Israel launched its genocidal bombing of civilians in the Gaza Strip on a false narrative backed by the US and its other Western allies. This narrative claimed that Palestinians killed innocent Israelis, decapitated children and raped women when Hamas broke out of the besieged enclave and attacked military positions and settlements near the nominal border. The lies have been repeated by Israel’s friends and in some cases, notably by the White House, withdrawn.
The latter withdrew US President Joe Biden’s remarks about raping women and decapitating children because there was no evidence to support them. Several foreign journalists who visited the Jewish communities near Gaza also refuted the Israeli allegations. One Israeli journalist told me that he visited the targeted areas to look for evidence about the alleged atrocities, but he did not find any.
A few days after the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, several Israelis from those communities spoke to the media about the Palestinian resistance fighters. They contradicted the official narrative by pointing out that the Palestinians were “nice” and tried not to harm them, even when the Israeli army counter-attacked. One lady pointed out that the Israeli forces shot and killed everyone in at least one of the border communities at the time, Palestinians as well as Israelis.
In order to avoid such embarrassing — for the Israelis and their allies —testimonies getting a wider audience, the US has prevented the two American citizens who were released by the Palestinian resistance groups from speaking to the press.
The Israeli authorities were not so quick off the mark with elderly Israeli woman Yocheved Livschitz, also released by the Palestinians, who told the media how she had been treated “very nicely” by the hostage-takers. “When we arrived in Gaza, they initially told us that they believed in the Quran and would not harm us. They said they would treat us like they treated those around them. We were under strict guard,” she told journalists. “Paramedics and a doctor came and ensured the availability of our regular medication. They were very interested in our health. We had an attached doctor who would come every two or three days to check on us. They were very responsible and made sure to bring the medications. If there were no identical medications, they provided equivalent ones.”
She added that the Palestinians were very kind and made sure that the hostages ate well. “We ate the same food as them. We were treated well, and they paid attention to every detail. They had women with us who understood feminine hygiene and made sure we had everything… They prepared everything we needed, including shampoo and body conditioner.”
Livschitz blamed the Israeli occupation authorities for the misery of the residents of the Jewish communities near Gaza. “The inefficiency of the army and the intelligence services harmed us greatly. We were a scapegoat for the government.”
These remarks prompted Israeli extremists to heckle her and push her to cut short her speech to the press. But when a reporter asked why she shook hands with the Hamas fighters when they released her, Livschitz replied: “Because they treated us very nicely.”
Israeli officials know that the truth damages their false narrative, and were angered by the elderly lady’s remarks. Israeli Radio reported officials as saying that allowing her to speak to the media was “a mistake”. It was noted that the US had prevented its two freed citizens from speaking to the press. “Why,” asked a radio presenter, “does Israel not prevent the two Israeli women who were released from Gaza from speaking to the press in order not to harm the official narrative?”
As if on cue, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office issued an official order on Tuesday banning Livschitz from speaking to the press again in order to stop the sentiment shifting from pro-to anti-Israel around the world.
Opposition leader and former journalist Yair Lapid was less subtle. He called on journalists to lie, because “truth harms the Israeli narrative,” and “an objective media serves Hamas.”
Several other officials have recommended the same thing for the same reason; Livschitz’s remarks have damaged the fake narrative.
The mainstream media in the West is, by and large, complicit in this. Positive comments by the released hostages are generally overlooked, distorted or given little coverage. According to CNN, for example, the released Israeli woman said that she had felt as if she was in hell. Not even Israeli media went that far to twist the truth. The intention is to dehumanise the Palestinians and make their slaughter more acceptable to Western audiences.
Which is why Israel doesn’t like anyone to tell the truth. The response to remarks by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in which he tried to put the Hamas attack into context by pointing out that it did not arise out of a “vacuum”, but from “56 years” of Israeli occupation, is a case in point. Predictably, the deeply unpleasant character who is the Israeli envoy to the UN, Gilad Erdan, called on Guterres to resign. From a Romanian-Hungarian background, he was a political advisor to Ariel Sharon, and then to Benjamin Netanyahu, and is clearly right-wing in his views.
The “sordid language” used by Israeli ministers to describe Palestinians was summed up by Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who referred to the people of Gaza as “human animals” and vowed to “eliminate everything” there. An Israeli military official has pointed out that the “emphasis [during the Israeli attack on Gaza] is on damage, not accuracy,” while another vowed that Gaza would be reduced to “a city of tents… There will be no buildings.”
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, meanwhile, the supposed dove of the Israeli left wing — which tells you how far right the whole political spectrum is in Israel — has denied every man, woman and child in Gaza civilian status and designated them all as terrorists. “We will break their backbone,” he threatened.
This is being put into practice by Israel’s cruel bombardment, which has so far seen 12,000 tonnes of high explosives dropped on Gaza, the equivalent of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the US in 1945. All of this is being done with the full support of Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron, who have all shown up in Israel for photo-ops with Netanyahu. They will be standing next to him in the dock one day, and that day cannot come soon enough for the people of occupied Palestine.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.