Home Featured Oppression Unmasked: Is Israel’s Narrative Falling Apart?

Oppression Unmasked: Is Israel’s Narrative Falling Apart?

by Zahid Jadwat

Social media is hindering Israel’s narrative. [Picture: SETA]


What happened in Palestine this week was aggression. It was not retaliation, there were no clashes, it was not provocation. Neither was it self defence. It was terrorism. It was aggression while the cameras were tucked away.

Every Ramadan, it seems the Israelis have a big circle around Masjid Al-Aqsa, to put it the way Dr Yvonne Ridley put it in a recent discussion. Islam’s third-holiest site becomes the target of an apartheid state that has consistently gripped control of the narrative. But that control is slowly slipping from their hands as the world begins to see what is actually going on in Palestine.

Through the shaky lenses of worshippers who came under attack by police armed to the teeth in the dead of night earlier this week, the world watched in horror (or simply ignored) as Israeli forces demeaned the sanctity of a religious site. Sparks flew, gas filled the rooms and the elderly crouched and cried.

Israeli forces had stormed the mosque in Ramadan, fired stun grenades and beat civilians with batons. They then dragged them off to detention for no crime other than worship.

Israel’s frequent attacks on worshippers – termed ‘clashes’ by western media – often provoke a swell of support from Palestinians in other parts of the fragmented nation. Quickly, Israeli propagandists tell the world a story of terrorism. This conveniently hides the brute force routinely meted out to ordinary Palestinians who want no more than the right of statehood in their own land, the land of their forefathers and the only place they’ve ever called home.


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Israel’s concocted narrative

Israel has long enjoyed overwhelming support in western countries, the very same countries that claim to be in love with that beautiful thing called democracy. Yet this very support, from the same people who fought wars to dethrone fascism in Germany, has allowed for the unprecedented – read illegal – expansion of Israel, an apartheid state.

When their news anchors appear on prime time TV, dolled up, they are eager to report the self-defence of Palestinians as acts of terrorism. The narrative quickly becomes one of dutiful Israeli soldiers, armed with the very best ammunition, fending off “attacks” from “terrorist” Palestinians whose only weapon is a stone.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it,” Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany’s propaganda minister, is believed to have said, “people will eventually come to believe it”. Whether he actually said it or not is irrelevant to the message that indoctrination, brainwashing and propaganda can go a long way in maintaining a false truth.

While this pro-Israel narrative has long been recognised by human rights groups, activists and the odd official in the West, it slips almost unnoticed in the South African media landscape. Yes, the same country that had once fought off the same aggression that afflicts Palestinians.

They claim to want to present ‘balanced’ reportage, but could not make a greater mockery of impartiality. Their choice of diction – words like “killed” when there’s an Israeli casualty and “died” when a Palestinian succumbs to his wound, “clash” when worshippers are indiscriminately beaten, “terrorist” when somebody defends his homeland – speak volumes about what this ‘balance’ actually means.

It also presupposes that the playing fields of this engineered war, this genocide and these massacres, are level. They are not. You cannot compare the might of a civilian standing in the way of an illegal settler who is backed by armed soldiers. Likewise, you cannot agree that the Palestinians have a fair chance against their oppressors.

Said South Africa foreign minister, Naledi Pandor, when addressing criticism of South Africa’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “I think this notion of international rules is very comfortable for some people to use when it suits them, but they don’t believe in international rules when it doesn’t suit them. They don’t apply international rules or norms equally in all circumstances”.

Describing it as “peculiar” that people would suddenly be up in arms about atrocities in Ukraine yet remain silent on the daily infringements of Palestinian sovereignty, she continued, “You can’t say because Ukraine has been invaded, suddenly sovereignty is important but it was never important for Palestine”.

Pandor’s statement might be defending her country’s controversial position on the similarly illegal war in Ukraine, but the message she sends across lays bare a double standard that the media is generally unhappy to speak about. It must be heeded and we must learn to treat all atrocities equally.


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Signs of change

Israel’s narrative that it is the sole democracy in the Middle East may have been upheld for decades, perpetuated and reinforced by a media so bedazzled by impartiality. But there are signs the apartheid regime is losing its grip on this carefully curated narrative. There are several signs to indicate this may be the case.

For one, social media has changed things. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok have chipped away at the dominance of mainstream media. Thanks to ever-advancing algorithms, the stories of ordinary Palestinians have been parachuted into the limelight. Likewise have the atrocities of Israel been presented to the world.

While Western media may have underplayed the situation in occupied Palestine, young activists shared the true extent of Israel’s murder frenzies to their increasing followers on these platforms during the 2021 war, which claimed 256 lives in Gaza and injured thousands more.

The cry of a distressed mother whose two-year old is trapped under a pile of rubble, or the sparks of gunfire in a sacred space during a holy month like Ramadan, is hard to ignore. With exposure to these disturbing scenes, the truth begins to awaken within every one of us, as far away as we may be from the holy lands. Israel’s narrative is falling apart.

And when the truth awakens after decades of being trampled by a machine of propaganda, it rises and spreads beyond the reach of its oppressor. It becomes irresistible to anyone who would open their eyes and ears. It becomes a force to be reckoned with. Oh devotees of human rights and democracy!

We should be cautiously optimistic, though, because social media is a double-edged sword. It can promote the truth of what is happening in Palestine, but it can also advance Israel’s propaganda and lies.

Your TV screen tells you one thing, the newspapers read another and eyewitness accounts fresh out of the Al Aqsa compound tell you something else. Which will you believe?

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