In the wake of Israel’s Gaza massacre of last Friday (which continues in slower motion), Israel sought to blame the victims by issuing propaganda about the supposed “terrorist” background of those involved.
A day after the massacre, the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson published photos of 10 out of the 17 killed (on Twitter) – ostensibly in order to exonerate the IDF from shooting indiscriminately and injuring many hundreds with live ammunition.
The heading says: “The terrorists of the violent riots”, and it displays photos of the killed, sometimes in Hamas military fatigues, with subtitles of their “terror” involvement. Nearly all read identical: Name, residence, and the inscription, “active militant of the Hamas terror organization”.
The meme was shared by various Israeli apologia sites such as ‘Legal Insurrection’, ‘IsReally Cool’ ‘Stand With Us’ etc.
The notion that this propaganda entails needs to be analyzed and made plain. The message is, in itself, incitement to terror, as I shall explain.
The whole notion rests upon Hamas being a terror organization. This is in itself a heavily disputed issue, as Hamas is an anti-colonialist resistance organization, with both political and military branches. But let us not delve into this dispute at this time. Let us say that some members of Hamas took part in the protests – as civilians. Can they be?
The answer to that may be seen in a mirror comparison: Say some Israeli men protested somewhere, as civilians – and got massacred. What would be the meaning of publishing their photos with their military IDF record? To show that they cannot qualify as civilians, since they have a military background, past or present?
The next layer of propaganda is to suggest that since most of the killed had a Hamas military background, and that since Hamas is labelled by Israel a terrorist organization, this essentially means that everyone who was shot was somehow affiliated with Hamas, and thus a legitimate terrorist target.
Ahead of the massacre, Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem warned that “Israeli officials have repeatedly threatened to respond with lethal force” and that they were “framing the demonstrators as terrorists and referring to Gaza as a ‘combat zone'”.
This is a blatant dismissal of the principle of distinction between militants and civilians. One of Israel’s most esteemed legal scholars, Yoram Dinstein, notes in his book ‘Laws of War’, that “from the standpoint of LOIAC [Laws of International Armed Conflict], there is no genuine difference between a premeditated attack against civilians (or civilian objects) and a reckless disregard of the principle of distinction: they are equally forbidden”.
But lack of distinction is part of Israel’s military doctrine – known as the Dahiya Doctrine, named after a neighborhood in Beirut which Israel pulverized because many Hezbollah members lived there. The doctrine has been applied (as was promised by the current Israeli Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot) in Gaza. Eisenkot said in 2008, “What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on”, and that “We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases.”
Gaza is being punished, ostensibly for electing Hamas. This is why the UN Goldstone Report of 2009 concluded that Israel had conducted a “deliberately disproportionate attack, designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population”.
Make no mistake about it, this is what Israel is doing now: punishing, humiliating and terrorizing a civilian population for daring to protest their incarceration in a “concentration camp“. And Israel is trying to get away with it by sly framing of these protests as “terror”. By doing this, Israel is seeking to manufacture consent for its own state-terror, so that soldiers can continue shooting civilians with impunity.