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Why Israeli claims have no credibility outside of the West

While western societies were quick to believe Israeli propaganda about 7 October, much of the Arab and non-western world remains sceptical due to Israel's staggering record of lies
A woman holds a mock-up newspaper with a list of names of people killed in Gaza during a rally in support of Palestinians outside The New York Times building in New York City, US, on 9 November 2023 (Reuters)
A woman holds a mock-up newspaper with a list of names of people killed in Gaza during a rally in support of Palestine outside The New York Times building in New York City, US, on 9 November 2023 (Reuters)

Shortly after the Hamas offensive against Israel on 7 October, the Israeli propaganda machine went into high gear to implement its genocidal war in Gaza.

Ghoulish allegations of decapitated and burned babies, mass rape of women, and other unconfirmed crimes were widely disseminated to a white supremacist western world ready to believe any Israeli claim about the racially inferior Palestinians.

Acting as stenographers for the Israeli government, western mainstream media outlets immediately began reporting unsubstantiated claims as incontestable truth before quietly retracting many of them. President Joe Biden, meanwhile, continues to shamelessly propagate these libels as facts.

Israeli witnesses to the 7 October events testified that Israeli forces targeted and killed Israeli civilians and Hamas fighters alike. Israel later admitted to burning hundreds of people as it scaled down its initial death toll. Reports also indicated that Israeli shelling of Israeli homes and military bases caused Israeli military deaths, burned homes, and other destruction.

Yet such revelations did not dissuade the western media and governments from parroting Israel’s racist fabrications.

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All the “vaccines” (including western, Arab, and Israeli academic scholarship) available since the mid-1950s to inoculate western officials and mainstream journalists against the racism with which they hold Palestinians and other Arabs have proven ineffective and failed to stand up to the depths of their hatred.

While many accepted Israel’s purported death toll, the dominant sentiment in the Arab world found Israel's more outlandish claims hard to believe and most doubted their authenticity from the start. Hamas itself has denied targeting Israeli civilians.

But the scepticism among Arabs has nothing to do with some conscious or unconscious bias against the “Jewish” state. Israel’s notorious lack of credibility is the reason why most do not believe its claims.

'Staggering' record of lies

Since 1948, Israel has accumulated a staggering record of lies, myths, and fabrications - just as the Zionist movement has done since its birth. Over the last 75 years, Arab and European researchers worked extensively to debunk these lies. Since the mid-1980s, Israeli historians have also exposed Israel’s fabrications through its own official state and military archives.

Israel’s biggest lie of all is its very foundation, which rested on the major Zionist crime of ethnic cleansing. Between 30 November 1947 and 14 May 1948, when colonists declared the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionists expelled 400,000 Palestinians from their homes and 350,000 more by December 1948.

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During their war of ethnic cleansing, Zionist gangs committed dozens of massacres and a slew of violent crimes, including the rape of Palestinian women and girls. Yet despite all evidence to the contrary, Israel and its propagandists continue to insist that Palestinians were not expelled and had left of their own accord.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Israeli government further claimed that Palestinians self-expelled in response to radio broadcasts and orders from neighbouring Arab leaders. The Palestinians were allegedly instructed to leave Palestine so that the Arab armies could intervene and drive out the colonising Jews.

Since 1967, Israel has held the entire Palestinian people who live in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem hostage

However, considerable research from that period on has shown that no such radio broadcasts were ever made, while actual broadcasts called on the Palestinians to remain steadfast on their lands rather than leave them. The Israeli fabricators were ultimately unable to produce a single broadcast to prove their propaganda, which they hoped would exonerate them from the war crime of ethnic cleansing.

Indeed, it was Zionist radio broadcasts that urged the Palestinians to leave through lies and manipulation, including psychological warfare to induce panic among Palestinians with stories of the spread of disease.

The enduring official Israeli lie that Zionists had no intention of expelling Palestinians from their lands extends to the early years of the Zionist movement.

In 1923, the Palestinians protested to the British that the Zionists wanted to steal their country and expel them, a concern that Herbert Samuel, the British Jewish high commissioner of Palestine, dismissed as baseless. In his meetings with the British government, Samuel dissimulated that Arab opposition to Zionism was based on a “misunderstanding” of its goals and that responsible Zionist leaders did not intend to confiscate Arab lands or flood the country with Jewish immigrants.

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That the majority of those who live in Gaza today are themselves, or descendants of, Palestinians expelled in 1948 is hardly irrelevant to Israel’s current demand that they self-expel to the Egyptian Sinai or face annihilation.

The irony of this recent ethnic cleansing scheme is that the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 194 (III) in December 1948, demanding that Israel repatriate the Palestinians it expelled. The resolution is reaffirmed annually and is one of dozens of resolutions of which Israel remains in violation.

This is the crux of Israel’s ongoing slaughter in Gaza and the West Bank.

The United Nations and its officials who are beholden to US control and diktat have not dared demand that if Palestinians in Gaza must go somewhere then they should be permitted to return to their lands and homes inside Israel, as international law and UN resolutions demand.

Neither Antonio Guterres nor any of his minions have dared make such a demand or hold Israel accountable to UN resolutions. It was only Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who in response to Israeli, European, and US pressure to allow Israel to expel the Palestinians to Egypt, suggested that Israel should move them within its own territory to the Naqab desert.

Taking hostages

One of Israel’s many lies after 1967 was that it was holding the occupied Palestinian territories and their Palestinian population hostage until the “Arabs” agreed to recognise and make peace deals with it. Only then would it return the territories and set the Palestinian population it held hostage free.

This has been encapsulated in the Israeli and US formula of “land for peace”. Given the spectacular lies that Israel peddles regularly, hardly anyone (including the Palestinian Authority and other Arab leaders who pretend to believe them), except the truly gullible, ever bought these claims.

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The practice of taking civilians hostage to bargain for the release of prisoners is indeed an Israeli innovation. In December 1954, Israeli fighter jets hijacked a Syrian civilian airliner in order to capture hostages to exchange for four Israeli soldiers who were captured in Syria after they infiltrated the border days earlier.

In his diary, Moshe Sharett, the Israeli prime minister at the time, stated that the US State Department informed him that “our action was without precedent in the history of international practice”.

With Syria’s refusal and international condemnation of Israel preventing any exchange, Israel launched a raid on Syria a year later, in December 1955, killing 56 Syrians, including three women, and abducting 30 Syrians as hostages to exchange for the four Israeli soldiers.

The US was “shocked” by Israel’s criminality and backed a strong UN resolution that condemned Israel’s violation of the armistice line. The Syrians finally agreed to the exchange in March 1956.

While civilian hostage-taking is an illegal act, western attempts to frame the Palestinians as “barbarous” for having carried it out while ignoring Israeli crimes is part and parcel of the ongoing propaganda.

The “civilised” Israelis not only introduced the practice but have in their dungeons upwards of 9,000 abducted Palestinians (including 85 women and 350 children, 180 of whom have just been released in the latest exchange). More than 3,290 of them, including hundreds of women and children, were abducted by Israel from the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 7 October alone.

Since 1967, Israel has held the entire Palestinian people who live in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem hostage. Since 2006, it incarcerated those in Gaza in the largest open-air prison in the world and is now slaughtering them unless they agree to self-expel.

The West’s condemnation of Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Israel and most western powers, for taking Israeli civilians hostage (whose number is minuscule compared to the Palestinian civilians abducted by Israel both before and since 7 October) reaffirms the utter hypocrisy of the “universal” values of this racist liberal West.

Reasonable demands

If anything, it is the Americans, the Brits, and the Europeans who should order their own nationals, as illegal colonial settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to vacate the occupied territories and repatriate to their mother countries.

In 2017, it was estimated that about 65,000 US citizens were colonial settlers in the West Bank alone (15 percent of the total settler population at the time), not counting East Jerusalem. They constitute almost a third of the 200,000 American settlers living in Israel and the occupied territories. Many among them consider themselves “liberal,” and “left-wing” and are educated professionals.

The Israeli government has peddled a stream of lies both about the Palestinian people and the 'democratic' nature of its own Jewish supremacist colonial state since 1948

The fact that at least one million Israeli Jews hold European and US nationalities should impel the US and European countries to invite them back to their home countries to ensure their safety and so that they can make room for the indigenous Palestinians of Gaza, whom their colonisation had displaced in the first place, to return to their original homes and lands in accordance with international law and UN resolutions.

No Arab leader, let alone the Palestinian Authority, would dare make such demands, whether in public or private, to the Americans and Europeans. Yet these reasonable demands, which are in line with international legitimacy, could contribute to ending Israel’s belligerent insistence on maintaining Jewish supremacy and settler-colonialism in the land of the Palestinians.

The scale of Israel’s savagery since 7 October has superseded its previous barbaric wars. The Zionist onslaught in 1947-1948 to conquer Palestine killed upwards of 13,000 Palestinians, more than 11,000 of whom were civilians (not counting the 3700 Arab soldiers and irregulars who were killed). The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 killed upwards of 18,000 Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.

Israel’s ongoing genocidal war on Gaza has killed so far upwards of 20,000 Palestinian civilians (more than 15,000 confirmed dead, including 6,150 children and 4,000 women, and more than 7000 missing under the rubble), far surpassing its previous carnage.

The Israeli government has peddled a stream of lies both about the Palestinian people and the “democratic” nature of its own Jewish supremacist colonial state since 1948.

Still, no matter how much its lies are regularly exposed, Israel proceeds with its propaganda unhindered by facts, certain that its fabrications are always credible to Israelis and westerners because they are sustained by anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and anti-Muslim racism.

It is outside the West and especially in the Arab and Muslim worlds that Israel’s racist propaganda has no credibility whatsoever, nor should it.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Joseph Massad is professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, New York. He is the author of many books and academic and journalistic articles. His books include Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan; Desiring Arabs; The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians, and most recently Islam in Liberalism. His books and articles have been translated into a dozen languages.
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