When Hamas launched a violent attack on Israel on Saturday, Oct. 7, it came as a shock to the civilized world. It was a brazen move by the terrorist group, which had been planning this fierce offensive for years, if not decades. The method, speed, and effectiveness of the assault – which took place on Simchat Torah, or “Joy of the Torah” – caught the Jewish state completely off-guard. However, the militant group had more up its sleeve than barbarous terrorists seeking to rape, murder, and pillage. It had a worldwide civilian army ready to prosecute its war in the hearts and minds of the public. This Hamas propaganda may be Israel’s most imposing challenge in the days ahead.
Not even a week passed before Hamas called for its “Day of Rage,” and oddly, even shockingly, thousands of pro-Palestinian defenders obliged. They covered all the US hot spots, from Ivy League campuses to Times Square and other high-profile urban locations well-suited to the 24-hour-cable-news crews. They proudly waved the Palestinian flag – which appeared to be manufactured by the dozens out of nowhere – exuberantly chanted their anti-Israel messages, and carried professionally printed placards hot off the press.
“Today’s war is four-dimensional. It is a combination of military, economic, political, and propaganda pressure against the enemy,” suggests Historians.org. “An appeal to force alone is not regarded as enough, in the twentieth century, to win final and lasting victory.” Although these are early days in the Israeli War with Hamas, the terrorists have thus far been following this methodology.
By Wednesday, Oct. 19, Pro-Palestinian Jews even made it inside the halls of democracy by protesting inside the Cannon House Office Building Rotunda on Capitol Hill. Their shiny new posters read: “Jews say ceasefire now!” Hamas marshaled its civilian army, which seemed only too happy to oblige. Older Americans were shaken by the strident anti-Semitism shown by so many young people who had taken up the Palestinian cause. Everyone appeared stunned. Even the stalwart leftists working in the legacy press could not compute the spectacle: everyone except Hamas. This was all part of its grand plan.
Hamas Propaganda – No Laughing Matter
Hamas has learned a lot since the bygone days of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its head terrorist, Yasir Arafat, who lived like an Arab Sheikh while his people were starving and languishing in squalor. Americans remember the heyday of Saturday Night Live when Jon Lovitz played Arafat with side-splitting humor alongside Dennis Miller on SNL’s Weekend Update. But today’s Hamas is not yesterday’s PLO, and the propaganda war they are waging is no laughing matter.
Propaganda aims to twist the truth, purposefully commit errors of omission, and ratchet up emotionalism to a fever pitch – and it’s as old as the Bible. The Behistun Inscription (520-518 BC) was carved in stone on behalf of Persia’s Darius the Great and is “the earliest known example of political propaganda,” according to multiple sources. In Darius’ case, he was bragging in granite about his right to the Persian throne.
Hamas’ propaganda is much more insidious. It aims to convince those who don’t know history that the Jews stole their land from the Palestinian people. As an article in Aljazeera – of all places – stated, “The last thing that matters in any propaganda operation is whether there is any truth in it.”
Propaganda & the Press
Propaganda was alive and well long before the printing press, the cathode ray tube, or the advent of the internet. It might best be known as the most effective counter-offensive tool in wartime. Here are just a few instances of the Hamas propaganda war in effect:
- Israel releases pictures of slaughtered and beheaded babies – atrocities they say were committed by Hamas – and the terrorists counter that this is nothing but fake news.
- The Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City is hit, and the Hamas propaganda machine immediately puts the word out that the deadly deed was perpetrated by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). Although most American media outlets found an errant rocket launched by Hamas was to blame, the damage had already been done, and protests erupted from the pro-Palestinian faction. Video of angry Pakistanis and Yemenis burning the US flag aired on a loop on the hungry monster of 24-hour cable TV news. Video of Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) screaming and crying into an over-modulated microphone, maintaining with certainty that the IDF committed the dastardly deed, is played ad nauseam.
- In perhaps the most profound of propaganda moves, two American hostages are released by the Hamas terrorists. This “good news” is welcomed by the US as Hamas tries to deflect its violent acts and remake itself in the image of a victim nation simply seeking freedom from its oppressors.
The leftist press finds itself in a conundrum. Calling out anti-Semites used to carry a certain cachet. Now, the media are being asked to do an about-face and claim the Jews are the real problem. Persecuting the Jews, after all, has gained popularity from time to time throughout history. One can only imagine the sticky wicket editors in newsrooms are finding themselves in these days.
The Pro-Palestinian Cause Is Still Small in the US, But …
A Harvard CAPS/Harris poll released on Oct. 20 reveals “Israel receives overwhelming support from Americans: 84% of voters support Israel over Hamas, and 88% believe Israel has a right to respond militarily against Hamas.” However, they also found that the fault lines of support for Israel and Palestinians do not occur along party positions but rather in generational attitudes. While “70% of voters think Israel should eliminate Hamas,” 82% of those were in the age group 65+, while only 48% of 18–24-year-olds side with the Jewish state.
An even more enlightening part of the survey found “significant numbers of young voters have their own facts” and are buying the Hamas propaganda. Forty-five percent of those 18-24 think Israel caused the hospital explosion, while only 13% of those 65+ believe it was a “terrorist rocket that went off-course.” A similar generational split “think it is a false story that Hamas terrorists killed 1200 Israeli civilians by shooting, raping and beheading people,” according to the poll.
At its core, propaganda is rife with phony facts and creates a more volatile environment during times of war. Those who are susceptible to its wiles become capable of committing horrific atrocities. One can only hope Americans will be able to sort fact from fiction, truth from lies, and not fall for the propaganda of the modern Hamas terrorist machine.