the value of the narrative paradigm as an effective rhetorical frame for foreign policy crises and public/cyber diplomacy and as an alternative to foreign policy evaluation based solely on rational logic.

B. Theo Mazumdar

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