The Battle For Opinion In The Middle East

The Battle For Opinion In The Middle East
Image by Karen Eliot

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As of May 17th, the state of Israel and its citizens were attacked by more than 3100 missiles in the last three days. The missiles were fired from the Gaza strip by various terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Israel struck back by bombing rocket warehouses and targeting the leaders of said terrorist organization. Israel has the military upper hand, yet there is one field where Israel is an underdog. This battlefield is the media and internet where the Arab narrative is being voiced tenfold times more. In this article, I wish to introduce the Israeli point of view, or at least the point of view of a particular Israeli citizen who lives in its capital, Jerusalem.

I will start with a summary of the recent events. The month of Ramadan began on April 12th, 2021. During that time, Muslims around the world fast from dawn to sunset. On the first day, the Israeli police blocked the stairs near Damascus gate in Jerusalem to prevent people from crowding to avoid the spread of the COVID-19. Since that day, part of the local population of Arabs started rioting. A few days later, a video of an Arab teenager slapping a religious Jewish teenager on the tram in Jerusalem spread across Tik-Tok. These infused further videos of Arabs harassing Jews. All this outrage went on for a while. Jerusalem’s residents felt defenseless and in danger which provoked far-right Jews to march to the old city and attack Arabs. However, this attempt was hindered by the police.

The violence kept rising and escalating to the point that Hamas launched rockets to Jerusalem on Jerusalem day – a celebration of the unification of Jerusalem under Israeli control. Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) struck Gaza in return. The bombings continued killing ten people (as of May 17th), including an Israeli Arab father and his teenage daughter, and more. In addition, Israeli Arabs started attacking their Jewish neighbors and even burning a synagogue in Lod, which later would be called a pogrom.

Despite having a lot to say about the law enforcement and lack of politician’s courage, I am more worried about the battlefield where Israel seems to be on the losing side – the battle of opinion and legitimacy. For example, Israel loses 1:10 on Twitter with the #GazaUnderAttack being mentioned in over 2.1 million tweets while the #IsraelUnderAttack is mentioned in less than 200k tweets.

It seems there are several major reasons for this phenomenon. First, the Gazans are militarily weaker, and they manage to leverage this to be portrayed as the ever-lasting victim. Second, many people worldwide view the world in a dichotomy of oppressor-oppressed, strong-weak and link the weakness of one’s side to the crimes of the other. Third, nowadays news – whether true or fake – is spread fast, to a mass of people and without fact-checking. Four and last, there seems to be a bias against Israel around the world. I will elaborate on each point below.

When Israel was founded in 1948, five Arab countries declared war on the newborn state. Despite the fact that Israel had a military disadvantage, Israel won the war. Since then, Israel’s military might has risen to an internationally known level. However, the Palestinians have not reached that power. As a result, whenever there was a conflict, Israel had far less casualties. In any conflicts in the world, innocent people are injured and die – there is no denying it. Hamas knows that and uses gruesome pictures of dead people, including children, to portray Israel as a brutal murderer and aggressor whose only goal is genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The situation of information spreading nowadays will be discussed together with the current ideology of protecting the victim. There seems to be a ‘solidarity’ thread which goes through all ‘oppressed’ groups in the world. It does not matter whether it is minorities in the United States or Arabs in Gaza. According to this solidarity view, if you are oppressed you should stand together. I will not elaborate on discussing whether this point of view is correct or wrong. However, it is very easy to get hung up on helping the ‘oppressed’ without researching deeper. This lack of research goes together with the way people spread news online. The number one motive for social engagement in social media is rage. People see a graphic photo and get angered about the ‘cruel world that allows such injustice’, without thinking much they share the image and sometimes would even write a heartfelt manifesto about a photo that might be faked or taken out of context.

Lastly, Israel proves that a nation – once oppressed and persecuted for hundreds of years – is able to rebuild itself. Israel is a symbol of a functioning nation-state in a world where the word nationalism has a more and more negative meaning. Finally, ‘classic’ anti-Semitism naturally plays a role – there are people who do not want the state of Israel – as the Jewish nation state – to exist.

Currently, Israel is on the losing end of the battlefield of public opinion. I am ready to defend my country and its position and hopefully, the reader can understand that there is more than what we are exposed to in the media. 

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1 comment

Ana Eyal June 6, 2021 at 6:53 am

Many Israelis feel that the world’s condemnation of Israel is the expression of good, old antisemitism. After the Holocaust is not “cool” anymore to hate the”Jew”. To hate, condemn Israel is cool, politically correct and satisfies the deep need of the Gentile world, to hate the Jews!
Since we are exposed to more than millennial hate, persecutions, pogroms and such, we are too tired fighting for survival in every day life, than to care about our image on the social media platforms! For us “there are no news under the sun”, hate Israel=hate Jews.
So, we are less active on those platforms.
Sadly, our state department was and stayed idle on the propaganda front.
Also, certain platforms would render more weight and space to those condemning Israel, than to those defending and explaining it.
Sadly and realistically, the world doesn’t really care about the Palestinians’ welfare, but they fake care because it is the accepted venue for antisemitism…


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