Two fronts to modern warfare – "HamaStudios"
In today's wars, every battle has two fronts. The first being the military battlefield, where the key elements are soldiers, weaponry and ammunition.
The spread of terrorism, and the development of long-range projectiles have pushed the front lines deep into the homeland, bringing the threats closer to civilians.
The other, inextricably linked to the first front, is the arena of public opinion, where a fierce battle rages for international legitimacy and control of the narrative.
This is a fight for the hearts and minds of the public and of members of the international community. In this domain, the key elements are the written word, verbal skirmishes and visual materials.
There is an infinite and unbridgeable moral abyss between Israel and Hamas on every level that is fully reflected in public diplomacy.
Israel bases its public diplomacy efforts on truth, authenticity and veracity. As a result, Israel is often at a disadvantage, having to pay with precious time for its insistence on obtaining the facts before releasing an official statement.
Hamas has no regard for truth or facts. Moreover, this terrorist organization is highly adept at manipulation, and willing to use any means at its disposal.
One of the most recent examples concerns the Al Ahli hospital in Gaza. As soon as the hospital was reported to have been severely damaged, Hamas immediately accused Israel. In spite of growing international outrage, Israel took the necessary time to confirm the facts before producing a statement on the matter.
At the end of that investigation, it was revealed that the hospital itself was not hit by any weapon, rather its parking lot was, and that this open area was hit by an Islamic Jihad rocket launched against Israel which fell short and landed in Gaza.
However, it had taken an all-night investigation before credible proof could be provided that Israel was not at fault and that most of the original claims were false. That time gap was utilized by Hamas to incite Palestinians to violence and spread false information around the globe. World leaders fell for their lies.
Palestinian use of fabrications is well known and began long before the current war. Their infamous propaganda machine has been dubbed "Pallywood," signifying deceptions worthy of a full-fledged Palestinian Hollywood. Pallywood has become an industry dedicated to promoting false context and misinformation, while creating an alternative reality. In this imaginary version of the world, the aggressors are presented as victims and the victims as aggressors.
Hamas has gone even further in perpetrating fraud, in what could be termed "HamaStudios." This terrorist organization fabricates, misleads and deceives, circulating blatant lies, falsely attributing photos, contriving scenes of counterfeit Israeli misdeeds and engaging in other forms of sophistry. Hamas intensified its efforts following its deadly invasion of Israel, churning out endless Goebbels-worthy disinformation.
Many people - naively and even willingly - swallow Hamas’s bait. Accepting deceitful imagery is not only immoral, but can also pose a danger to life.
Here are a few of the latest examples:
During their October 7th invasion, Hamas militants gleefully filmed themselves murdering and mutilating Israeli civilians, even posting clips on social media, sometimes by using the victims’ own phones. Yet in spite of the existence of what for any normal society would constitute irrefutable evidence of a massacre (extensive documentation made by the terrorists' own bodycams, security camera footage, livestreaming by victims, hundreds of photos, and huge amounts eyewitness testimony), Hamas spokesman Basem Naim, blatantly lied on Sky News, stating "we did not kill any civilians," calling the hard evidence "Israeli propaganda" in a fashion reminiscent of classic Holocaust denial.
US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar retweeted a horrific picture of dead children in burial shrouds with the hashtag "#Gazagenocide" and the subheading: “614 Palestinian children murdered by the Israeli IDF forces." Simple photo recognition technology revealed these were children killed in Eastern Ghouta, Syria, in 2013, most likely by Syrian government forces. The photo has nothing whatsoever to do with Gaza or the children there. Rep. Ilhan Omar has yet to apologize for co-opting the image of dead Syrian children to spread dangerous blood libels.
After Israel released some of the gut-wrenching photos of Israel babies horrifically burned in the invasion, Hamas and its parrots tried to discredit the images, including by juxtaposing the picture of a dog to that of an infant.
Hamas perpetrates these frauds even when it jeopardizes the lives of Palestinians. Israel recently called on inhabitants of northern Gaza to evacuate south, away from the battleground. Hamas ordered them to stay put, saying that Israel's attempt to prevent harm to civilians was "fake propaganda." Hamas then tried to prevent evacuation by blocking roads, and even produced fictitious clips of alleged Israeli bombings of the fleeing residents.
One simply cannot believe what one hears or sees when the source is Hamas.
A US pastor of Egyptian origin has often shared how during battles between Israel and the Arab states, his father listened to Israeli radio stations instead of the Arab ones. When asked by his family why he listened to Israelis, he replied that if you want to know what is really going on, that is what you need to do.
It is dismaying to see thousands of demonstrators protesting against Israel in favor of Hamas after Israelis young and old were raped, abducted, burned alive and murdered. Consciously or unconsciously, deliberately or foolishly, such rallies express support for these atrocities against innocent civilians.
Some protestors are overt antisemites, chanting anti-Jewish epithets, even displaying swastikas.
Others may simply be uninformed consumers of highly partisan media outlets who have been brainwashed by Hamas and Palestinian propaganda. But ignorance does not excuse their moral lapse. Willful blindness cannot become the basis for exculpation.
We must actively fight these dangerous and false narratives. History has shown us the short distance between deceitful rhetoric and the burning of flesh.
The truth shall set us free. And hopefully, it shall also keep us safe.
The writer, Aviel Avraham is a Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Israel, Accra