While talking about the war in Ukraine, former US President George W. Bush made a telling slip of the tongue. “The decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq… I mean, of Ukraine,” said Bush, who then joked: “Iraq too, anyway…” This was illustrative of how decisions are taken lightly even though they affect millions of people.
Two decades ago, the US claim that Saddam Hussain had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq was not easily verifiable. Still, a majority within the international community went with it because the intelligence of the world’s most powerful military establishment was supposed to mean something. The then US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, made a notorious speech at the UN, calmly listing his evidence-free claims. It took years for this lie to be exposed.
Today, the Israeli ambassador to the UN is not as calm as Powell. He was furious because the international community didn’t take his denial of the mass casualties of Gazan civilians at face value. Gilad Erdan was also outraged by the lack of acceptance of the Israeli narrative of what happened after 7 October.
The failure to endorse the Israeli version of versions is due primarily to its irremediable contradiction of the truth. For three weeks now, Israel’s hasbara — propaganda — has been mired with clear fallacies and paradoxes. For example, the World Health Organisation (WHO) rebuffed Israel’s claim that it had ordered the evacuation of Al-Ahli Hospital before it was bombed. The WHO described the Israeli demand to evacuate hospitals as a “death sentence for the sick and injured.” At the same time, Human Rights Watch reported that Israel used white phosphorus bombs against Palestinian hospitals. In other words, Israel’s bombing of a hospital was routine, which underlines the self-styled Jewish State’s disregard for human life.
The bombing of Al-Ahli and the ongoing massacres of civilians by the Israeli armed forces have been met with global outrage. Israeli officials tried to deflect the blame, accusing the Palestinian resistance of being behind the hospital bombing. A recording was released implicating Palestinian groups, but when this was shown to be a fake, Israel deleted the social media post and uploaded a new version. This was not the only post subsequently deleted by Israeli officials. Observers knew that the Palestinian resistance organisations did not possess a bomb of such power, and subsequent evidence showed that Israel carried out the hospital attack.
Nevertheless, leading mainstream media in the West started shifting the narrative and published reports justifying the killing of civilians. These attempts come straight from the Israeli propaganda playbook. Benjamin Netanyahu’s official X account posted a video supposedly showing a Hamas facility under Gaza’s largest medical complex, Al-Shifa Hospital. The only evidence in this video, which defies logic, is some animation produced by Israeli graphic designers. It was a blatant attempt to legitimise a possible attack on the hospital.
Before all of this, of course, we heard claims about 40 babies beheaded by Hamas. US President Joe Biden repeated this claim, although the White House then retracted the statements. Aside from the fact that no concrete evidence was presented, Israeli military officials themselves denied it. Still, Israeli officials repeated the claim unashamedly.
Moreover, despite the blackout in the mainstream media and censorship on social media, the world watches a daily flow of footage of slaughtered children and other innocent civilians. To further obfuscate the truth, the US president then stated that the Gaza health ministry’s data is unreliable, because it is a Hamas-run ministry. The White House hopes to cast doubt on the source of information and, therefore, discredit the casualty figures. In response, the ministry released a list of all of the names of the Palestinians who have been killed by Israeli bombs in the latest line of massacres.
Paradoxically, serious allegations have emerged that Israeli forces were responsible for a significant number of the deaths of their own citizens, soldiers and civilians alike, on 7 October. Witness testimonies published in the immediate aftermath of the events suggested that Israeli forces used fighter jets and tanks to strike buildings where hostages were being held.
It should be pointed out that this failed propaganda does not prevent Israel from slaughtering hundreds of innocent Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank daily. And that most European countries and the US are in sync with the Israeli narrative. In other words, it can be said that for many important decision-makers, Israel’s propaganda has been successful.
However, if one looks at the crowds of protesters on the streets of London, Istanbul, Cairo or Mumbai, and the French and Germans who took to the streets despite government bans on pro-Palestine demonstrations, significant segments of the world population are not convinced by the dominant narrative. There is very little support for the genocide taking place in front of our eyes.
Two main factors underpin the propaganda failure. First, Israel is trying to present a fiction about everyday life that we can all see. This is a much more demanding PR effort than proving that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. It is important to recognise that emerging technology not only supports state surveillance and intelligence activities, but also gives people worldwide considerable power to discover the truth. Thus, while it took years to debunk Iraqi WMD claims, Israel’s propaganda machine is being exposed in days, sometimes hours and sometimes even in minutes.
In this respect, the tension in the world goes far beyond the rivalry between the US and Iran, Russia and the Western bloc. Millions of people, including in the West, are not buying the narrative of the dominant powers of the global north.
Meanwhile, Western leaders are unable to come up with any viable and believable rationale for their blind endorsement of Israel. The credibility loss extends way beyond the battle for hearts and minds. Many believe that Western civilisation’s centuries-old dominance is unravelling quicker than expected because of Israel’s ongoing genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza.
This article originally appeared in the opinion section of the website Middle East Monitor.