Thousands attend a “New York Stands With Israel” vigil and rally on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in New York City.

Thousands attend a “New York Stands With Israel” vigil and rally on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in New York City. (Spencer Platt, Getty Images/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Two videos capture how Hamas lost the war of images last Saturday.

In the first, a young woman, stripped nearly naked, lies in the back of a pickup truck. Her face is turned away from the camera. Two men sit behind the woman; one is holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and has a leg casually draped over her, the other seems to be clutching a fistful of her braided hair. Two other men are standing farther back, one of them waving an assault rifle in the air. All four men are cheering, “Allahu akbar!” as are those gathered around the vehicle. As the truck pulls away, one man leans in to spit on the supine woman.

In the second video, an elderly woman in a tan-colored T-shirt and wrapped in what appears to be a pink, patterned tablecloth sits in a golf cart, looking alternatively defiant and bemused. Behind her is a man in black, holding aloft an assault rifle. On a motorcycle ahead of the buggy, the pillion rider is also brandishing a weapon. As this small convoy moves slowly forward, celebratory ululations are heard off camera.

When these scenes were being videotaped, presumably in Gaza, the celebrants were exulting what they may have regarded as Hamas’ greatest victory: a brazen assault in which its fighters killed more than 1,000 Israelis, the largest single-day death toll in the country’s history, injured thousands more and took at least 150 hostage. Within hours of the attack, Hamas was posting videos to show off its stunning “success.” As with the kinetic operations, it was keen to draw first blood in the war of images, to inspire its supporters and demoralize its enemy.

But the videos of the two female victims had the opposite effect. The women were quickly identified as civilians: German tourist Shani Louk, in the pickup truck, and Israeli Yaffa Adar, a resident of the Nir Oz kibbutz near the border with Gaza. At the time of this writing, we don’t know whether either of them is alive.

Their treatment at the hands of their captors drew widespread revulsion and reprobation, and if anything, strengthened Israeli resolve to exact retribution. Because of the videos, Hamas lost any right to claim the attack was a manifestation of “legitimate resistance.” Instead, the group was exposed before the horrified world as the terrorist organization it has always been.

In making a spectacle of these two women, Hamas lost the war of images before its day of triumph was out. And worse was to come. News photographs and video emerging from Israel since the weekend show a pattern of attacks against civilians in the villages and kibbutzim near Gaza. Especially heinous was the attack on the Nova Festival, a music concert being held outside Kibbutz Re’im, where Louk had been enjoying herself. Hamas slaughtered at least 260 people there.

Rather than demonstrate patriotic resistance by brave Palestinian fighters, the images invited comparisons with the brutal terrorists of Islamic State. It was hard not to draw parallels between the Nova Festival and the Bataclan in Paris, where an ISIS attack in November 2015 killed nearly 90 people attending a rock concert. Nor could anyone looking at the video of Louk on that truck not be reminded of the Yazidi women captured by ISIS in Sinjar, in 2014.

As the identities of the scores of hostages — many of them thought to be women and children — emerge in the days ahead, Hamas will look more and more like ISIS. The group’s threat to kill hostages, on camera, if Israel strikes civilian homes in Gaza carries echoes of Islamic State executions.

Hamas’ defeat in the war of images will have consequences for the real war Israel has declared against the group and for the Palestinian civilians who, as ever, are bearing the brunt of Israel’s vengeance. In previous instances of Israeli offensives on Gaza, Hamas could count on images of piteous noncombatant victims to draw international sympathy and pressure on Israel to end its attacks.

With the balance of sympathy now on the Israeli side, the world will likely take longer to intervene. Many more Palestinians will die as a result of those two videos.

Bobby Ghosh is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering culture. Previously, he covered foreign affairs. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now