Streaming Services and Psychological Warfare: A New Era of the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
Decades of unavailing hostilities between Palestine and Israel have long been the source of Global debate and regional divide. As I recalled the events that lead us from the 1948 Palestinian exodus to where we are today, I couldn’t help but wonder how a state, based largely on an altered evangelical prophecy, became one of the most influential forces of the modern world, dominated the entirety of the Arab region, tied the U.S. to their personal leash and displaced more than 5 million Palestinians, in a matter of 70 years.
They boast their economic importance and emphasize their soldiers, weapons, and nuclear arsenal but surely that can’t be the only reason behind their rise to power. No - in fact, most of their recent successes can be linked to another type of battle; one that can’t be seen by the naked eye and rarely gets the attention it deserves: physiological warfare.
Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has desperately yearned for global recognition. Their economic dominance and military superiority have successfully coerced the most vulnerable of Arab nations into satisfying their needs. Nonetheless, the majority of Arab citizens remained adamant on their unwavering support of the Palestine cause.
Israel’s current situation could no longer be resolved with threats, tanks, or guns. We, as outsiders, were unaffected by their violence, and therefore, could not be terrorized into submission. What we could be, however, was influenced; and what better way to do that than through social media?
Nowadays, the general population is more up to speed with the latest shows on Netflix than we are on most Global conflicts, and this is exactly what Israel was counting on.
'Unbiased' Israeli Propaganda
Although Israel’s presence and propaganda in Hollywood is nothing new, recent years have summoned a surge of Israeli shows tailored specifically for the Arab community. Most Israeli films concerning the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict now present a strong Palestinian narrative and advertise an ‘unbiased’ plot.
Perhaps, we think to ourselves, Israel is simply disregarding politics for the sake of entertainment, strengthening their presence in the film industry, and finally allowing Palestinians a platform to voice their struggles.
But nothing is ever that black and white.
In reality, Israel’s strange and sudden recognition of the Palestinian entity in their films has been done to attract skeptical Arab viewers.
When choosing between ‘Mossad 101,’ or ‘Fauda,’ where the first discusses the recruitment and training of Israeli soldiers, and the second describes the troubles endured by both the Israeli and Palestinian population, one is undeniably drawn to the latter out of curiosity for the Palestinian narrative.
We’re intrigued to see whether Palestinians, for the first time in history, will be portrayed in a truthful and sympathetic light. And they were. But not for long.
Recent Israeli shows usually begin by playing along with the ‘unbiased narrative.’ However, once the viewer becomes invested in the show, subtle hints of Israeli propaganda begin to surface.
Overlooked support for a controversial belief or a negative portrayal of certain characters, slowly transforms into bolder Israeli ideologies. By then, the audience would’ve grown familiar with these underlying messages, finding themselves listening to controversial statements without batting an eye.
For example, the show ‘Fauda,’ despite beginning with a surprisingly pro-Palestinian tone, gradually encourages the audience to sympathize with, and justify the criminal acts of Israeli soldiers.
In fact, towards the end of the season, the narrative takes a sudden turn. Almost every episode begins with the Palestinian side plotting a suicide attack on Israeli soldiers, distorting our perception of the conflict and reversing the roles of victim and victimizer.
Upon noticing this, many Arab sources were quick to criticize these shows, advising the Arab community to steer clear from them.
So, Israel took another approach.
The Arab community would not trust an Israeli production, no matter how ‘unprejudiced’ it was made to appear, but they would certainly trust their own Arab stars and Arab production companies. After all, fellow Arab’s would never promote Israeli propaganda, right?
Unfortunately, we were wrong.
How Arab Shows Encourage Israeli Propaganda
‘Um Haroon,’ a show set in the 1940s, filmed in the UAE, and staring some of the most prominent Arab actors, has been under fire for labeling original Palestinian land as Israeli land and whitewashing Israeli crimes.
Several Arab sources claimed that actors of this show were persuaded to take their roles by Mohamed Dahlan, a politician with strong Israeli ties, supposedly being told that it would unite the Palestinian and Israeli communities.
In addition, the Saudi Arabian production, ‘Exit 7,’ sparked controversy after referring to Palestine as a lost cause that has only sparked trouble and strife for Arab nations. The scene then states that the future is with Israel and that Gulf/ Israeli business ties should be strengthened.
The fact that these shows were produced in Pro-Palestinian nations and advertised by Palestine-supporting actors has led to a confusing conflict of interest. Through watching these shows, our impressionable youth will begin to cling onto these misleading beliefs, making Israel’s wish of Global brainwashing more of a reality.
We live in an age where almost every aspect of international politics has been infiltrated by the Israeli lobby, and now, their propaganda has bled into the shows we watch on a day-to-day basis.
Psychological warfare has become Israel’s core attempt at securing regional acquiescence, and it definitely won’t be the last. However, its success largely depends on the world’s level of awareness. So far, the Arab community’s reaction to these shows has been far from positive and has proven much more than Israel once bargained for, showing that nothing will ever be able to wipe centuries' worth of Palestinian history and heritage.