*Disclaimer: this article uses a lot of examples of disinformation. Some or even much of information provided here might not be true. I will also not provide links to specific materials in order not to spread the propaganda. The author is also not measuring quantity of disinformation effort, focusing only on the description of narratives.

Let’s have a look at few more examples to see common traits. Before we start though, it is really important to remember that disinformation is a way of manipulation - it means that not all of the content shared within disinformation campaigns are in fact false. That is why disinformation is much more effective and widely shared rather than regular misinformation (which consists of false information).

Examples of pro-Hamas and pro-Israel disinformation

Why Muslim countries are not accepting refugees from Palestine? “What do they know that we don’t? Let’s examine 3 countries that welcomed Palestinian refugees” – we read on @rona_pfeiffer Instagram – “In 1990, Kuwait had a population of 400000 Palestinians. After Kuwait’s war against Iraq, the Palestinians were expelled for supporting Saddam (...). In 1970 Jordan housed 1 million Palestinians. That year, a conflict erupted between Jordanian forces and Palestinian militants as they sought to overthrow the Jordanian government (...). After Jordan the Palestinian leadership established military and political presence in Lebanon, effectively creating a state-within-a-state. With about half of Lebanon’s population being Christian, tensions were heightened by the Palestinians political and military ambition. The Palestinian actions significantly contributed to sparking the Lebanese Civil War, a devastating 15-year conflict. (...) Can you spot the pattern?”

„Our heroes are legitimate, fearless and a super genius” – says an anonymous woman featured on one of @alburujpress reels devoted to Hamas leadership, Mohammed Deif especially – „How can you condemn the only ones responding to the genocide? (…) The most dangerous, the one who can’t be seen. He was the mastermind behind the revenge in Israel. But before calling it an attack as it appear, please bear in mind his land was stolen for 75 years. Then his mother and father were displaced in the 60s. Then they bombed his house, killed his wife and kids in 2014. They thought they ended him, so he invented another rocket and called it Yassin. He is the one to turn bombs into rockets, words into actions, men into soldiers (…). All of that happened without a high degree. This is the man who beaten an invincible army”.

I picked this two examples, because they show most basic disinformation traits which are often used in war operations.

5 basic aims of disinformation

What we can see in both of this short texts, are the five main objectives of war disinformation:

  1. 1) polarization: you have to place yourself on one of the sides; it’s like a football match,

  2. 2) build distrust, sense of unsafety and the feeling of “shifting ground”,

  3. 3) build the incapacity to empathize with the “the other side”,

  4. 4) black & white thinking, amplification of the most radical voices,

  5. 5) hopelessness of any non-violent ways of finding a just solution.

Besides that, we are constantly fed with information, telling us, which side is good and victorious, and which is bad and defeated. We constantly have to be reminded which is “our own”, “right” narrative.

Let’s have a closer look, how polarization (1) and black & white thinking (4) works here. In @rona_pfeiffer reel we see a narrative which lead to a clear, though unspoken, conclusion: Palestinians are war-mongers, they always create trouble, so even other Arab countries fight them. That is why they do not want to welcome them as refugees. Conclusion: these are bad people and what happens in Gaza is actually a consequence of typical, Palestinian behavior. We, Israel and our “good government”, are just defending ourselves, as were Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt or Lebanon (it is worth mentioning that the same narrative is used by Hamas, which is justifying the attack on 7th October as an “act of defense” against the occupation).

Davids against Goliaths - as always

On the other hand, @alburujpress video shows Hamas’ leadership as “geniuses”, “masterminds”, the only just, who are “responding to genocide” created by Israel. There is no way to support Hamas leaders, because they are like David – poor, displaced boys – fighting against the monstrous Goliath (it is worth mentioning that the same narrative is used by Israeli government which shows itself as a “David” fighting the “Arab” or “Islamic” Goliath trying to destroy the state of Israel and the whole democratic world). Here, justice is on the side of Mohammed Deif, one of top-commanders of Hamas military forces.

Why is this pattern so widely used in war disinformation? Psychologically, we tend to support the victim (David) against the oppressor (Goliath). On the other hand, this kind of framing of the victim helps to justify the view that it is fearless and not that much defenseless: that, all in all, David will overcome Goliath’s bad and cruel intentions.

How to make you unsafe?

We can also see here, how both reels are creating the sense of unsafety and “shifting ground” (2). While the first reel is creating a sense of unsafety through portraying a very specific group – Palestinians – as threatening the stability of states and societies, the second is using a picture of Israelis as people guilty of violence, genocide and full of hypocrisy.

The pattern that connects those two materials is that both of them are managing the fear of receivers in order to portray certain actors as “defenders”, “sheriffs” guarding the true values, justice and freedom. Terrified viewers will start to seek someone, who is the defender. In case of the first movie he or she is unspoken – but from the rest of the content available on the page we can know that it is about Israel and its forces “building order” in Gaza. In the second, it is clear that the true defender is Mohamed Deif and the rest of Hamas leadership.

What Israel and Hamas want to achieve?

The most important aim of war propaganda and disinformation efforts are intended to create certain beliefs in us. The first thing is that we cannot empathize with the other side - even if it concerns truly innocent civilians, disinformation will tell us that “they deserve that” or “they are all to blame” (3). The second most important thing is that we cannot believe that peace is possible, that any non-violent ways of finding solutions are open and available.

According to disinformation actors, the only way is this war and propaganda will force you to choose a side and promote polarizing (1), and black and white (4) ways of presenting it, as well as share distrust toward the other side.

Why are they doing that? This will be covered in my next two articles.

About the author:

Karol Wilczyński, Ph.D. - writer and teacher. He works at Jagiellonian University where he teaches Migration, Political Issues of the Middle East, and Islamophobia. He publishes on his Instagram: @wilczynski.karol

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Background photo: Fires in Israel and the Gaza strip - 7 October 2023 by Pierre Markuse. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data [2023], processed by Pierre Markuse (CC BY 2.0).