The stark contrast in the international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Hamas’ incursion into Israel is difficult to overlook.
Some might describe the behavior of the global community as perplexing, but there must be a logical explanation behind such a vastly different reaction to two ostensibly similar situations, in addition to the emotional factors at play.
Around 18 months ago, those who labeled the situation as “complicated” were seen as quite contentious. Their argument posited that while war is undoubtedly a negative development, every issue has two sides to it. In this context, they suggested that Ukraine, too, bears some responsibility.
At that time, such viewpoints mainly emerged from Russia, while the rest of the world overwhelmingly supported Ukraine and provided assistance. Early in the conflict, the online community appeared to unite in solidarity with Ukraine, with world leaders and prominent figures wearing pins adorned with the Ukrainian flag to express empathy for the victims.
However, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East differs in several respects. While the Western world leans more towards supporting Israel compared to Hamas, a unanimous stance is notably absent. Furthermore, mainstream media coverage often boils down to the idea that both sides have valid points, with Hamas leadership and the Muslim media, such as Al Jazeera, being considered as credible as their Israeli counterparts. This complexity makes the situation hard to decipher.
First and foremost, Hamas, along with its sponsors, allies, and sympathizers in the Middle East, inherently provoke the Western world due to the nature of their regimes. They openly disregard fundamental Western values such as free speech, personal freedom, religious freedoms, free thought, protection against arbitrary detention, sexual freedoms, the principles of civil rights, and democratic institutions.
Both Qatar, the owner of Al Jazeera, and Iran, a significant Hamas ally, have institutionalized gender inequality, enforce forced marriages and Sharia law, and criminalize same-sex relationships. These actions stand in stark contrast to the championed Western rights and freedoms, which are expressly outlawed in this region.
The Gaza Strip evokes images of a medieval society akin to those in Europe at the turn of the second millennium, a time when modern states and written laws were absent. Similar to European elites from a millennium ago, Hamas wields significant power over the local population and acts with impunity. Rape, extrajudicial executions, torture, brutal beatings, forced amputations, and throwing dissenters and their family members from rooftops have become disturbingly commonplace.
The ideologies and values of Hamas and its allies should logically repel not only the Western public and governments but also left-wing public figures. Those who can execute individuals for their sexual orientation, force children into early marriages, or torture women to death for perceived transgressions like not wearing a hijab should find no sympathy among advocates for gender equality, those fighting against discrimination, or proponents of humanistic values.
However, a peculiar turn of events unfolds. Prominent figures like Greta Thunberg, who would face imminent danger in Gaza without protection, openly support Hamas and condemn Israel. Opinion leaders and reputable media outlets often adopt a restrained stance when covering these explicit acts of terror.
Recall the aftermath of February 24, 2022; it was an unprecedented display of solidarity. Anyone who did not display the Ukrainian flag in their status appeared out of place and incongruous. Putin’s aggression was vocally denounced, and the injustices and barbaric atrocities were evident to all. Only a few Western A-listers argued that it was a “complicated” situation, but they were exceptions, such as Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, known for their unconventional views.
Those who expressed support for Ukraine and contributed to fundraising efforts understood that it was a noble cause. The intrusion of Hamas into Israel, marked by horrifying executions and abductions of women and children, leaves no room for ambiguity in assessing the actions of those responsible. Nevertheless, the reactions differ drastically. Any public figure or media outlet supporting Israel risks backlash from their audience. Furthermore, supporters of Israel may encounter difficulties in finding advertisers and could face ostracism within their professional circles.
If Russian media, particularly RT, is occasionally mentioned in Western media, it is typically to highlight the misinformation they disseminate. This perception of Russian media as propagandists has been established over many years, beginning in the 2000s and intensifying after 2014.
Conversely, Al Jazeera is treated as a reliable source. The BBC does not hesitate to cite a media outlet with the primary goal of spreading propaganda rather than informing the public.
The New York Times has acknowledged an error in its coverage of the Gaza hospital blast, citing Palestine’s Ministry of Health. The editorial team has pledged to enhance fact-checking procedures, which is commendable.
However, upon closer inspection, the New York Times, as a reputable publication, considers Palestine’s Health Ministry as a legitimate institution. It is inconceivable that any respectable media outlet would cite the Donetsk People’s Republic’s Defense Ministry, claiming there was no Malaysian Boeing, no shooting down of the plane, and blaming Ukraine, as though both sides have equal validity.
There is a distinct contrast in how Russian propaganda is regarded, as it is typically considered false until proven otherwise. In contrast, there seems to be a different attitude towards Islamic propaganda, with Palestine’s Ministry of Health being recognized as a legitimate government agency, akin to Germany’s Health Ministry.
The origins of both Russian and Islamic propaganda share commonalities. Authoritarian regimes, driven by their own motives, channel significant resources into manipulating international perceptions. They employ similar tactics to reach their objectives.
In both cases, the aggressor portrays itself as the victim, wronged and manipulated by external forces. They play the victim card masterfully, with incessant whining and self-pity.
For instance, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses the United Nations, many delegates leave the room. Conversely, when Hamas officials highlight the Israeli military’s actions, the political landscape changes, and global leaders start empathizing with Palestine while condemning Israel.
A pro-Russian rally in Europe is typically a gathering of a few hundred post-Perestroika immigrants who remain detached from their new surroundings, primarily glued to Russian TV networks. In contrast, a pro-Palestinian rally commands attention throughout Europe, drawing thousands of energized participants, mainly young individuals who passionately express their sentiments.
While the Islamic propaganda is certainly distasteful, it effectively utilizes top-tier professionals to further its objectives. The billions of dollars invested in this propaganda yield results. They carefully tailor their messages to suit diverse audiences, adapting the narrative for different contexts.
This is where Greta Thunberg enters the picture. Notably, Russian public figures consistently echo the same fervent tune, framing the entire population of Ukraine as infected with a “Nazi virus” and advocating for the capture or destruction of Ukrainian cities.
Contrast this with the restraint displayed by Al Jazeera and its editor-in-chief. The Qatari-owned media outlet does not engage in aggressive rhetoric akin to Putin’s Russia. The difference lies in the approach taken to win over international audiences. While their children’s shows might depict controversial content, they present themselves as people seeking peaceful coexistence in their homeland when addressing external audiences.
Conversely, Russian public figures exhibit a disregard for subtlety, openly advocating for violence against Ukrainians. They seem to relish the idea of Europeans suffering during winter due to power grid disruptions.
This stark contrast is evident in the reactions to the Russo-Ukrainian conflict and the Hamas attack on Israel. When Russia invaded Ukraine, the global community was nearly unanimous in its condemnation.
Unlike Russian propaganda, Islamic propaganda thrives because it adheres to its values and principles. It is shaped by devout Muslims who live by their religious norms and uphold their beliefs. In contrast, Russian propagandists are cynical opportunists who use manipulation as a means to an end.
In essence, the Russian regime functions more as an informational autocracy than a totalitarian regime. While it monopolizes the narrative for many Russians, it fails to significantly influence external audiences. Russian propaganda, ranging from narratives about Ukrainian Nazis to warmongering NATO, rarely makes a meaningful impact on the global stage.
In contrast, the “it’s complicated” world response to the Hamas attack on Israel shows the effectiveness of Islamic propaganda. Despite its disturbing content, it manages to engage with international audiences by tailoring its message.
So, what can we take away from this analysis? The Russian regime may have considerable resources at its disposal, but it has not crafted a compelling ideological narrative (unlike Hamas). Its propaganda machine operates primarily within Russia, and its reach beyond borders is limited.
In contrast, those opposed to the regime have a coherent worldview and values. While they may not match the regime’s outreach, they have a distinct advantage when it comes to values and principles. Their audience engages voluntarily, unlike state-backed media.
Looking ahead, the regime faces a challenging election. By engaging with people and persuading them, those opposing the regime can make a difference. While they may not have the same resources, they have a chance to influence uncommitted audiences.
In conclusion, the battle of narratives continues, and despite the regime’s vast resources, it’s not invincible. By presenting a consistent message and appealing to those questioning the status quo, opposition voices can have a meaningful impact. The future holds possibilities.