On 28 December, Israel bombed a truck in Gaza, killing several bystanders. The Israeli army celebrated this strike by publishing video footage of it on its YouTube page.
It claimed the truck was being used by Hamas activists who were seen loading rockets onto it.
Subsequently, the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem looked into the incident. It quoted testimony from Ahmad Sanur, the truck owner.
He said his family had been salvaging material from a workshop he owned. The “rockets” being loaded onto the truck were in fact oxygen cylinders used for welding.
The Israeli video footage is just one part of a wider PR effort coordinated by a National Information Directorate. The propaganda offensive advanced a variety of claims that have become the basis for much of the media coverage of the attack on Gaza.
Reporting in the Observer on Sunday, Chris McGreal highlighted some of these claims. They include the notion that Israel had no choice but to attack, that it would only strike at the “infrastructure of terror”, and that if civilians died, it was because Hamas had concealed fighters and weapons among civilians.
All this has involved a stunning perversion of language. Israeli bombs in Gaza have struck houses, a university, a shopping centre, schools, ambulances, hospitals, police stations, parliament buildings and medical centres – all of which are apparently part of the “infrastructure of terror”.
Palestinian policemen, who have been explicitly targeted by Israeli bombs, apparently no longer count as civilians.
Australia’s ABC News last week reported that the United Nations (UN) figure for Palestinian civilian casualties – widely used by the media – did not include any adult Palestinian men. Media outlets did not alter their reporting of the figures as a result of this being pointed out.
Israel’s claim to be attacking only military targets can easily be undermined by quoting Israel’s explicitly acknowledged military strategy, known as the “Dahiya doctrine”. It is named after a suburb of Beirut destroyed with indiscriminate violence by Israel during the 2006 Lebanon war.
General Gadi Eisenkot spelled out the doctrine in an interview with Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
“What happened in the Dahiya quarter in Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired upon,” he said. “We will apply disproportionate force upon it and cause great damage and destruction there.
“From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved.”
Of course, this official Israeli policy of collective punishment has not been discussed at all in the Western media.
Israel’s propaganda trump card is the claim that Hamas refuses to engage in negotiations, rejects the elected government and fires rockets without provocation. Israel also claims that it was Hamas that broke a recent ceasefire, thereby mandating its attack on Gaza.
In fact, Hamas is the elected government of Palestine and it is Israel that has rejected peace. Since Hamas won the legislative elections of January 2006, Israel has worked tirelessly to destabilise the organisation.
It has armed Hamas’s rivals to pursue a civil war in the country. It has refused to recognise Hamas peace initiatives, including a unilateral ceasefire and an offer of a truce based on a two state settlement.
Israel also claimed that Hamas rocket fire was some kind of triumphant reaction to Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
Initially there was a dramatic drop in the use of such rockets, including ones fired across the border. Israel’s Major-General Yitzhak Ben-Yisrael pointed this out to rebut myths that were circulating that the Israeli pullout had “encouraged terror”.
The use of rockets increased dramatically during Israeli assaults. A typical example would be Israel’s June 2006 attacks that culminated in the killing of the Ghaliya family on a Gaza beach. This led to Hamas breaking its unilateral ceasefire.
The most recent ceasefire was negotiated in July and was to last for six months. But Israel refused to recognise its terms, maintaining a strict blockade on Gaza. Despite this, Hamas successfully restrained the rocket fire.
On 4 November, Israel decisively broke the truce by engaging in a bombing campaign and then tightening the siege of Gaza – malnutrition and poverty soared. Some families were reduced to eating grass to stay alive.
The Israeli press at the time understood all too well that this would produce a violent reaction.
Yet Hamas continued to be open to negotiation. In fact, according to a UN official, Israel attacked Gaza during a new 48-hour truce that Hamas had just negotiated.
If truth were told, the media would report that the peaceniks are almost all on the Palestinian side. If truth were told, we would know that the Palestinians just don’t have a partner for peace.
Richard Seymour runs the Lenin’s Tomb weblog at » leninology.blogspot.com and is the author of The Liberal Defence of Murder, available from Bookmarks, the socialist bookshop, phone 020 7637 1848 » www.bookmarksbookshop.co.uk