Jan
07
2009

The Gaza Information War

Read today's Gaza stories in the New York Times carefully, and you might actually learn something about the propaganda tactics Israel is using. In one piece about the lessons learned from the 2006 Lebanon war, we learn that the aim is to fool Hamas, according to an Israeli military official who cites as a key strategic change Israel's "methods to keep Hamas in the fog of war, which includes disinformation and impediments to real-time press coverage on the ground." "The less Hamas understands, the better," he is quoted by the Times.

Of course, disinformation doesn't just keep Hamas in a "fog"– it prevents everyone from understanding what's happening. Another Times article sheds more light:

And so for an 11th day of Israel's war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it waited in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering, but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups financed mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.

That doesn'tsound like fooling Hamas is the point, does it?

The author ofthat piece–Ethan Bronner–nonetheless seems to rationalizeIsraeli censorship:

Israelis say the war is being reduced on television screens around the world to a simplistic story: an American-backed country with awesome military machine fighting a third-world guerrilla force leading to a handful of Israelis dead versus 600 Gazans dead.

Israelis and their supporters think that such quick descriptions fail to explain the vital context of what has been happening–years of terrorist rocket fire on civilians have gone largely unanswered, and a message had to be sent to Israelâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s enemies that this would go on no longer, they say. The issue of proportionality, they add, is a false construct because comparing death tolls offers no help in measuring justice and legitimacy.

There are other ways to construe the context of this conflict, of course. But no matter what, Israelâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s diplomats know that if journalists are given a choice between covering death and covering context, death wins. So in a war that they consider necessary but poorly understood, they have decided to keep the news media far away from the death.

So there are "other ways to construe the context"–but Bronner doesn't bother telling readers what they are. Maybe he thinks we're better off in the "fog"?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.