|Schoolgirls wading through sewage-filled water in Gaza, November 2013|
[Image Source: Oxfam]
If, in writing that last sentence, we came across sounding relatively calm, it's a misapprehension. The behind-the-scenes reality is that it is frequently enraging - to the point of truly making a person nuts - to watch the daily, deadly combination of conspiracy-driven non-news propagated via today's social-media channels, on one hand, and the know-nothing, he-said-she-said, "serious" news reporting from mainstream media channels that all-too-often picks up those malicious stories/rumours/inventions and gives them just enough airplay and professional tone to turn them into "news".
Outside our home in Jerusalem, the weather looks gorgeous at this hour. The morning sun is shining brightly. But it's chilly. There's been a large storm system over the area since Thursday, and there's plenty of snow everywhere, and ice. Our car has not been moved - at least not by us - for days. Electricity cut-outs have been endemic, along with problems with water supply, Internet access and going shopping. Our local shopping center has been closed intermittently; staff has not been able to get to work because the bus system has been hit-and-miss. In short, a heavy winter in Jerusalem terms.
Down in Gaza, they're suffering from floods. They're serious and turning life into a new kind of misery for Gazans who have plenty of grief just from being the vassals of a religiously-driven terror-addicted tyranny.
Hamas, for years, has evaded taking the steps that any government must - taxing the population on its income in order to have budgets for spending on schools and roads and infrastructure. They prefer, instead, to spend what they have on warfare, armaments, parades.
From experience, there's very-little-to-no analysis in the news channels on this aspect of the Hamas phenomenon; about how it's the PA in far-off Ramallah that continues to pay the salaries of thousands of Gaza-based civil servants who simply stay home. About how Hamas prefers to see its citizens go without electric power (the local authorities shut down the sole Gazan power plant in November) rather than spend incoming aid money on better and more power generation, transmission and distribution. About the misappropriation of badly-needed building materials for the 'higher purpose' of constructing tunnels for sneaking its terrorists into Israel so they can capture themselves an Israeli for hostage-taking and ransom purposes. And so on.
The flooding is a further element of nightmare for the ordinary folk of Gaza. Logically, rationally, they could be expected to have become furious at how something as basic as inadequate drainage could have been so ineptly handled by their rulers. But Hamas is not the local town hall, and removing officials from public office for incompetence is way, way beyond the possibility of ordinary voters. They don't actually get to vote; political change in those parts tends to get done with the aid of bullets. So they suffer.
Still, the news photographers have been publishing disturbing images of children wading through raw sewage, and a culprit has to be found.
No prizes for realizing that a way will be found, has been found, to pin this on the Israelis. And so clicking on this search link this morning will turn up dozens of mentions of un-named dams on the Israel side of the border with Gaza that have been deliberately opened so as to inundate the people and homes of the Gaza Strip. (Special mention of the European-funded, independent Bethlehem-based Palestinian news agency Ma'an, whose willingness to broadcast the most outlandish anti-Israel reports disgraces those who run it.)
It's not the kind of story for which anyone with sense - or familiarity with how the conflict between the Arabs and Israel actually works - needs a detailed explanation. It's an invention that resembles those chilling blood libels that, in previous generations, led to street mobs murdering their Jewish neighbours on the basis of invented allegations of poisoning the wells or baking bread or matza with the blood of gentile children and so on.
But invention or not, it's what millions of people - particularly in non-English-speaking places - believe about what is happening today in Gaza. (There are endless examples from Iran, Egypt, Turkey, the UK in Arabic - and too many more to list.)
There's a typically-fine piece of context-building over at the Elder of Ziyon site [here]. But in reality, anyone who wants to dig for the truth about the absurd and malicious claim that Israel, in the midst of torrential downpours, is flooding Gaza can do so with the aid of open-source data and some ordinary intelligence.
We won't dwell on this any more (doing that would amount to dignifying the ugly, fact-free attacks on Israel) other than to say that disinformation campaigns like this one about lethal flooding are part of something larger - a cognitive war in which things that look like news, feel like news, that speak of facts and sometimes of statistics, are presented as true and factual - that is calculated to advance a political campaign that ultimately is a military one. A war in all respects, in other words.