Israel and its people remained deaf to reason for more than a month after 7 October, during which no one dared to talk about anything other than an overwhelming desire for more revenge against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It did not matter whether it was civilian infrastructure to be destroyed, hospitals or schools; nor did it matter whether the victims were women and children. No one wanted to know what was actually going on in Gaza. In many ways, this is still the case, but there has been a slight but important shift in the Israeli media.
In a Haaretz article by Gideon Levy — “Giora Eiland’s Monstrous Gaza Proposal Is Evil in Plain Sight” — the well-known Israeli journalist known for his bold and brave opinions wrote: “Foreign journalists who come here can’t believe their eyes: Gaza’s suffering doesn’t exist. Israel hasn’t killed thousands of children and didn’t evict a million people from their homes. Gaza’s sacrifice is totally out of the picture, gone not only from public discourse but even from the daily news.” He added: “On Israeli television, alone in the world, we didn’t kill children. According to the Israeli media, the [Israel Defence Forces] hasn’t committed in this war even one tiny little war crime.”
This collective deafness combines denial with a lust for revenge, but it has started to crack a little in the past few days, just a little, but it is a crack that is worth monitoring. It is only in some scattered newspaper articles and television programmes, and not within the political class or the military leadership.
The turning point was primarily the temporary truce, more than anything else, and was related to the devastation of Gaza or Israel’s reputation in the West, which gradually modified the tone of the initial blind rage.
Haaretz is almost the only Israeli newspaper where you can read articles which challenge the prevailing narrative. This has prompted some extremists to call for an end to government support through advertisements or subscriptions. It published an article last Sunday by journalist Iris Leal in which she said that the hostages held by Hamas could have been released a month ago, but the public was not ready to hear it, and that the difference that made today’s situation achievable was nothing more than “the maturity of the Israeli public”. The writer ended by saying that the public must quickly realise that Israel will not emerge victorious from this disaster and that the only way open is to recover all the captured individuals until the very last one. Although this will not be a victory, she pointed out, it will comfort the souls a little.
This gradual transformation, which is currently limited to the media, would not have appeared little by little without two basic things: the legendary steadfastness of the people of Gaza despite all the massive destruction, and the ability of the resistance to harm the occupation forces, even if this has not been acknowledged officially. Both opened the way for the temporary truce and the exchange of hostages and detainees. The truce was credited to a shift in the position of Washington and European capitals. Many were extremely embarrassed by the insane killing of defenceless women and children viewed in real time on social media, despite the best attempts of the Western media to cover up the extent of the genocidal onslaught.
Now, the same media has begun to back down from its unreasonable pro-Israel bias. Other narratives about what is happening in Gaza have started to appear, replacing the knee-jerk condemnation of 7 October without the context of what happened for 75 years before that fateful day or, indeed, what has happened since.
This trend may become clearer with the video clips showing the prisoner exchanges over the past few days.
There is a stark contrast between the treatment meted out to Palestinian detainees held by the Israeli occupation authorities, and the way that the Israelis held by Hamas were treated.
Israeli television talk shows had no option but to praise what they heard from captives about what Al-Qassam Brigades provided for them, such as food, medicine and activities.
The biggest challenge now is for this shift to spread to the Israeli decision-makers who are still threatening to return to war after the truce. This may have started already, with former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saying that the government’s announcement of the elimination of Hamas “gave unrealistic expectations” and that “Israel should offer to start negotiations on a two-state solution with the Palestinian Authority immediately after the conclusion of the war.” This will be another round that is no less complicated.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 28 November 2023
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.