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‘The political-media-industrial complex’ undermining truth and democracy in service of Israel

April 25, 2024 at 8:00 pm

Students at New York University (NYU) continue their demonstration on campus in solidarity with the students at Columbia University and to oppose Israel’s attacks on Gaza, in New York, United States on April 22, 2024. [Fatih Aktaş – Anadolu Agency]

In the relentless propaganda war waged against Palestinians, the scales have been heavily tipped in favour of Israel. Disinformation and half-truths are routinely employed to depict Palestinians as aggressors, terrorists or simply as non-existent entities within their own homeland. Every assertion made by Israeli officials in this theatre of misinformation is accepted as the unassailable truth until proven false, while any evidence that contradicts the Israeli narrative is swiftly dismissed as falsehood, requiring an overwhelming burden of proof to even be considered.

The emergence of social media and alternative news sources has helped to reverse this trend and create a more even playing field. Yet, despite these strides towards a more equitable exchange of ideas, the entrenched nexus of politics, media and industry, often referred to as the “political-media-industrial complex”, remains steadfastly aligned with the interests of the Israeli state.

Such unwavering allegiance to Israel not only undermines the pursuit of truth, exemplified by Western complicity in the unfolding genocide in Gaza, but also imperils the foundational values of a free and democratic society, illustrated by the violent crackdown on student protestors in the US.

The toll on Palestinian lives and the enduring damage to the principles of a free and democratic society, wrought by the propaganda-driven narrative perpetuated by the “political-media-industrial complex” is glaringly evident. Since 7 October, scarcely a week has passed without a stark reminder of the extent to which the West has placed itself in a highly compromised moral and legal position due to its unwavering backing of Israel.

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This week it was Germany’s resumption of funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). In the catalogue of hoaxes and misinformation employed to justify Israel’s genocide in Gaza, the attack on UNRWA will perhaps be remembered as one of the most egregious.

In another powerful demonstration that, when it comes to Israel, claims of the apartheid state, however improbable, are accepted as true until proven otherwise, Germany, along with 19 donor countries, halted funding to UNRWA. The move was entirely based on Israeli allegations.

The funding was cut despite the dire needs of 2.3 million people in Gaza, most of whom have been forced from their homes by the Israeli offensive since 7 October and have been struggling to find water, food, shelter or medical care. The decision to defund UNRWA based on unverified claims was met with condemnation, especially as one of the provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in Israel’s genocide case was the free access and delivery of aid.

Berlin’s decision to resume funding came after an independent review, conducted by former French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, found that Israel had not provided any evidence to support its claims that UNRWA staff took part in the 7 October attack.

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The findings of the Colonna report add to the growing list of disinformation campaigns by Israel over the past six months, casting doubt on the credibility of its statements regarding Gaza and its attempts to undermine UNRWA’s work. Israel’s claims about 7 October atrocities carried out by Hamas have also come under scrutiny. With no evidence of beheaded babies, “babies cooked in ovens” or systematic rape, it is widely recognised that Israel falsified atrocities in order to justify its military operation in Gaza.

It was evident from the beginning that Israel’s attack on UNRWA was a politically motivated attempt to shut down the UN agency once and for all, a goal which it has been seeking since its establishment in 1949. Over the decades, Israel has repeatedly called for the Agency’s dissolution, arguing that it perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem and hinders a resolution to the conflict.

Israel has lobbied donor countries to reduce or cease funding to the Agency, accused UNRWA of inciting violence and promoting anti-Israel sentiment in its schools and pressured the UN to merge UNRWA with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Israel becomes 'largest cumulative recipient' of US foreign military aid - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel becomes ‘largest cumulative recipient’ of US foreign military aid – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

With no evidence to back up its claims, 7 October presented an ideal opportunity to exploit the sympathy of its Western allies and use the shock fuelled by reports of the alleged atrocities committed by Hamas to shut down UNRWA permanently.

Top Israeli officials have acknowledged that their campaign to halt international funding to UNRWA has failed. Political sources in Israel are said to have acknowledged in talks with foreign diplomats in recent days that they had not succeeded in influencing the Colonna report in the way they had hoped, and that it is clear following the report’s publication, other countries will join Germany and renew funding for the Agency. The UK is also now considering renewing funding to UNRWA, which will leave the US as the only country to continue suspending funding to the UN agency.

Predictably, the question on the minds of many is why Western governments suspended funding initially, despite the lack of evidence from Israel to support its claim and the long-standing objective to dismantle UNRWA. The decision to adopt the Israeli narrative has not only resulted in the loss of Palestinian lives in Gaza, particularly as the besieged enclave grapples with famine and starvation, but has also eroded Western credibility even further.

The credulous manner in which the political-media-industrial complex accepts the Israeli account has not only made Western governments complicit in the unfolding genocide in Gaza, but the same credulity is also imperilling the foundational values of a free and democratic society.

The people who caused mass hysteria by pushing the allegations about UNRWA employees working for Hamas are the same people, from the same political-media-industrial complex, who are now pushing another hoax. Aiming to forcibly silence students, they are fomenting hysteria over anti-Semitism on US college campuses. In scenes reminiscent of police crackdowns on students protesting the Vietnam War, more than 100 pro-Palestinian activists were arrested this week on the campus of New York’s Columbia University.

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Protesters at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) and the University of Southern California (USC) have also been arrested as student-led demonstrations against Israel’s war on Gaza intensified across the US and pro-Israel members of Congress suggest calling in the National Guard. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has called the pro-Palestinian protesters “anti-Semitic mobs” that are taking over “leading universities”.

However, the student-led protests have been peaceful and largely respectful. Nevertheless, in clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, they have been met by heavy-handed action from many universities. Jewish students have refuted allegations levelled by pro-Israel members of US Congress and university officials that protests calling for their institutions to cut ties with companies linked to Israel over the war in Gaza were anti-Semitic.

The case of UNRWA serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of blindly following Israel’s lead, as the decision to suspend funding based on unsubstantiated claims has not only exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza but also undermined the pursuit of truth and justice. Similarly, the crackdown on peaceful student protesters in the United States, fuelled by baseless accusations of anti-Semitism, demonstrates how the unwavering allegiance to Israel’s narrative has led to the suppression of free speech and the violation of democratic values.

It is time to end the unquestioning acceptance of the Israeli narrative by the political-media-industrial complex. It has not only placed the West in a highly compromised moral and legal position, but support for Israel is undermining the very essence of what we are told is the West.

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