Understanding why Israeli propaganda fails on a fundamental level
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If you’ve been paying attention to the propaganda Israel has been putting out since October 7 (example here), you might be wondering: why is their propaganda so bad? It feels like anyone in the world, pro-Palestine or not, Zionist or not, could design better propaganda than the best Israel manages to make.
We aim to answer this question, but it will require some necessary background and context.
Israel finds itself in a bind. Since the October 7 incursion by the Palestinian resistance, it has yet to produce any actual evidence of their alleged claims, which keep changing by the day. Meanwhile, it uses these claims to displace the 2 million people forced to live in Gaza ever further South and towards the Egyptian border.
Israel’s ultimatum is to either corral all Gazans into an ever decreasing area so they can bomb them all once they’re packed together, or force Egypt to open the Rafah crossing. In either case, Israel will commit genocide (under the UN definition) — a price it’s willing to pay to achieve its goal of ethnically cleansing Gaza of all Palestinians and settling it themselves.
What little ‘evidence’ Israel has released amounts to nothing more than hastily-planted books and weapons, as well as more professional scripted videos and photoshoots featuring English-speaking actors, most of them young (white) women, and released on social media.
This evidence fails to convince anyone who wasn’t already convinced, but I’m not here to talk about the propaganda itself.
Rather, I think it’s time to talk about the psychology of settlers so that we can properly understand why they produce these videos and, more importantly, that they think we are the unreasonable ones.
This is how they truly think. When Israelis see the world laugh at the “sperm retrieval units”, they don’t understand why we’re laughing. They think we’re provoking them because to them, it’s normal to retrieve your husband’s or son’s sperm after his death just in case you want to have his children (whether he wants to or not). To Zionists, it’s become banal to “keep the bloodline going.” It’s just something people do.
The question is, how do you get to that point that you think it’s normal to do this?
Perhaps we should ask the more obvious question: how do you get to the point where you think it’s normal to bomb 10,000 people, half of them children, and still claim to be the victim?
Well, essentially, Israel didn’t have much of a choice into how its culture would develop. It’s a country that has only existed since 1948, whose raison d’être is predicated on the displacement and occupation of its native people.
This reality drives the first part of their psychology; the deep psychological make-up Israelis grow up with, which is reinforced around them: in schools, in the media, from their peers (parents, teachers, friends…).
From their youngest age, Israelis are exposed to the IDF as heroes, keepers of the peace, and generally something to aspire to. As ex-soldier-turned-whistleblower Eran Efrati put it, your father served in the army, your mother served, and you’re expected to serve too. By the time you’re drafted, the military is already a part of your identity. You’re looking forward to receiving the letter.
The IDF puts in a lot of effort to keep this identity going. Eran also explains how Israeli children, starting from kindergarten, receive frequent visits from IDF soldiers who talk to them about the military, about ‘Arabs’ (their word for Palestinians), let them see and touch their equipment (including the guns), how they explain to them that what they are doing is right, that it’s justified in the scriptures.
While we might see this as indoctrination, to Israelis, it’s simply their culture. Culture that is enforced so softly on them, they never entirely realize they are internalizing it.
I remember reading recently an account from a man who has family in Gaza. His nephews and nieces, no older than 9 or 10, asked him: “Are the bombings also stronger now in Dubai?”
To these children, being bombed is just a part of life. To Zionist children, ethnically cleansing Palestinians is just something that happens. It’s just something people do.
This is the first component that explains Israeli propaganda. But while culture is partly enforced, it’s also partly self-reproducing.
The point of this indoctrination is that by the time you are enlisted into the military, you will perform your job admirably. If you think of Palestinians as subhumans, then you won’t think twice about arresting them, blindfolding them, bombing them, or pulling the trigger on a Palestinian child.
But the first Zionists like Theodor Herzl who originally conceived of these justifications to colonize Palestine are long dead. Nowadays, this culture reproduces itself without their input.
As you put that culture into place — as you conduct your first raids in the West Bank, as you film yourself mocking Palestinians in Gaza and happily upload the video on TikTok, already imagining all the likes and shares you’ll receive…
You think you’re right.
You truly believe, in your heart, that you’re being reasonable.
And when people call you out on it, you don’t understand. You try to rationalize it. You call them antisemites, because why else would they attack you? Don’t they see that ‘Arabs’ are terrorists? Do they wish for your death?
I don’t want this to sound like I’m excusing settlers for their crimes. I don’t want to detach them from the acts they’ve committed. As we’ve seen with Eran for example, it is possible to take a step back and change. He left the IDF and the country, and now works to blow the whistle on the IDF’s practices.
The second factor of self-reproducing culture is that you have to want to reproduce it. Yes, it’s difficult to break out of the mold, but it’s possible. When your reality is that your army, which you have been a part of, feels powerful and in control when they order innocent children to vacate the streets, and you don’t think something is wrong, it means you want that power too.
The ‘problem’ Israel finds itself in is that it exists on the colonization of a native people. What kind of culture can you develop on that? What kind of psychology does it pass on to your people?
Whether they are active participants or not, all Israelis profit from the colonization of Palestine. They live in a country directly built on settlements, genocide, and apartheid. A country which protects them more than it protects its ‘second-class’ citizens, Israeli Palestinians and non-white Jews.
Again, to some extent, you have to want to believe the propaganda to willingly live with it. There are material gains you make when you believe in it — you don’t risk losing your job, you don’t become a social outcast, and you get access to all the benefits the apartheid state has to give you, such as a free house in the West Bank that you can steal from a Palestinian family.
It’s a self-feeding cycle. You make material, tangible gains when you believe in the culture, and so you believe in the culture more.
In 2003, American activist Rachel Corrie was in Gaza protesting alongside Palestinians for their freedom (back then, Gaza had IDF presence and settlements). On March 16, as she was protesting the demolition of a doctor’s house, she was purposely ran over by an IDF bulldozer and crushed under the tracks. She died shortly after.
In a sick celebration, Israelis started holding parties where they make ‘Rachel Corrie pancakes’ on the day of her death.
Can we expect anything more from a country that exists on the genocide of its native population?
Or maybe the question is: why can’t we expect more? Again, I refer to the material gains Israelis make by buying into the propaganda. When I say ‘buying into’, I don’t mean that they pay it lip service. I mean that they happily gobble it up and enforce it on their peers. If too many people started speaking against the treatment of Palestinians, the whole system might come crashing down, and that will never be allowed to happen as long as they can help it.
But let’s take a step back and look at it from higher up.
Since October 7, the Israeli state has made several claims about things the resistance supposedly did in their operation but, to this day, have yet to provide any evidence of it.
First, they claimed that Hamas beheaded 40 babies. Then, they changed that to ‘inadvertently’ beheading. They later changed ‘beheaded’ to just ‘killed’. When they saw that didn’t take, they started recording animated videos. President Herzog went in front of the cameras to show the smoking gun the IDF had ‘found’ in pristine condition among the rubble in Gaza: A copy of Mein Kampf.
Later, as they advanced into Gaza, they recorded videos of the Al-Shifa hospital and magically found a grand total of 10 small arms, including in the MRI room! (MRIs work with magnetic resonance and no metal object should be present in the room). They claimed a list on the wall gave the names of the POWs’ guards (it was a calendar with the days of week written on it).
After that, they started producing skits “retelling” what they say happened on October 7. Their current line is that Hamas “raped” women and girls, when earlier it was that they simply kidnapped civilians.
You might think that Israel making up atrocity propaganda is evidence they don’t sincerely believe their own propaganda. Perhaps it’s true that at the higher levels, they know the reality of the Zionist state and have no illusions about the work they’re doing — both in Gaza and in the propaganda department.
But I think reality can also sometimes be more complicated than meets the eye and that they still believe their own version of events, but also know they are making up evidence.
Previously, I spent some time researching Holocaust deniers. What I found was that they also make up evidence, sometimes outright creating pictures or making up documents of atrocities. At first glance, this seems counter-productive: why would you make up a document that can easily be proven fake? Wouldn’t it hurt your point if people knew you had to make fakes to “prove” the Holocaust didn’t happen?
In actuality, the goal of faking photos, even when done poorly, is to make you think, the next time you see a photo of the Holocaust or Wehrmacht war crimes, that it might be fake too. Its point is to discredit all photos of the Holocaust.
The same logic applies when the IDF releases their propaganda.
On November 18, the official IDF Twitter account posted a scripted video — not the first one by far — to try and rally support towards themselves, as it is currently overwhelmingly going towards Palestine (who has no need to post scripted and acted skits when they can just show the reality of what’s happening in Gaza).
These skits always feature blonde, younger and conventionally attractive women who speak perfect English (not suprising, as a major amount of Israelis are originally from the United States). They recite a perfect script, while looking seriously at the camera.
But they don’t show any images of the atrocities they claim happened. They don’t show any evidence, despite claiming it exists.
It’s a theater show, nothing more. It doesn’t work any more than their earlier attempts did. But it’s the only propaganda they can put out.
Of course, this propaganda, delivered in perfect English, isn’t meant for their own people or for Palestinians. It’s meant for you, the international audience, who’s overwhelmingly siding with Palestine.
Israel knows there are no Hamas tunnels beneath Al-Shifa Hospital. They know women were not targeted to become “rape prisoners” but because they were IDF.
But remember what we started this article with: “it feels like anyone in the world could design better propaganda than the best Israel manages to make.”
Zionists fundamentally see Palestinians as subhumans and don’t understand why we are siding with them. For this reason, they can’t produce convincing propaganda. They don’t understand why the world doesn’t believe in their supremacy over the land of Palestine, as they grew up in a society where this was considered normal.
It’s under this logic that Israelis release videos of themselves committing crimes. Sometime in November 2023 for example, an IDF soldier found a friend to film him as he threw a flash grenade inside a mosque during prayer. Consciously, he not only decided to go through with this act but also film it and upload it on the Internet. He was sure of himself that what he did was desirable, that it was entertaining, that people would laugh along with him and not be horrified at the free cruelty displayed.
It was entertaining, but only to other Zionists. They publicize these crimes to remind Palestinians of the settler’s superiority, that they have ‘conquered’ Palestine and get to enjoy the victor’s spoils. It’s meant to keep Palestinians in a climate of fear.
But this superiority, in Zionist logic, was earned from the anterior conquest of Palestine. First you conquer the land, then you justify it, then finally you can feel superior about it.
It also reinforces and breeds more crimes against Palestinians, as it shows other settlers what is expected of them, what they are allowed to do to Palestinians without repercussions.
The IDF and Police force routinely release footage of detained Palestinian civilians as they proudly humiliate them. This woman, for example, was forced to sit in front of the Israeli flag — the flag of the occupation — while her picture was taken by the police.
In another video taken by the police and released to the media, they proudly arrest another Palestinian woman under a new “anti-terrorism” law for changing her Whatsapp status.
Ultimately, settler culture is a death cult. It can only drive you to extinction. When it starts on the basis that populated land belongs to you alone and you are justified in killing and displacing millions to settle this land for yourself, what kind of culture can you develop from that? What will happen if Israel gets its wish and owns the entirety of Palestine; will they stop there? Unlikely, as already prominent Zionists are saying they will come for America (as well as Egypt and Lebanon), and that Hamas already controls all worldwide institutions (thereby making these institutions targets of the IDF). It’s difficult to tell the settler to stop settling; why would he, when he successfully did it once and can continue to reap benefits from ongoing occupation?
Settler culture indoctrinates children into believing they are owed what belongs to others instead of sharing with them. It makes them grow into a caricature of themselves, one that will pull the trigger on the child they could have been without a second thought. One that will make them celebrate atrocities committed against the other, while developing a self-important, stubborn sense of self — just talk to any Zionist and see how superior to you they feel.
More importantly, it makes people complacent. The IDF is great when it comes to throwing babies out of incubators or kidnapping defenseless Palestinian elders from the West Bank. But as soon as they need to actually face resistance, they fold. They are used to having everything handed to them (the produce of settler-colonialism) and want the colonizing to be done for them too, seeing themselves as simply passive actors of a very active, ongoing process in which they are embedded from birth. In other words, the colonizing will not happen without its attack dogs, and you are the dog.
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