Gaza propaganda war escalates on the internet
The Battle of the Blogosphere has seen both sides in the Gaza conflict use hoax videos to show the ‘beastly’ behaviour of their enemies
The war between Israel and Hamas is being fought not only on the rubble-strewn streets of Gaza and in the southern Israeli towns targeted by Hamas missiles. It is also raging on the internet.
And the Battle of the Blogosphere - in which pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian scribblers fire salvos at each other in a bitter war of words - is increasingly helping to shape people's view of the conflict.
As the Israeli military spokesman Major Avital Leibovich said, explaining why Israel had set up a YouTube page: "The Blogosphere and the new media are basically a war zone [in a battle for world opinion]."
It is fitting, then, that the famous first casualty of war - truth - should have been so swiftly slain and laid to rest online.
This month, both sides have posted hoax stories and misleading videos in order to demonise their opponents. Pro-Palestine bloggers have, for the past 10 days, been widely disseminating an amateur video purporting to show the aftermath of an Israeli air strike on civilians in Gaza.
It makes for horrific viewing. Palestinians with their limbs blown off lie slumped on the ground. Others are clearly dead. The soundtrack - sirens, shouting, groans - is almost unbearable.
One blogger said this "raw" carnage "enrages me". He went on: "I wish for Israel nothing but destruction." Another said the footage was evidence of "the terror of the Jewish state". France 2, the respected French public broadcaster, showed the footage on TV.
However, the video does not show the aftermath of an Israeli air strike in the current war in Gaza; it shows the aftermath of an accidental explosion of Hamas's own weaponry at a rally in a Gaza refugee camp in September 2005.
As the BBC reported on September 23, 2005, the explosion of a truck carrying Hamas rockets occurred at a militant rally in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, killing at least 15 Palestinians and injuring many more.
Some eagle-eyed bloggers noticed that the recent widely emailed video claiming to show the bloody work of "IsraeHELL" actually came from this tragic accident.
France 2 made a humiliating apology. "There was an internal malfunction in the checking of information," it said on January 5. Some bloggers have also apologised; others remain silent.
Pro-Israel bloggers are in no position to gloat, however. For the past 72 hours, they have been sharing with each other - and the world - a video that purportedly shows Hamas murdering guests at a wedding party in Gaza in 2007 for the 'crime' of singing and dancing. It is evidence, says one Israel supporter, that Hamas militants are "animals".
"Hamas kills innocent Palestinians because they were singing," says one blogger. Another said the "rare video" showed "gunmen murdering people at a wedding".
In her blog at the Spectator website, Melanie Phillips, under the headline 'Believe it', said that the video showed "Hamas mowing down and murdering a Palestinian wedding party for no other reason than there was music and dancing".
It doesn't. It shows an incident that did occur - Hamas did break up a wedding party in northern Gaza in August 2007 - but no one was murdered.
According to a Reuters report of August 11, 2007, 20 people were injured and four were arrested for questioning. The Jerusalem Post reported on August 13, 2007 that five guests were detained "for several hours", but there was no killing.
They were detained not for singing and dancing, but because they were leading members of Fatah. The breaking up of the wedding party occurred at a time of heightened tension between Hamas and Fatah, when Hamas had banned fireworks, celebratory gunfire and overly noisy gatherings.
Does that justify what occurred at the wedding? No. But nor is it justified to misrepresent this incident as a rampage by "animals" who murder people for listening to music. Melanie Phillips appears to have removed her link to the video; but she hasn't issued an apology yet. ·
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