The four hostages freed by the brutal raid on the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza were said to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome because they said that their captors cared about their wellbeing. At least 274 Palestinians were killed and 698 wounded in the Israeli strikes on 8th June to free the hostages who had already been offered as part of a deal on numerous occasions by Hamas.

Hebrew media reports pointed to the fact that Noa Argamani, Shlomi Ziv, Almog Meir Jan, and Andrey Kozlov were malnourished as evidence that they were clearly deluded in finding anything positive to say about their captors. The irony in this statement is clearly lost on the readers of The Times of Israel who either don’t know or are ignoring the fact that the entire 2.3 million population of Gaza is facing crisis levels of hunger, with 576,600 people at catastrophic or starvation levels. The captors were being held in family homes, so they were inevitably subject to the same privations imposed on the population by the deliberate blockading of food and water by Israel.

The fact that the captors made a cake for one of the hostages on his birthday was also described as ‘a cynical ploy.’ At the moment the worst that has been levelled against the captors is that the hostages were occasionally required to wash the dishes. Whilst being captured and held against your will in an unknown environment, feeling that your life is hanging in the balance, is clearly terrifying, it has been disconcerting for those who have relied on propaganda to almost the same extent as bombs to achieve their aims that the released hostages cannot be used to stoke up even greater hatred towards Hamas and the people of Gaza.

The first hostage to be released had been difficult enough for those needing ‘bad news stories’ to justify their ongoing assault on Palestine.  Eighty-five-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz, shook hands with a Hamas captor as she left, two weeks after she was captured. Hamas claim the hostages have been treated humanely and in line with Islamic teachings, but noted some were killed in Israeli air strikes.

There is certainly no chance of being described as having Stockholm Syndrome for those Palestinians unlucky enough to be held in an Israeli prison. The Association for Civil Rights Israel (ACRI) said detainees released from the prison Sde Teiman camp, described being held on their knees in crowded cages, handcuffed at all hours of the day, blindfolded and subjected to a variety of humiliating treatments in blatant violation of legal obligations towards detainees.

“This facility has become a lawless black hole where detainees’ basic human rights are stripped away,” ACRI asserted in a lawsuit, which it filed together with other human rights groups, including Physicians for Human Rights, HaMoked, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Gisha.

An Amnesty report supported these claims in testimony from released detainees and human rights lawyers, as well as video footage and images illustrating some of the forms of torture and other ill-treatment prisoners have been subjected to by Israeli forces. These include severe beatings and the humiliation of detainees, including forcing them to keep their heads down, to kneel on the floor during inmate count, and to sing Israeli songs.

Propaganda has been used as a tool in war for centuries, but the rapid growth and popularity of social media, along with the right-wing bias of most of the print and visual media mean we have a dangerous imbalance and misinformation on steroids impacting on politically charged conflicts such as the Israeli/Gaza assault.

For example, two allegations of rape and sexual assault were debunked in May this year when it was shown that what witnesses thought was evidence of clothing having been tampered with and hence a rape was the result of clothing being disturbed when soldiers moved the body across the floor. The more gruesome allegation of a foetus being removed from a pregnant woman was just not true. The woman in question wasn’t even pregnant. More recently, and controversially, The Times published a comprehensive report on the 7th October rape allegations on 7th June. According to the report, based on months of detailed research, many of the gruesome accounts of sexual assault were found to be false. They pointed out that these uncorrected hoaxes contributed to the narrative surrounding the alleged “Hamas mass rape campaign”, which had been widely covered by mainstream media outlets and was used to justify the brutal campaign that followed.

Not long after 7th October, the not for profit digital human rights group ‘Access Now’ said: “There’s a lot of information being shared that is not verified, a lot of calls to violence and dehumanisation. And all this is fanning the flames for further massacres of Palestinians.”

Little did they know just how right this prophesy would turn out to be.

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