Full Spectrum Zionist Warfare

Although winning the social media information battle since 7 October, Palestinians and their supporters must work to gut the persistent language parameters that Israel has long cultivated to establish itself as victim, terrorized, and righteous.

“He mobilized the English language and sent it to the field.”

So declared British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax about British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s speech in the House of Commons at the time, after he managed to convince his Conservative Party opposition to enter the war against Hitler.

In a multipolar world where great powers are vying to influence global public opinion, language is paramount. “Words, after all, are the building blocks of our psychology“and shape our perception of good and evil, right and wrong. 

The information warfare at play, for decades dominated by the western axis and its vast, global media reach, seeks to shape our opinions of the geopolitical chess board. It is a fight that became visible to all in the battlefields of Syria, then intensified over Ukraine, and is now collapsing over Israel’s stunningly brutal military assault on Gaza and its 2.4 million civilians.

“Israel has the right to defend itself.”

This ubiquitous phrase used by Israel during its 75+ years of oppression and occupation of Palestine often serves as a thinly veiled justification for its indefensible actions. This shield against accountability for human rights abuses has not only been wielded by the Israeli government but has also found resonance among western leaders.

This rhetoric gained renewed traction following the Hamas-led resistance operation, Al-Aqsa Flood, on 7 October 2023. In its immediate aftermath, US President Joe Biden promised to ensure that Israel has “what it needs to defend itself,” declaring from his highly visible White House pulpit that he has assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “Israel has the right to defend itself and its people, full stop.”

Similar sentiments were parroted by British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after 7 October, who posted on X that Israel has “an absolute right” to defend itself, followed by a spate of EU leaders clambering to assure “their support for Israel’s right to defend itself, in line with humanitarian and international law.”

During his visit to the occupation state in November, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken not only reiterated Washington’s support for “Israel’s right to self-defense” but went as far as to say, “It is obligated to do so.”

The right to commit genocide 

This assertion of the “right to defend itself” serves as a key component of the linguistic and conceptual arsenal employed by the US-backed Israeli government within occupied Palestine and the broader West Asian region.

In a world where narratives vie for dominance in shaping public opinion, the significance of terminology cannot be overstated. Israel has adeptly utilized linguistic nuances and strategic ambiguity to advance its narrative on the Palestinian issue, whether through historical revisionism, past conflicts, or contemporary events like the Al-Aqsa Flood.

The Cradle columnist Sharmine Narwani wrote about this in 2012, emphasizing the significance of “public diplomacy” as a crucial tool in geopolitics. “Anything that invokes the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and the myths about historic Jewish rights to the land bequeathed to them by the Almighty” all serve to preserve Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself. 

However, such narratives obscure the reality of the situation: a powerful occupying force supported by a superpower pitted against an indigenous population without a conventional army to defend them. 

A war of words

Gustave Le Bon, the founder of mass psychology, begins in his book The Psychology of the Masses, what he calls “images, words and phrases” as one of the direct factors that contribute to the formation of the opinions of the masses: 

The masses fascinate their imagination and are aroused by the intelligent and correct use of appropriate words and phrases, and if we use them artistically and tactfully, then they can possess secret power. It evokes in the soul of many masses the most powerful hurricane, but it also knows how to calm them. Words whose meanings are difficult to determine precisely are the ones that sometimes have the greatest ability to influence and act.

Following the 2008 Israeli offensive on Gaza, Republican pollster and political strategist Dr Frank Luntz authored a study titled “The Israel Project’s 2009 Global Language Dictionary,” commissioned by a group called The Israel Project for use by those “who are on the front lines of fighting the media war for Israel.”

In the second chapter, titled “Glossary of Words That Work,” Luntz presents “For the first time in our communication effort … an A–Z glossary of specific words, phrases, and concepts that should form the core of any pro-Israeli communication effort.” The following are just a few examples from his glossary of terms:

Humanize Rockets: Paint a vivid picture of what life is like in Israeli communities that are vulnerable to attack. Yes, cite the number of rocket attacks that have occurred. But immediately follow that up with what it is like to make the nightly trek to the bomb shelter.

‘Peace before political boundaries’: This is the best phrase for talking about why a two-state solution isn’t realistic right now. First the rockets and the war need to stop. Then both peoples can talk about political boundaries.

‘The RIGHT to’: This is a stronger phrase than ‘deserves.’ Use the phrase frequently, including: the rights that both Israelis and Arabs enjoy in Israel, the right to peace that Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to, and Israel’s right to defend its civilians against rocket attacks.

Narrative manipulation and linguistic tactics

Understanding the historical efforts to control the narrative surrounding the ‘Arab–Israeli conflict’ begins with the absence of a clear definition or identification of its parties. This ambiguity allows for manipulation and flexibility in defining the issue. Consequently, a selection of vocabulary and terms has been identified that shapes the discourse surrounding the Palestinian cause.

Major international media outlets and political leaders have progressively framed the resistance against the occupation from its historical portrayal as an Arab–Israeli conflict to a Palestinian–Israeli one, then further narrowing it to a confrontation between Hamas/ Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Israel. The western press and major media outlets also favor the usage of terms like “clash” rather than “Israeli aggression” and seek to frame the murder of Palestinians as people who “died” rather than “killed” by Israel.

This reductionist approach diminishes the complexity of the conflict and emphasizes Israel’s role while minimizing the opposing side’s agency. Additionally, overused terminology such as “conflict” replaces more nuanced terms, further simplifying the narrative.

In line with Israel’s perpetual portrayal of itself as a victim, it garners sympathy by weaponizing the Holocaust and gains support globally by positioning itself as such and asserting its “legitimate right to self-defense.” 

Israel and the US have also conflated anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, equating criticism of its policies with bigotry against Jews. This conflation has led to accusations of anti-Semitism against individuals who critique Israel, such as university presidents, perpetuating a narrative that stifles intellectual dissent.

Israeli media employs “harrowing” terms like “neutralization” to describe the killing of resistance fighters in Gaza and the West Bank, employing language that minimizes the emotional impact on Palestinians and presents a sanitized version of events while also dehumanizing them. 

Writing and fighting back 

It is crucial to recognize that the lexicon surrounding the Palestinian issue and the wider resistance in the West Asian region against Israel plays a significant role in shaping narratives and collective consciousness. This linguistic battleground, often overlooked, is integral to understanding the current war’s dynamics and the framing of events.

For instance, in the aftermath of Al-Aqsa Flood, Israel strategically utilized its Hasbara apparatus to propagate a specific narrative. This narrative included the assertion of Israel’s “right of self-defense,” which framed Israel as a victim justifying its actions. 

Additionally, Israel referred to individuals held by Hamas as “hostages” rather than “detainees” or “prisoners,” implying their potential use as human shields and justifying lethal responses. The forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza was labeled as “repositioning” or “transfer,” a euphemism aimed at downplaying the severity of the situation. 

While Israel initially referred to its military actions as “ground maneuvers” to mitigate media and legal ramifications, it later framed its indiscriminate aggression as a “war on terror” to garner international support. This framing aimed to portray Hamas as a terrorist entity akin to ISIS, appealing to western sentiments and seeking to eliminate the notion that there were innocents in Gaza.

As the Axis of Resistance has often repeated, this war is being fought on multiple fronts – not just in the physical realm but prominently in the online realm of propaganda. Redressing the imbalance of power in the information war, however, is no easy task. The battle of words and ideas is an essential one for Palestinian resistance movements and pro-Palestine voices to fight. The opportunity to completely flip the narrative – now that Israel has revealed Zionism’s ugliest face in Gaza – has fully arrived, and the myth of Israeli victimhood must be put to rest forever.

Ali Choukeir is a writer and a PhD student in international affairs.

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