21st Century Media Warfare: Palestinian Resistance versus Israel

Mitchell Nemeth
Dialogue & Discourse


Photo by Johannes Schenk on Unsplash

In today’s Internet-driven world, public relations and controlling narratives are an integral part of preserving a brand or reputation. Seemingly minor events can launch massive waves of revolt or protest against governments (e.g., 2010 Arab Spring) or companies (e.g. Bud Light). Unlike other geopolitical conflict participants, the Palestinian terrorist organization and governing body in the Gaza Strip, Hamas, has a unique understanding of Western mass media and liberal values. Their approach to urban warfare is uniquely tailored to evoke empathy from Western progressives, the mainstream media, Arabs and Muslims, as well as anti-Zionist activists.

The mainstream media has dedicated vast resources to covering the conflict between Hamas and Israel while seemingly ignoring other regional conflicts, as well as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. In a world of competing distractions, Internet users are time restricted and thus have to rely on headlines, subtitles, summaries, or audio-visual clips to learn about current events. Few can or will read about the conflict in-depth and understand the ancient geopolitical argument that both sides make. Worst of all, many of the loudest voices online are those who intentionally post clickbait or disinformation (i.e., atrocity denial) and those who have watched a few Tik Tok videos and pose as experts. These practices are not uncommon on social media platforms, but they pose a unique risk to our social fabric.

Israel and Gaza are nearly 6,000 miles away from New York City, home to many of the largest mainstream media outlets, so why is the conflict between Israel and Gaza so heavily covered by the media? In 2014, Tablet Magazine’s Matt Friedman wrote a timeless, insightful piece describing the Israel-Hamas conflict titled, “An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth.” The following paragraphs from Friedman’s article perfectly describe this conflict’s continued global importance:

“The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse — namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.

While global mania about Israeli actions has come to be taken for granted, it is actually the result of decisions made by individual human beings in positions of responsibility — in this case, journalists and editors. The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. The key to understanding the strange nature of the response is thus to be found in the practice of journalism, and specifically in a severe malfunction that is occurring in that profession — my profession — here in Israel.”

Friedman correctly points out that “A knowledgeable observer of the Middle East cannot avoid the impression that the region is a volcano and that the lava is radical Islam, an ideology whose various incarnations are now shaping this part of the world. Israel is a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano. Hamas is the local representative of radical Islam and is openly dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish minority enclave in Israel.” The conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas is as religious as it is political. According to the National Counterterrorism Center, Hamas is “committed to armed resistance against Israel and the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state in Israel’s place.”

The broader territorial dispute between the State of Israel and Palestinian people is well documented and discussed. In 2005, Israel withdrew its forces and evicted its civilians in the Gaza Strip. Less than two years later, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip away from the Palestinian Authority. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas has continuously launched thousands of rockets and mortar shells into southern Israeli towns. In retaliation, Israel imposed tight import and export controls, as well as travel restrictions into and out of Gaza. Notably, the Gaza Strip borders Israel, Egypt, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Media coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict often seeks to convince the reader or viewer that Israel is solely to blame for the conflict and the tragic consequences of urban warfare. In late October, Mousa Abu Marzouk of the Hamas Political Bureau told an interviewer on Russian television that it was not Hamas’ responsibility to protect the Gaza Strip’s civilians, rather it was the United Nations’ job. Similarly, mainstream media outlets discuss the Palestinian death toll in Gaza without disclosing the number of Hamas terrorists killed. It is known that Hamas terrorists often dress as civilians to intentionally obscure the true civilian death. Matti Friedman wrote in Tablet Magazine that during the 2008–2009 Gaza conflict, he “personally erased a key detail — that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll — because of a threat to our reporter in Gaza.”

Mainstream media outlets will show footage of the rubble and debris caused by Israeli strikes into Gaza, especially when the target is a mosque, church, school, or hospital, regardless of the fact that Hamas had used those facilities to launch rockets or mortars. Mainstream media does not, similarly, present footage of Hamas terrorists launching rockets into Israel. As Friedman writes, “It is not coincidence that the few journalists who have documented Hamas fighters and rocket launches in civilian areas this summer were generally not, as you might expect, from the large news organizations with big and permanent Gaza operations.”

In keeping with Friedman’s criticism of the mainstream media, I’ve identified several key stories within the timeline that have been overlooked since the conflict reignited on October 7th:

  • Thousands of rockets have been fired into Israeli towns and villages with the Jewish Virtual Library alleging more than 12,000 rockets had been launched from Gaza between October 7, 2023, and November 14, 2023.
  • The Foundation for Defense of Democracies noted that terrorists have launched 116 rockets at Israel from a humanitarian zone in Gaza since mid-October. The Israel Defense Forces’ data noted that 38 of those 116 rockets fell inside the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF, as many as one-fifth of Hamas rockets misfired in a single day landing inside Gaza and killing civilians.
  • Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets are prone to misfire, which means that some of their rockets land inside the Gaza Strip, further exacerbating Palestinian suffering. Hamas characterized their missiles as “homemade,” which implies that they likely won’t have the precision that IDF rockets have. This helps to explain the story around the explosion at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital. As of October 22nd, around 200,000 Israelis have been internally displaced from the Gaza border and the Lebanon border.
  • According to The Times of Israel, the government will be financially responsible for those displaced “until the military allows them to return to what is now a closed military zone near the Gaza border and a restricted area near Lebanon.”
  • On November 26th, Reuters reported that Israel carried out strikes against Iranian-linked targets in Syria. These airstrikes targeted Damascus airport and put it out of service. These strikes have increased as Iranian-linked Hezbollah has grown its influence in Damascus.
  • As of October 14th, France 24 reported that Saudi Arabia paused normalization discussions with the Israelis and the United States. Saudi Arabia was not among the Arab nations that joined the Abraham Accords, which normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and other Arab nations.

Like previous conflicts between Hamas and Israel, Hamas’ objective was to mobilize Arabs across the region, especially among those in the West Bank. The New Yorker reported that Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy chief of Hamas’s political bureau, urged Palestinians to “rise up against both the Israeli settlers in the West Bank and the soldiers protecting them.” One week after Hamas's invasion of southern Israel, former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal called for October 13th to be a “Day of Jihad,” where Arabs and Muslims across the world take to the streets and protest in support of Palestinians. Hamas launched the October 7th massacre to reignite Palestinian armed resistance and broader Muslim support. Hamas is winning the public relations war, as the international community continues to further diplomatically isolate Israel; however, Israel has continued to make considerable gains against Hamas inside the Gaza Strip. As Israel closes in on deposing Hamas from the Gaza Strip, you can expect to see an extinction burst.



Mitchell Nemeth
Dialogue & Discourse

Risk Management professional here to provide unfiltered commentary. Views expressed are mine alone.