Israelly Cool reported Tuesday that Palestinian “journalist” Mustafa Batnain tweeted a “heartbreaking photo from Gaza” depicting a baby inside a cardboard box, presumably the little one’s only shelter amid rampaging, savage, brutal IDF forces. There was just one catch: the photo was actually not from Gaza at all, but from Idomeni, Greece. It’s all in a day’s work for the Palestinian factory of Israeli atrocities.
The photo was just the latest of innumerable examples of the deception that is perpetrated on an industrial scale by Palestinian propagandists in order to make Israel seem to be an oppressive occupying power. Discover the breadth and sophistication of this deception, and its deleterious international effects, in The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process.
But all of this atrocity manufacturing makes the question inescapable: if Gaza is really so terrible, why all the fakery? Why is it so hard to find authentic photos showing the actual misery of the people?
Batnain’s photo was by no means the first of its kind. Israelly Cool also reported recently that a supporter of the Palestinian jihad against Israel, Sarah Hassan, recently posted a photo on Twitter of a boy crouched beneath a cart, surrounded by snow, trying to keep warm. “Gaza…poverty…cold!” wrote Hassan, but IsraellyCool noted that “never got lower than 6 degrees Celcius [sic] in Gaza over that time period” – that is, 43 degrees Fahrenheit, so there couldn’t have been snow piled up everywhere. What’s more, this photo, like Batnain’s, doesn’t really come from Gaza at all; it was taken in Afghanistan in 2006.
A cornerstone of the “Palestinian” cause in the court of world opinion is projection and deception on a massive scale. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, declared: “War is deceit.” (Bukhari, vol. 4, book 56, no. 3030) He also elucidated the conditions under which deceit was permissible: “It is not lawful to lie except in three cases: Something the man tells his wife to please her, to lie during war, and to lie in order to bring peace between the people.”
Palestinian leaders have refined lying during war into a fine art. Palestinian spokesmen set out to portray Israel as an outrageously repressive regime, routinely committing atrocities against the Palestinian people, who deserved aid from the international community as much as the Israelis warranted condemnation.
This initiative, too, has been wildly successful. The United Nations condemns Israel far more often than any other nation; many of these condemnations have been based on reports about Israeli atrocities that were entirely fabricated. World opinion has largely turned against Israel as well, as it has an international reputation today of being one of the world’s most unjust and repressive regimes.
Chicanery with photos akin to the photos from Gaza is quite common. Abdullah Alsaafin, who described himself on Twitter as a “journalist and media trainer,” on August 9, 2018 tweeted a photo of a cute, smiling toddler, with this explanation: “This baby, Bayan abu khamash, 2 years old, was killed last night along with her pregnant mother when an Israeli rocket hit their house in Gaza Strip town of Der elbalah.” The photo, however, was not of Bayan abu Khamash at all, but of an American girl named Elle Lively McBroom. Alsaafin, or his source, picked up the little girl’s photo from Instagram, apparently at random, in order to present the world with another Israeli atrocity. There is no certainty that Bayan abu Khamash was killed by Israelis, or killed at all, or even that she really ever existed.
The international media often accepted Palestinian claims uncritically and spread them throughout the world. The Gaza border protests of Summer 2018 offered a superabundance of examples of this. Reuters reported on June 1, 2018 that “Israeli forces killed a Palestinian nurse on Friday as she tried to help a wounded protester at the Gaza border, according to health officials and a witness, while Israel said militants had attacked its troops with gunfire and a grenade.” Razan Al-Najar, just 21 years old, “was shot as she ran toward the fortified border fence, east of the south Gaza city of Khan Younis, in a bid to reach a casualty, a witness said.”
The shooting appeared to be a clear case of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) deliberately targeting and murdering a civilian. Reuters continued: “Wearing a white uniform, ‘she raised her hands high in a clear way, but Israeli soldiers fired and she was hit in the chest,’ the witness, who requested anonymity, told Reuters.”
Dr. Iyad Yaghi, a senior health official in Gaza, urged the world to make Razan al-Najar a symbol of Israeli crimes: “It is the first time the Israeli side have killed a paramedic, she is a female. They are targeting more than 245 paramedics. We are asking here, protesting here, asking the international community to put more pressure on Israel. It is time not to keep silent.”
However, several days later a video interview of Razan al-Najar emerged in which she said: “I act as a human shield and rescuer for the injured on the front lines.” A 2015 report from the United Nations, which has been an inveterate enemy of Israel for years, criticized Hamas for using civilians as human shields – that is, mounting attacks against Israel from densely populated civilian areas so that Israel’s retaliatory fire would kill civilians, whose deaths could then be exploited for propaganda purposes.
An Israeli investigation also found that Razan al-Najar had not been hit intentionally; running toward, rather than away from, gunfire was just the sort of thing a self-designated human shield would do, so as to divert gunfire away from those who were trying to breach Israel’s security fence. IDF spokesman Ofir Gendelman said: “Razan Najjar was not an angel, like they made her out to be. Hamas puts her in front of the cameras, and she boasts of serving as a human shield for those who exploit even medical personnel to serve Hamas’s terrorist purposes.”
Razan al-Najar was not the only person Hamas exploited. The jihad group also paid 8,000 shekels (approximately $2,200) to the family of an eight-month-old baby, Layla al-Ghandour, in return for their claim that the little girl had been killed by Israeli tear gas during the Gaza border riots of June 2018. This was, as far as Hamas was concerned, money well spent: the girl’s death made international headlines, and a chorus of new condemnations of Israel. Seham Al Ghandour, Layla’s mother, played her part to the hilt, telling reporters: “I went looking for my daughter and they told me she was taken to the hospital. I went to the hospital and I knew she was dead.” Little Layla’s aunt, Fatma Al Ghandour, pointed the finger: “They did not have mercy on a girl, they threw gas bombs at her, they killed her with tear gas. They did not have mercy on the children or anyone else. What is she guilty of to die like this?” EuroNews intoned solemnly: “Traditionally, May 15th is the day Palestinians mark the ‘Nakba’ or ‘Catastrophe’. But this year, they have even more reasons to grieve.”
But in reality, Layla al-Ghandour suffered from a heart defect known as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), which is more commonly known as a hole in the heart. That was what killed her, not the tear gas.
Hamas was so anxious to have Palestinian civilian casualties that it could parade before the world in order to gain propaganda victories that in April 2018, as protests raged at the Gaza border, the terror group offered $500 to “Palestinians” for getting shot and wounded at the border, and $3,000 to the families of those who got themselves killed during the protests. This was too much for Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Islamic Affairs and Supreme Sharia Judge, who denounced Hamas on official Palestinian Authority TV: “The Palestinian people…doesn’t care about those [Hamas] with ‘the emotional stories of heroism,’ those with the slogans of heroism – slogans that when you hear them, you think that the people saying them are inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque after they liberated it. And afterwards you discover that they’re only selling illusions, trading in suffering and blood, trading in victims, [saying]: ‘You Palestinians, our people, go and die so that we’ll go to the TV and media with strong declarations.’ These [Hamas] acts of ‘heroism’ don’t fool anyone anymore. The Palestinian people…sides with the PLO.”
Whether it did or not, and there was considerable evidence that it did not, that Hamas was sending Palestinians to die in order to manipulate world opinion against Israel was certain.
This is a propaganda success that Josef Goebbels and the editors of Pravda would have envied, and it became the foundation for more. Having established the Palestinians as a tiny indigenous people whose land was stolen by rapacious, well-heeled, and oppressive foreigners, it was time to return to the negotiating table – not in order to achieve any genuine accord with Israel, but to exploit the victimhood status of the new tiny people they had invented in order to win valuable concessions from the Israelis.
And it worked.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.