Monday, January 02, 2006

Pre-Written Post-Kidnapping Speeches Might Be Useful 

Looking at this picture of the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Eurobservers, all so eager to enter PA territory and protect Hamas from the possibility that Fatah would undercount their votes, well, I just can't help thinking of the kind of preparations they must be going through before such a dangerous task. I can only imagine the responsibility it must be to dispatch or lead such a team, the kind of memos one would have to write to help them accomplish their goals in such an uncertain environment.

European Union Chief Observer for the Palestinian elections Veronique De Keyser, a European Parliament deputy, posses for a picture with members of her team in Jerusalem, Monday, Jan. 2, 2006. Dozens of European Union observers to the Palestinian parliamentary elections began deploying in Palestinian areas on Monday, operating under the assumption that the balloting will be held Jan. 25, as scheduled, despite pressure by some Palestinian officials to postpone them because of the ongoing violence. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Memo to all incoming election observers:

Many of you may not have had the privilege of serving in the Palestinian State before -- sorry, slip of the tongue, it's not a state juuust yet, but you know what I mean -- so I'd like to take this opportunity to brief you on a few important guidelines. First of all, while this should have been taken care of back at the home office already, I'm required to check just to be safe: none of you are -- how shall I put this -- circumcised, are you? If you are, please pick up your passport and your return ticket from accounting before 4pm today -- just a little bean-counter safety rule, you understand how it is.

Now, for the rest of us, we're going to monitor the election, we think. Obviously you're all familiar with the basics, so I'm sure you'll make Jimmy proud. However, I'd like to stress some minor local points that can make your impartial participation in this election more productive and just.

As you probably know, due to the appalling conditions Israel has created for the Palestinian population by evacuating Gaza -- and has exacerbated by not  evacuating the West Bank and East Al Quds -- there have been a very, very small number of kidnappings. We can all appreciate what a sense of desperation must be behind such tragic misunderstandings, but thankfully so far no serious harm has been done. However, there always remains the teeny tiniest chance of a silly mistake in the future that could tarnish the image of this oppressed people, and we really don't want to be responsible for that now do we? So we've followed these kidnappings very carefully and can offer you some important advice should you face this situation.

It isn't easy to ad-lib anti-Israel rhetoric immediately after armed Palestinian abductors release you. We say this not because we think you'll develop some sudden love of Israel -- God forbid -- but because the stress, the cameras and lights, the microphones, they can all dull your rhetorical blade at that priceless moment when all the world's attention is upon you. You have to be ready and not waste your minute at the mike.

That is why it is so critical, as election monitors, that you always keep a pre-written anti-Israel screed ready. While of course you should express this in your own words, we have taken the liberty of writing up a very brief template on which you can build your spontaneous speech.

I was treated very well. They gave me cigarettes and tea. My captors and I talked for hours and I could tell how much it hurt them to have to try to further their cause in such a way, but the occupation has left them no other option. Of course this won't affect my pro-Palestinian views and I am now more convinced than ever about the horrors of Israeli occupation.
I keep mine in my jacket pocket, but since you will be in the field, you might consider writing it somewhere on your body with indelible ink, just in case your kidnappers decide to take your clothes and everything in your pockets.

Another option I can recommend is to have one of our EU field dentists remove a tooth for you and replace it with a hollow one holding a microcopy of your post-kidnapping speech. This can prove to be an invaluable backup, since the inked copy can easily be smudged or distorted if you came to any sort of bodily harm during your kidnapping -- not that any Palestinians I know of would try to hurt you of course. Still, the odds of that particular hollow tooth being knocked out are very small, so long as you demonstrate the proper attitude while in your host's care, so it's a very reliable way to protect your message.

Of course there's always the remote, highly unlikely, almost impossible possibility you could be killed. But if this does happen, first of all, please don't lose your perspective. It's important to remember that in Palestinian culture, to sacrifice one's life in the service of the struggle against Israel is the highest honor one can attain now that Yasser Arafat is dead and doesn't need any more bodyguards. Remember, you don't want your Palestinian friends to feel culturally judged. Should you somehow end up martyred they have to see that you don't blame them, since obviously the Israeli occupation would be the root cause of your death. So if you find yourself about to be killed, don't forget to smile and reassure everyone that you understand why this is happening. Nothing builds trust like a smile and a good attitude.

It's actually for this reason, that sliver of a possibility that you might not even be around to read the speech inside your tooth, that I suggest you videotape your speech now, just in case. Actually I can't take all the credit for that suggestion myself. I'm just passing on a tip from certain, shall we say, experienced consultants who've had good luck with post-mortem video.

Remember, good elections start with good PR, so stop by the video office, record your statement, and drop it in the Reuters bin on your way out.

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