The first casualty of war


Good slogans have people nodding their heads in agreement because they recognise an underlying truth in the words.  

I have a worn-out t-shirt which carries the slogan “the first casualty of war is truth – the rest are mostly civilians”. If you find yourself nodding in agreement it’s possibly because you have found it deeply shocking to find this slogan validated repeatedly in almost eight months of war on Gaza. 

The mainstream news sources which bring us the “truth” are strongly Eurocentric. Virtually all the reporting in our mainstream media comes via three European news agencies – AP, Reuters and the BBC – or from major US or UK based newspapers such as the Telegraph, the Times, the Washington Post or the New York Times. 

This reporting centres on Israeli narratives, Israeli reasoning, Israeli explanations and Israeli justifications for what they are doing to Palestinians. Israeli spokespeople are front and centre and quoted extensively and directly. Palestinian voices, when they are covered, are usually at the margins. On TV in particular Palestinians are most often portrayed as the incoherent victims of overwhelming grief.  

In the mainstream media Israel’s perverted lies dominate. 

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The last seven months is riddled with examples. Just two days after the October 7th attack on Israel, pro-Palestinian protestors were accused of chanting “Gas the Jews” outside the Sydney Opera House. The story was carried around the world through mainstream media as a nasty anti-semitic slur on Palestinians and their supporters. Four months later, after an intensive investigation New South Wales police concluded it never happened. The words were never chanted. 

However the Radio New Zealand website today still carries a Reuters report saying “A rally outside the Sydney Opera House two days after the Hamas attack had ignited heated debate after a small group were filmed chanting “Gas the Jews”.

Even if RNZ did the right thing and removed the report now the old adage is true: “A lie is halfway around the world before the truth has got its trousers on”. Four months later and the police report is not news but the damage has been done as the pro-Israel lobby intended. 

The same tactic has been used at protests on US university campuses. A couple of weeks ago at Northeastern University a pro-Israel counter protestor was caught on video shouting “Kill the Jews” in an apparent attempt to provoke police into breaking up the pro-Palestine protest. The university ordered the protest to be closed down saying “the action was taken after some protesters resorted to virulent antisemitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews'”. The nastiest of lies told for the nastiest of reasons – protecting a state committing genocide. 

Similarly, unverified claims of “beheaded babies” raced around the world after the October 7th attack on Israel and were even repeated by US President Joe Biden. They were false. Even the Israeli military confirmed no baby was beheaded and yet despite this bare-faced disinformation the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand was able to repeat the lie, along with several others, in a recent TVNZ interview on Q and A without being challenged. 

War propaganda such as this is deliberate and designed to ramp up anger and soften us up to accept war and the most savage brutality and blatant war crimes against the Palestinian people. Recall for a moment the lurid claims from 1990 that Iraqi soldiers had removed babies from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and left them to die on the floor. It was false but helped the US convince the public that war against Iraq was justified. 12 years later the US and UK were peddling false claims about Iraq having ‘weapons of mass destruction’ to successfully pressure other countries to join their war on Iraq.  

Perhaps the most cynical misinformation to come out of the war on Gaza so far appeared in the hours following the finding of the International Court of Justice that South Africa had presented a plausible case that Israel was committing genocide. Israel smartly released a short report claiming 12 employees of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) had taken part in the October 7th attack on Gaza. The distraction was spectacularly successful. Western media fell over themselves to highlight the report and bury the ICJ findings, with most western countries, New Zealand included, stopping or suspending funding for the UN agency.  

Needless to say an independent investigation outa couple of weeks ago shows Israel has failed to support its claims about UNRWA staff involved in the October 7 attacks. It doesn’t need forensic analysis to tell us Israel released this fact-free report to divert attention from their war crimes which have now killed over 35,000 Palestinians – the majority being women and children.

The problem goes deeper than manufactured stories. For many western journalists the problem starts not with what they see and hear but with what their news editors allow them to say. A leaked memo to New York Times journalists covering the war tells them they are to restrict the use of the terms “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” and to avoid using the phrase “occupied territory” when describing Palestinian land. They have even been instructed not to use the word Palestine “except in very rare cases” or the term “refugee camps” to describe areas of Gaza settled by Palestinian refugees driven off their land by Israeli militias in the Nakba of 1947 – 49.

These reporting restrictions are a blatant denial of Palestinian history and cut across accurate descriptions under international law which recognises Palestinians as refugees and the occupied Palestinian territories as precisely what they are – under military occupation by Israel. People reading articles on Gaza from the New York Times have no idea the story has been “shaped” for us with a pro-Israel bias.

These restrictions on journalists also typically cover how Palestinians are portrayed in western media. Every Palestinian teenager who throws a stone at Israeli soldiers is called a “militant” or worse and Palestinians who take up arms to fight the Israeli occupation of their land, as is their right under international law, are described as “terrorists” when they should be described as resistance fighters.

The heavy pro-Israel bias in western media reporting is an important reason Israel’s military occupation of Palestine, and the ongoing violence which results from it, has continued for so long.

The answer to all of this is people power – join the weekly protests in your centre against Israel’s settler colonial project with its apartheid policies against Palestinians.

And give the mainstream media a wide berth on this issue.


  1. The simple fact is that it’s journalistic malpractice to pretend that anything an ‘israeli’ claims has even the possibility of being factual. When such a creature opens its mouth, it is either to tell a small or a big lie. A responsible media would report the facts that disprove the lies alongside the lies, or simply don’t report the lies at all besides saying ‘israelis told some lies today’. Instead, RNZ, TVNZ, Newshub, Stuff, all the rest, are engaging in the crime of ‘incitement to genocide’ by repeating the lies.

    Funny, the mysteriously funded ‘disinformation’ NGOs don’t seem to extend their opinions about how all discussion of relatively rare side effects of COVID vaccines should be suppressed, to the universal lies told by the zionists. I wonder why?

  2. “I’ve been doing this a long time, I never really thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children.” US President, Joe Biden

    At the outbreak of WW1 reports were received in England and widely circulated that German troops were throwing Belgium babies in the air and catching them on their bayonets.

    Alleged atrocities against babies and perverted sexual crimes are a staple of pro-war propaganda, The purpose of such propaganda is to stir up emotions of revulsion and hate against the alleged perpetrators.

    Leading up to World War II, in films, in newsreels, on radio and printed articles German Nazi propaganda alleged systemic ritual child sexual abuse, and the rape of German women by European and German Jews. The Nazi propaganda machine exploited the human visceral emotional response to child abuse and rape, to engender hatred and revulsion in the German people against the Jewish population that enabled the holocaust.

    Allegations of sexual violence against women and minors stirs up visceral emotions and atavistic disgust and dread. The US KKK know this. The KKK spread lurid and mostly false accounts of Black men raping White women to incite lynchings and other violent attacks against Black Americans.

    This sort of propaganda has two things in common.

    Firstly: Stir up a people and especially soldiers to commit similar or even worse crimes against those the propaganda is directed against. 

    Secondly; Such propaganda is either completely false, or wildly exaggerated

    On October 23 Israel’s IDF released a video compilation of the October 7 Hamas attack.

    It has been reported by reliable sources who have viewed it, that there is footage of killings of Israeli civilians by Hamas fighters that has been deemed too gruesome to release to the public.

    In the IDF video witnesses give evidence that Hamas committed gruesome murders of Israeli civilians on October 7. These are war crimes. 

    Hamas killed Israeli civilians including children on October 7. These killings of civilians by Hamas are grave atrocities and needed to be prosecuted as war crimes.
    On October 7, numerous Hamas fighters were captured alive by Israel. None of the Hamas fighters captured alive by Israel have been put on trial for the war crimes that they have been alleged to have committed.

    The provenly true war crimes of Hamas, and even the provenly untrue war crimes of systemic mass rape and child beheadings, even if they had occurred, cannot be used to justify the genocide being committed against the Palestinian civilian population of Gaza by Israel.
    Nothing can be used to justify genocide, not even genocide.

    Owen Jones:
    A new Al-Jazeera documentary finally offers the most definitive story of that fateful day – and I talk through the shocking claims of real atrocities and false claims with journalist Richard Sanders….”.
    “….we’re approaching six months since that faithful morning and a really brilliant and important new documentary seeks to finally establish the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
    Now I’ve watched it. and it is chilling.
    It’s a brilliant piece of Journalism but it is chilling and it’s chilling in part, because of the atrocities which were committed against unarmed and innocent Israeli civilians on the 7th of October, and it’s chilling because of the false claims which were used in order to justify the Mass Slaughter of the Palestinian people in Gaza, which is ongoing…

    Richard Sanders:
    “…in the wake of October the 7th and as a result of October the 7th, the Israelis have launched this bombardment and subsequently a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, which as you say has cost at this stage over 31,000 lives, almost half of them children, an appalling cost. And so we need to get what happened on October the 7th right, because it’s being used as justification for this, and it will reverberate for decades to come, as well as now.
    “Whenever the Israelis, or their supporters in the West, are challenged about these appalling death tolls and so on, they talk about babies and they talk about rapes, it’s used again and again to signify [to us] that what happened on October 7th was so appalling that the people who committed it have effectively abdicated their right to expect to be treated as human beings. And you know, there is a long tradition of this.
    You can go back to the way Native Americans were exterminated in the 19th century, the Indian Mutiny as we we still call it, the same thing.
    The atrocities supposedly committed by those rising up, are portrayed in the worst possible Light. And it’s always the same, it’s always babies, it’s always rapes. It’s always those two things. And so it’s not just nitpicking, it’s not just saying people were killed in this way, and not that way. Those specific things were used and are used for a reason – to justify what has subsequently happened. And therefore it’s really important to put under the microscope, whether they did actually happen…..

    Unpacking prowar propaganda:

    October 7 The documentary:
    “Hamas fighters and others committed crimes on October 7. But the Israeli media however does not focus on the crimes they committed but on crimes they did not.”

    • Who is Richard Sanders? Doesn’t seem like he is well informed or is just US centric, eg “You can go back to the way Native Americans were exterminated in the 19th century, the Indian Mutiny as we we still call it, the same thing.”

      • Documentary maker Richard Sanders is making the point that imperialism and settler colonialism often share common features

        • Does he cover the common feature of ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arabia, Islamic imperialism in the Middle East or Arab settler colonialism at all?

  3. John well done with this blog. You are damn right with the points you have made here.

    I guess a knighthood is not likely in the foreseeable future ?

    I think an acknowledgement with a true New Zealand honour you would rightly turn down.

    Of course not you haven’t made a profit yet and contributed it to the National party eh John.

    Its not about titles of course and that’s not what motivates you and your commitment to highlighting the oppression that so many endure in the savagery of American Zionist imperialist policies.

  4. Well known, John. An 8 month course in propaganda. Disproved in the same period for the intelligent. Plenty of stupid but the intelligent matter. And we think Israel is disproved entirely.

  5. Interestingly a good example of propaganda by non coverage this week. Did you hear that USS Eisenhower, a fleet carrier was attacked by Houthi drones and rockets and has since withdrawn South out of range? That is significant news because it says that the US navy isn’t able to control the Red Sea against a tiny third world nation. Best keep quiet.

  6. The Mainstream Media also said Trump’s fast-tracked experimental untested Covid-19 vax was “100% safe and effective”. Anyone that still believes anything the MSM says just because they said it, has rocks in their head.


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