This article was published as: Andre Oboler, “Rise of Anti-Semitism From This War Is No Accident“, The Australian, August 11, 2014, Commentary, Page 10. It was also published as: Andre Oboler, “The Useful Idiots’ “Gaza Holocaust”“, The Jerusalem Post – Blogs, August 8, 2014.
WHILE no civilian casualties are good, reports are emerging that strongly question the number of civilian casualties in Gaza.
The BBC’s head of statistics has highlighted that the figures presented are highly improbable. He says “some of the conclusions being drawn from them may be premature”. With that, Hamas’s illusion begins to crack. The reality behind it is far uglier, and more dangerous, than many have realised.
Far away from the Middle East there are two additional sets of victims, neither Israeli not Palestinian. The first are Jews, facing rising anti-semitism. The second group of victims includes many of those spewing out anti-semitism. They too are victims as they act against their values in aid of a greater purpose. Those who have fallen into this trap will explain the uniqueness of the current conflict, and reflect on the reported number of civilian casualties. Their call to arms, however, rests on a carefully manufactured illusion.
It seems that, statistically speaking, the high civilian casualty rate in Gaza is very likely to conceal many Hamas combatants. This is no surprise as a similar situation occurred in Operation Cast Lead (2008-09) when Hamas, at the time, claimed only 50 fighters were killed but later admitted to a figure of 600 to 700 fighters, a figure almost identical to Israeli reports during the conflict.
The supposedly disproportionate civilian casualty rate has been used not only to justify and mobilise hostility to Israel, but also to defend outright anti-semitism including comparisons to the Holocaust. How dare you raise the issue of anti-semitism when so many people are being killed, a former Facebook friend wrote to me. If the number of civilian casualties is in fact similar to other conflicts, or proportionally less than other conflicts, when comparing the rate of civilian to combatant casualties, then a lot of people have been working off a false premise.
The reliance on a false premise led many to the conclusion that Israel deserved unique condemnation, and the issue deserved priority above all else on the international agenda. If the conflict was not exceptional, there was no basis for this special treatment.
As I write this, rockets have resumed and the IDF just announced they were about to take action to eliminate the threat. One Twitter user, with a free Palestine image, responded saying that another Nuremberg was waiting for Israel.
This Gaza Holocaust analogy is spectacularly bad, and deliberately anti-semitic. It has been repeated so many times that it is becoming a Big Lie. And therein lies the second crack in the Hamas illusion.
The anti-semitic imagery used in this conflict is beyond anything we have seen before. It looks like a deliberate social media strategy of Hamas, and one that follows perfectly from the anti-semitism in their mainstream media channels, including on children’s TV shows like Tomorrow’s Pioneers.
The treatment of all casualties as civilians, the overt anti-semitism and the comparison of Gaza to the Holocaust are part of a coherent Hamas social media strategy. The strategy has been openly promoted to activists via official Hamas channels, in Arabic of course. MEMRI translated this guide in mid-July, but it didn’t get enough attention.
Consider two points taken from the guide: Avoid entering into a political argument with a Westerner aimed at convincing him that the Holocaust is a lie and deceit; instead, equate it with Israel’s crimes against Palestinian civilians”; “Anyone killed or martyred is to be called a civilian from Gaza or Palestine, before we talk about his status in jihad or his military rank. Don’t forget to always add ‘innocent civilian’ or ‘innocent citizen’ in your description of those killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza.”
Our cracks suddenly open into fissures, and ground on which Hamas’s illusion rests starts to fall way. Both these points from the guide are repeated constantly in social media. Only some comes from hard core Hamas supporters who may have seen the guide. Much comes from people who have no idea about the ideology of Hamas, or its social media war strategy.
The technical term for people who have been suckered in to supporting the Hamas social media strategy, and therefore Hamas more broadly, is “useful idiots”. Rich Lowry has written a great piece about the impact of these useful idiots, but missed the Hamas strategy to deliberately create more of them. I previously noted that Facebook was caught in a social media war, but I missed how anti-semitism and the creation of useful idiots was part of this strategy.
I’ve created a resource page to explain the problem with the Holocaust analogy it. Some, including Muslim friends, quickly saw the problem. Others, anti-racism activists with no specific connection to the conflict, refused to see it. For them raising anti-semitism was trying to dodge the issue of the casualties and the criticality of stopping Israel. I felt I was staring down a rabbit hole. Comparisons between Israel and the Nazis are given explicitly as an example in the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. It’s not a matter of interpretation or debate.
The way people around the world have been misled as part of a deliberate Hamas propaganda strategy is outrageous. The real civilian deaths, inevitable in armed conflict, are still a tragedy, but to use support for human rights as part of a war strategy is morally reprehensible. We knew they were doing it with the living, now we see they are doing it with the dead as well. To promote Holocaust trivialisation as part of a war strategy is also utterly reprehensible. Hamas advocates genocide of Jews in its charter, but how did anti-racists come to adopt this vile poison and promote the agenda of genocide?
Many who have fallen for the Hamas propaganda strategy have reacted angrily when told their comments are anti-semitic and defended their position with reference to the “unique nature” of the current conflict. With that premise exposed as a deliberate illusion, they have a bitter pill to swallow. Many seek other ways to validate their actions. In doing so many may fall further into the racist arguments flooding across social media.
Unless people stop and take stock, Hamas may well achieve its real purpose, to harm Jewish people around the globe. The rise in anti-semitism is a key outcome of this war, and it seems it is far from an accident.
Andre Oboler is CEO of the Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI). OHPI’s guide on reporting anti-semitism on Facebook was released on Friday.