For decades, the western world has been fed Israeli/Zionist narratives about their country being exceptional, Palestinians not existing or being less than human. False Israeli accounts have been swallowed by a compliant media and by politicians scared of being accused of being even slightly anti-Semitic.
This toxic narrative should have been challenged and stopped years go. Given the human catastrophe in Gaza, exposing and ceasing its influence is now imperative. The Israeli narrative is characterised by interrelated traits of arrogance and telling lies. In 1948, Palestine was empty. The only democratic country in the Middle East has always sought a just peace and always respected the rules of humanitarian law. The hundreds of dead from the destruction of the al-Ahli Christian hospital in Gaza were bound to have been killed by a misfired Hamas rocket.
In P&I of October 20, former New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges concluded, ‘Israel has lied. Small lies. Big lies. Huge lies.’ Almighty arrogance is used to intimidate audiences and make false claims. Appearing before the Canberra Press Club, the Israeli Ambassador to Australia persisted with the age old furphy that Israelis were victims not oppressors. With few exceptions, the Ambassador was not challenged. Passive, uncritical journalists have aided the circulation of this narrative.
To confirm that Israel was a victim, and with a view to influencing public understanding, the Australian Israel Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) reported that Hamas attackers had committed rapes, beheadings and burned to death whole families. Subsequent evidence disproved these claims but Israeli public relations personnel were hard at work to avoid admitting that burned down Israeli homes were destroyed by friendly fire from Israeli hellfire missiles. Who cares? In the public media contests, truth is of little consequence.
In its bully boy role to influence public opinion, AIJAC demanded that SBS Arabic include programs with ‘more balance and context.’ In cowardly compliance with these demands, who do they think they are, SBS management now forbids their photographers and reporters to attend pro Palestine rallies. The narrative works. As though anaesthetised by Israeli claims, Australian media journalists behave as though the genocide underway in Gaza is a war, not a slaughter of innocents, therefore military violence merits generous coverage. ABC news radio on October 27 gave an Israeli military expert in Tel Aviv ten minutes to explain that ‘sustained and effective bombing’ of Gaza only hit Hamas targets. No challenge from the ABC interviewer, only excited questions about how to make reservists familiar with their weapons and what volume of tanks were ready for a ground invasion.
The star act in this story of deceit, watch how bullying works, came at the UN from Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. In response to UN Secretary General Guterres‘ observation that the Hamas attack ‘did not occur in a vacuum’, the Minister claimed that Guterres had justified terrorism and should resign.
Watch that Minister’s body language. The tough image honed by deep breaths in carefully rehearsed swagger, the insistence the Israeli government complied with the rules of war. How could anyone believe otherwise? Watch a playground bully at a UN microphone happy with orders for a repeat of the 1948 Nakba, this time by ordering one million people to vacate their homes in northern Gaza and retreat to the south with no water, food, fuel, electricity or security. Who cares as long as murder and genocide is committed against Palestinians? To prove moral superiority, the man’s UN performance finished with the claim that the UN is evil.
Israelis who dispute official narratives are in danger. The elderly hostage released by Hamas described humane treatment by her captors but has been derided on Israeli social media. Another Israeli questioned the official Israeli claims that deaths on the Gaza border were caused by Hamas attackers. No says Yasmin Polat, in very, very heavy crossfire, Israeli forces eliminated everyone.
A narrative polished and promoted for decades has reached its inhumane crescendo in a refusal to admit cruelty as policy – Palestinians as animals indistinct from Hamas, the thousands of children in Gaza blown to bits, unending dispossession and murder on the West Bank, hundreds of children and thousands of Palestinian adults imprisoned in Israeli jails without charge.
Given western governments seventy five years long responsibility for the carnage in Israel and genocide in Gaza, their leaders have stayed largely silent or have tasted and swallowed the Israeli narrative whose major objective is to impose a world rule which says no one should criticise Israel.
For too long, at the expense of the Palestinian people, this toxic narrative has contributed to confusion, untruths, murder and mayhem.
After the Gazan genocide, the chance of small steps being taken to foster peace with justice will depend on truths emerging, on diplomatic posturing and arrogance being discouraged, on this narrative being derided and dismissed.