Mondoweiss / May 29, 2022
This is quite an unbelievable story, but it really isn’t fake news – it is about fake news. It’s about Anti-Palestinian conspiracy theories that went viral on Israeli rightwing social media. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz thought they must be true, so he shared them at a party meeting.
Let’s look at the content of a WhatsApp message Gantz received that he thought was important enough to read at his official party meeting early this month. The message was supposedly written by a Palestinian:
Continue to curse, you have no chance against Allah. Slowly slowly we will chip at your state. We have a territory in the Galilee the size of the Tel-Aviv area which is full of tin roofs with small Bedouin kids. What will you do? It’s a de facto Palestinian territory, and the moment one tractor comes – we will use the left orgs such as Peace Now and B’Tselem, who will refer to the real ruler of the country, (the Supreme Court), so that it issues an injunction. We’ll send children and youth to throw stones and barricade themselves on location until you flee like mice from the territory… The Galilee with Allah’s help is also ours soon. We buy from the Israeli Land Authority a Dunam for 50.000 Shekels while the Yahud (Jew) pays 1.150.000 Shekels. Already today we are 85% of the Galilee population and are taking over with fast pace, building houses in every corner without permits. Why, who will mess with us? The Yahud who lives in the Galilee – all of them are fleeing to the center of the country – why? – because they suffer from harassment, from violence on the roads and from protection, shootings and theft.
Gantz told the assembly of the Blue and White party that while it’s “unclear who wrote the text”, it’s still “not far from reality, I estimate that in a few years we will be in a state where the Jewish state will be between Gedera and Hadera.” He refers to a 60-mile stretch of the coast region of Israel around Tel Aviv.
Gantz’s credulous recital was first reported in Israel Hayom: “Israel could be swallowed by Arab foes –warns Defense minister.”
It went under the radar till last week when Haaretz journalist Haim Levinson published a piece mockingly titled “Who took control over Gantz’s phone?” (Hebrew). (The title is a play on a 2019 scandal in which Gantz’s phone was allegedly hacked, and suggestions were made that Iran did it.)
Levinson said the message was clearly fake. “[E]ven May Golan [A Kahanist inciter against both Palestinians and refugees who made it to the Likud lawmaker list] would understand that we are talking about a fake message, a potpourri for rightwing propaganda set up as a message from an ‘authentic Arab’,” Levinson said.
It’s not really necessary to get into all the details here. The question is, how can such garbage make it to the official party meeting of the actual Israeli Defense Minister? This is unhinged incitement about “Arabs taking over the country”, much like Netanyahu’s 2015 election-day incitement of “the Arabs are coming to vote in droves”.
Who the hell reads such stuff aloud? This is not just any person; this is the defense minister. He has access to all the information he wants, and he chooses this to read to his faithful followers.
But it’s hardly the first time and it’s hardly innocent. In 2014, the popular Israeli media host Avri Gilad shared a conspiracy theory which went viral on social media, saying that Hamas in Gaza had set up many tunnels through which waves of 200 terrorists each time would infiltrate Israeli towns and cities and massacre Israeli citizens. He said “guys, I don’t know, but it’s sounds credible”. The Prime Minister and Defense Ministry disseminated fake graphics showing Hamas tunnels going straight into kindergartens in Israeli towns. All of this fake propaganda generated enough public hysteria in order to whip up support for the 2014 Gaza onslaught, in which the “terror tunnels” became the casus belli.
Benny Gantz was chief of staff during that onslaught, and later, on entering politics, he boasted of returning Gaza “to the stone age”.
So this tells you, that in the hand of such mass-murderers, unhinged conspiracy theories shared from mobile phones at party meetings serve a particular purpose, and Palestinians may well come to pay with their lives for it, as they have done by the thousands in the past.
Last week, another Israeli lawmaker, Israel Katz, threatened another “Nakba” if Palestinians wave their flags at universities. That threat too was issued under the same notion of “Arabs taking over the country”.
This stuff shouldn’t be passing under the radar. These are the people who are in charge of Israel, and they are controlling the lives of millions of Palestinians.
Benny Gantz is the head of a centrist party embraced by liberal Zionists, and has just received a hero’s welcome in Washington, despite Israel’s refusal to open a criminal investigation into the murder of Shireen Abu Akleh, a murder which is clearly the work of an Israeli sniper.
People like Gantz shouldn’t be taken seriously, they should be taken to The Hague.
Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark