The Geopolitics of Information Warfare

The information war is in full swing with Israel deliberately attempting to make the global audience understand their narrative
Massihollah Rohparwar27th November 202319 min

Over two thousand years ago, the Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu recognised that wars are fought not only on the battlefield. “To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the height of (military) skill”, he said. “To subdue the enemy without fighting, that is the height of (military) skill”. To achieve this, Sun Tzu further said, a leader who wants to go to battle must first unite his people behind him. The people must be convinced he has their interests at heart, and that these interests are fair, righteous and just. If at the same time the enemy can be divided and demotivated, the battle is likely to be won well before a sword is drawn or a shot is fired.

In the modern world, countries follow Sun Tzu’s sage advice by engaging in what is called “information warfare”. This is a narrative like a storyline that gives meaning to a series of events and occurrences. As such, a narrative guides people to a specific understanding, and thereby to specific opinions and emotions regarding what is happening around them.

A famous example of information warfare is America’s effort to win “hearts and minds” as part of its war in Iraq.[1] In order to unite western audiences behind America’s plan to invade and occupy Iraq, the American military hired a private company, the Rendon Group, to change the image of Saddam Hussein from “evil but weak dictator” to “powerful evil dictator with weapons of mass destruction intent on causing war globally”.[2] And in order to discourage the people of Iraq from fighting in support of Saddam Hussein’s regime, America dropped more than 25 million leaflets in Iraq which encouraged Iraqi civilians and soldiers to not only see Saddam Hussein as the evil dictator he was, but also America as a benevolent liberator.[3] Thereafter, when the American military in Iraq began to be confronted by a popular resistance movement because it failed to act as a benevolent liberator, America launched a propaganda campaign to make the people believe the popular resistance was in reality a branch of Al Qaeda, led by a Jordanian with the name Musab Al Zarqawi. This was done firstly to hide the fact there was a popular resistance in Iraq, and secondly to get western and Iraqi audiences to support America’s military actions against this popular resistance.[4]

Palestine and Information Warfare

As the weeks have gone by in the case of the war in the Gaza Strip many are seeing a large discrepancy between what is heard from (most) western politicians and professional journalists on the one hand, and what is seen happening on the ground to ordinary Gazans, on the other hand.

We are being constantly told by western politicians and journalists that Israel is acting in self-defence in Gaza. The narrative goes on to say, it is responding to a terrible crime committed by Hamas on the 7th of October. Additionally,  its objective is to free hostages held by Hamas, and to re-establish order and security by destroying Hamas’ military capabilities. Finally,  it is doing all this in the most careful and humane manner possible.

As the weeks have gone by in the case of the war in the Gaza Strip many are seeing a large discrepancy between what is heard from (most) western politicians and professional journalists on the one hand, and what is seen happening on the ground to ordinary Gazans, on the other hand

However, what many are seeing on the ground is the complete destruction of Gaza. From the 7th of October to the 11th of November, Israel struck over 12,000 targets in the area, dropping over 25,000 tonnes of explosives. In comparison, the Little Boy nuclear bomb dropped by the US on Hiroshima during World War II was the equivalent of 15,000 tonnes of explosives – it destroyed everything within a one-mile radius.[5] In Gaza, the bombardment has left 45% of all housing units either destroyed or severely damaged.[6] Since Gaza has a population density comparable to that of Hong Kong, this has caused civilian casualties on a massive scale. More than 11,400 Palestinians have been killed, two-thirds of them women and minors. A further 2,700 people, including 1,500 children, are missing and believed to have been buried in the ruins.[7]

This large discrepancy between narrative and fact is the result of information warfare. It is clear that there is a deliberate attempt underway to make the global audience understand what they can see happening in the way that will allow Israel to achieve its objectives. In other words, in addition to the physical war being fought in Gaza, targeting the Palestinian people, there is a narrative war underway, targeting the global audience with propaganda in order to make them support what Israel is doing – whatever it is doing.

Deconstructing Israeli propaganda

There are a variety of narratives being pushed that try to paint Israel’s actions in Gaza as “reasonable” and even “just”.

The self-defence narrative frames Israel’s bombing of Gaza as a response. The objective of this narrative is if Israel’s actions are a response, they can be justified based on what Israel is responding to. The manipulative element in this narrative is that while it asks you to look at Israel’s actions in the context of the Hamas attack of the 7th of October, it does not allow you to ask whether perhaps there was a context for the 7th of October. Was Hamas perhaps also responding to something? Anyone who asks this is shut down by statements such as “there is no defence for crimes such as those committed by Hamas on the 7th of October!”. This manipulation of the conversation is designed to present Israel as the victim and Hamas as the aggressor. Israel has a reason to respond, while Hamas has no reason to do what it did.

A fair assessment of the event would investigate if there is a context to the attack by Hamas. According to Human Rights Watch, Israel has turned Gaza into an “open air prison”, which “…forms part of Israeli authorities’ crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution against millions of Palestinians”.[8] This broader context immediately changes one’s perspective on the current Israel war on Gaza. If the Hamas attack on the 7th of October was a response to strangulation, apartheid and persecution, then the current Israeli war loses its self-defence justification.

This is why the self-defence narrative tries to erase context and history in the conversation on Israel’s war on Gaza.[9] It does not allow conversations about context and history, because once the conversations go down this path, it will eventually reach 1948 and the Nakba, when Zionist terrorists used violence to drive the people of Palestine out of their homes and from their lands, into tents in refugee camps – such as Gaza. This context and history makes clear that the root cause of all crimes being committed in Palestine, irrespective of whether the victim is Israeli or Palestinian, is Israel. This explains why even the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was attacked harshly by Israeli officials when he said, “It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum” and “The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation”. Israeli officials described his remark as a justification of terrorism and murder and called for him to resign.[10]

the self-defence narrative tries to erase context and history in the conversation on Israel’s war on Gaza. It does not allow conversations about context and history, because once the conversations go down this path, it will eventually reach 1948 and the Nakba

The “free the hostages” narrative focuses on a single specific event on the 7th of October, namely the hostage taking by Hamas of Israeli citizens. It is similarly designed to justify Israel’s war on Gaza through creating a limited context: “Hamas committed the crime of hostage taking, Israel now has a right to do whatever it needs to do to free its citizens”. This extremely limited context is created by not allowing anyone to ask “Why did Hamas take Israeli hostages?”. This manipulation of the conversation is designed to present Israel as the victim and the Palestinians as the aggressor.

A fair assessment of the event would investigate if there is a context to the Hamas hostage taking. According to the Israeli human right organisation B’tselem, Israeli authorities hold over 1,000 Palestinians in so-called “administrative detention”. This is where a person can be held without trial, and without being charged of having committed a crime, for an indefinite period. Palestinians in administrative detention do not have access to a fair judicial process to challenge their detention, which means that practically speaking, they are held hostage by Israel. Of the over 1,000 Palestinian hostages held by Israel, 18 are teenagers, below the age of 18. One of those teens has been held for over 18 months already. In total, almost 200 Palestinians have already been held for over 18 months.[11] Hamas has declared that its objective in taking Israeli hostages was to free such Palestinians held hostage by Israel.[12]

The manipulative free the hostages narrative further falls apart by the information that Israel has refused to negotiate in earnest about the release of hostages. According to Israeli sources involved in the negotiations quoted by The Guardian, “Each time [Hamas made an offer] the Israeli counter-demand got harder” and “Each time a deal would go back to Bibi [Netanyahu] it would come back with tougher demands”. Further, according to these sources, Hamas has offered to give up the hostages in exchange for an end to the Israeli bombings of Gaza.[13] Israel’s decline of this offer, evidenced through its continued bombardment of Gaza, is proof that its real motive in its war on Gaza is not the freeing of hostages.

Through the decontextualising of the “self-defence” and the “free the hostages” narratives, Hamas is effectively portrayed as inherently and purely evil. According to these narratives, it acts in a criminal manner, without justification or even reason.[14] Upon this foundation the narrative that this is war against Hamas, not against the people of Palestine is built. The objective of this narrative is to make Hamas responsible for Israel’s destruction of Gaza and resulting casualties: “If Hamas had not been evil, doing evil acts, Israel would not have had to bomb Gaza, and there would have been no Palestinian casualties”. This narrative is supported by other narratives such as “Israel is the victim” or “terrorism” and “the Israeli military is the most moral army in the world” and “Hamas uses the Palestinian people as human shields”. The objective of these narratives is to portray Israel as inherently peaceful, empathetic to the Palestinians even, but ultimately forced by Hamas to do what it is doing in Gaza.

Israel is the victim or terrorism can only be upheld if today’s events are decontextualized, meaning their relevant history is ignored. But once history is brought into the conversation, it becomes clear that Israel was founded on the basis of terrorism. For example, the Irgun group, a Zionist underground organisation founded by Ze’ev Jabotinski, used terrorism to push the British out of Palestine and expel the Palestinians from their land. In 1946 the Irgun committed an act of terrorism by blowing up a wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 people. In 1947 it committed a terrorist atrocity in the Arab village of Deir Yassin, killing about 100 of its inhabitants. After creation of the state of Israel in 1948, this terrorist group were absorbed into the Israeli military while its political leaders established the Ḥerut Party, which eventually merged with other political parties to form the Likud party of current Israeli prime minister Netanyahu.[15] Another example is the Stern Gang, a similar Zionist underground organisation that relied upon terrorism to further its Zionist objectives. In 1944 it assassinated Lord Moyne, British minister of state in the Middle East, in Cairo.[16] And in 1948 it assassinated the United Nations’ appointed mediator for Palestine, count Greve Folke Bernadotte, because he told Israel that it should allow Palestinians to return to their homes in Palestine.[17] Eventually, the Stern Gang terrorist units were also absorbed into the Israeli military.

Israel is the victim or terrorism can only be upheld if today’s events are decontextualized, meaning their relevant history is ignored

The “Israeli military is the most moral army in the world” narrative is not supported by the facts on the ground. Human rights organisations have long criticised Israel that its warnings to civilians before launching an attack are essentially fake. For example, regarding Israel’s warning to civilians in the northern Gaza Strip to evacuate for their safety, Human Rights Watch said, “Ordering a million people in Gaza to evacuate when there’s no safe place to go is not an effective warning”.[18] Additionally, Israel is on record as having attacked hospitals,[19] ambulances,[20] churches,[21] schools and buildings run by the United Nations[22] and other aid organisations.[23]

As to the narrative that Hamas uses the Palestinian people as human shields, the practical reality of Gaza is that because the area is so congested, it is impossible for fighters and non-fighters not to be mixed. This enables the levying of the accusation, which is why Israel has been using it since long, not just during this conflict, but also during the 2014 and 2008 Israel attacks on Gaza. During Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, however, journalists from The Independent and The Guardian found no evidence of Hamas forcing Palestinians to act as human shields. During 2008, meanwhile, Amnesty Internationally explicitly refuted the Israel claims.[24] Amnesty Internationally also noted that even if “human shields” were being used by Hamas, under international humanitarian law Israel remains obligated to protect these civilians.[25]

The narrative of “this is war against Hamas, not against the people of Palestine” is contradicted by statements from various Israeli officials. Israeli President Isaac Herzog said “It is an entire nation [of Palestinians] out there that is responsible [for the 7th of October]. This rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved, it’s absolutely not true. They could’ve risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime”.[26] The inevitable conclusion from such an allegation is that all Palestinians are legitimate targets for the Israeli military. That this is how Israel sees things was confirmed when its defence minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “…complete siege…” of the Gaza Strip with “…no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed”. He said, “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”[27] Because of this mindset, the Israeli army has at no point shown any concern for the ordinary Palestinian civilians. One spokesperson for the Israeli army said, “…the emphasis [of Israeli military operations] is on damage and not on accuracy”.[28] Another Israeli official confirmed that under this approach of collective punishment, eventually every building in Gaza would be destroyed, saying “Gaza will eventually turn into a city of tents. There will be no buildings.”[29] Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu even supported dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza as “…there is no such thing as uninvolved civilians in Gaza”.[30]

In the information war the actions of the Israeli army past and present run counter to the narratives that are being pushed. They are not surgical or compassionate military interventions. They are a brutal force, destroying and killing indiscriminately. The verbal expressions of Israeli officials indicate these actions are purposely undertaken, with a clear understanding of their likely consequences. The broader context and history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, meanwhile, proves that Israel is the original aggressor, that the Palestinians are the victims of Israeli crimes against humanity. The information war tried to subvert this.



[1] “Information Operations Roadmap”, US Department of Defense, 2003,

[2] “ ‘The Man Who Sold the War’: Marketing Iraq”, NPR, 2005,

[3] “Operation hearts and minds: Psychological operations are becoming a regular part of military strategy”, Monitor on Psychology, 2003,

[4] “Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi Jordanian Painted As Foreign Threat To Iraq’s Stability”, The Washington Post, 2006,

[5] “Israel’s attacks on Gaza: The weapons and scale of destruction”, Al Jazeera, 2023,

[6] “Gaza war inflicts catastrophic damage on infrastructure and economy”, Reuters, 2023,

[7] “Thousands of Bodies Lie Buried in Rubble in Gaza”, Voice of America, 2023,

[8] “Gaza: Israel’s ‘Open-Air Prison’ at 15”, Human Rights Watch, 2022,

[9] “Why Israel wants to erase context and history in the war on Gaza”, Al Jazeera, 2023,

[10] “UN chief says ‘clear violations of international humanitarian law’ in Gaza”, Al Jazeera, 2023,

[11] “Statistics on administrative detention in the Occupied Territories”, B’Tselem, 2023,

[12] “Hamas deputy chief anticipates hostages will be swapped for Palestinian prisoners”, The Times of Israel, 2023,

[13] “Netanyahu rejected ceasefire-for-hostages deal in Gaza, sources say”, The Guardian, 2023,

[14] “Hamas is pure evil, and our minds can’t fully comprehend their horror – opinion”, The Jerusalem Post, 2023,




[18] “Nowhere to Go in Gaza”, Human Rights Watch, 2023,

[19] “Gaza: Unlawful Israeli Hospital Strikes Worsen Health Crisis”, Human Rights Watch, 2023,

[20] “Israel strikes ambulance near Gaza hospital, 15 reported killed”, Reuters, 2023,

[21] “Israeli Airstrike Hits Greek Orthodox Church Compound in Gaza City”, The New York Times, 2023,

[22] “At Least 24 Killed in Strike on Gaza School Run by the U.N.”, The New York Times, 2023,

[23] “Arab and Islamic countries condemn Israeli bombing of Qatari aid offices in Gaza”, The National News, 2023,


[25] “Israel/Gaza conflict: Questions and Answers”, Amnesty International, 2014,

[26] “Israeli President Suggests That Civilians In Gaza Are Legitimate Targets”, Huffington Post, 2023,

[27] “The language being used to describe Palestinians is genocidal”, The Guardian, 2023,

[28] “ ‘Emphasis is on damage, not accuracy’: ground offensive into Gaza seems imminent”, The Guardian, 2023,

[29] “ ‘City of tents’: Israeli defence official vows every building in Gaza will be destroyed in ‘ground manoeuvre’ ”, Sky News, 2023,

[30] “Far-right minister: Nuking Gaza is an option, population should ‘go to Ireland or deserts’ ”, The Times of Israel, 2023,


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