From the outset of Operation Cast Lead, a narrative that is highly disturbing for Israelis and Jews has emerged in the Arab world. "Israel carries out mass extermination," Hamas and Islamic Brotherhood spokesmen scream out on Arab satellite networks, and especially on al-Jazeera.
"Collective punishment, genocide, Holocaust," these same spokesmen cry out, with photos of dismembered bodies in the wake of Air Force attacks posted in the backdrop. These are charged words, yet it is precisely what speakers are trying to achieve: They wish to show the world that Israel has replaced Nazi Germany. Those are not slips of the tongue, but rather, a deliberate argument that is repeated time and again.
From early on in the war, a dual and often contradictory narrative had been created by various Arab media outlets. Yet despite the contradictions, it appears many Arabs accept it: On the one hand, Israel is portrayed as a Nazi state and a mass exterminator of defenseless civilians, while the world remains silent. Yet on the other hand, "Palestinian resistance fighters" are said to pulverize Israel mercilessly, with the IDF said to conceal its casualties.
Examples of this narrative can be seen in the cartoons below. Every newspaper selects its own agenda and presents cartoons that are commensurate with its objectives. Some focus on attacks on the IDF, while others prefer to deal with Palestinian casualties. Yet others criticize the silent world, while many others – believe it or not – are completely ignoring the fighting in Gaza while dealing with other issues. The latter are published in countries that are not Hamas fans, to say the least, such as Egypt.
The London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, a hawkish newspaper not sympathetic to Israel on normal days, is one of the most blatant. In addition to harsh editorials slamming Israel and Arab states that do nothing to assist Hamas, the newspaper constantly brands Israel as Nazi.
'Israeli concentration camp'Yet this paper is not the only one. After the war broke out about two weeks ago, the Qatar-based al-Jazeera network aired special videos featuring Hamas members hurt in the offensive, under the headline: "Gaza under fire." However, this approach quickly changed, with the emphasis shifted to civilian casualties. Ever since then, videos depicting children's' bodies vis-à-vis armed IDF troops have been aired, with angry chants by Arab protestors in the backdrop. The headline was changed too, to "War on Gaza."
This is not the first time Hamas and its supporters attempt to portray Israel as Nazi, successfully doing it in the Arab media. A year ago already, Hamas screamed out the same narrative against the backdrop of Israeli discussions on whether to cut off the electricity and fuel supply to the Strip. Various Hamas members have claimed that "Israel is Nazi and the Palestinians are the victim." Hamas also claimed that the Gaza Strip is a "large Israeli concentration camp."
The same approach is being highlighted again, yet the emphasis given to these messages is much more brutal. Often, al-Jazeera and other networks air close-up images of dismembered bodies of children. In one episode aired this week, a Palestinian man examined the bodies of children – possibly his own children - and presented to the camera, in Hebrew, each body and the entry wounds caused by bullets and shrapnel. "Look at this baby's head, and look at this child," the man declared in Hebrew.
Last week, two leading London-based Arabic-languages newspapers, al-Hayat and al-Quds al-Arabi, published a photo of the severed head of a Palestinian girl on their front page. Nobody can remain indifferent in the face of these photos, as well as the morgues featured in various newscasts and newspapers.
Pathology of horrorYet on the other hand, in complete contradiction to the "helpless victim" narrative, several satellite stations – including al-Jazeera – air unfounded claims made by Hamas and other Palestinian groups. The speeches of various Hamas spokesmen were aired time and again, and every claim of hurt IDF soldiers is noted positively. Meanwhile, the photos of an Israeli ambulance evacuating wounded Israelis to Soroka hospital in Beersheba was aired time and again. The message was clear – Israel is sustaining a serious blow, Hamas is capable of defeating it, and the Jewish State hides its real casualty toll.
The bottom line of this media coverage is grim. Arab media consumers are exposed to unusually difficult images, bordering on pathology. This certainly contributes to the mass participation in protest rallies across the Arab and Muslim world.
Officials in Egypt, for example, understand this well. According to various reports, Egypt is doing everything in its power in order to prevent anti-Israel rallies. Despite this, officials in Cairo realize that people on the street are becoming increasingly impassioned. This is apparently one of the reasons for the joint Egyptian-French ceasefire initiative.
However, until a ceasefire is secured, the images of bodies will continue to be aired in almost every newscast and on the front pages of leading Arab newspapers.