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UNRWA and Co: Netanyahu's war against the truth

by David Goessmann Monday, May. 13, 2024 at 10:12 PM

Journalists and Israel critics as Hamas accomplices. The Netanyahu government has also been very successful in spreading narratives that declare anyone who supports the Palestinians in Gaza with humanitarian aid, reports on their suffering & criticizes the actions of the Israeli government as Hamas accomplices, Hamas anti-Semites.

UNRWA and Co: Netanyahu's war against the truth

by David Goeßmann

[This article posted on 4/25/2024 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Israelis protest against Netanyahu's anti-democratic methods in Tel Aviv

No evidence of terror connection of the aid organization. It throws a spotlight on Western funding freeze. And on Israel's propaganda successes.

In January, Israel accused the Palestinian relief organization UNRWA of having links to terrorism. Although the accusations were unproven, important donor countries, including the USA and Germany, immediately stopped funding the most important humanitarian organization for the Gaza Strip.

Funds amounting to 450 million dollars were cut overnight, while many people died in the war zone.

UNRWA defamation and its deadly consequences

Three months later, the humanitarian situation has deteriorated further and the death toll has risen to over 34,000. In addition to the bombings, the collapse of health care, the lack of water and the increase in epidemics, an artificially induced famine has been created, in part by the cut in funding for UNRWA.

A thorough investigation by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, supported by three respected research institutes, has now revealed that Israel's accusations against the UN relief organization are not backed up by evidence. Israel has not yet been able to substantiate the allegations.

In response, Germany declared that it would soon resume its cooperation with and funding of UNRWA, which it had terminated, as Australia, Canada, Sweden, Japan and other countries had done previously. However, this will not make up for the humanitarian consequences and the loss of reputation for the aid organization.

The scandal surrounding Israel's defamation campaign and the irresponsible suspension of funding for the aid organization in the midst of a humanitarian crisis with its deadly consequences continues to be swept under the carpet in the West. They pretend that nothing has happened, while the Israeli narrative is being pushed to the fore as before, now in a weakened form (“problems with neutrality”).

Reaction to genocide complaint at the ICJ

The Netanyahu government's UNRWA accusations came almost immediately after the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) ruled in South Africa's lawsuit that Israel is “plausibly” committing genocide in Gaza and must take measures to protect the population.

Tel Aviv then accused twelve of the organization's 30,000 employees of being involved in the attacks on 7 October. Many editorial offices immediately jumped on the bandwagon and spread the news as if it were fact.

The campaign was very successful because politicians and the media in the USA and Europe played along to a large extent. The aim of the accusations was obvious: to distract attention from the growing criticism of Israel's actions in the Gaza Strip.

The Wall Street Journal eventually compiled a dossier and even claimed that ten percent of UNRWA were supporters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, based on statements made by Israel.

US media support Israel's hasbara campaigns

What was not said: The lead author of the article was a former Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier who had developed media strategies for the IDF to respond to criticism of Israel. After her identity was revealed, the author's tracks were covered and the WSJ blocked her Twitter account.

However, the UNRWA slur is just one aspect of the Netanyahu government's so-called Hasbara campaign in the wake of the now six-month-long assault on Gaza, aimed at distracting attention from the deaths of Palestinians and the brutalization of the war while building counter-narratives.

Hasbara is described in Israel as a public relations tool. It is used to explain and justify Israel's aggressive behavior towards the Palestinians in the West.

Above all, the Netanyahu information campaign attempted to dehumanize the Palestinians and inundate the public with a flood of false, unfounded and unverifiable allegations.

Hamas as bloodthirsty monsters

Jeremy Scahill from The Intercept has examined various accusations made by Israel in detail. He also shows how the US government in particular, as Israel's most important ally, adopted and spread the defamation, with the opinion-forming US media assisting them.

One of Israel's narratives, for example, was that the attackers of October 7 not only killed innocents, but were in fact monsters, bloodthirsty, sadistic gangs of terrorists.

Certainly what happened in the attack was horrific and criminal. But the Israeli government tried to exaggerate what happened with lies and unsubstantiated evidence. Benjamin Netanyahu said in a telephone conversation with US President Joe Biden on October 11:

'We were hit on Saturday by an attack the cruelty of which we have not seen since the Holocaust. ... They took dozens of children, tied them up, burned them and executed them. ... We have never seen such cruelty in the history of the state. They are even worse than ISIS and we must treat them as such.

40 babies killed, beheaded, hung on clotheslines

Israel's Defense Minister Joaw Gallant declared on October 9: “We are fighting human animals and we will act accordingly.” Many similar dehumanizations of Palestinians were subsequently uttered by Israeli government representatives and officials. At the same time, it was propagated that there were no civilians, no innocents in Gaza, although almost 50 percent of the inhabitants there are children and young people.

Three days after the attack, the Israeli military organized a tour for journalists through an affected kibbutz. IDF officials spread rumors that up to 40 babies had been murdered by Hamas and that some of them had been beheaded. The babies had been hung on clotheslines.

However, there is a problem with the harrowing tales, which The Intercept found in its research to be used as justification for Israel's indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza: They are either made up or have not been backed up with a scintilla of evidence. Many have been refuted by the major Israeli media.

There were no mass beheadings of babies afterward, no group executions in a nursery, no children hung on clotheslines, no infants put in ovens. No pregnant woman had her belly cut open and the fetus stabbed to death in front of her and her other children.

Biden government continues to spread rumors

According to the major Israeli media, which has worked relentlessly to identify all the victims of the October 7 attacks, one infant was killed that day: nine-month-old Mila Cohen, who was shot in Kibbutz Be'eri as her mother held her in her arms. Scahill states:

The stories are fictitious, a series of brazen lies used as a weapon to generate the kind of collective anger used to justify injustice.

Yet US President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken adopted the rumors of beheaded babies in their public statements, spreading them around the world and giving them authority, even after the White House had to explain that Biden had not seen any photos to that effect, as he had claimed.

The Hamas rape machine

Another hasbara campaign by Netanyahu has not yet been substantiated either. According to this, Hamas is said to have launched an operation to systematically rape Jewish women.

These accusations were spread immediately after the attack on October 7, especially by conservative media and politicians in Israel's supporting states. Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy eventually spoke of a “Hamas rape machine”.

“I say to the women's rights organizations, the human rights organizations, you've heard of the rape of Israeli women, of horrible atrocities, of sexual mutilation? Where the hell are you?” Netanyahu said in a speech in Tel Aviv on December 5.

Biden declared. “The world cannot look the other way.

No credible evidence so far

It is certainly very difficult to investigate allegations of rape, especially in wars where sexualized violence is common. Such allegations must be taken seriously and investigated.

But it was not just specific allegations that were made. Rather, it was claimed that organized mass rapes were a central part of an operation meticulously planned over years by Hamas and other Palestinian actors.

However, there is no credible evidence to support this allegation, as The Intercept notes. Military or rescue personnel who spoke of evidence of possible sexualized assaults said themselves that they had no forensic expertise.

On December 28, the New York Times published a story that immediately became top news, allegedly documenting a widespread campaign of sexual violence orchestrated by Hamas. This story was subjected to intense scrutiny, including within the Times editorial board.

It emerged that the newspaper appeared to be fabricating events. For example, the family of Gal Abdush, whose alleged rape was the focus of the Times article, disputed the article's claim that she had been raped. Other media pointed to inconsistencies in the story.

Journalists and Israel critics as Hamas accomplices

The Netanyahu government has also been very successful in spreading narratives that declare anyone who supports the Palestinians in Gaza with humanitarian aid, reports on their suffering and criticizes the actions of the Israeli government as Hamas accomplices, Hamas misunderstanders and anti-Semites.

Since Hamas had long since been turned into monsters with various stories, which were usually spread uncritically by the Western media (and could therefore act as a smear campaign), the “contact guilt” strategy worked all the more effectively with various hasbara offensives.

Journalists reporting from the Gaza Strip became Hamas accomplices (many of them were killed by the Israeli armed forces, despite being identified as representatives of the press). Aid convoys were attacked and rumors circulated that they were cooperating with Hamas. Hospitals were declared Hamas headquarters and bombed.

The strategy behind all the narratives, allegations and rumors is, as The Intercept puts it, hard to miss: Anyone who opposes Israel's war is anti-Semitic. Anyone who questions its claims about the events of October 7 is denying the Holocaust. Anyone who protests against the mass killing of Palestinian civilians is a Hamas stooge.

War against truth and Pyrrhic victories

This has worked in the USA and Germany. The anti-Semitism machine is running at full speed. Students at elite universities in the USA, artists, journalists and movements critical of Israel's war and occupation policies have been feeling the effects of this clearly all over Western countries for months.

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