Vietnam And Gaza: How Truth Will Change American Attitudes – OpEd


Israel has always had the upper hand both in violence and the propaganda war against the Palestinians, with the backing of Western politicians and a heavily slanted news media. 

Hamas attacked and reportedly killed 1,400 Israelis, including women and children, on Oct. 7. US politicians and media have denounced anyone who questions the Israeli version. 

In contrast, US politicians and media call claims that Israel has killed mostly civilians, Palestinian women and children, in Gaza “unverified.” Israel brushes off criticism of its destruction of civilian homes and businesses. 

The backlash in the US and the West, driven by this imbalanced media coverage, has given Israel an unchallenged mandate to continue its revenge carnage. Israeli civilian fatalities are shocking and reported without any challenge, while Palestinian civilian casualties are minimized and challenged. 

Sympathy for Israel in the West is exaggerated beyond facts and reality. 

No wonder recent polling shows Americans believe Israel is justified in its scorched-earth assault on the Gaza Strip, insensitive to the carnage, and willing to give Israel billions of dollars in military and “humanitarian” aid. 

Israeli leaders exploit this by calling Palestinians “animals” in their rhetoric. Politicians such as Nikki Haley are urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “finish them.”

Palestinians are dying as Israel’s “Lord of the Flies” reenactment fuels anger, hatred and more bias. 

It will not last forever, though. The truth always manages to get out. 

Israel has been killing Palestinians, destroying their homes, and stealing their land almost every week for the past two decades with barely any condemnation from US politicians or news media. 

The same poll showing Americans sympathizing with Israel — how could you not, given the exaggerated and imbalanced media? — also shows deep American sympathies for Palestinians. 

Eventually, Americans will see past the propaganda and the lies, and wake up to the ugly and harsh truth that the violence is a direct consequence of Israeli policies and actions. 

Why? Historically, Americans have shown that truth will impact their beliefs, and they will change, as they did during the Vietnam War. 

Like Israel’s war in Gaza, the Vietnam War was based on lies and carefully managed propaganda in the West. 

Americans feared a communist takeover of Vietnam would spread to other Southeast Asian nations and then to Europe, Africa and South America. It was called the “Domino Theory.” 

Lies and exaggerations were used to strengthen that unquestioned sentiment during the Vietnam War, just as they are in Israel’s war against the Palestinians. 

American attitudes began changing in 1969. Reports of carnage by US soldiers against the Vietnamese surfaced. Questions were raised about a critical incident in August 1964 that gave President Lyndon Johnson the mandate to launch a massive offensive. It began with a skirmish in the Gulf of Tonkin on Aug. 2, 1964. The USS Maddox, a destroyer, engaged in an exchange with three North Vietnamese navy torpedo boats.

Johnson used the incident to justify war. He eventually sent 500,000 soldiers to Vietnam and, like Israel, engaged in a scorched-earth policy to destroy communism (insert Hamas). 

The Vietnam War caused massive destruction and the killing of millions of civilians.

Despite suspicions that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie, it took years to expose. But the suspicions fueled distrust, and public concerns grew. 

The tipping point came in September 1969, 18 months after a US infantry unit massacred about 500 Vietnamese civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai (think Gaza City). Men, women, children and babies (think Gaza) were savagely killed that day on March 16, 1968. 

Suddenly, the news media began investigating other massacres and showcasing the carnage in TV reports. The TV videos shocked Americans, who thought everything was going their way. Charges were filed against 26 US soldiers, including C Company Platoon leader Lt. William Calley, Jr. 

In 1972, a photo was published of a 9-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, badly burnt by a napalm strike and running terrified down a trail. She was called the “Napalm Girl,” and the photographer who took the picture won the Pulitzer Prize. 

Another photo showed South Vietnamese Brig. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan putting a gun to the head of a Viet Cong prisoner and executing him. 

Americans wondered how these brutal horrors could take place. 

The Gulf of Tonkin attack, which justified the war, was eventually exposed as a lie. The My Lai massacre, photos such as the “Napalm Girl,” and the prisoner being executed showed how the US military was brutalizing civilians. It sparked protests and demonstrations across the US and on college campuses. 

Protesters against the war were called “communist sympathizers” and unpatriotic, just as those protesting against Israel’s violence are called “antisemitic.” 

Analysts years later said it was the increase in television video reporting, and photos of cruelty that showed Americans the truth and changed public attitudes. 

Eventually, Americans turned against the war. Overwhelmed by protests, Johnson decided not to run for reelection. His successor, Richard Nixon, fought an “awakened” news media and was forced to withdraw from Vietnam. He eventually resigned. 

The point is, you can hide the truth for a long time. But when it does come out, the public backlash can be furious. 

That is one reason Israel manipulates and controls media coverage in Gaza and is disabling their internet access. All you see on American TV are images of suffering Israeli women and children, and Israeli-provided military videos showing missile strikes destroying buildings. 

Images of Palestinian women and children being killed or pulled from the rubble of the destroyed buildings are rarely shown by American media. But they are there. And they are getting out on social media. 

When Americans see the truth, their feelings about Israel’s war crimes in Gaza will change, just as surely as when they saw the truth of war crimes in Vietnam. 

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected].

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