OpinionIsrael at War

They’re lying to you about the war

As the two sides tell starkly divergent stories, how do we know whom to believe?

Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, Oct. 16, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, Oct. 16, 2023. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Marc Erlbaum
Marc Erlbaum is a filmmaker and the co-founder of Philadelphia's Jewish Relief Agency.

Do honesty and morality matter during wartime? Is anything important other than victory? Do “righteous” ends justify brutal means?

War is hell, as they say, and there will inevitably be “collateral damage” in any large-scale armed conflict. While the very term “collateral damage” is a nauseating euphemism that attempts to sanitize a sickening concept—which is that innocent people will die—international conventions state that the incidental death of civilians is not a war crime unless it is clear that they were intentionally targeted.

In the current war in Israel, thousands of non-combatant civilians are already dead on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, and the number is rising daily. The difference, of course, is that the civilians murdered in Israel were targeted directly and specifically, and those in Gaza are the tragic consequence of the IDF’s impossible mission of eradicating Hamas fighters who intentionally entrench themselves behind and beneath human shields.

The difference, of course, is that Hamas savagely raped, murdered and dismembered innocent people and videoed their sadistic joy in doing so, while Israel provided repeated advance warning for civilians to evacuate the areas it would target 24 hours later.

The difference, of course, is that Hamas is guilty of heinous war crimes, while Israel is meticulous in adhering to the Geneva Conventions and is attempting to eliminate Hamas with as little civilian loss as possible.

I say “of course” repeatedly, but of course there are those who are now denying what has already been established as obvious and verifiable fact. While videos shot by Hamas widely documented the heinous acts they committed, there is now, one week later, a wholesale campaign by Palestinian sympathizers to deny that those war crimes ever took place.

The incriminating videos have been scrubbed from the web. In their place, Hamas released a video yesterday of one of its Israeli captives being “treated” for her wounds while one of their masked operatives “explained” that “prisoners” are respected and humanely cared for.

On journalist Piers Morgan’s show, guest Mohamed Hijab responded to every statement Morgan made about the Hamas atrocities with the immediate challenge, “What’s your source?” When Morgan referred to photos and videos online, Hijab suggested that they were AI fabrications. When Morgan asserted that they were verified by the press, Hijab insisted that such verification is not “primary source evidence” and therefore not “academically” acceptable.

At a campus rally in Manchester, England, a speaker insisted repeatedly that “Israel is lying to you about the murder of babies. Israel is lying to you about the rape of women.” This blatant dismissal of incontrovertible truth is happening on campuses around the world.

These are just a few examples of a coordinated campaign to change the narrative and obfuscate the truth. By denying the clear and documented war crimes of Hamas, the goal is to refocus the conversation on the “crimes” that the IDF is supposedly committing in Gaza as they pursue their mission of eradicating Hamas war criminals.

As maddening as it is to watch the blatant deceit that the defenders of Hamas are peddling, it is simultaneously fascinating to see their twisted tactics applied in such a clear and shameless fashion:

Hamas attacks and brutalizes innocent Israeli civilians in barbaric fashion. They document and circulate images of their hideous acts in order to provoke severe retaliation. They then dig in and bury themselves under civilian areas, and when Israel strikes (not in retaliation, but in order to eliminate the possibility of such atrocities in the future), Hamas destroys evidence of their crimes, denies they ever happened and pretends to be the victim of a grossly “disproportionate” response.

The question is whether such deceit and dissimulation are acceptable. Supporters of Israel will obviously say it’s not, but those who sympathize with the Palestinian cause may differ. This is a war, after all. It is a fight for liberty and justice, they claim. And to win freedom and end generations of brutal oppression, they assert, perhaps it is necessary to bend the truth a bit. There are no angels on the battlefield.

But if it’s Truth with a capital “T” that we are after, even if we are willing to sacrifice lower-case “truth” for the sake of the greater good, then we might have to ask ourselves the following: If Hamas and their sympathizers are willing to lie so blatantly now, then what if they’ve been lying all along?

What if Israel is not actually killing innocent Palestinian boys all the time? (It’s not.)  What if Gaza is not actually an “open air prison”? (It’s not.) What if the Israeli government is not constantly plotting to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque? (It’s not.) What if all the “war crimes” that Israel has supposedly been committing against Arab civilians on a daily basis for 70 years never actually happened? (They didn’t.)

What if lying is not just the Palestinian leadership’s wartime tactic, but their fundamental modus operandi? What if it is not only the way they deceive the international community, but also their own people?

In a matter of just one week, we have witnessed a microcosmic illustration of nearly a century of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Palestinian terrorists initiate violence and then they lie without hesitation, shame or conscience to present themselves as victims.

This is a moment for clarity and truth. Evil lies without compunction. And we, who value truth and morality even in the darkest circumstances, must identify evil, call out its deceptions and fight it without equivocation.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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