Russia-Ukraine War: Beware of Fake Media

Israel’s mainstream media has joined the chorus regurgitating unconfirmed reports from Ukraine and condemnation of Russia without context

| Topics: Ukraine, Russia
Illustration. Can Israel's mainstream television news be trusted any more than social media when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine war?
Illustration. Can Israel's mainstream television news be trusted any more than social media when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine war? Photo: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90

Four days ago, in a rare glimpse of political sobriety, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed Israel’s position regarding the Russian invasion to Ukraine. “These are hard and tragic times,” he said, “and our hearts are with the Ukrainians who are entangled in this situation even though they have done nothing wrong.” In other words, Israel chooses not to take sides, or more specifically, Israel is not for or against Russia. This is a wise policy.

Contrary to Bennett, on the same day, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said in a private conversation, conveniently leaked out, that “Israel must be on the right side and condemn dictators who attack democracies.” Russia retaliated by saying it does not recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights.

But who is right and who is wrong, and why has Putin risked so much by waging war on Ukraine? These are difficult questions to answer. I read Jenia Nefeodov’s answer to the question of why Putin has invaded Ukraine. In a nutshell what he says is that since 1990, the West has done whatever it can to weaken Russia. In 1993, then-President Bill Clinton signed an agreement with Russia to keep NATO at bay. This agreement was violated, thus instead of defending Europe against the USSR, NATO is now threatening Russia by positioning strategic missiles ever closer to the Russian border. And how many of us have ever heard of the Donbas War that Ukraine launched in 2014? This eight-year war against the four million, mostly Russian people living in Ukraine’s Donbas region, was aimed at suppressing any resistance to the 2014 Ukrainian revolution. The 70,000 Donbas refugees who escaped to Russia, who’s ever heard of them?

None of this justifies Putin’s current actions. But it does present a more complex picture, unknown to most of us. And of course, the reason we know nothing about Ukraine’s misbehavior is because the West resents undemocratic Russia, a nation that still resist Western progressive values that are supposed to turn the world into a better place. And never mind that to spread these values the West, and the US in particular, stood behind the 2004 Orange Revolution, which brought an ongoing unrest to Ukraine and neighboring countries.

And it seems as if what amounts to a massive campaign of disinformation designed to delegitimize whatever Russia does has intensified since the Russia-Ukraine war started five days ago. I closely watched the reports that Israeli media poured down on us, and all I saw was an army of Israeli journalists who don’t speak the language (maybe they vacationed once in the country) sent to Ukraine in order to tell us in an authoritative tone from their respective hotels what they don’t know. Similarly, I watched the ongoing parade of our experts explaining what they admit to not really knowing or understanding.

But here and there one can still discern glimpses of genuine reports, that mostly speak on a new kind of behind-the-scenes cyber war, one that is crippling Ukraine’s electronic infrastructure, which is why we know so little about what is really going on. We hear about a supposedly failing Russian military campaign that is based on legitimate Ukrainian disinformation, barraging the media with fake news showing unrelated video clips, like that of a Ukrainian fighter plane that is actually from a video game. Or, similarly, false accounts of a massive An-225 Mriya Ukrainian cargo plane being destroyed by the Russians, or Ukrainian soldiers supposedly looting abandoned Russian armored vehicles, while in fact the identity of the soldiers can’t be determined. All of this and more I could learn from the Hebrew Facebook page “fighting against fake media concerning the Ukraine-Russia war.”

Sifting the fake from the real should have been important for us Israelis, who are suffering from hostile media that has enlisted itself to the fight against Israel. It is disheartening to watch Israeli media doing the same thing to Russia, which has proved to be much more pro-Israel than the West.

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