Israel’s Fake News Weaponization; Challenging Implications For Media’s Role In War
The social media has created a comfortable niche for itself in today’s landscape, the necessity of which was not anticipated by the generations before.
Today the 73-year-old war on Palestine is being live streamed for the world to see. Whatever ambiguity clouded the minds of the un/mis-informed populace can be cleared by taking one hard, honest look at the bloggers reporting from the place of affliction. Small video clips going viral, live YouTube vlogging, current Twitter updates and loaded Instagram feeds are a brutal testament to the fact that from Haifa to Lod to Gaza to Sheikh Jarrah, the Nakba for Palestinian Muslims never ended.
Reporters are reporting live as Palestinians continue to face forced home demolitions, illegal land confiscation and barbaric ethnic cleansing. International war crimes are being documented as men, women and children are being shot, beaten and bombed as they stand to pray in their mosque by Israeli state. Their homes torched, sons tortured and the apartheid leaders having the disgusting nerve to say that the “…campaign is far from over” and “…more Israeli action is coming” has made bare their heinous faces for the world to see. Netanyahu’s remarks that “IDF strikes will last as long as needed”, are enough proof that the ‘Judaizing’ of the Palestinian settlements by abrogating Palestinian residency rights and encouraging the Israeli encroachment is all state-sponsored.
But this assault is not a recent reality. This is a scourge ongoing for over a half century now. The only difference today is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the morally bankrupt leaders of the West and frail governance of the Gulf to turn a blind eye to it. Thanks to the media, the world stands witness to the heavy militarized violence from the Israeli settlers, police and army. The open air prison of Gaza is drawing considerable uproar from all parts of the globe. The disgusting images of severed bodies of the beset are being mulled over by numerous activists. The leaders expressing their solidarity with the Israel’s ‘right to defend’ its cutting-edge militarized technology against the stones of Palestine are being condemned for the settlement expansion and mob lynching by Israeli state. The celebrities are raising their voice – baring the few who do not want to endanger their L’Oréal brand-ship – and the youth is protesting.
Media, be it digital, print or social has played a catalytic role in raising awareness and unifying millions for the cause of Palestine – regardless of their creed or religion.
But there is a catch to this social media game, and trust the apartheid nation to play that catch to their favor. Most recent example: This Friday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) official statement (via Twitter) broke the news that Israeli troops have initiated an on-ground invasion of the remaining 12% of the Palestinian territory of Gaza. This statement was issued near midnight in both Arabic and Hebrew simultaneously. Mind you, it came in the backdrop of influx of armoured and infantry battalions joining the artillery batteries deployed last week on Gaza borders. Moreover, IDF had previously warned Palestinians that a ground offensive was on the table as a viable option.Israeli soldiers walk next to tanks near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip. REUTERS
This piece of news was widely reported and shared by all local and international news outlets. In addition to Twitter, WhatsApp was also employed to further the message. Numerous on-ground reporters and news spaces were sent a WhatsApp message reiterating the invasion of Gaza by Israeli foot troops. It seemed like an irreparable escalation was underway.
This news was received by obvious panic and contemplated frenzy by the Palestinian protestors. Little did those protestors knew that this little flicker of a news was intended to prompt the Gaza’s freedom fighters to enter ‘the metro’ – an underground network of tunnels built in 2014, spanning over dozens of kilometers, which Hamas uses to store its meagre weaponry and to commute throughout Gaza, safe from Israeli aerial incursions.
Following the hounding up of the protestors as a result of the ravaging statement, Israel proceeded to drop approximately 500 bombs constituting more than 85 tons of explosives over ‘the metro’ ceaselessly for the next hour or so. The number of casualties remain unknown. In short, instead of the ground invasion, Israel relentlessly pummeled targets in the Metro from the air and with artillery strikes once they were caught right where Israel wanted them. The IDF had deployed troops along the border, but they did not cross into Gaza, they were never meant to.
IDF made this official statement around midnight and retracted the statement officially around 02:00 a.m. suggesting that this was all a big “misunderstanding” and there was no plan for the advancement of stationed ground troops. By that time, the aggressive airstrike had been carried out at those concentrated in the Metro.
The army attempted to play down the incident as a misreading. However, every Middle East analyst and military reporter of the region termed the entire event as Israel’s ploy to lure the protestors into a deadly trap where they can be maximally targeted. It was the rational conclusion of Israeli media rooms and commentators themselves that this disinformation strategy highlighted the shrewd ‘tactic’ the Israeli army had employed for unnerving and misleading the Palestinians. The proof of this planned maneuver was the previous claim made by top Israeli security ranks that they would ‘ensure’ that the metro and adjoining tunnels become the ‘mass cemeteries’ of the protestors.
Helen Miller, a well-known military correspondent termed the manipulation resulting in deaths of thousands as “smart and successful”, “a very sophisticated operation that had a media aspect to it”.
This trickery by employing the tools of media by Israel is not new. In 2018, the Israeli army staged the wounds and injuries of their soldiers to call for the ceasefire to the Hezbollah missile strike. They drove their theatrics home by evacuating the so-called “injured” in a helicopter.
The role as well as the use of the media is pivotal. And both the sides involved realize this. Maybe, that’s the reason that among many towers being targeted by Israeli aerial strikes, most conspicuous were the three media towers accommodating the offices of big journalist names like Al Jazeera just today.
Media is a necessary tool and in itself cannot be termed useful or detrimental, instead it is its use that renders it to be either. The oppressed can employ it to raise their voice against the atrocity and the oppressor can employ it to further its manipulation, be it of the oppressed, or be it of the world at large. Nevertheless, in today’s world there is not going to be any incident which will not have the media angle to it.
The currency of media, however, is its credibility. I agree wholeheartedly with the fact that the onus of responsibility must be shared by the consumers and propagators of the news as well but I also think that the heavy lifting in this regard would need to be done by the media spaces themselves.