November 20, 2023
Israeli pop singer Eyal Golan told a right-wing TV channel: “Erase Gaza. Don’t leave a single person there.” A host on the same channel declared: “It’s time for Nakba Two.”
Such repulsive genocidal rhetoric could be dismissed as heat-of-the-moment hyperbole. But it chimes with exterminatory language emerging from the highest levels of Israel’s political echelons, demanding the eradication of Palestinians from Gaza.
Extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir proposed that anyone who sympathized with Hamas should be “eliminated.” Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared that Israel “would no longer be able to accept” a Palestinian entity in Gaza, calling for the “emigration” of Gaza’s entire population. Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter championed the military campaign as “Gaza Nakba 2023,” while Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu was suspended for saying that dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza was “a possibility” — an embarrassing own goal given that Israel doesn’t even admit it possesses nuclear weapons.
While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Eliyahu’s nuclear bomb comments as “disconnected from reality,” he hasn’t refrained from genocidal advocacy himself. Referring to Hamas, Netanyahu said that Israel was “committed to completely eliminating this evil from the world,” before cryptically adding: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you.” This is a chilling biblical quote from the Prophet Samuel instructing King Saul to “attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.”
Among official proposals for how such an ethnic cleansing project could be implemented, a leaked Intelligence Ministry document advocated forced transfer of Palestinians to Sinai. A bill has been submitted to the Knesset mandating the return of Israelis to Gaza after the war. Even if Israel ultimately backed off from such a brazen move, it may refuse to allow a million Palestinians to return to northern Gaza — although the army has said it will expand its operations into southern Gaza too.
Israeli Holocaust historian Omer Bartov denounced this genocidal rhetoric as having “clear intention of ethnic cleansing,” while a UN human rights panel warned that Israel’s actions raised “the risk of genocide in Gaza.”
Arab states that made peace with Israel are also warning that the Gaza campaign has gone too far. Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, speaking at the Manama Dialogue last weekend, emphasized the necessity of a “just and lasting peace” entailing both the establishment of a Palestinian state and security for Israel. “There must be no forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza, now or ever. There must be no reoccupation of Gaza. There must be no reduction in Gaza’s territory. And on the other side, there must be no terrorism directed from Gaza against the Israeli public. Those are the red lines,” he said.
Truth is inevitably the first casualty of war, but clumsy Israeli efforts to perpetuate untruths about the conflict serve only to trap Israel in permanent conflict.
Hamas and Hezbollah have also been guilty of exterminatory rhetoric, amid calls for a new era of “armed resistance.” Senior Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad vowed that the group would wipe out Israel and threatened to repeat the Oct. 7 atrocities. Such far-fetched macho bombast, at a time when Gaza citizens are being slaughtered, is routinely exploited to peddle the lie that “Palestinians are not interested in peace.”
Perpetrating genocide requires dehumanization of the victims. Hence comments by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant that “we are fighting human animals,” echoed by former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s “we’re fighting Nazis.”
The military war has run parallel with a comparably ferocious information war. Fake online content production has gone into overdrive on all sides, including nefarious parties such as Russia, China and Iran. Amid this sea of disinformation, it’s shocking how amateurish Israel-produced footage had been. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a video purportedly showing a Palestinian nurse condemning Hamas for taking over Al-Shifa hospital. However, observers quickly noted her strange Arabic accent, inauthentic visuals and sound effects, and the fact that the woman in question had never worked at the hospital. The ministry quickly removed the video in the face of mounting ridicule. Another video, supposedly depicting an Israeli girl tortured then burnt to death by Hamas militants, originated in Guatemala.
Israel already appears to be manufacturing clumsy fake videos to cover its failure to discover Hamas “command centers” among the labyrinthine corridors of Al-Shifa hospital. A BBC analysis found that the footage of a military spokesman discovering a bag containing a gun behind an MRI scanning machine had been recorded hours before the arrival of the journalists to whom he was supposedly showing it in real time. When the video was shown later, the number of guns in the bag had magically doubled.
Israel knows that failure to unearth Hamas infrastructure at Al-Shifa will fuel calls for war crimes charges for illegal invasion of hospitals containing thousands of patients who had been grievously injured by Israel’s own airstrikes on densely populated civilian areas. If Israel is calculatedly trying to make itself look as bad as possible, then this war has been an immense success.
Israeli disinformation has spawned an entirely new genre: Pallywood — horror movies generally feature blood-drenched screaming Palestinians being rushed to hospital in ambulances, alongside maimed babies with missing limbs. Each video inevitably ends with a camera cutaway revealing that the “victims” are actors and the babies are made-up dolls.
Who knows what such desperate nonsense seeks to achieve, when reliable statistics put the death toll at more than 13,000, at least 5,000 of whom are children – with thousands more buried under the rubble? The UN high commissioner for human rights estimated last week that 1 in every 57 Gaza residents had been killed or injured.
We traditionally expect Israeli propaganda and fake news to be slick, eloquent and convincing. Instead, Israel’s botched phony videos reek of panic and desperation, because they know they are calamitously losing the information battle as horrified global audiences witness the Gaza massacre playing out in real time.
Instead of a gratuitous land grab of the minuscule, impoverished, rubble-strewn Gaza Strip — which can only create lasting global enmity — Israel should seek peace and security within its actual borders, alongside a sovereign Palestinian state.
Truth is inevitably the first casualty of war, but clumsy Israeli efforts to perpetuate untruths about the conflict serve only to trap Israel in permanent conflict — ultimately jeopardizing the tenets of its own nation statehood.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.
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