Combating the Surge of Misinformation in the Israel-Hamas Conflict

by Ethan Kim
Israel-Hamas conflict misinformation

The digital landscape is rife with misinformation regarding the latest skirmishes between Israel and Hamas, with social media channels becoming a hotbed for the spread of doctored videos, mistranslations, and spurious claims, overshadowing genuine journalism from the battleground.

Fabrications have circulated online, including assertions that paid actors are replicating scenes of devastation and that U.S. Marines are supposedly deployed in combat roles in Gaza.

Amidst this turmoil, here are the scrutinized truths.

ASSERTION: Yemen has engaged in war with Israel.

VERIFIED TRUTH: Yemen’s officially recognized government has not engaged in an act of war against Israel. While Houthi rebels, who have taken control over Yemen’s capital, have launched missiles at Israeli sites and made threats of further aggression, they have not declared outright war on Israel.

Developments in the Israel-Hamas Escalation

The U.S. House of Representatives has sanctioned approximately $14.5 billion in military assistance for Israel. President Biden has committed to vetoing any measures from the GOP that deviate from his administration’s strategies.

As a significant number of Palestinians with foreign citizenship make their exit from Gaza, they leave behind families caught in the crossfire of the conflict.

Migrant workers from Thailand in Israel face a tough choice amidst the violence: to stay put or seek safety elsewhere?

Videos are being circulated online featuring a military leader attired in battle uniform speaking Arabic, incorrectly indicating that Yemen has formally joined the hostilities against Israel.

CLAIM DISPROVED: No such declaration has been made by Yemen’s recognized government. The Houthi insurgents, who control Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, did announce missile and drone launches targeting Israel.

While Israeli defense forces reported intercepting these attacks before they could reach Israeli soil, the Houthi military has claimed subsequent drone launches directed at Israel, purportedly in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

The legitimate government of Yemen, represented by the Presidential Leadership Council, operates intermittently from Riyadh and Aden and has no ties to the Houthi rebels.

Thomas Juneau, an academic with expertise in Yemeni affairs, clarifies that the Houthis hold de facto power in Sanaa, but it is misleading to state that Yemen as a nation has declared war on Israel.

Bruce Riedel from the Brookings Institution echoes this sentiment, highlighting that only Iran and Syria maintain embassies in Houthi-controlled areas, which emphasizes the group’s international isolation.

Despite the severity of the missile and drone attacks, the Houthis’ statement does not commit to a comprehensive military campaign against Israel, he observes.

The Houthi spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree, has declared on television that their assaults on Israeli targets will persist until Israel ceases its operations in Palestinian territories, which were a countermeasure to an unexpected attack by Hamas on October 7.

According to Riedel, the implication is that if Israeli offensives against Gaza are halted, the Houthis would reciprocate by stopping their attacks.

Requests for comment from officials at Yemen’s embassy in Washington were met with silence on Wednesday.

Since the Houthi’s coup in 2014, Yemen has been embroiled in a proxy conflict largely interpreted as a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran, causing over 150,000 deaths and a dire humanitarian crisis.

— Report contributions from Philip Marcelo in New York and Jon Gambrell in Dubai.

CLAIM: Pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Pennsylvania were calling for genocide against Jews.

VERIFIED TRUTH: The chants captured in videos of recent protests have been misrepresented. Protesters were not vocalizing a desire for Jewish genocide but were instead indicting Israel with charges of genocide—a common chant at pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

One video mischaracterized online displays a crowd at UCLA chanting protest slogans, with an erroneous interpretation posted on Instagram, claiming the crowd was calling for Jewish genocide. This occurred in Los Angeles on October 26th, 2023.

Another similar protest chant was recorded at the University of Pennsylvania on October 16.

Claims on Instagram allege that the students called for Jewish genocide and made references to the Nazi “final solution”—indicative of rising antisemitism.

However, both Jewish and pro-Palestinian organizations have corrected the misquotations.

The Anti-Defamation League has confirmed that the actual chants were accusing Israel of genocide, as part of a standard lexicon at anti-Israel rallies, and this is supported by details on their website addressing misinformation about the conflict.

Penn Students Against the Occupation denounced the misinformation as blatant disinformation on Instagram.

The chants at UCLA were similarly mischaracterized, with the university issuing corrections on a dedicated misinformation webpage.

Dan Gold from Hillel UCLA affirmed the contentious nature of the rally’s rhetoric but verified that no chants were made advocating harm against Jews.

— Reporting by Philip Marcelo.

CLAIM: A promotional video by British retailer Marks & Spencer depicted a Palestinian flag being burnt.

VERIFIED TRUTH: The visual in question shows red, green, and silver paper hats, customary at British Christmas celebrations, being burned—not a Palestinian flag. It stemmed from an outtake of a holiday advert intended to humorously showcase the lack of enthusiasm for certain Yuletide customs, such as wearing paper hats.

Misinterpretations on social media suggested that the imagery was an intentional affront to Palestinians.

However, Marks & Spencer clarified that the imagery, part of their Christmas campaign shot in August, was meant to humorously express the dispensable nature of some Christmas traditions. The company apologized and retracted the post after receiving feedback, stressing that their original intent was not to offend.

The final advert features cultural icons and aligns with the theme of indulging only in favored Christmas activities.

The flare-up of the Israel-Hamas conflict, beginning October 7, occurred well after the advert’s production, establishing no correlation between the two events.

— Reportage by Melissa Goldin in New York.

CLAIM: A circulating video that shows bodies moving under white cloths is being presented as proof that casualties are being fabricated by Palestinians and Hamas during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

VERIFIED TRUTH: The footage dates back to 2013, from a protest at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, unrelated to the current conflict.

This instance is yet another example of online users leveraging aged content to propagate the notion of “crisis actors” and “staged” events to exaggerate the conflict’s human impact.

The video originally from an Egyptian news source, displays students at a demonstration. The description clarifies that the demonstration was by Muslim Brotherhood students during a period of political unrest following the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi.

— Journalism by Karena Phan in Los Angeles.

These investigative efforts are part of the AP’s commitment to tackling widely disseminated misinformation by providing contextual truth to deceptive content proliferating online. For more on AP’s fact-checking processes, visit their dedicated section.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Israel-Hamas conflict misinformation

Has Yemen declared war on Israel?

No, Yemen’s internationally recognized government has not declared war on Israel. Houthi rebels have launched attacks but have not officially declared war.

Are pro-Palestinian rallies calling for Jewish genocide?

No, the claims are a misrepresentation. Protesters are actually chanting “Israel, we charge you with genocide,” not calling for Jewish genocide.

Does a Marks & Spencer ad show a burning Palestinian flag?

No, the ad shows traditional British Christmas paper hats burning in a fireplace, not a Palestinian flag. It was misconstrued on social media.

Is there evidence of Palestinians using “crisis actors” in the Israel-Hamas war?

No, a circulated video claimed to show this was actually from a 2013 student protest in Egypt, not the current conflict.

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Jane Smith November 3, 2023 - 4:46 am

read the article but it’s kinda confusing, can anyone explain better?

Emma Brown November 3, 2023 - 6:29 am

wow, didn’t realize that video was from 2013… social media can be so misleading

John Doe November 3, 2023 - 9:14 am

not sure why people just share stuff without checking facts, spreading misinformation doesn’t help anyone

Alex Lee November 3, 2023 - 2:01 pm

is this really what journalism has come to just a bunch of he said she said?

Mike Johnson November 3, 2023 - 2:25 pm

i mean, does anyone even fact check anymore? it’s like no one cares about the trueth.

Sara White November 3, 2023 - 4:31 pm

it’s important to get ur facts straight before u post something, this is why i hardly believe anything i read on the internet anymore


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