Watching Regulators: Israel’s Legacy of Media Deception Falters | The Israeli war on Gaza
In the past two weeks, the Israeli government has provided a masterclass in how Western media can be used to spread fake news and propaganda and justify anti-Palestinian actions by the United States and its allies. It worked, but only partially.
On January 26, in a landmark preliminary ruling on South Africa’s charge of genocide against Israel, the International Court of Justice found it “reasonable” that Israel was committing acts in violation of the Genocide Convention. It called for “immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of basic services and much-needed humanitarian assistance to address the adverse living conditions faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”
Israel ignored this and, within hours, launched a deception campaign to weaken UNRWA, the main UN humanitarian agency for Palestinian refugees, to inflict more suffering and death on nearly two million displaced, wounded, sick and starving Palestinians in the Strip.
Israel passed to Western media a “dossier” alleging that about a dozen UNRWA employees in Gaza were working for Hamas and even participated in the movement’s attack on Israel on 7 October.
After compliant media immediately reported these baseless allegations to the world without bothering to conduct any independent investigation, the United States and other countries suspended vital funding for UNRWA. At the same time, prominent politicians began calling for it to be “closed” as Israel has long sought in its efforts to revoke recognition of the Palestinians it displaced as “refugees,” and revoke their right to return to the lands Israel stole from them.
None of this was new or exceptional.
Major media organizations in the West, from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to CNN and NBC, have long helped Israel spread its propaganda and achieve its political goals.
Over the past century, these organizations and their counterparts in Europe have routinely propagated Israeli narratives without questioning their veracity, while ignoring, downplaying, or misrepresenting Palestinian views. Their efforts helped Israel win the war over narratives and continue its settler colonial assault on Palestinians with almost complete impunity.
Well, until recently – because the ugly tradition of Israel successfully laundering its lies and propaganda through the old Western media is now exposed, challenged, and appears to be dissipating in the new media-dominated information age.
Indeed, since October 7, a series of independent investigations into events in Israel and Palestine and Western media reporting on them have revealed how Israel is using the West’s legacy media institutions to deceive the world, silence Palestinians and their allies, undermine international law, and obscure its systematic violations. human rights and promoting its settler colonial agenda.
The initial Western media coverage of terrorism allegations against UNRWA is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon.
Israel suddenly came out with an “explosive” dossier on alleged links between Hamas and UNRWA employees, because it wanted to divert attention from the International Court of Justice’s ruling on its genocide, and instead raise doubts about the credibility of the all-important UN agency.
Thanks to uncritical reporting by Western media, Israel’s plan succeeded, at least in part, as it led to significant funding cuts and a US congressional hearing on “Exposing UNRWA: An Examination of the Agency’s Mission and Its Failures.”
Members of Congress accused UNRWA of having “long-standing ties to terrorism and promoting anti-Semitism,” apparently based on nothing more than Israeli allegations circulating in the media. They also introduced a draft law titled “UNRWA Liquidation Law” that calls for the humanitarian agency to be completely disbanded and all its responsibilities transferred to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
But independent reports and investigations quickly revealed major gaps in the Israeli narrative, which the mainstream media eagerly adopted and published.
As Western journalists outside the mainstream, global media outlets like Al Jazeera, activists and scholars began asking questions about the allegations against UNRWA, Israel’s story began to unravel.
Unable to provide any conclusive evidence of UNRWA staff involvement in the October 7 attacks, the intelligence agency that distributed the “dossier” said its information came from “interrogations of Palestinian prisoners.” This revelation raised further doubts among journalists and scholars following the conflict, as Israel is known to use torture to extract false confessions from Palestinian prisoners. Realizing that the international community was skeptical of their story, Israeli intelligence agents simply changed it and began saying that they obtained the information through surveillance.
As many countries sided with UNRWA, Israel faced scrutiny of its claims against the US agency, and shared its shaky “intelligence documents” with more journalists.
An analysis of the file conducted by the British channel Sky News revealed that these documents claim that only six, and not 12 as initially suggested, UNRWA employees entered Israel on October 7. He pointed out that “Israeli intelligence documents make several allegations that Sky News has not seen evidence of.” Many of the allegations, even if true, do not directly implicate UNRWA.”
After also analyzing the documents, Britain’s Channel 4 reached a similar conclusion and said that the six-page dossier “provides no evidence to support the sensational allegation that UN employees are involved in terrorist attacks on Israel.”
Perhaps the terrorist accusations against UNRWA were the most clear example of the exposure of the major Western media, which has spread Israeli slander and propaganda without criticism since October 7. But she wasn’t the only one.
Israeli claims about “terror tunnels” and “Hamas command centers” under Gaza hospitals, which have been repeated by most Western media outlets without any scrutiny or attempt at verification, have also been proven to be baseless by numerous open source investigations and in-depth reports published by Local newspapers. Journalists on the ground and extensive video evidence.
In February, Al-Arabi filmed what Israel claimed was a “Hamas tunnel” it discovered under Sheikh Hamad Hospital in northern Gaza, which turned out to be nothing more than a water well.
Earlier in December, a controversial New York Times report on Hamas’ use of sexual violence as a weapon during the October 7 attack was criticized for its weak sourcing and inaccurate reporting. The Journal of Record was eventually forced to pull a podcast episode it had done on the subject.
Speaking about the Times report on sexual violence and the podcast, investigative website The Intercept said: “Critics have highlighted significant inconsistencies in the accounts provided in The Times, subsequent public comments from the family of the key person in the article condemning him, and comments from a key witness that appear to contradict The claim attributed to him in the article.”
Electronic Intifada has published several articles and podcasts containing more details about the New York Times investigation into the gang rape story, most of which confirms the lack of reliable evidence or eyewitnesses in the stories that Israeli institutions, including the armed forces, have shared with the government. . Global media.
The progressive investigative website Mondoweiss explained in a report titled “We Deserve the Truth About What Happened on October 7,” that “researchers Reference claims The list of victims of terrorism maintained by the Israeli Social Security Administration has revealed many horror stories First responders Members of the IDF initially told reporters that this photo did not reflect the actual people or deaths.
The British newspaper The Guardian published an extensive report on “CNN facing a backlash from its employees over editorial policies that they say have led to the regurgitation of Israeli propaganda and the censoring of Palestinian viewpoints in the network’s coverage of the war in Gaza.”
The Oct7factcheck Project — a comprehensive collection of the allegations, where they originated, who promoted them, and whether evidence confirms or refutes them and compiled by the Technology for Palestine Initiative — has also published the results of independent investigations into the dozen or so most dramatic Israeli accusations and reports about the Hamas attack. , which most Western media repeated uncritically, debunking most of them as incorrect and lacking evidence.
It shows, for example, that some of the evidence Israel presented to the ICJ hearing – evidence that was undoubtedly reprinted by Western media – was false.
“Over the past four months, allegations about October 7 have influenced the public narrative,” they noted. “Stories of atrocities, sometimes pieced together from unreliable eyewitnesses, sometimes… Completely fabricatedmade their way to Heads of state It was used to justify Israeli military violence.”
As new evidence reveals that the stories Israel presents to the media about the Palestinians and Hamas are fabricated, unfounded or exaggerated, international journalists tend to spend more time fact-checking Israeli propaganda – and more time doing their job of reporting facts and events. . fact.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.
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