It's all so eerily familiar. A war that began a few weeks after Barack Obama’s presidential election. Gazans had been raining hundreds of Qassam rockets onto southern Israeli towns, along with long-range missiles supplied by the mad mullahs of Iran. With just 15 seconds to run into a shelter before impact, the rockets sowed panic in streets and schools. The danger reached ludicrous proportions and it was time to stop playing Islamic Roulette.
Four years ago, Israel launched “Operation Cast lead” to stop the rockets from Gaza. Now here we are again, this time with Operation Pillar of Defense (Amud Anan). Little has changed. On the heels of a U.S. presidential election, nearly 500 rockets have struck Israel from Gaza. One million Israelis are living in bomb shelters and Iranian-made Fajir missiles have put Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and 50 percent of Israel’s population within striking range.
Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system has successfully intercepted another 250 rockets. Yet the system is not fool-proof; dozens of Israelis have been injured and three civilians were killed when a Hamas rocket hit their home in the town of Kiryat Malachi.
Europeans fear their own capitals may one day be the target.
For now, people of good will are backing Israel’s right to self-defense. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of Israel, and the U.S. State Department – with a historically Arabist bent – was unequivocal: “The onus is on Hamas to stop its rocket attacks." Even traditionally hostile Europeans – perhaps fearing that their own capitals may one day be similarly targeted – are affirming “Israel’s right to live without fear of attack."
For its part, Israel has decimated over 100 rocket production and launching facilities in Gaza. As well, Israel eliminated arch-terrorist Ahmed Jabari, the commander-in-chief of Hamas terror activity who directed a decade of rockets, bombings, and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.
Where all this will end is a terrifying unknown. The Middle East is far more volatile than it was four years ago: Syria is immersed in a bloody civil war; Hizbollah positions have been strengthened in Lebanon; Egypt is now run by the Muslim Brotherhood; anti-government riots have erupted in Jordan; and Iran is four years closer to possessing an atomic bomb.
What can we do?
- Stay informed, and redouble efforts to assist Israel’s PR effort.
- Strengthen our commitment to Jewish values.
- Pray for the welfare of Israeli soldiers and all of Israel’s citizens.
We do not have the option of passively standing by. Israel is in real danger and we need everyone on board. The verse (2-Kings 3:27) implies that if our enemies show great devotion and self-sacrifice for their cause, that obligates us to do the same.
For the purpose of education and activism, here are four key points to know:
(1) CNN reporter shills as a mouthpiece for jihadist terror.
For media monitors, CNN has long been the gargoyle in an already-ugly media crowd. In a variety of ways – whether it's CNN founder Ted Turner labeling Israeli defensive actions "terror"; or CNN's Senior Editor of Mideast Affairs, Octavia Nasr, expressing her sadness over the passing of a Hezbollah terror leader; or Palestinian spokeswoman Diana Buttu asserting unchallenged on CNN that Qassam rockets (with their 7,000 metal ball bearings and 20 pounds of TNT) contain “no explosive warhead” – CNN too often seems on the cusp of pro-Palestinian activism.
This time around, CNN seems headed down the same path. A video report by Zain Verjee, the London-based anchor of CNN's World Report, sounds like she'd be more comfortable on Hamas TV, as she discards all semblance of objectivity and assumes the role of disdainful challenger. Note specifically:
- 0:57 – "How do these air strikes bring peace and quiet?"
- 2:00 – "Fifteen children are wounded – these aren’t targeted operations!"
- 3:46 – “Aren't you making an already bad situation worse?”
The good news is that Israel has a superb spokesman in Mark Regev, a native of Australia who displays remarkable articulation and composure in the face of these CNN taunts. Keep your eye on CNN and in the meantime, click here to complain about Verjee’s horribly biased video report.
(2) Beyond rockets and planes, this is a Social Media war.
The days are over when terrorists disseminate their hatred via a spooky video cassette sent to Al Jazeera. Today, you can simply "follow" Hamas missile squads on Twitter’s @alqassambrigade, or surf www.qassam.ps where you even have the option of selecting your favorite color scheme. More nefariously, Palestinian rocket-launching teams now use Google Earth to select their civilian targets.
Israel has traditionally been behind the curve when it comes to public diplomacy – the infamous "hasbara." In trying to influence world opinion, the government’s standard mode has been a cacophony of competing – and sometimes contradictory – messages from various spokespeople in the Government Press Office, IDF, Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry.
This time it's different. Israel is prepared, quick, concise and – believe it or not – "media savvy." The Ministry of Public Diplomacy is coordinating an aggressive campaign under the banner, "Israel Under Fire."
The IDF has issued a series of successful viral campaigns, such as a Facebook graphic which depicts the Statue of Liberty and other international landmarks being swamped by missiles. The message: “What would you do?”
After killing terror chieftain Jabari, the IDF immediately posted a YouTube video of the targeted strike. It has been viewed 4 million times, sending an important message to three different audiences:
- A warning to militants in Gaza: "We can get you anywhere, anytime."
- An appeasing message to the Israeli public: "We will not remain helpless in the face of repeated rocket attacks."
- A reassurance to those concerned with collateral damage: "We can strike with utmost precision."
This is a genuine Social Media War. On the heels of the Jabari strike, IDF tweeted a direct warning to his Hamas comrades; Hamas then tweeted back its own threat:
(3) Bias in the New York Times – what else is new?
The New York Times has dark stains going all the way back to the Holocaust, when its gross under-reporting of events crippled efforts to generate public support for helping to save millions of Jews.
Now in Gaza, the Times is playing loose with the facts. A Times editorial insists that Hamas "has mostly adhered to an informal cease-fire with Israel after the war there in the winter of 2008-09." Would someone please explain how that jives with the fact that Hamas launched 650 rocket attacks in 2011 and nearly 1,000 this year alone?
Meanwhile, Times’ correspondents Fares Akram and Isabel Kershner profess to be doubtful of events, saying that the Israeli military operation is “in response to what Israel called repeated rocket attacks.” In the eyes of the Times, the launching of hundreds of rockets from Gaza is not a fact, but rather “what Israel called repeated rocket attacks.”
The Times is also uncertain about the nature of Hamas, saying it is
“regarded by Israel as a terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction.”
According to the Times, only Israel regards Hamas as a terrorist group. Why does the Times ignore that Hamas is also listed as a terrorist group by the European Union, United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, and United Kingdom?
As for the assertion that Hamas is “regarded by Israel as … sworn to Israel’s destruction,” is the Times somehow unaware of the Hamas Charter which cites the destruction of Israel as its primary objective? Does the Times not believe Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar when he declares: "Nobody among our sons and grandsons will accept Israel as a legal state... Israel is a foreign body. Not in this generation, not in the next generation, will we accept it here"?
So far, we've at least been spared the fairy tales from the rocket barrage of four years ago when the Times published the Hamas claim that "We did not intentionally target civilians. We were targeting military bases, but the primitive weapons make mistakes."
This calls to mind the words of Mark Twain: While there are laws to protect freedom of the press, there are unfortunately none to protect people from the press.
(4) The Pallywood industry of false claims.
When it comes to civilians casualties, no one plays it like they do in Gaza. Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic notes how Hamas "prevents the burial, or even preparation of the bodies for burial, until the bodies are used as props in the Palestinian Passion Play. Once, in Khan Younis [Gaza], I actually saw gunmen unwrap a shrouded body, carry it a hundred yards and position it atop a pile of rubble – and then wait a half-hour until photographers showed. It was one of the more horrible things I've seen in my life. And it's typical of Hamas."
Hamas has taken the initiative in promoting fake casualties. On Twitter, @AlqassamBrigade uploaded the photo of a "Palestinian child wounded in an Israeli air strike.” Astute media monitors noted that in truth, the photo is of a child injured last month in the Syrian civil war.
Meanwhile, AFP/Getty issued a photo of a Palestinian man picking up a doll lying on shattered glass. Was this scene genuine? It's possible. But with such a rare confluence of elements – the man's hand a split second from the pristine doll perfectly positioned in the rubble – logic rejects the likelihood that the photojournalist "just happened" to be down on the floor in perfect position at the precise moment. It’s simply too good to be true.
In a classic case of “fauxtography,” BBC and others posted footage of a "badly injured" man being carried away to safety by five other men. Thirty seconds later the man is shown – miraculously – walking around, healthy as a lark. (See the clips here, and watch till 2:42.)
In the meantime, Hamas has been desperately fabricating achievements: falsely claiming to have hit Israel’s parliament in Jerusalem, to have struck down an Israeli drone, and to have killed several soldiers in a jeep.
To be sure, as Hamas registers more losses in the military confrontation and thus becomes more desperate to win the media war, we can expect more attempts to orchestrate events. As Professor Richard Landes has predicted:
Whether by Israeli accident or Hamas engineering, expect a spectacular civilian massacre in the coming days, followed by an orgy of Pallywood photography, amplified by a compliant Western media, and even greater fury in the streets of the Muslim and Western world. It's in the Hamas playbook.
Four years ago, the U.N. school in Jabalya, Gaza provided fodder for an alleged massacre (later disproven). This time, expect Hamas to hang on just long enough to score those coveted PR points. After all, events in Gaza appear to be happening all over again.