Eytan Uliel

Three weeks later: My personal spinning top

(WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of atrocities)

On October 8th, as news of the full magnitude of the atrocities in Israel over the previous 24 hours began to emerge, I told my wife: “Watch this space: Israel is going to have about a week of international goodwill, 10 days tops. After that, everyone will forget about dead Jews, and it will become all about dead Palestinians…”

Perhaps I was being a bit callous. But sadly, I was right. Not because I am a genius socio-political prognosticator, but because I’ve seen this movie before. Although this time around, I (along with all Jews) have been stunned by how the (predictably) quick flip in global public sentiment has been accompanied by jaw-dropping justifications of the unjustifiable, and a wave of genuinely scary antisemitism.

So, what’s the next chapter in this particular story?

Simple (and again, all too predictable): denial.

That is, coming soon to an Instagram post/newspaper article near you, expect to see a narrative that will at first subtly (and then later, not so subtly) begin to rewrite the facts of what we all witnessed, not four weeks ago. Soon, you’ll hear: “It wasn’t that bad”. “It has been exaggerated”. “Israel made it all up as an excuse to destroy Gaza”. “Don’t believe the mainstream media – it is all fake news (oh, by the way, Jews control the global media)”. “It is all Israeli / Jewish propaganda“.  “It never happened”.

Sound familiar?

It has begun already. Over the last 10 days, I have noticed commentary, in mainstream and social media alike, that sounds a lot like the opening attempts to walk back the barbarity of the events of October 7th.

Like the quite unbelievable demand for photographic proof to establish whether Israeli babies were “actually” beheaded, as opposed to “only” being burned alive, or “merely” executed as they slept in their cribs. Seriously, in what universe does the mode of infanticide makes any difference to the nature of the atrocity, and the response “decent people” should have?

Or, like the (quite staggering) assertions now emerging from Hamas that Israeli civilians hadn’t been targeted, and in fact any murdered Israeli civilians (grandmas and children included) were either (i) combatants, or (ii) had “unfortunately” been attacked by “those who came after” and who had “behaved badly, but, well, you can kind of understand why they did it, having been oppressed for so long and all…”

[For example, Basem Naim, a senior Hamas official in an ABC interview: “The chief commander of the Al Qassem Brigade, who initiated the operation, he gave clear instructions not to target civilians or not to harm civilians…. But there are other Palestinian groups who became part of the operation, even ordinary people when they saw the prison around Gaza Strip was broken …” Or Ghazi Hamad, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, who was interviewed on BBC: “There was no command to kill any civilians. But the area there is very wide, there were many people there, and there were clashes and confrontations” – although when he was asked to explain civilians killed while they were asleep, he had a temper tantrum and ended the interview and stormed off in a huff…]

For me, though, the best place to see the denial process “in action” is when reading the comments left in response to posts on the Israel Defense Forces Instagram feed.

You see, every day since this war began, the IDF has posted to Instagram evidence of what happened: video from Israeli dashcams and kibbutz security cameras; images from Hamas operatives’ bodycams; recordings of interrogations of captured terrorists; playbacks of intercepted phone calls; satellite photos of positioning of rocket launchers in Gaza; a printed “invasion manual” found in the pockets of multiple dead Hamas guys.

It’s a treasure trove of evidence that in any ordinary circumstance would be considered more than conclusive. And in the special case of Israel, it also gets micro-scrutinized by a raft of third-party experts and foreign media sources, not to mention verified as accurate by open-source, independent fact-checking organizations (see, for example,

Yet, if you scroll through the comments left in response to each IDF Instagram post, you will see that many are from folks who clearly aren’t fans of Israel. And for all of these people, the response to every piece of IDF evidence, no matter how compelling or how extensively verified, is one word: “FAKE”. By definition it is always staged, put-on, generated by AI, propaganda, or a lie.

A view that is then also being woven into public speeches by Arab leaders, spread at protests, and amplified loudly in Arab/Muslim media, everywhere. Until eventually it will become the “truth”, regardless of how compelling any evidence to the contrary may be.

Again, sound familiar? It should. It comes straight from the pages of a previous antisemite blockbuster, “The Holocaust Never Happened”. Just adapted to 21st century media culture.

Mark my words though: we are merely at the tip of this proverbial iceberg. The great information cleansing has only just begun, and the claims of “fake Israeli news” are going to get louder. Soon, we’ll be hearing that October 7th was a purely military conflict, that much of what we saw was exaggerated, that it is all Israeli propaganda, and that everything that happened, one way or another, was a justified response of oppressed people.

[Or, even more insidious, an interview I saw only yesterday on a reasonably respectable media platform had a talking head asserting that October 7th was orchestrated by none other than Netanyahu, to deflect attention from domestic political woes. Which, as conspiracy theories go, is beyond absurd, but even so is exactly the sort of thing that will quickly jump from “lunatic fringe” to serious speculation, at least in the Arab / Muslim world.]

So, what to do?

Well, at the moment I keep thinking of the film Inception, in which Leonardo di Caprio’s character lives in a world where it is difficult to tell what’s real from what’s not. He therefore keeps a spinning top in his pocket, because in times of uncertainty he at least knows one simple truth: when he spins the top, it eventually falls. And whenever he is filled with doubt he spins the top, watches it fall, and thereby reminds himself of reality.

Similarly, in most factually intensive situations, I have always tried to find my own version of a spinning top. A personal “North Star” of sorts, that I know to be irrefutably true, and which I can therefore rely on to point to reality if ever I find myself in doubt.

In the case of the Holocaust, for example, that has always been my grandmother. I had the benefit of looking into her eyes while she told me exactly what happened in the ghetto and the concentration camps. I know my grandmother was honest. I know she would never have lied to me. So, when people come along and try to deny, minimize or “walk back” the Holocaust, I can always refer to my grandmother’s testimony – to my personal spinning top – and in that way remind myself of the unassailable truth.

So, what’s my personal spinning top now?

Unlike in my grandmother’s time, we live in a highly connected, information-dense world. And on October 7th (and since), as events unfolded in southern Israel, I didn’t tune into CNN and BBC for primary information, but instead went to Telegram, a messaging service similar to WhatsApp, only completely unregulated and unfiltered. Think of it as the “dark web” of messaging, where anything and everything goes.

There, on Telegram, I was able to follow the invasion of Israel, and the Israeli response, practically as it happened. And not from the perspective of Western journalists reporting from the sidelines in dramatic vests and flak helmets, but rather directly on several Gazan / Palestinian messaging channels (such as the Arabic language version of a channel called Gaza Now), as well as from a few on-the-ground Israeli channels (such as South Responders First, a Telegram chat group hastily set up on October 8th by Israeli personnel who were first to enter into the various decimated Israeli border communities once battles had ended, to collect the bodies, Israeli and Hamas alike).

In other words, on Telegram, people from both sides were posting material pretty much in real-time, and which material was coming direct from Hamas terrorists and Israeli responders. Meaning I saw – with my own eyes – videos and photos almost as they were being recorded, and immediately thereafter I could read the reactions to those videos and photos as they got posted. (Thanks to the miracle of Google Translate, I could even make sense of the Arabic comments as they came in).

And that is how I came to see things that, whilst talked about a lot ever since, have not as far as I can tell been shown in any mainstream media – because they are just too horrible to show.

Things like bodies of lifeless Israeli soldiers still in uniform, their limp corpses being dragged through the dirt, stomped on, and more or less torn apart, limb from limb.

Or a walk-through video of a dorm room in an Israeli army base, with dozens of soldiers lying dead in their cots, still in their underwear, where they had been shot in their sleep.

Or Israeli civilians being lined up and executed, death-squad style, at point blank range.

Or motorists being gunned down in their cars as they tried to speed past Hamas roadblocks.

Or the body of a young Israeli woman, naked from the waist down, dead on the ground, with a knife inserted into her vagina.

And that is how I also came to read the ecstatic comments from supporters of Hamas, in Gaza and beyond, congratulating, celebrating and lauding these abominable videos and photos. Yes, I know: not all Palestinians are supporters of Hamas. But certainly on the day, in real time, I didn’t see a single Arabic comment left in response to any Telegram post that expressed anything other than joy, happiness and pride in these unspeakably barbarous acts.

Yet of all of the things I saw and read, one post in particular resonated with me, and it wasn’t even graphic or violent. It was a post on Gaza Now of a video taken by an Israeli at the Nova music festival. In that video, the first Hamas paragliders can be seen in the background sky.

It is, in fact, a video we have all since become very familiar with, because it got picked up and used, again and again, in mainstream media – I suspect because it was one of the few videos available that was not graphic or violent. Although what did not get picked up was the comment that accompanied the posting of this video on Gaza Now. Which (translated from Arabic by Google) read as follows:

A scene published by a female soldier in the Israeli occupation army of the first moments of the elite forces in the paratrooper unit of the Al-Qassam Brigades as they were landing in the middle of a party of soldiers and occupation forces dancing and drinking alcohol. This led to the killing of 240 male and female soldiers, and all the resistance fighters were safe”.

And there you have it: my personal spinning top.

Because I have been to dozens of outdoor festivals and dance parties in my life. So, I know, with 100% certainty, what the character and atmosphere at these events is like. I know, with 100% certainty, that the people at the Nova festival were not soldiers or combatants or “enemy forces” – they were, self-evidently, kids at a dance party. And I know, with 100% certainty, that many of the Hamas terrorists were killed in subsequent battles with the IDF.

All of which means I also know, with 100% certainty, that the comment on Gaza Now associated with this video (and similar attempts at denial) are and always will be complete bullshit.

Which may sound obvious, and possibly even silly. But for me, having a simple, self-evident, irrefutable truth that I can always fall back on brings enormous comfort and strength of conviction.

So in the future, people can deny, back-track or try to revise history as much as they want, I will always know the truth. In this one little spinning top I have all the proof I will ever need, and  nothing can ever change that. I will always know what I saw with my own eyes. I watched the videos, I witnessed the brutality, and I read the comments: not just the lies, but also the overt celebration of depraved, inhuman acts. And not derived from any Israeli source, but real-time through the words of Hamas and its supporters themselves.

[By the way, if you visit the Gaza Now channel on Telegram today, you will find that everything has been conveniently deleted. Clearly, it didn’t take long for Hamas sympathizers to realize that posting videos of atrocities (and then celebrating them) is probably not conducive to their cause. But I saved and stored a lot, macabre as that may be, so I will always have a personal record. The South Responders First channel is still there as a permanent record too, but being Israeli in origin, will inevitably be accused of being fake.]

In any case, this has been a pretty long post, so thanks for bearing with me. But it has been long because the takeaway is, I think, really important.

Which is that while the physical war between Israel and Hamas will end in due course, the information war will go on long beyond that. What’s coming is sea of lies, disinformation, and doubt. Over the coming months and years, there will be no shortage of attempts to rewrite the narrative, and retrospectively alter the facts.

So, while everything is still fresh, I’d encourage you to try find your own personal spinning top. Something simple, factual, and self-evident, and which you know you will always be able to turn to in the future, if ever you need to remind yourself of what’s true.

About the Author
Eytan Uliel is an Australian-Israeli writer, wanderer and global traveler. After graduating from the University of New South Wales in Sydney Australia, he practiced corporate law for several years, before moving on to a career in investment banking, private equity, and oil and gas finance. An extensive work travel schedule has taken Eytan to every corner of the globe – over 85 countries, and counting. His blog – The Road Warrior – chronicles these journeys through a series of short stories and essays, some of which have been republished in various magazines and newspapers. He is also the author of two award winning books. Eytan was born in Jerusalem, and has lived in South Africa, Australia, Singapore, the UK, The Bahamas, the USA and France.
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