How Palestinian propaganda beats Israeli hasbara

Palestinian propaganda is influencing public opinion and policy making in the West to no small degree. This became apparent once more when the president of the EU parliament Schultz made a speech during his visit to the Knesset last week.

Schultz claimed – based on what he heard from Palestinians – that Israelis are allowed to use four times as much water as the Palestinians are (70 to 17 liter). His remarks caused a diplomatic commotion when a part of the Jewish Home faction walked out.

Yesterday PA president Mahmoud Abbas made a similar claim. Abbas claimed that Israelis are permitted to consume 12 times more water than Palestinians. “We are humans, you need to take a shower, I need to take a shower. You need to drink, I need to drink,” he said. “We are similar, why do you take 12 times more?”

Of course both claims are false. Here is why:

Palestinians use 129 liter per person per day (47 MCM M3/cap/year) this is above the recommendation of the World Health Organization (100 liter p/p/day). In reality however, Palestinians use twice this amount because they still use drinking water (47 M3/cap/year) for irrigation of agriculture due to the PA refusal to build waste water treatment plants. (Data Israeli Water Authority and COGAT)

According to the American Israeli Demographic Research Group (AIDRG) Palestinian domestic consumption is even higher (129 M3/cap/year). This is because AIDRG does not reckon Palestinians in Israel and residents of East Jerusalem (who are connected to the Israeli water supply system) in its data.

Israel’s domestic consumption fell from 508 M3/cap/year in 1967 to 170 M3/cap/year in 2006, while in the same period the population almost tripled.  Palestinian domestic consumption went up from 93 M3/cap/year in 1967 to 129 M3/cap/year in 2006 while the population only doubled, according to AIDRG.

All these data are freely accessible to all. If one would argue that Israeli scientists produced the scientific reports and that this therefore represents the Israeli narrative, here is a recent study by a Swiss scientist that contains the same data.

The same Swiss scientist gave evidence that Palestinians use water as a weapon in the cognitive war against Israel.

Palestinian propaganda

Schultz acceptance of Palestinian propaganda is not an isolated incident. In fact the Palestinians disseminate lies about Israel on a daily basis and unfortunately they are accepted by large audiences.

Another example is the myth that Israel poisoned Arafat by means of a dose of Polonium 210.  At the end of January the Palestinians again used this myth when they accused US Secretary of State John Kerry of wanting to get rid of PA president Mahmoud Abbas.

Here is what Jamal Muhaissen, a senior Fatah official, said at the time:

‘Kerry’s threat shows that Israel assassinated Yasser Arafat after receiving  the green light from the US administration’. He added that Kerry’s threat would pave the way for bringing the Secretary of State before the International Criminal Court for threatening the life of an elected Palestinian president.”

Too bad for Muhaissen and the PA that world renowned scientists have  debunked this myth as well.

A Belgian scientist last year published a report in which European and American scientists shot down the myth that Arafat was poisoned.  The report was first published at the Dutch language site Joods Aktueel but received little attention.

I thought Roth’s report deserved better so I wrote an article about it, which was published by The Jerusalem Post this week.

Here are some excerpts from that article:

“Roth spoke to Professor Nicholas Priest who formerly headed the biomedical research unit of the Atomic Energy Authority in the UK. He mentioned that one of his colleagues noted that the comparisons in a Swiss report that partly accepted the theory that Arafat died of Ponlonium poisoning, are always performed versus mean values used in scientific literature. Though most of these follow a statistical normal distribution whereby confidence is expressed in percentage. Therefore there is no real confidence interval provided by the report.

Priest also told the British newspaper The Independent that it is far too dangerous and scientifically unjustified” to calculate how much Polonium was in Arafat’s body on the basis ofsuch tiny concentrations of Polonium”.

Priest told The Independent that, while poisoning by Polonium cannot be totally ruled out, the symptoms were very different from those of the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko who died in London in 2006.

He also noted: Key indicators it was not polonium [that killed Arafat] were lack of hair loss in the face, and no damage to his bone marrow, both of which were found extensively in Litvinenko.

Professor Priest continued:Photographs show Arafat stepping into a helicopter on the way to France sporting a white beard, while pictures of Litvinenko in hospital reveal an absence of any hair”.

Paddy Regan, a professor of radionuclide metrology in the physics department at the UK’s University of Surrey who was interviewed by CNN described the forensic examination as follows:

It’s like a blindfolded man holding the tail of an elephant and using that to estimate the weight of the elephant. You can do it, but there is a huge amount of extrapolation involved.”

Professor Alfred Bernard, an industrial toxicologist at the University of Louvain, UCL, Belgium wrote to Roth:


The data obtained on residual Po and PB can be qualified as ‘inconclusive’…The second element is the clinical picture of the victim. In this instance, the comparison with the Litvinenko case is interesting. The period between the onset of the first symptoms and death is quite comparable (3 to 4 weeks in both cases) which means that, in the event of Arafat having been poisoned by Po210, the gravity of the poisoning would be comparable and therefore the clinical picture the same. It must be acknowledged, on the basis of available evidence, that Arafat’s clinical picture does not support the hypothesis of poisoning by Po210. A drop in blood cells in addition to hair loss did not occur. It is my belief that if that was Arafat’s clinical picture, French doctors would have proceeded to investigate radionuclides. … Investigations were performed too late and the clinical picture does not back up the tested hypothesis.

At the end of his report Roth, cites professor Roland Masse, a member of the prestigious Académie de Médecine in France, who currently teaches radio pathology at the Percy Military Training Hospital in Paris where Arafat was hospitalised two weeks before his death.

Masse told the Times of Israel and Le Figaro a year ago that it would have been impossible to miss radioactive poisoning in the tests that were carried out at the hospital. The tests showed that there was absolutely no way Arafat was poisoned.

Regarding  the Po-210 found in the stains of Arafat’s belongings, Roland Masse added: There is Po-210 all around; when you look for it you will find it”.

Roth’s report may have laid to rest the claim that Israel poisoned Yasser Arafat but the myth will no doubt continue to live on in the Arab world and beyond.

Israeli hasbara

Politicians like Schultz however, should check the facts before they form and express their opinions. As I have pointed out before Palestinian propaganda has its influence even up to the highest echelons. The EU is perhaps the best example of how this propaganda has influenced public opinion and policy making.

But I also think Israel is not doing enough to counter the Palestinian propaganda. Instead of walking out of the Knesset during Shultz’ speech (Jewish Home) or condemning his remarks (Netanyahu), Israel should have released a statement with the exact data about this water issue.

True, the information department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs distributed the scientific study by BESA a couple of days after the incident, but  the same day it also released an expensive video that clearly showed how out of touch with reality IMFA is.

The video aims to rebrand Israel with a pleasant song by Matisyahu and images of happy young Israeli people in some of the most beautiful scenery in the country.

We are in the middle of a cognitive war however, and we should act accordingly. Releasing videos like these is not sufficient anymore, countering lies and debunking myths in real time is.

About the Author
Yochanan Visser is a freelance journalist and director of Missing Peace Information, an independent news agency. He wrote a book about the cognitive war against Israel in the Dutch language. In December 2014 he became the Middle East Correspondent of Western Arizona USA