It has been a little over a week since Hamas attacked Israel.
In that week, we have learned more of what 5th Generation Warfare looks and feels like in the context of actual battles taking place in a geographic theater of war.
Although the Israel-Palestine conflict has demonstrated an evolution in asymmetric warfare, this article will not discuss, per se, the tactics or politics of asymmetric warfare as deployed by Hamas.
As we have witnessed, in contrast to a specific tactic, 5th Generation Warfare involves us all. As James Corbett wrote in April:
“There is a world war happening right now. It is a fifth-generation war (or whatever you want to call it). It is being waged across every domain simultaneously. It is a war for full-spectrum dominance of every battlefield and every terrain, from the farthest reaches of the globe (and beyond) to the inner spaces of your body and even to your innermost thoughts. And it is a war on you.”
This observation is not meant to cheapen the suffering of those on the ground, or to equate the rending of flesh with the rending of the mind. It is, however, an acknowledgement that the war over public opinion makes us all combatants in some small way. The accessibility and pervasiveness of modern media increases this involvement a hundredfold.
To fully analyze the evolution of 5th Generation Warfare through this conflict, an at least cursory understanding of each side’s objectives is necessary.
Very crudely speaking, they are as follows:
For Israel, a religious war ending with the complete annexation of the West Bank and Gaza, and the ultimate defeat of Hamas. This would mean the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land. To do this, Israel must control the international narrative enough for the world to turn a blind eye, and to prevent other Muslim nations from entering the conflict.
For Hamas, the purpose of the attacks was to provoke Israel into committing atrocities against the Palestinians that would turn the international community against Israel and “force the Muslim states and armed groups everywhere to take a stand.” If that means sacrificing civilians, they are martyrs; Inshallah.
With those objectives in mind, the Israeli dissemination of atrocity propaganda actually aids Hamas in achieving its goals because public outrage enables Israel to overreact, which is exactly what Hamas desires.
This means that the public mind is the crucial battleground in this conflict. Except, as we have seen over the last week, the public is no longer a silent observer.
Indeed, public comment has had an even more pronounced effect than during the war in Ukraine, where critical reporters debunked the “Ghost of Kiev” and highlighted the truth about the alleged Russian missile attack on Poland.
For example, on October 11, MintPress News released a thread on X, formerly Twitter, highlighting “Four Stories About Gaza That Turned Out To Be Fake.”
Israel's latest bombing of Gaza has accompanied a serious disinformation campaign.
Here are four examples: pic.twitter.com/5B545HBrkC
— MintPress News (@MintPressNews) October 11, 2023
The first story was that of Shani Louk, a German national raised in Israel who was allegedly killed by Hamas while attending the now-infamous Supernova music festival near Kibbutz Urim, approximately three miles from the Gazan border.
Some of the first images broadcast by international media of the October 7 attack were of Shani Louk’s ostensibly deceased corpse lying face down in the back of a pickup truck, surrounded by celebrating Hamas fighters. Her legs looked to be bent at impossible angles. The media implied she had been stripped naked by Hamas—the inference being that she had been sexually defiled in some way.
It later—thankfully—turned out that Shani Louk was alive in a Gazan hospital, albeit in critical condition. The news surfaced after Shani’s mother pleaded for her release through German media. The very fact that Shani Louk turned up alive in a Gazan hospital means that Hamas either took her there, surrendered her to someone that did, or abandoned her.
The Supernova festival itself was initially portrayed as an intentional and premeditated massacre and rape of Israeli partygoers. Subsequent reports however, muddied that conclusion. Among them are the fact that the rave took place in close proximity to the Gazan border, meaning that it was in the direct path of the Hamas assault. Eyewitnesses stated Israeli police and other armed security guards were present and amongst the crowd as it attempted to escape. Furthermore, reports of rape could not be corroborated. These facts support the conclusion that the party—and its doomed patrons—were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and got caught in the crossfire.
This conclusion does not, of course, preclude the possibility that individual Hamas fighters committed war crimes. That reality is, however, different than portrayed by the media.
The second story highlighted by MintPress were the reports that Hamas fighters had “beheaded 40 babies” during an attack against Kffar Aza, an Israeli kibbutz on the Gaza border. This story instantly gained traction across mainstream media in the West.
Soon after the international uproar, however, the reporter who first broke the story, Nicole Zedeck, clarified that she had not seen the alleged beheaded babies, but was told by Israeli soldiers that “they believe 40 babies/children were killed.”
That didn’t stop President Joe Biden from claiming he had “confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children,” a statement the White House later “clarified,” admitting that the president hadn’t actually seen nor confirmed anything!
The most interesting piece of atrocity propaganda occurred last Thursday, when ardent Zionist Ben Shapiro shared an image of an infant allegedly charred to death by Hamas militants.
A firestorm ensued with several X accounts stating the image was generated by artificial intelligence (AI). Some X users claimed to have performed a forensic analysis of the image to confirm its authenticity.
It is ultimately unclear if the photo is authentic or AI generated. Even if the photo is real, Shapiro did not provide any additional foundation for the image, such as identifying where it was taken, who took it, and what it purports to show. Further, the picture itself does not contain any context clues that may aid the viewer in evaluating its authenticity.
The specific accusations of AI fabrication are an early example of what will become commonplace in the 5th Generation battlegrounds of the future, expanding much farther beyond even the context of kinetic war. Remember, 5th Generation means engaging every single domain: it even means atrocity propaganda bootstrapped to social media algorithms that have already hacked the human mind into outrage and dopamine feedback loops.
Therefore, the case of the charred baby, and others like it, evolved from horrific tragedy to the veritable atrocity Olympics that are raging across the internet.
For Zionists, debate over the authenticity of their proffered atrocity propaganda is a valuable, and perhaps even desired effect. It specifically deflects attention away from the deluge of authentic evidence and reports of civilian deaths in Gaza. This evidence is either uncontroverted by Zionists, or simply blamed on Hamas in the same way an abuser blames his victim for “making him” inflict the abuse.
At the time of writing, Israel has been relatively successful in its efforts to drive public attention away from its war crimes, such as its use of white phosphorus munitions, forced migration of civilians, intentional targeting of civilians and civilian areas, and deprivation of essential human services. Expounding the horror, Israel has effectively neutralized Gazans’ ability to report Israel’s crimes against humanity by shutting off Gazans’ basic utilities and by killing journalists.
If the Muslim world is to join Hamas’ war against Israel, it is crucial to Hamas that these nations acknowledge the Israelis are preparing to massacre, or actually are massacring, the Palestinians. For that to happen, information has to get out somehow.
In sum, through the last week, we have learned that dissenters can effectively debunk atrocity propaganda in real-time—at least the kind that incites violence instead of urging peace.
We’ve learned that controversy caused by atrocity propaganda can itself be a desired effect.
Finally, we have observed through case studies how pervasive the power of propaganda is in 5th Generation War—where even apolitical TikTok viewers are inundated with atrocities from areas of the world they couldn’t identify on a map.
A public armed with these observations is much more equipped to urge deescalation and ultimately a peaceful solution to a conflict whose horrors can only multiply.