During the Nakba, Zionist forces bombed my village of Tarshiha in Operation Hiram, which sought to cleanse the upper Galilee of its Palestinian inhabitants. One fell on my grandfather’s home, killing over a dozen members of my family and injuring many others. My then 18-year-old great aunt Fatmeh was rescued from the rubble, but she was paralysed from the waist down.
Several decades later, when Fatmeh tried to sue the newly-established Israeli government for massacring nearly her entire family and maiming her for life, she was told it wasn’t the newly-established Israeli army that bombed her home, despite the fact that only Zionist forces were using aeroplanes in the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Even when in an effort to clear his own conscience the Israeli pilot – who later became an outspoken peacenik – publicly admitted to having bombed my village, the state continued to deny it. This lie was part of a much bigger one, one foundational to the Zionist state: that when the Zionists first began arriving in the late 19th century, the land of Palestine was more or less an empty desert bar a few uncivilised Arabs.
Since the lies of its foundation, the Israeli regime has poured massive resources into covering up its atrocious and inhumane violence towards the Palestinian people, whilst simultaneously boasting of promoting itself as having “the most “moral army in the world”. Indeed, as with all of its military operations, the Israeli regime’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza has been bolstered by an intense information war. How else to justify killing over 15,000 Palestinians, including more than 6,000 children, and destroying much of Gaza’s infrastructure?
The Israeli regime’s favoured tactics have included not only dehumanising rhetoric, but also doctored “evidence” and often barefaced lies. In 2022, it flatly denied that Israeli soldiers assassinated the well-known Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh and instead blamed Palestinian fighters. Palestinian eye witness testimonies, various videos and independent investigations refuted this. One year later, the Israeli regime quietly admitted that its soldiers had killed her. Since then, Israel has killed more journalists in a single month than in any conflict on record; Al Jazeera correspondent Wael el Dahdouh discovered his wife, son and daughter had been killed while live on air. The Israeli propaganda machine has simultaneously worked to try and brand Palestinian journalists in Gaza as Hamas mouthpieces, a claim which is not only untrue but also justifies their assassination.
One of the most egregious lies the Israeli regime has told throughout this military campaign is that it is doing everything it can to prevent civilian deaths. Yet the reality is that within a month, the equivalent of two Hiroshima bombs has been dropped on Gaza. Designated safe routes have been targeted, including convoys carrying some of the 1.1 million displaced. This is a regime that isn’t attempting to avoid killing civilians, but is intent on doing so.
It’s clear that language is a vital tool for oppressive regimes, not only for dehumanising the other but for turning reality on its head. Words such as “evacuation” and “safe routes” hide the reality of mass forced expulsion and death marches. They give the impression of a benevolent force rather than a genocidal regime. Calling everything “Hamas-run” gives the green light for bombing. So a school, hospital or factory becomes a legitimate target and any civilians become “collateral”. Israeli officials are now extending affiliations to Hamas to just about all infrastructure in Gaza – including UN facilities.
Until recently, the international community and its media have largely been eager to lap up and regurgitate the Israeli regime’s lies. However, we have now reached a stage in the genocide where the lies and doublespeak are so fantastical that even the mainstream media is no longer able to give them credence. The BBC, which routinely adopts dehumanising language when describing Palestinians, reported that the Israeli regime was manipulating evidence at the Al-Shifa hospital and implied a level of scepticism at what they were allowing journalists to see. Meanwhile, CNN’s Christiane Amanpour was lost for words when she learned directly from former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barack that it was Israel that built underground facilities at the Al Shifa hospital decades ago. Begging the question: what exactly was the Israeli army’s big reveal? Social media has also been an unforgiving place for the Israeli information war. In a matter of moments, falsified evidence has been ripped apart, as happened to the fake nurse video and infamous “terrorist schedule”.
Some may say it’s a good thing that the Israeli regime is losing the information war and that people are finally seeing through the lies. But the truth is, it’s over 15,000 dead Palestinians too late.
Yara Hawari is the Palestine policy fellow of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.