The Dozen Ds That Drive Israel’s Propaganda 

The past six months of Israeli-Palestinian warfare have witnessed levels of military ferocity, human suffering, societal destruction, and mass political activism unprecedented in this century-long battle. One aspect of Zionism has consistently buttressed Israel’s survival and expansion. That is the propaganda and public information effort that started when a small group of European Zionists around 1915-1920 convinced the United Kingdom to help them establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. That audacious idea was all the more outrageous because Palestine’s population then was about 90 percent Arab, and the United Kingdom did not formally control the land or have authority to parcel it out to others. But colonial ways ignored realities. Powers like London pursued aims that pleased their ruling elite of white men who often were racists and anti-Semites, welcomed apartheid systems, and saw Arabs as lesser beings.

The fledgling Zionists and the imperial British agreed on a series of points that ever since have anchored the Israeli propaganda machine—which has gone into overdrive in the last six months. In 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights, this writer first encountered Zionist propaganda as a college student in the United States and often debated pro-Israeli American students. And since then, consistent points of contention have persisted in Israeli and American advocacy and propaganda. Today, the confrontations and clashes have become so much more intense.

Zionist propaganda always seeks to sideline, ignore, or silence Palestinians and keep them as peripheral actors in Palestine.

For the past 55 years—from 1968 until today—careful examination of Zionist propagandists’ points reveals an unchanging repetition of old mantras and themes. Only slight adjustments were made to stay current with the times, such as linking Palestinian militants to the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda rather than to the defunct Soviet Union or, indeed, to Nazi Germany. But the core propaganda and broad attack themes are virtually the same ones that the early Zionists used to cajole and scam the British into midwifing the birth of a Jewish state in overwhelmingly Arab Palestine.

An examination of Zionist propaganda unveils 100 points, divided into a dozen broad but distinct themes that have always sought—and usually succeeded— to generate support among Western audiences, especially politicians and main stream media. Yet today this legacy is quickly fraying, as Israel and Zionism, and their imperial American and British supporters, are frequently mentioned in sentences that include the words ‘genocide,’ ‘apartheid,’ and ‘settler-colonialism.’

The Dozen Ds of Israeli Propaganda

This author’s Dozen Ds of Zionism and Israel’s propaganda categories include:

  1. Delegitimizing Palestinians and treating them as a fictional people who never formed a distinct national group or had their own state in history. By this standard, only a handful of modern states would be legitimate, but that is irrelevant to Zionist propaganda, which aims to generate favorable emotions rather than disseminate relevant or verifiable facts.
  2. Discrediting Palestinians as violent terrorists and anti-Semitic hatemongers. This helps Israel to portray itself as a peace-loving nation bent on protecting the Jews who have historically suffered discrimination, injustices, and genocide.
  3. Deflecting from discussing the legality or morality of Zionist/Israeli policies and actions, and at any cost prevent a public analysis of Zionism/Israel, instead, aiming to shift the discussion to Israel’s positive actions (like supporting LGBTQ and women’s rights, pretending to treat minorities well, including Palestinian Arabs inside Israel, scientific and technological discoveries, and economic expansion).
  4. Sowing doubts about important legal or historical realities, like the status of the 1967 occupied lands and Israeli settlements, or why Palestinians fled in 1947-48 to become exiled refugees. Simply raising doubts about key Palestinian facts or political demands is sufficient for the aim to keep people arguing without reaching definitive conclusions. When international courts, the United Nations, or other credible bodies do assert a legal point that refutes Zionist propaganda, Israel simply ignores the law, and it feels it can do this with impunity because of the protection it enjoys from imperial powers.
  5. Dehumanizing Palestinians as brutally violent, evil killers and rapists, and “human animals” who slaughter Jewish children and teach their own children to hate and kill Jews. This often includes linking current events to the Holocaust, the 1972 Munich Olympics attack, suicide bombings, and other incidents to show Palestinians mainly as inveterate killers of Jews.
  6. Invoking divine will, since God promised the land of Israel to the Jews (according to biblical texts written by Jews in past millennia and that have no diplomatic standing or proven historical veracity). This point is rarely proffered today, but was critical in the decades following Israel’s establishment, and remains central to the world view of Christian Zionist fundamentalists who were pivotal in the 1900-1950 period in the United Kingdom and the United States to securing British and US support for Israel’s creation. American Christian fundamentalists remain a key pro-Israel constituency
  7. Making democracy central to Israel’s self-perception as the only Middle Eastern pluralistic society in a sea of authoritarian states ruled by dictators and killers. Israel promotes itself to Western democracies as their only reliable ally in the region, the protector of their interests, and their partner in fighting terrorism.
  8. Defending the homeland, it is said, is the only military action Israel takes and it always has an absolute right to defend itself when attacked or threatened by Arabs, Iranians, or others. The common refrain has always been: “What else would you do if rockets rained down on your schools and homes?” Most puppet-like American politicians repeat this refrain on cue whenever they are called upon to voice their opinion on Israeli-Palestinian issues.
  9. Denying accusations that Israel conducts terror attacks, war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing, or crimes against humanity by changing the subject to other topics. Israel immediately denies responsibility for assassinations or other attacks and, when exposed by foreign investigations, quickly replaces them with propaganda retreats such as claiming that a stray bullet by accident killed this journalist or that doctor or child.
  10. Diverting the discussion from Israel’s actions by raising unrelated issues about things that Arabs and Palestinians have done in the past, including by linking them to Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, or other foes of the West.
  11. Denying Palestinians any agency or voice in managing their own affairs or their future direction, essentially making them invisible. Israel, the United States, Arab states, and others speak up on how to manage Palestinian lands now under Israeli control, attack, or siege. Zionist propaganda always seeks to sideline, ignore, or silence Palestinians and keep them as peripheral actors in Palestine, where Jews should naturally rule.
  12. Claiming that using diplomacy to resolve the conflict fails because the Palestinians have always rejected good offers made by Israel or others; or asserting that there is no unified Palestinian leadership with whom to negotiate peace. This is despite the fact that no peace offers to Palestinians have been truly fair, treated them equally with Israel, or addressed the core issues of refugeehood based on prevailing global norms. On the other hand, when Fateh, Hamas, and smaller Palestinian factions agree on a single negotiating position, Israel refuses to engage them. And when all the Arabs collectively offer Israel permanent, full peace, as in the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, Israel and the U.S. ignore them.

Propaganda Tactics Have Become Less Effective

These and similar propaganda points worked very efficiently in the past century to establish the state of Israel and to maintain its military dominance over all the Arabs. Yet in the current round of fighting in Gaza, Israeli lies, exaggerations, deception, and diversionary tactics do not work as well.

Majorities of citizens across the West no longer get their news from mainstream media that has parroted Israeli views, but rather from social media and independent publications that point out Israel’s ongoing criminal activities (settlements, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and the current plausible genocide). Palestinians today also speak directly from Palestine to the world through social media, regular visits, and contacts through churches, unions, universities, progressive synagogues, African-American groups, and others who have seen through the propaganda and have experienced the realities of subjugated, occupied Palestinians, on the ground.

As the western mainstream media’s dominance in shaping the public’s view of the world has declined, this has triggered changes among more elected officials in the United States and other countries. Liberated from the grip of biased media and intense lobbying groups, these political leaders increasingly demand a more even-handed American position, rather than Washington’s unflinching support for anything Israel wants or does.

Israel’s propagandistic arguments now concentrate on smaller circles that include the top of the executive branch, the legislature, and local government officials.

This change has seen Zionist-Israeli propaganda in recent years shift slightly to concentrate on a few themes that still influence politically uneducated citizens, or vulnerable elected officials. These themes include accusing public figures who oppose Israeli policies of anti-Semitic behavior; expanding the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israeli state policy; urging state legislatures to criminalize peaceful boycotts of Israel; and showing that when Israel “withdraws” from occupied Arab lands—such as when it withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005—in return it gets only rocket fire from Hamas, Hezbollah, and other Arab resistance groups.

Because Israel’s propagandistic arguments that elicited a century of strong Western support have begun to falter and wither in places, they no longer influence big majorities in Western societies, instead concentrating on smaller and smaller circles that include the top of the executive branch, much of the legislature, and some local government officials. Even among these, though, criticism of Israel is growing, because its cruel and criminal genocidal actions in Gaza overwhelm any state propaganda efforts and spark global demands for a ceasefire and justice and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The truth surrounding Israel’s creation and its dispossession of the Palestinians, alongside Zionism’s ugliest face in the Gaza genocide, have for the first time opened a more complete and global discussion on who is to blame and what should be done to achieve permanent justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis. Both people should welcome this trend of liberating the facts of the conflict, so that the crimes, ghosts, lies, and deceptions of the past can be forever laid to rest. All concerned could then start working for a future built on law, equal rights, and mutual respect.

The views expressed in this publication are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Arab Center Washington DC, its staff, or its Board of Directors.