Truth is the biggest casualty in this propaganda war


Truth is the biggest casualty in this propaganda war

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip amid ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. Nov. 2, 2023 (AFP)
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The discourse on the war on Gaza is as much about the images and narratives that shape and influence public opinion and rally support as it is about the realities and sufferings on the ground. The propaganda war is at its highest pitch. The truth is slowly dying as the people of Gaza are suffocating with no electricity, no water, no food, no fuel, and no internet to keep their misery out of sight and out of reach. A collective punishment of innocent people that is tantamount to a war crime. The UN rapporteur on the Occupied Territories has said that Israel’s disproportionate retaliation against the attack it suffered by Hamas on Oct. 7 might lead to “mass ethnic cleansing,” justified in the name of self-defense. And now Israel is forcing over a million Gazans to flee as it launches a ground invasion, which could lead to genocide.

Meanwhile, decision makers and financiers who control mainstream Western media have been forcing a specific narrative to keep the public ignorant and consenting of their policies. Nevertheless, the number of images and videos being exchanged by people across the world is overwhelming, thanks to smartphones, digital technology and social media exposing and providing a different narrative.

Consequently, there is a shift in public opinion, as seen in the huge public demonstrations in support of Palestine across the Western world to stop Israel’s violations of humanitarian and international law, which are embarrassing to their governments that are standing in full support of Israel. In response, misinformation and disinformation are rampant, especially when there is a deliberate attempt to manipulate content and messaging to propagate a particular framework and agenda. It becomes convenient for the most “professional” journalists and media outlets to circulate unverified claims voiced by world leaders, thus intensifying hostility and igniting further violence, which could spill over.

There is a shift in public opinion, as seen in the huge public demonstrations in support of Palestine

Maha Akeel

Most Western governments have lost almost all their credibility and the moral high ground, and with them their norms on international law and human rights, as they consciously turn a blind eye and take a one-sided view, while pressuring others to see things their way. Flagrant violations of international law and blatant human rights abuses by Israel are tolerated and not even labeled as such but, instead, are further supported politically and militarily. Even the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was vehemently attacked for expressing concern and stating facts on the roots of the conflict.

Targeting and silencing journalists, intimidating news networks, harassing social media platforms to remove posts and close accounts due to their pro-Palestinian content, and even criminalizing the carrying of the Palestinian flag, are acts that are supposed to be the works of dictatorships and authoritarian regimes — not by the “only” democracy in the Middle East, and free and democratic Western countries.

The more double standards, bias and unbalanced reporting is shown by the bulwarks of freedom, the more it becomes difficult to advocate for and defend freedom of expression.

We stand in solidarity with Palestine and Palestinians’ rights. We condemn targeting all innocent civilians; we condemn all violence. However, what the West is asking us to do is condemn the Palestinians’ right to resistance, and their right to live in dignity and peace. This is not about Hamas. This is about Palestine and supporting the rights of Palestinians.

Israel scoffed at international law for decades, expanding its settlements, annexing territory, and evicting Palestinians from their homes and forcefully displacing them. Gaza has been under blockade for 16 years. Human Rights Watch has determined that Israeli forces have used the banned chemical weapons of white phosphorus on Gaza and locations along the Israel-Lebanon border. All this under the eyes of international organizations and Western countries, but no one has been able to take any effective action to stop these atrocities. The international community is urgently calling for a ceasefire and has finally been able to send some desperately needed humanitarian aid to prevent the further unfolding of a catastrophe.

The Kingdom has been steadfast in its stance in support of the Palestinian cause

Maha Akeel

Many opportunities and initiatives for peace launched over recent decades have failed because of Israel’s adamant refusal to recognize the rights of Palestinians for an independent state and their obligations as an occupying power. The Arab peace plan proposed by Saudi Arabia has been on the table since 2002. The Kingdom has been steadfast in its stance in support of the Palestinian cause. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has stressed the importance of stopping the military operation, deescalation, and a peaceful resolution that ensures the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to achieve a just and lasting peace.

Unconditional and unabated support of Israel will not end the conflict and will not lead to peace.

Polarization is evident. The world is becoming more and more divided. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has repeatedly said that the world is being polarized and warned against the consequences of that. We need more dialogue, he stressed.

The UN stands helpless because of the divisions. Guterres has bemoaned the internal divisions and polarization hindering the UN from taking any effective action, which emboldened several countries to challenge its role in maintaining peace and security.

The international system seems to be crumbling. Is a new world order rising? But what kind and to what effect?

The space and time for dialogue are narrowing.

There is so much misinformation, disinformation, hate speech and biased content that it is leading to more polarization and tension. We need to keep an open mind, an open heart, and open eyes to understand the whole story and act with compassion.

There can be no peace without justice.

  • Maha Akeel is a Saudi expert in communications, social development, and international relations. She is a member of the UN’s Senior Women Talent Pipeline. X: @MahaAkeel1
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