For the past four months, Israel has been fighting a ground war in Gaza, and Jewish people around the world have been fighting an information war online.
From AI-generated images to deepfake videos and fake news, propaganda spreads quickly, even sliding into mainstream media and making headlines in publications eager to demonize Israel. There was the Islamic Jihad bombing of Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, for example, which certain media blamed on Israel, parroting the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Many of these news outlets later apologized for disseminating this lie, but the damage had already been done.
The Al-Ahli libel was used to stir up emotions, fuel protests and influence political decisions around the world. The Palestinian Ministry of Religious Affairs went so far as to further exaggerate the number of casualties and instruct its preachers to disseminate them in their Friday night sermons alongside incitement to kill all Jews.
Even today, some people still believe this lie.
The Al-Ahli libel was just one example. Even though the Gaza Health Ministry has proven to be unreliable, the media still swallows its fake stories. I hear it quoted in the news all the time.
It’s clear our enemies are playing dirty. Their goal is to turn the world against us.
Some have suggested that we fight fire with fire and use similar tactics. That would be a mistake.
Throughout history, our enemies have used lies against us. There was the trial of the Talmud in 1240 when four of France’s most prominent rabbis were forced to defend the Talmud and prove that it wasn’t derogatory towards Christians. Innumerable blood libels claimed that we sacrificed children for various uses—namely, making Passover matzah. Modern-day lies include that we secretly control the banks, the media, and, in fact, the entire world. The Chabad-Lubavitch tunnel story is the most recent example, in which conspiracy theorists falsely claimed that criminal activities were happening below the Chassidic movement’s headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The enemies of truth lie because that’s all they have. Taking people down with falsehoods makes them feel good. But in the long run, those who try to damage the Jews end up being damaged themselves.
As tempting as it may be to stoop to their level, doing so would mean giving up our mission in this world, which is to share the truth that God communicated to us on Sinai.
“Distance yourself from words of falsehood,” the Torah tells us. We have entire books dedicated to explaining lashon hara—evil and derogatory talk about others—because what you say can desecrate someone’s reputation and cause irreversible damage.
The word for “truth” in Hebrew is emet. The Talmud teaches that the word emet is flat and stable, “like bricks”; while the word for falsehood, sheker, is unstable. Falsehood will not stand.
Additionally, emet contains the first, middle and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, while the word sheker contains letters adjacent to each other in the alphabet. The Talmud says this teaches us another important lesson: Falsehood is easily found, while truth is difficult to locate.
We have to be better than our enemies.
This means that, before you share a post, verify it’s true. Don’t just share it because you want to be the first one to do so or because something you see makes you feel emotional. At least do a simple Google search and look into reliable news sources. Follow people on social media who consistently tell the truth.
Before you share a still image, make sure it’s not AI-generated. AI-generated images will sometimes feature people with extra or distorted fingers, arms or legs; misshapen ears; oddly shaped necks; and areas that are blurred where you would expect finer detail.
Deepfake videos typically feature one person facing a camera and speaking, and the composition cuts off at the shoulders. The hair may move unnaturally and the lips may not match up with what the person is supposedly saying. As the head moves and turns, you may notice digital errors in the clothing and neck.
If you hear a news outlet or individual spreading false information on social media, call it out. Write to the journalist and let them know the truth, and consider going elsewhere for your news. Post community notes on social media so people know what’s really going on.
During this difficult time, when lies are constantly being spread, remember: You are not powerless. You have the power of truth, which is eternal. Although it may be harder to find, the truth will stand.