On May 15, Israeli airstrikes destroyed the al-Jalaa Tower, an 11-story building that housed the offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press in the Gaza Strip. Just a few days earlier, the Israeli army had also bombed the al-Henday, al-Jawhara and al-Shorouk towers, which together housed more than a dozen local and international news agencies.
Israel’s target towers were among a handful of heights that were built in the Gaza Strip over the past 20 years to meet the commercial, social and educational needs of the local population.
Prior to the attacks, these towers were some of the few locations in the blocked enclave that enjoyed relatively uninterrupted services, particularly electricity provided by their own generators. As a result, they attracted hundreds of families as residents and housed not only numerous media offices, but also several local businesses, law firms, medical laboratories and civil society organizations. They also served as a cultural and social center, they were fundamental to the daily life of many young people in Gazan.
As a result of the bombings, Gaza lost a key piece of its social and, perhaps above all, media infrastructure. Israel gave journalists working at the al-Jalaa tower just an hour to evacuate their offices, forcing them to abandon much of their archives and equipment to destroy them next to the building.
The bombing of the al-Jalaa tower provoked criticism from international organizations, rights groups and various governments, including Israel’s allies.
The Israeli military claimed that the tower housed Hamas military intelligence resources and was therefore a legitimate target. However, as recently admitted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who routinely defends Israel’s actions, Tel Aviv has so far not released evidence to support these allegations. The Associated Press strongly denied that Hamas was active in the building.
However, regardless of whether or not Hamas had offices in the building, the missile targeting of high-rise buildings located in a dense urban center and populated by hundreds of civilians is an indefensible violation of international law. By hitting these vibrant towers, Israel once again made it clear that it is determined to cause the maximum psychological harm to the besieged population of the strip.
In addition, addressing the offices of local and international media organizations in Gaza, he announced to the world that he is now willing to do whatever it takes, including using all the strength of his military, to prevent that journalists report on their crimes against Palestinians. people.
And Israel has many reasons to try to silence the free media.
In recent decades, the media has become an indispensable tool for winning wars. Victory in modern conflicts depends both on the control of national and international public opinion and on the defeat of the enemy on the battlefield.
In fact, fact-based field reports examining the narratives proposed by the military and states have been decisive in the progression and conclusion of many recent conflicts.
During the 2004 Fallujah battle between the U.S. military and Iraqi insurgents, for example, media reports were crucial in exposing the devastation caused by U.S. airstrikes and ground operations. to the civilian population of the city and eventually caused him to retire.
“He [US] Fallujah Marines were not hit by terrorists and insurgents, who were effectively and accurately eliminated. They were beaten by Al Jazeera, “wrote retired U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters after the battle. Instead of admitting that the media has the ability to hold powerful military accountable, Peters claimed that Al Jazeera and others “lied” about the situation on the ground to prevent an American victory. “The media is often referred to offensively as a strategic factor,” he wrote, “but we still don’t fully appreciate its fatal power “.
As the United States did then, today Israel struggles to combat the growing spread of accurate news about its assaults on civilians and violations of international law.
Thanks to the efforts of journalists in Palestine and beyond, as well as millions of Palestinians telling their truth on social media, the real history of Palestine is finally being heard around the world. As a result, world public opinion is not only shifting in favor of the Palestinians, but many international institutions and organizations that had allowed Israel to control narratives about the conflict for a long time are being forced to demonstrate for Palestine.
On May 17, Amnesty International, a major rights group, condemned Israel’s continued attack on Gaza, saying the Israeli army “has shown a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians by carrying out several targeted airstrikes.” to residential buildings in some cases killing entire families – including children – and causing disproportionate destruction of civilian property, in attacks that can lead to war crimes or crimes against humanity.
Amnesty’s condemnatory statement came after a report published by Human Rights Watch in April stated that Israel was committing “crimes against humanity apartheid and persecution” in the treatment of Palestinians and, for therefore, the international community must re-evaluate diplomatic relations with the state.
Today, Israel is not only trying to curb the dissemination of accurate information during the assault on Gaza by bombing press offices, but also through a disinformation campaign.
For example, last week, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shared a video on Twitter claiming to show Hamas firing rockets at Israel “from populated areas.” As the BBC claimed, the clip was filmed in Syria in 2018 and had nothing to do with Gaza. Twitter later labeled the tweet as “manipulated media.”
Beyond demonstrably sharing “fake news,” the Israeli government is also trying to manipulate international and national public opinion by persistently tracking the false narrative that Hamas is the aggressor of the conflict, that its military is doing everything possible to to avoid “civilian casualties”, which only defends itself against “a terrorist organization”, and that the current escalation is not the direct result of its illegal occupation.
False videos and information released by the Israeli government have already caused many Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel to be attacked by far-right Israeli mobs. These false stories are also being used by pro-Israel governments around the world to avoid condemning their ally’s demonstrably illegal actions.
The international community must take immediate steps to protect journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Gaza. The important and dangerous work that journalists do in these conflict zones is the only way to expose the brutality of Israel’s continued assault on Gaza and its decades-old illegal occupation of Palestine.
But at the same time, Israel’s ability to bomb Gaza’s “towers of truth” with impunity should not leave those who want justice for Palestine feeling desperate. The growing pluralization and democratization of information sources means that Israel cannot win the battle that leads to the truth. At the end of the day, he can’t silence us all, all the time.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.