Israel and the Big Lie
There is arguably no modern state that more shamelessly employs the propaganda
technique of the Big Lie than Israel. Since July 6, Israel has been deploying
its military forces in an operation to reoccupy Northern Gaza, killing dozens
of Palestinians, including civilians, and injuring many more.
Tanks have rolled into the northern town of Beit Lahiya, bulldozing land, trees
and houses. Some local residents have fled. Others hide in fear. One told the
BBC, “We are living in a war. Everything is targeted by the Army...Because
of the tanks, it is too dangerous to move. I didn’t go to work today.
I counted 30 tanks moving in overnight, divided into two groups. They were covered
by helicopters. They killed two civilians this morning.”
Israel has sought to justify the latest escalation in its assault on Gaza as
a necessary measure to create a “buffer zone” following a July 5
Qassam rocket attack on the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon.
The rocket hit the parking lot of a high school, which was empty at the time,
causing light damage but no injuries. The Israeli government and media immediately
portrayed this event as a major act of aggression by the Palestinians.
The rocket had exploded 10 kilometers from the border with the Gaza Strip,
the furthest penetration yet, and showed that the lives of scores of Israeli
citizens were now being threatened, it was claimed. The furor intensified later
after a second rocket hit a sports field.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert issued a stream of apocalyptic threats.
The rocket attack, he declared, was “an escalation of unprecedented gravity,”
a “major escalation in the war of terror that the Hamas organization is
responsible for,” and an “attempt meant to harm Israeli civilians
that live within the sovereign borders of Israel” that would “have
far-reaching consequences.” Israel would not “hold back or limit
ourselves” in its retaliatory actions.
An emergency cabinet meeting was convened, which authorized Olmert and Defense
Minister and Labour Party leader Amir Peretz “to continue [their] preparations
for prolonged and graduated security activity... with emphasis on striking at
institutions and infrastructures that serve terrorism” and “reducing
terrorists’ freedom of movement by continuing to section off the Gaza
Zeev Boim, a senior minister in the Security Cabinet, threatened, “As
far as I’m concerned, the people of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya can start
The tone of many media commentators was just as bellicose. The worst culprit
was Zeev Schiff, military analyst for the Labour Party-oriented Haaretz, who
described the rocket attack on Ashkelon as “an unequivocal Hamas invitation
As Goebbels famously insisted, the art of propaganda is to issue a “lie
big” and “stick to it.” There is no bigger lie than turning
reality on its head. To claim that Israel is responding to Palestinian aggression
requires more than a gross exaggeration of the threat posed by the crude rockets
possessed by Hamas. It means ignoring everything that went on before Tuesday
Israel has been waging an unequal and increasingly bloody campaign against
the Palestinians since it first invaded Southern Gaza on June 28 on the pretext
of securing the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. The rocket attack on Ashkalon
came after a week in which Israel had made clear it intended to bring about
the downfall of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority and inflict collective punishment
on the Palestinians in order to end all resistance to Olmert’s plan to
annex close to half of the West Bank.
The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have rounded up eight Hamas ministers, fully
one-third of the Palestinian cabinet, and nearly two dozen lawmakers in the
West Bank. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres has said they will be put on trial
The IDF have twice bombed the offices of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and threatened
to assassinate Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal and others exiled in Damascus.
Israeli jets last week buzzed the palace of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus
and Olmert has threatened military reprisals against Syria.
Thousands of well-armed troops have been massed against an impoverished people
and militants possessing little more than rifles, who are reduced to threatening
suicide bomb attacks against tanks.
Israel mounts daily air attacks on Gaza’s already decrepit infrastructure,
destroying roads, bridges and its only power plant. With the aid of Egypt, it
has sealed all the borders to prevent anyone from seeking respite from the collective
punishment of the civilian population.
One resident in the Nuseirat refugee camp, in the centre of the Gaza Strip,
told the BBC of the humanitarian disaster now looming. Mahmoud Mughari, 40,
said, “A week ago we had electricity all the time, now it is just eight
hours a day. Before, we had water two days in three, now it is four hours once
every three days.... I am worried for the children, worried about disease.”
Speaking of Israel’s use of low-flying war planes to set off sonic booms,
he added, “The smaller children do not understand that the sonic booms
are just noise. My four-year-old daughter Mai thinks it’s an explosion
and wakes up screaming, running into my room.”
These are actions that genuinely constitute an “unequivocal invitation
to war”—an illegal war of aggression waged by a regime that cynically
portrays itself as the victim.
Israel has one advantage not enjoyed by previous regimes, such as the Nazis,
which employed the Big Lie as a centerpiece of their foreign policy: its lies
are treated as good coin by the United States and the European powers. Washington
was, as usual, able to block a resolution in the United Nations Security Council
condemning Israel’s incursion into Gaza by using its veto power. But it
could not quash a resolution condemning Israel’s collective punishment
of the Palestinians from being moved at the recently formed United Nations Human
The resolution, which was brought by Islamic states, expressed “grave
concern at the violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people caused
by the Israeli occupation, including the current extensive Israeli military
It urged “Israel, the occupying power, to immediately release the arrested
Palestinian ministers... and all other arrested Palestinian civilians”
and called “for a negotiated solution to the current crisis.”
Twenty-nine of the council’s 47 member states backed the resolution,
11 voted against, five abstained and two members were absent. Those opposing
the resolution included Britain, France and Germany.
The US representative to the UN in Geneva, Warren Tichenor, called the resolution
“an unbalanced effort to single out and focus on Israel alone.”
The European states justified their opposition to the resolution with similar
claims that it was unbalanced. This is despite amendments calling on “all
concerned parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law and
to refrain from violence against civilians” and for both sides to “treat
under all circumstances all detained combatants and civilians in accordance
with the Geneva Conventions.”
The European Union has issued a statement condemning “the loss of lives
caused by disproportionate use of force by the Israeli Defence Forces and the
humanitarian crisis it has aggravated.” But their performance in the United
Nations makes abundantly clear that, when it comes to the crunch, none of the
European powers will do anything that might risk antagonising Washington—the
real sponsor of Israel’s war crimes.
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