Israeli media warfare involves rigid daily efforts to manipulate the narrative and drive policy in countries far away.
On Saturday, August 15, small groups of young Palestinians gathered separately in the area between Gaza city and the concrete border wall with Israel, where their world ends. Crouching behind vegetation, they used gas canisters to fill colorful balloons before tying them into clusters.
The noise of squeaking balloons form the backdrop as they tie their balloons to a home-made paper model of a drone. Below the paper model, they tie and light cigarette-like fuses that smolder underneath the primitive structure as it is released into the air, carried towards the Israeli border by the wind.
Throughout the day, similar “devices” were launched. Across the border, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) prepared their response. In the gleaming tower of the General Staff building in central Tel Aviv, Israeli generals mobilized their fleet of aircraft, each worth millions of dollars, for a night of retaliation.
That same night, the Palestinians who earlier floated their primitive weapons into Israel would wake to the sound of explosions in Gaza. Israeli warplanes flew unopposed over the densely populated city, lighting up the dark by firing high-tech missiles at the concrete structures that make up the city below.
Members of Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam brigades, responded by firing two primitive, locally-made rockets towards Israel. Shortly after the rockets were launched, Israeli soldiers manning one of the multi-million-dollar missile batteries of the Iron Dome system got an alert.
Within seconds, Israel launched interceptor missiles, hitting and destroying the two Hamas rockets, with debris falling on an Israeli home.
The rest of the night, Israel’s planes, helicopters and tanks battered Gaza in retaliation for the two intercepted rockets, but the real warfare was only just beginning.
The next morning, foreign journalists wake up in their comfortable hotels in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem to a pleasant, sunny day. As they check their phones, they receive an invitation from Israel’s Government Press Office. The foreign press is cordially invited to come and see some of last night’s destruction, conveniently bundled with an information sheet on Israel’s version of events.
After breakfast, the foreign press is loaded into air-conditioned buses and driven to the small town of Sderot, located next to the border wall that separates Israel from Gaza. There, the foreign press see the damage that the debris of the Israeli interceptor missile caused to an Israeli home. Aghast, the foreign press show the damage to their cameras as they report on an “escalation” of hostilities.
While reporters in Israel use the convenient information sheets produced by the Israeli press service as the only source for their coverage, Israeli lobbyists across Europe are preparing similar handy information sheets to provide to European politicians and news outlets.
Silence from Gaza
Meanwhile in Gaza, the Palestinian press agency Wafa has been unable to invite journalists as the last remaining border crossing with Israel has been closed. There is no money or expertise to quickly distribute a counter-narrative or provide the high-definition footage of the aftermath of last night’s events that the foreign press agents need for their broadcasts.
The Palestinian side of the story remains hidden behind the concrete wall and iron fences that intend to keep Gazans trapped in their congested city. Only the amateurish Iranian broadcaster Press TV can provide some details in a video that roughly 100 people will view on YouTube.
The foreign press and Israeli media report on Israeli injuries. A man was injured when fragments of an Israeli interceptor missile hit his home and two women injured themselves while running for shelter. The impact of the Israeli bombardment remains hidden on Monday, as European lawmakers leaf through Israeli information sheets as they sip on their first cup of coffee.
The next few days see opinion pieces in major publications. These well-written pieces frame six days of continuous Israeli artillery shelling and bombardment as a rational and necessary response. In the media’s reporting, the IDF “strikes targets” in Gaza, while Hamas “attacks Israel” as the language used in Israeli information packages seeps into the global narrative.
Consequences of a skewed narrative
In Rabat, local officials might not have received any Israeli information sheets on Monday, but the skewed media reporting turns another night of bombardment in Gaza into a side-note to the “historic peace agreement” between Israel and the UAE. Israeli sources publish papers admonishing Morocco for “missing its chance” to make a similar agreement with Israel.
“Rabat can still come out ahead if it adopts an assertive strategic policy reorientation,” the policy recommendations assert. Abandon the hopeless Palestinian cause and join the side of rich and prosperous Israel, writers recommend.
Moroccan foreign policy officials get a notification that Morocco was mentioned in the prestigious Washington Post on Friday. An opinion piece emerges by David Ignatius, who cheered on the 2003 invasion of Iraq and still regularly supports Saudi Arabia and the UAE. His piece calls the UAE deal a “breakthrough announcement” and an “icebreaker” that would surely convince other Arab countries, like Morocco, to follow suit.
Seduction and coercion
On Tuesday, August 18, Israel’s media warfare can declare victory once again. Gaza continues to be pounded by Israel’s fighter jets and helicopters for the seventh consecutive day. Meanwhile, Gaza’s only power station shut down today because of a lack of fuel, plunging the city into darkness for the foreseeable time.
Yet the narrative does not focus on the outrage of Palestinian allies like Morocco, where the lives of Palestinians are not so commonly traded for economic or diplomatic promises.
Instead, the seductive allure of the economic benefits of increased trade and tourism is presented as Morocco’s choice in the Overton window of Moroccan-Israeli relations. Instead of coalescing human rights organizations, UN agencies, and allied nations into an effective response to stop the siege on Gaza, another question is posed: “Who will Israel seduce next?”
Morocco’s steely resolve on support for a free and independent Palestine has made it a prime target for Israeli media warfare. Morocco has so far resisted proposed trade-offs that would include US support for the Moroccan stance on the Western Sahara issue. Instead, King Mohammed VI has repeatedly stated Morocco’s unyielding support for Palestine.
As long as Morocco remains loyal to the Palestinian cause, it will continue to be the target of Israeli media warfare. Through coercion or seduction, Israel aims to push Moroccan officials to reconsider their priorities in the Middle East in the face of economic promises.
“Gazan terrorists” started 19 fires, including “in the yard of a kindergarten,” new Israeli information sheets say on August 18, as the cycle of Israeli media warfare continues.