Sahib Mustaqim Bleher calls on Muslims and all those of good conscience, to move beyond the framing of Palestine as dictated by the mainstream westernised media, as both individuals and societies.
“Historic break-out from Gaza concentration camp – prison guards taken hostage.
Jointly, Arabs in the Gaza and West Bank concentration camps and the Jerusalem ghetto number about six million, and Israel is contemplating a final solution to the demographic problem.
Meanwhile, Abbas, senior Kapo at the West Bank concentration camp, said he had to express sympathy with the escapees or they might also come for him.”
“Russia-Ukraine conflict: Ukraine ambassador summoned over civilian deaths on Russian soil. Russia’s right to defend itself against attacks on its civilians and infrastructure must be upheld.”
You will immediately recognise that the above “news reports” are parodies rather than real news headlines from be it Western or Arab media. When it comes to reporting on the Middle East, the BBC, CNN, TRT or Al Jazeera only differ in flavour but retain the same ingredients. A clear indicator that all of us have been subjected to decades of propaganda where reporting means taking sides and dissident voices are largely absent, confirming the observation of Aseschylus of ancient Greece, requoted numerous times and ascribed to different people since, that “in war, the first casualty is truth.”
The war between Israel and Gaza / Palestine did not start on October 7 this year. However, it is the first time, that Israeli prime minister Netanyahu declared a war, deviating from the usual rhetoric of “going after terrorists”.
After some reporters succumbed to reprimands from IDF spokespersons and an overzealous (brown sahib/auntie Tom) home secretary for calling Hamas fighters “militants” when they were “mindless barbaric terrorists”, the BBC’s John Simpson tried his hand at damage control: “Why the BBC doesn’t call Hamas militants terrorists”, explaining that terrorism is a loaded word which conflicts with the BBC’s cherished impartiality even though the government proscribes Hamas as a terrorist organisation – multiple layers of misinformation as usual by which history is continuously being rewritten to suit policy objectives. For a start, the British Propaganda Corporation was never impartial; it is a government mouthpiece.
Almost two decades ago, in 2006, the USA as part of its endless failed “peace initiatives” insisted on and financed elections in the Gaza strip. The people of Gaza elected Hamas. Since Hamas refused conditions imposed on it, such as recognition of the state of Israel’s right to exist (as a separate Jewish apartheid state), Israel and its US ally cancelled the will of the people and declared Hamas a terrorist organisation. Gaza has been without a government since, but in democratic terms Hamas is a state actor. Netanyahu’s declaration of war recognises this once again and turns Hamas fighters into neither militants nor terrorists but combatants, since under international law a war is fought between two armies (the “war on terror” is another propagandistic phrase without any substance in law).
Given the two sides are now at war, the rules of war under international law apply, and Israel is clearly guilty of war crimes under the 1949 Geneva Convention ratified by all member states of the UN. Amongst the crimes defined as “war crimes” which Israel violated are:
– Wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health
– Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly
Furthermore, Israel violated what the convention lists as “Other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law”, amongst them:
– Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities
– Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects, that is, objects which are not military objectives
– Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated
– The transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory
– Intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not military objectives
– Intentionally using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare by depriving them of objects indispensable to their survival, including wilfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under the Geneva Conventions
Cutting off electricity and water supplies, starving the population, damaging civil infrastructure, preventing humanitarian aid from entering, the use of phosphorus bombs, etc. are all war crimes. Having been the occupying power for several decades compounds Israel’s criminal guilt.
Of course, Israel, backed by the USA and its Western allies or dependencies, has a long record of ignoring international law and UN resolutions. Now, instead of merely crying crocodile’s tears, Western governments and media have come out in open support of the war criminal, thereby becoming guilty parties themselves. To deflect from their complicity, they try to turn the focus on the killing of “innocent civilians” by Hamas in Israel during their “unprovoked attack” (which in the Ukrainian context would have been called a “counter-offensive” against invaders and oppressors of countless years). There were even stories, by now retracted and discredited, of beheaded children, comparable to the babies dying in the now infamous Kuwaiti incubators at the start of the Iraq war.
Unlike in Gaza, where joining the Hamas armed wing is by choice, every adult Israeli, barring a few exceptions, is a reservist who completed military service (and is now being called up). Thus, unlike in Gaza, there are no adult “innocent civilians” in Israel.
The Hamas counter-offensive took the world by surprise. Nobody expected a “Sobibor” uprising in the Gaza concentration camp. It was business as usual: leave the people of Gaza to rot until the day they can be made to leave entirely. For Israel’s war cabinet, this day has now come.
The preparations and tactics of Hamas on October 7 tick all the boxes of textbook military strategy. Far from being a spent force, the armed wing of Hamas proved itself to be a formidable enemy, inflicting a high level of casualties on the other side and disabling its command-and-control structure at the border for some considerable time. However, it failed in its lack of perception of the necessity of also winning the propaganda war. Of course, the positions of US-allied governments and media would never have been any different, but to sustain the initial surprise advantage, Hamas would have relied on additional fronts opening up by Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq or others getting involved. So far, this has not happened. It appears that Hamas miscalculated that Arab/Muslim governments would rejoice at the well managed break-out of Gaza and finally support the Palestinian struggle now that the chance offered itself to them. This would have been a dangerous delusion. Arab governments love the material rewards which come from being subservient to Western powers; they pay lip service to the Palestinian cause and will not act unless forced to by their own populations. Likewise, Western governments will not care about law and humanity unless forced by their respective populations. This is where the battle for the minds of the people becomes hugely important. As long as the truth can be concealed through mass media manipulation, popular outrage will not be sufficient to force governments to change tune.
What is different now from, for example, the days of the first intifada, is the existence of social media. State propaganda cannot afford dissenting voices. Social media, which was designed to get individuals hooked to their devices in order to make monitoring their discourse and movements easy, has become a poisoned chalice in that they are alternative sources of information which are, in spite of massive efforts of “fact checking” alleged “fake news”, usually more trusted than the discredited mainstream media. Having sided with the oppressors, Western governments also have to turn more oppressive against their own populations (something their Arab and other ex-colonial allies could teach them well), and calls for censorship have increased to an unprecedented level, shutting down numerous channels not sanctioned by the official narrative. This method was first tried during the Ukraine war by blocking out news feeds from RT as “violating local laws”, and overall, people did not seem to be too bothered by this creeping cancellation of “freedom of speech”. Impressively, Telegram withstood the pressure and refused to cancel the official Hamas telegram channel, arguing that it was subscriber-based only and would therefore not supply unpalatable information to readers who did not want to obtain it but, on the other hand, would save lives by giving access to information about Hamas’ intended targets.
Unfortunately, whilst a valuable source of first-hand information, the channel was not professionally run by people who understand the art of using the right word at the right time, also referred to as propaganda. The language used by Hamas to report its victories, decry its losses and challenge the enemy recalled that found in publications of the Social Workers Party prior to the demise of the Soviet Union.
In war, language is used to discredit, demolish and ridicule the enemy. Surah al-Lahab is an example from the Qur’an. Prophet Muhammad, peace be with him, employed the poet Hasan ibn Thabit to this end. He knew that the propaganda war must be won by using the best resources available.
Notwithstanding this failure, the propaganda war is also being won in favour of Palestinians simply due to the self-delusionary arrogance of the other side. You cannot successfully legislate against the truth. The truth is, as the philosopher Fichte put it, like a light, even a shimmer of it removes all darkness. Or in Surah al-Isra’ in the Qur’an:
And say: the truth has come and falsehood has vanished, for falsehood always vanishes. (ayah 81).
To fight the truth, governments who have now openly sided with falsehood and oppression, must become ever more oppressive. In support of Israel, they must become like Israel, and there will be conflict. France, Germany and Britain tried to stop their citizens from demonstrating in support of Gaza and failed. Arab governments, aware of their precarious situation especially after more recent attempts to make “peace” with Israel, will need to encourage their citizens to show support for Palestine, else they will be equated with the Israeli oppressors, weakening their internal support. This in turn, forces them to distance themselves from Western governments who have come out in support of Israel, whilst those Western governments are their only protection against their own people. The political landscape has irreversibly changed. Replacing the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine with the blue and white flag of Israel only demonstrates that the West no longer has staying power and is ready to abandon any cause due to overreach.
It is the people who must carry this struggle forward. People both in the West and in the Muslim world must challenge their governments and force them to show their hand even more. To do so, they must break through the sound barrier of controlled media discourse. For too long have we accepted and mistaken propaganda as the real thing, with mantras such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, the two-state solution, the free world, the international community, all meaningless slogans to prevent people from taking control over their own destiny.
The reality is that Israel is an ideological colonial state imposed on the region, which practices apartheid. If a thug enters your house, locks you up in the basement and enjoys all that your property has to offer, an eventual agreement on a two-room solution in which you will occasionally be allowed to receive food and shopping items in return for signing your house over to the usurper is not justice. It was empty words from the start, but thankfully now the “two-state solution” is off the table. The “international community”, a fancy term for Israel supporters denying freedom to anybody who does not choose to agree with them, will have to come to realise that they may dream to own the world, but they do not. They also backed the South African apartheid regime against the Soweto uprising but the more brutal the oppression, the nearer its end.
Upon listening to orators from Najd, the prophet Muhammad, peace be with him, said “Some expressions have magic in them”. He was talking about the eloquence of words which can carry their audience. As Muslims, we need to free ourselves from the magicians’ tricks (media deception) of the Pharaoh system, demolish them, like Moses did, by making them vanish in front of the eyes of the beholders, in other words, expose them for the lies they are, and employ the magic of powerfully crafted words to convey our own beautiful and clear message.
The events of this month have shown that Israel is anything but invincible and that it will not be saved by its technology. In fact, its survival to date is entirely due to the complicity of the Arab states encircling it. When the Arab League imposed an embargo of Israel in 1977, they prevented Muslims from visiting Masjid al-Aqsa and cut off the connection Muslims all over the world had with Palestine. If instead the millions of pilgrims at Hajj had been encouraged to include Jerusalem as a stop on their journey, Israel might have been forced much earlier to turn itself into a proper state where all its residents, Jewish, Christian or Arab, have equal rights. Even today, the USA is using its military bases in Arab countries to transfer military hardware intended to maim and kill Palestinians to Israel.
Muslim leaders will do well to study both their own history and that of their adversaries, together with Western dialectics, in order to free their people from the spell of the dominant narrative and its incessant lies to conquer the minds. I don’t know if it can be purely put down to ignorance, but most lists of prophets published by Muslims which give their Biblical equivalents leave the name of Shu’aib, peace be with him, untranslated. He was, of course, Jethro. Does it matter? It matters a lot, because it demolishes the Jewish claim to their ancestral home as preceding that of the Arabs. Jethro/Shu’aib was the Arab father-in-law of Moses, peace be with him, the founder of Judaism, who gave him refuge when on the run from Pharaoh and from whom he learned his religion.
For too long have we trusted Western science (including historical sciences) to be “scientific”, meaning factual, value-neutral and evidence-based. It is anything but that. It is an ideological means of shaping the world. In trying to live up to the expectations of our masters, we have neglected and forgotten our own sciences and history. We hardly ever dared to attack the premises on which the secular world order was established. When holding on to elements of the truth of Islam, we did so apologetically, almost as if we defended the right to be irrational. The geopolitical situation of the Middle East has changed markedly, the ideological landscape also has to change.
Whether Hamas won a battle but lost the war in the short-term or whether, thanks to some foresighted Arab entity joining the cause just in time, the war will expand, it must eventually be won. We know it will. And increasingly we find governments East and West pitched against their own people. The world order will change, and it will not simply be a remodelling of the old order which has shown signs of cracking for a long time.
We live in an age of information overload and the inability of most people to distinguish truth from falsehood. This includes the masses of Muslims. As foretold by the prophet, peace be with him, the majority of them will also follow the Dajjal. But as Allah says: “How often did a small group overcome a big group with Allah’s permission – Allah is with those who are steadfast.” (Surah al-Baqarah, ayah 249). Who is going to be on the right side of history?
Allah says: “And what is the matter with you that you do not fight in the way of Allah and for the weak amongst the men and women and children who say: our Lord, take us out from this town of wrongdoing people and assign us a protector from You and assign us a helper from You? Those who believe fight in the way of Allah, and those who reject (the truth) fight in the way of the idols, so fight the allies of the evil one, for the plot of the devil is weak.” (Surah an-Nisa’, ayat 75-76).”
There was one noticeable change in the language of the Hamas leadership: when they realised that once again they had been let down and abandoned by their perceived allies, they brought down Allah’s curse on them declaring “to the people and governments of the Muslims – may Allah not forgive you!” No more excuses. No longer the excuse that “we did not know” or “our leaders did not allow us to”.
Amidst the confusion of today’s world, most people have neither the leisure nor capacity to study. Attention spans are short. We live in the age of sound bites. This is where slogans take on disproportional importance. Muslim intellectuals who have studied must devise and disseminate such slogans to the Muslim and non-Muslim masses. In other words, we must reclaim the discourse about how things that concern us and matter to us are perceived and must stop letting our detractors dominate our minds and conversations.
Sahib Mustaqim Bleher was a founder member of the Islamic Party of Britain and served as its general secretary and education spokesman as well as editor of the party magazine ‘Common Sense’. He is a professor of applied linguistics and translation and works as a commercial translator and interpreter through his own translation company in the UK. He is a member of Chartered Institute of Linguists and of the Chartered Institute of Journalists in the UK. Amongst his work are the adaptations of the Qur’an translations of Muhammad Pickthall and Yusuf Ali into modern English and his own Qur’an translation into “plain English”, all published by IDCI in Birmingham.