A child is killed every 10 minutes in Gaza. Since October 7, Israel has killed over 4,000 children. Now premature babies at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza are dying because the institution has lost power after more than a month of Israeli siege and is therefore unable to run incubators.
Israel knows it risks losing international support for its continued slaughter of children. Western allies such as French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who have so far steadfastly supported Israel, last week publicly asked the Israeli government to stop killing children, even though Macron has since softened his tone.
As a result, Israel’s propaganda and disinformation machine finds new ways to justify the killing of children and the bombing of medical facilities.
Typically, Israel’s first reaction to accusations of atrocities is denial. When this fails, the second strategy is to blame Hamas or other Palestinian armed groups for the deaths of Palestinians.
It has not abandoned these strategies, but it is also trying to directly link Palestinian children to Hamas, thereby trying to portray them – and the places where they are hiding – as legitimate targets.
On November 11, an official Arabic account operated by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs appeared sent a video of an apparently agitated nurse talking about how Hamas invaded al-Shifa hospital and took all the fuel and morphine. She claimed that because Hamas had stolen morphine, they could not use it on the five-year-old with a fracture.
The video, which was retweeted thousands of times, was a clear scam. None of the workers nearby seem to recognize the person depicted, which calls into question his identity and role. Robert Mackey, journalist of the Forensic Architecture research agency, he talked to three Doctors Without Borders employees working at al-Shifa hospital, no one recognized her.
The movie was almost comical in its absurdity. The nurse spoke with a non-Palestinian accent, and her dialogue seemed to perfectly mirror the Israeli military’s statements about Hamas stealing all the fuel from hospitals.
Moreover, the strategic placement of the logo of the Palestinian Ministry of Health was a contrived attempt to mislead or create a “trap” for open-source intelligence information. Adding to the suspicions were the standard bombing sound effects, her pristine white coat and perfect makeup, all of which seemed out of place in the supposedly terrible surroundings.
The goal of the video was clear: to blame Hamas for the suffering of children and to legitimize the Israeli military’s claims that Hamas uses civilians and children as human shields.
Ultimately, when the Israeli government was summoned over the video, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs quietly deleted his post – without any explanation.
However, spreading disinformation and then deleting it has become routine, which raises the question: why is the Israeli military’s propaganda so sloppy? After all, doesn’t Israel risk losing credibility by doing so?
No, because the benefits outweigh the costs. The old saying, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its boots,” tells us most of what we need to know about propaganda. The key is not truthfulness, but rather speed and primacy.
Controlling the narrative means extracting information faster than the enemy and sensationalizing it – regardless of whether it is factual. One study showed this 86 percent people don’t check facts on social media.
When something fake goes viral, people who see it probably won’t see the verified version. The audience for such videos are not astute fact-checkers. In the case of Israel, a large portion of the audience is English-speaking Western viewers who will not pick up on fake accents and have no reason to believe that such information is false.
It is important to remember that propaganda does not have to be sophisticated to be effective – it just needs to be quick and sensational. Social media is perfect for this.
Hate-filled children reading Mein Kampf
Beyond blaming Hamas, a more sinister step is emerging in Israel’s legitimization of child killing – an attempt to denigrate Palestinian children as recipients of Hamas’s evil, anti-Semitic propaganda. That Palestinian children are only trained to be “terrorists.”
November 5, Israel’s official Arabic account posted a cartoon on Twitter showing that Israel raises its children in “love” while Hamas fills Gaza’s children with “hate”.
Then on Monday, Israel’s official account run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs X demanded that the Israeli military found a copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in a children’s room in Gaza. Pristinely clean, with excellent notes and underlining, the book’s “finds” were an attempt to reinforce the narrative that Palestinian children are filled with hatred, that there is no escape and that they are therefore important targets for killing.
Mein Kampf is the epitome of anti-Semitism. This is Hitler’s autobiography. The significance of this will not be lost on many people in the West, who are often the target audience of Israeli propaganda. The use of Mein Kampf, a copy of which was theatrically brandished by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, shows that Israel is trying to portray older Palestinian children as brainwashed anti-Semites – a simple tool to push this narrative.
Bunker under the children’s hospital
On Monday evening, Israel redoubled its efforts to legitimize its attacks on children. The Israeli military published a post video showing its spokesman Daniel Hagari walking through an alleged Hamas bunker outside the Rantisi Children’s Hospital in Gaza. In one scene, Hagari kneels next to rifles, grenades and other weapons, with a painting of a tree in the background, seemingly created by children.
IN another movie, also allegedly from the basement of Rantisi Hospital, Hagari points out a chair and the remains of a rope that he believes was used to tie the hostages. He then points to a baby bottle sitting above a junction box marked by the World Health Organization.
The juxtaposition of childhood innocence in the form of a painting or a bottle with a gun serves to legitimize the Israeli narrative of Hamas as inhuman “terrorists” who use children and hospitals as human shields or captives. This, in turn, serves to justify Israeli attacks on civilian targets – even when the lives of children are at risk and even when a UN organization is involved.
However, the video is clearly a propaganda stunt. Hagari points to a handwritten board in Arabic pinned to the wall. Hagari then says that the list includes Hamas fighters. “This is a guard list where each terrorist writes his name and each terrorist has his own shift that guards the people who were here.”
The only problem is that the list didn’t include any of that. It was a list of days of the week.
Why is Israel doing this?
Over the weekend, Israel offered al-Shifa hospital a modest amount of fuel after a total blockade of the Gaza Strip began on October 7, paralyzing medical facilities.
Hospital director Muhammad Abu Salmiya said of the fuel delivery attempt that “Israel wants to show the world that it does not kill children.”
But now that Israel can no longer deny that it is killing Palestinian children, it is trying to legitimize this murder. In his work on “image restoration theory,” William Benoit calls this “reductive offensiveness.” Put simply, you blame the victim or make it seem like they deserve to suffer.
As the death toll increases, so do bizarre attempts to blame innocent victims.
However, no amount of produced videos or planted “evidence” can obscure the truth. Children are dying in hundreds in Gaza, their blood shed by Israeli bombs, bullets and sieges.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.