By Ray Hanania
Over the past six months, Israel has been regularly attacking Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Most of the incidents have been ignored by the Western mainstream news media. Only one of them created a problem for Israel, when its soldiers entered Jenin on May 11 and, during a firefight, shot and killed American-Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
Normally, when an American is killed, the US rallies to demand justice. In Abu Akleh’s case, the US hesitated, believing the propaganda from Israel’s military that she may have been killed by Palestinians. It took weeks for the US to grudgingly acknowledge that her death was “most likely” the result of Israeli gunfire.
As concerns surrounding that killing tapered off, Israel continued its assaults with very little media coverage. That was until two Israeli politicians — interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz — decided they needed to light a fire under their campaigns ahead of the November elections.
The government of Naftali Bennett, who last year ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s long reign, collapsed in June. Bennett turned over the reins to his former political partner, Lapid, who will lead the country until the elections are held. These new elections reflect the turmoil and uncertainty of Israeli politics, being the fifth to take place in just over three years. That is a lot of elections and a lot of uncertainty. And uncertainty in politics always creates opportunities for politicians to take great risks.
Israeli politics has always been the impetus for wars in Gaza. Lapid and Gantz must have realized that, in order to beat Netanyahu in the next election, they have to present themselves as being strong. And the easiest way for Israeli leaders to look strong is to turn their guns on the defenseless Palestinians who live under their oppressive apartheid rule.
As long as Israel has the support of the Western mainstream news media, it does not matter how hard the Israeli military assaults the Palestinians or even murders American citizens. It will always commit crimes with impunity.
So, Lapid and Gantz decided to attack Gaza and target a leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They used the usual propaganda, repeated by the media, that Israel had launched a “preemptive strike” on the group, claiming it was planning terrorist attacks.
During the days-long assault, which included missiles, fighter jets and drones, Israel killed 44 Palestinians, including 15 children. More than 360 people were wounded. But instead of portraying the war as one started by Israel, most news media outlets instead focused on the Palestinian defensive response of firing missiles back at Israel.
American officials and activists lamented how Palestinian Islamic Jihad was firing hundreds of missiles at Israel, causing poor Israeli civilians to run to their bomb shelters. Social media sites deleted many posts in which users argued that Israel had started the war.
In fact, in their usual determination to dominate the media and public relations spin, Israeli propagandists argued that, if Palestinian civilians died, it was as a result of failed missiles that landed on their own homes.
When that was not enough, Israelis tried to argue at the UN and around the world that civilians died because Palestinians used their children as human shields. And, when that did not work, they just shrugged. So what if Palestinian civilians are murdered? Why is that attitude any different from the attitude that put to sleep stories about Israel’s murder of Abu Akleh?
Pro-Israel talking heads were quick to dominate the media landscape with interviews, press releases, statements and social media posts that are never censored by Facebook or Twitter.
Sadly, the first victim of any Israeli preemptive strike is the truth. It is massacred and used as a human shield by Israel. They fire missiles into crowded Palestinian neighborhoods that were once refugee camps and hit tower blocks, producing striking images of buildings collapsing.
Israel’s propaganda, with the support of the mainstream news media, presents the dead as the cause of the conflict, while no one is held accountable in Israel. Only in Israel can you kill 44 civilians, including 15 children, and be portrayed as tough, strong leaders who should be voted in at the next election. But Lapid and Gantz can count on that, just as they can count on silence from the US.