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Unraveling the Web of Propaganda: Deception, Disinformation in Israel-Palestine Crisis

By Defne Aliefendioglu

News Editor

Via Mondoweiss. Illustrated by Carlos Latuff


Malcolm X, the renowned American Muslim minister and human rights activist, once wisely cautioned, "If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." His words remain poignant in the context of recent events between Israel and Palestine, where we have observed a considerable amount of propaganda aimed at justifying the ongoing crisis in Gaza. But what forms does this propaganda take and how can we discern it?


Propaganda is information that is used to support or popularize a specific political cause or point of view, especially when it is biased or fraudulent. War propaganda, on the other hand, is similar, but mostly focuses on promoting false beliefs in the minds of soldiers and civilians to dehumanize and arouse hate against a supposed enemy. 


Since the events of October 7th, Israel has persistently claimed that its attacks on Gaza are primarily acts of self-defense against Hamas. When Israel conducted an airstrike on the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, the State of Israel offered four different justifications. The first claim was that Hamas had bombed the hospital themselves, the second asserted the existence of a Hamas base beneath it, the third suggested a misfire, and the fourth admitted that the bombing was intentional, but that they warned civilians a day prior and instructed them to evacuate — something that would have been impossible for citizens to do.


The same narrative of an underground Hamas base was employed to justify the bombing of the historic Greek Orthodox Church, which had been providing shelter to over 400 Palestinians. These claims of "fighting Hamas" began to crumble when Israel started bombing the West Bank, a region where Hamas is not prominently active, and using white phosphorus munitions, a chemical substance that has the power to melt skin to the bone and lead to organ failure, on innocent Palestinians. Nonetheless, many news outlets and media continue to label this conflict as the "Israel-Hamas war" despite mounting evidence to the contrary. This is not a war against Hamas; it is a war against Palestine and Palestinian citizens. As of November 4th, the death toll in Gaza has risen to over 9,500, with over 6,400 of these murders being women and children, constituting a distressing 67% of the total. Additionally, the number of injuries has reached 23,516. Meanwhile, Israel reports over 1,400 fatalities with 5,400 casualties of its own. 


Moreover, on October 10, Aditya Raj Kaul, a 9TV Network’s executive editor, tweeted on X, formerly known as Twitter, “a pregnant woman in Southern Israel was found by Hamas terrorists. They dissected her body. Her stomach was cut open and they took the fetus out with the umbilical cord. And let the unborn child die slowly out of his mother’s womb. This is what inhuman savages Hamas do to people.” The tweet would become seen by 10.6M people on the platform and the news would start to spread. The fact of the matter is that this incident truly did happen. However, Hamas did not dissect an Israeli woman; Israel performed this act on a Palestinian woman during the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1982. This refers to the Lebanese Civil War massacre, which took place over three days and claimed the lives of over 3,000 civilians, both Palestinian and Lebanese. On the 40th anniversary of the massacre, 75-year-old witness Umm Abbas spoke about the atrocities she saw against Palestinian women, including the murder and removal of unborn children from their bodies. “What did I see? A pregnant woman who had her baby ripped out of her stomach, they cut her in two," she said. 


Several propaganda advertisements were also featured on YouTube. One of these advertisements, that would play before a video, looked like it was meant for children, featuring lullaby music, pastel colors, stars, and rainbows in the background. However, the message that appeared in the advertisement was not made for children. It began with the words, “We have an important message to tell you as parents.” The music then suddenly stopped and the words, “40 infants were murdered in Israel”, with an emphasis on the number 40, appeared on the screen. The letters then disappeared, giving way to the statement, “By the Hamas terrorists (ISIS),” followed by, “Just as you would do everything for your child. We will do everything to protect ours.” The gentle music then returned accompanied by the words, “Now hug your baby and stand with us,” with the State of Israel’s logo appearing at the end. 


The claim of the 40 murdered infants started after there was an attack on the kibbutz of Kfar Aza on October 7th, and the press was granted permission by the Israeli army to visit the attack site. After the visit, Nicole Zedeck, a reporter from Israeli news outlet i24 tweeted, “Soldiers told me they believe 40 babies/children were killed.” As the tweet started gaining attraction, the information transformed into “at least 40 babies were killed and some were beheaded.” However, the Israeli army could not confirm this claim. But even with the refusal of confirmation or proof from the Israeli army, the words “40 babies decapitated by Hamas” were plastered all over the news. Western news outlets such as CNN later announced, “The Israeli prime minister’s spokesman just confirmed babies and toddlers were found with their heads decapitated in Kfar Aza.” Only to take back their words later, stating that Israel could not substantiate claims. Even President Joe Biden stated that he saw pictures of the beheaded children, which the White House had to then denounce, clarifying that Biden had never seen these “conformed pictures of terrorists beheading children” as he had previously attested to. Other journalists who also visited the attack site stated that they had never heard of these beheadings during the tour and that there was no evidence of it. There is no evidence that the children that the State of Israel mentioned in the advertisement are real. And while Israel and the media are labeling Hamas as “terrorists,” accusing them of such acts, currently, according to Al Arabiya News, 1 Palestinian child is killed every 5 minutes in Gaza. With the United Nations describing Gaza as a “graveyard for thousands of childrens,” Israel still lacks to take any accountability and persistently claims that Hamas used children as human shields.


Instagram is no stranger either to enabling propaganda, sneakily adding the word “terrorist” into the bios of users showing solidarity with Palestine, which the company claimed was “a bug.” Clicking the translate button under users’ bio including “Palestinian”, the Palestinian flag, and the word “Alhamdulillah” written in Arabic resulted in the text being transformed to “Praise be to god, Palestinian terrorists are fighting for their freedom.” The problem was brought up by TikTok user YtKingKhan, who remarked that even different arrangements of the words persisted to be translated with the word "terrorist" included.


Once the video went viral, Instagram resolved the problem, making the translation now read, “Thank God.” Meta, the company owning Instagram, apologized and claimed it was unintentional. Instagram has also been accused of censoring posts that show support for Israel. Many users recount their stories, reels, and posts about Palestine getting less traction than other content that they publish.  


There are many other examples of war propaganda done to justify the massacre and the cruelties that the Palestinian people are being put through. With the age of the Internet, propaganda needs to be recognized and evaluated carefully, especially in a society where information is spread quickly and easily through a variety of platforms. The examples of wartime propaganda from World War II serve as a historical reference point, illustrating how information can be distorted to manipulate public opinion and further political objectives.


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