by Yael Marom
“Razan al-Najjar is no angel of mercy,” tweeted IDF Arabic Spokesman Avichay Adraee on Thursday. Attached to Adraee’s defamatory tweet was an edited video in which a young woman dressed in a white coat and a headscarf, a mask covering her face, throws a tear gas canister during a protest in Gaza. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, the film proves that al-Najjar, in life, was far from the image that has spread on social media after her death.
Since last Friday, when al-Najjar, a Palestinian medic, was killed, the IDF has been dealing with a public relations crisis. The army first announced that her death would be investigated, then declared that the investigation showed she was not shot by a soldier but “wounded by shrapnel,” and then declared that at the very least she wasn’t intentionally and directly targeted.
The IDF’s chief provocateur in Arabic has now taken the effort to justify al-Najjar’s death to the next level.
The 20-second propaganda video opens with a picture of al-Najjar with angel wings. Then the picture shakes, threatening music plays in the background, and a short clip of a young woman, her head and face covered, plays. The woman is handed a tear gas canister that is spouting gas, and she throws it a few meters. The video then sharply cuts to another time and place — to a clip from an interview with al-Najjar where she explains why she chose to participate in the Great Return March, seemingly saying that she is a human shield.
There is no evidence that the young woman who throws the tear gas canister is in fact al-Najjar. The IDF Spokesperson has not even made the effort to note the date or place the clip was filmed. And even if it is al-Najjar in the video, it is clear that she throws the tear gas canister only a few meters into an empty field — there are no soldiers in the area, and the Gaza-Israel separation barrier is not even visible in the clip. One can reasonably assume that the tear gas canister she throws was fired into Gaza by Israeli soldiers or by an IDF drone. The tear gas canister is spouting gas as she throws it — any reasonable person would try to do the same to avoid suffocating.
In his tweet, Adraee claims that al-Najjar admitted to serving as a “human shield for the inciting disrupters,” proving that “Hamas exploits all of Gazan society for its aims and the aims of Iran.” Adraee asks, “Do other paramedics in the world throw bombs, participate in riots, and call themselves human shields?” In the second half of the edited video, al-Najjar does appear to say the words “human shield,” after which the video cuts sharply. In the original video, however, which is cut out from the version distributed by the IDF, there is second half to al-Najjar’s sentence: “to defend the wounded on the front lines.” Perhaps not the wisest choice of words in the world, but far from the incriminating evidence that Adraee claimed the video showed.
The IDF Spokesperson published an edited video, comprised of clips that have no discernible connection to each other or to the specific day al-Najjar was killed, in order to justify the killing of the young paramedic, to prove that she was not simply an innocent nurse, and to present her as a terrorist or a potential terrorist.
The video is meant to tell us: it was okay to kill her, she was an Arab. And Israel’s mainstream media outlets, to prove their patriotism and boost their ratings, completely bought the IDF’s spin. They published the clip without question or clarification or warnings that it was not in any way verified, or nothing that it in no way justifies her killing. A broadcaster on one of Israel’s most-watched channels even said, without any proof of this in the video, that al-Najjar threw the tear gas canister “during a violent protest.”
“The IDF’s digital platforms are operational tools in the operational arm of the IDF,” Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis told a room full of Israel journalists several months ago. Manelis said openly that the IDF uses its digital platforms “to create deterrence and to blacken (tarnish) the enemy — either explaining that our enemy is really bad and to tarnish his name to say don’t join them, or to deter them.” The provocations of Avichay Adraee are simply part of the IDF’s operational strategy.
At least in Israel, the IDF Spokesperson’s current operation seems to be succeeding, with the generous help of mainstream journalists.
Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager in Israel and a co-editor of Local Call, where a version of this article was originally published in Hebrew. Reprinted, with permission, from +972 Magazine.