According to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard, contemporary society is alienated from “the real” due to an “ecstasy” of information. Media consumers, he points out, live in a “hyper-real” universe where reality is simulated. Indeed, many people (in the West and in the Muslim world) are alienated from the reality of the Arab-Israeli conflict due to an overload of disinformation, pseudo-historical posturing and faked news footage emanating from the Palestinianists. Truth and historical facts are relegated and replaced by a fabricated “reality” that is mediated by television, newspapers, films and the internet.
The derealisation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is fought by Palestinianists with the weapons of delegitimisation, defamation, disinformation, anti-Semitic propaganda, pseudo-history, faked news footage and boycotts. This Kulturkampf (“culture war”) is advanced in several arenas, notably the media, on campuses, among trade unions and especially the internet. Indeed, Israel’s critics and enemies are very adept at using the internet as a tool for spreading propaganda and conspiracy theories. The internet is a kind of electronic intifada in which falsehoods are routinely and easily produced.
The fact that Palestinianism has found such a willing audience around the world strongly suggests the idea of the “real” or objective reality has been well and truly shattered. As far as the global media is concerned, faked events and pseudo-facts are no less real than reality itself. Indeed, they may be more real because they serve a “higher cause”, which is the demonisation of Israel. The best example of the “death of the real” is the phenomenon known as Pallywood.
Pallywood, a portmanteau of Palestinian and Hollywood, is a coinage used by some media watchdogs to describe doctored and fake media footage produced by the Palestinians to illustrate their false but lethal narratives about Israel. Calev Ben-David, writing in The Jerusalem Post, describes Pallywood as “media manipulation, distortion and outright fraud by the Palestinians and (and other Arabs, such as the Reuters photographer caught faking photos during the Second Lebanon War), designed to win the public relations war against Israel.”
Canadian columnist Paul Schneidereit writes: “We’ve seen cases where the bodies of Palestinian martyrs carried on stretchers are inadvertently dropped, then, of their own volition, climb back on again. We’ve seen reports of massacres, as in Jenin in 2002, that turned out, after independent investigation, to have been greatly exaggerated. Needless to say, such episodes don’t instil an abiding trust in subsequent Palestinian claims, at least until they’re verified.”
The methods used by the Palestinian disinformation industry include:
- Using visual media to construct fake stories of Israeli atrocities. This involves editing media footage and staging events. For example, directing Palestinian civilians, ambulance drivers, doctors and police to “act out” roles such as the “injured man”, the “dead child”, the “concerned medic”, the “brave freedom fighter.” Palestinian journalists and cameraman are complicit in this theatre of propaganda.
- Luring Israeli soldiers into schools, shelters and hospitals and using civilians as human shields in order to increase the casualty rate. For example, in 2009 Hamas militants fired mortar shells from a school in Gaza. The IDF returned fire, resulting in 40 civilian fatalities.
- Ignoring or downplaying attacks on Israeli civilians, and omitting to mention the oppression and murder of fellow Palestinians by Hamas and Fatah.
- Repeating the claim that Israel ethnically cleansed Palestine in 1947-48, despite the fact that Palestinian leaders deliberately spread false rumours of rape and massacres in order to provoke Arab armies to fight on their behalf.
- Repeating the claim that Israel is a colonialist occupier of a country called Palestine, despite the fact that there has never been a Palestinian nation and that Jews have lived in the Holy Land for the past three thousand years.
- Claiming that Jerusalem is the capital of a country called Palestine despite the fact that Jerusalem has never been the capital of an Arab or Muslim entity.
- Depicting the Israelis as Nazis and claiming the Jews faked or exaggerated the Holocaust.
- Masking the prosperity of the Gaza Strip by focusing on isolated examples of hardship.
- Disseminating faked reports of massacres, deaths of children, atrocities and privations to the Western media. e.g. claiming the Israelis had carried out a massacre in Jenin in 2002.
- Appealing to the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Western media and NGOs for help and/or aid, despite the fact that Israel provides aid and/or allows passage for humanitarian assistance.
Untruth, it seems, is the currency of Palestinianism, but sadly it is a currency that buys a lot of media coverage. Israel, perhaps because of its higher ethical standards and commitment to authentic narratives, has not resorted to the tactics of disinformation and faked news footage. But as a result, Israel is facing a severe crisis of representation because traditional modes of understanding – the relation between fact and reportage – are no longer be considered useful or even valid.