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A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces recently told me that Israel isn’t just waging a ground war in Gaza. It’s also fighting an information war globally. Despite perpetrating the worst murder of Jews since the Holocaust, Israel’s enemies want to paint it as the true murderer for daring to respond with military force. They hope to isolate Israel – a key element to its potential defeat. Western leaders and institutions must foil that plot, which requires summoning far more moral clarity than they have to date.
Isolation is the greatest immediate danger facing Israel. It would deprive the country of the money and material that are key to destroying Hamas and fending off attacks from Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies, and perhaps Iran itself. Isolation would also lead to strong and sustained pressure on Israel to reach a ceasefire or otherwise ends its military response to the October 7 atrocities. Either way, the terrorists win, all but ensuring their ability to launch another – and likely even deadlier – attack on Israeli soil.
Isolation has momentum. The Arab world is engulfed with anti-Israel protests, limiting the actions of even pro-Israel Arab governments. Russia and China have largely sided with Hamas, sensing that Israel isolation’s ultimately injures the United States. And while the U.S. and European countries have largely sided with Israel, with strong rhetorical statements and less strong pledges of aid, they’re feeling rapidly growing internal pressure to limit their support and stay Israel’s hand.
Where is this pressure coming from? The IDF spokesperson told me that Israel is especially concerned about the antisemitic fervor sweeping university campuses. Universities are cultural and media trendsetters, and when thousands of students demonstrate in support of Hamas and Palestinians, it gives the impression that the West is slouching in the wrong direction. Ditto the large and often violent protests on the streets of New York, London, and other Western cities. In democratic countries, such protests necessarily influence how politicians think and act. After all, votes may be on the line.
Legacy media outlets are adding to the pressure, from the United States to Western Europe. They’re reporting every claim from Hamas and anti-Israel voices as fact, lending support to the blatant lie that Israel is the true “oppressor.” Consider the grossly slanted global coverage of the Oct. 17 missile strike on a Gaza hospital. Most outlets repeated the Hamas assertion that Israel was to blame, only to discover that a wayward terrorist rocket was the likely culprit.
The New York Times later issued an apology for giving readers an “incorrect impression.” So did the BBC, which said it had been “wrong to speculate.” But the damage was done. Far fewer people were inflamed by errant reports of Israel’s ostensible brutality than read any belated apology. Meanwhile, most of the media is still giving the impression that when Israeli air strikes kill Palestinian civilians, it’s no different from Hamas killing Jews on October 7th. Left unsaid is the grim reality that Hamas is using civilians as human shields. Without that key context, opposition toward Israel’s justified self-defense will continue to grow, further isolating the country.
Will Western democracies capitulate, abandoning Israel and giving its murderous enemies what they want? The answer depends on whether two things happen.
First, Western leaders must become even more forceful in defending Israel. They should not, as Joe Biden’s administration is now doing, sow doubt about Israel’s actions or ability to defeat Hamas. Nor should they push for a cease-fire that plays into Hamas’s hands. Instead, they should make clear that Israel is good, terrorism is evil, and they’ll support Israel’s efforts to eradicate that terrorism, no matter how long it takes. When Israel’s counterattacks inevitably lead to civilian deaths, Western leaders should immediately point out that Hamas is to blame for forcing Israel into this war and putting innocent Palestinians in harm’s way.
Second, more media outlets should consider explicitly taking Israel’s side, especially in the legacy media. They should strongly caveat any claim that comes from Hamas, recognizing its history of lying. They should point out that Hamas is using human shields, making clear that there’s no moral equivalence between Hamas’s murders and Israel’s self-defense. And when they see antisemitism on college campuses or city streets, journalists should condemn it as clearly as they can. It’s not slanted coverage to take sides in a battle between good and evil.
The alternative is to let Israel be isolated, putting it in even greater danger and perhaps paving the way for its eventual destruction. No doubt, Israel will continue to fight for its survival no matter who stands with it. But Israel is far more likely to win this war and prevent more atrocities against Jews if it first wins the information war.