30/07/2014 Newsnight


News stories with Robert Peston. Middle East special including fracturing borders in Iraq and Syria, continued violence in Gaza, and the social media propaganda war.

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killing continues unabated in the Middle East tonight. Over 13 more


Palestinians have died in Gaza and three Israeli soldiers have lost


their lives. As shells hit a market and a UN school in Gaza, the US said


it was extremely concerned about the safety of Palestinian civilians. It


has pressed again for a ceasefire. Tonight we look at the crumbling


borders of countries across the Middle East. How much more chaos can


the region withstand before whole states such as Syria and Iraq


fracture completely. We will hear live from Tel Aviv and Dubai, and


voices from Lebanon and Egypt are here in our London studio. As


ununeasy truce leaves more dead on both sides in Gaza, we are in Israel


hearing from those living in the midst of war. How can I make my


children, grandchildren living here, how can I allow them, give them a


safe life? If I don't do what they are doing now in Gaza.


And Twitter as instrument of warfare, ISIS is ruthless leaks


exploiting the power of social media to terrorise its enemies. We report


on the propaganda and ideas but social media being used to


increasingly to spread fear. Now the great hope of the Arab


Spring that began more than three years ago was that democracy and


stability would break out all over the Middle East. It didn't happen.


Instead there has been turmoil, bloodshed and atrocities on a


terrifying scale. With an elected leader turfed out in Egypt, Libya


apparently disintegrating and a new and extraordinary bloody Jihadist


group, ISIS capturing swathes of Iraq and Syria. In this mess old


friendships and emnities are being replaced. Rereport tonight on where


the state boundaries of the new Middle East will be drawn, if, that


is, this chaos ever ends. The Middle East is a house designed


by Europeans but sat on the foundations of the ottoman empire.


Its Monarchies and ministries aped those of Europe, and for several


decades it provided stability, now the region is in crisis. It is the


chaos caused by a new mutation of political Islam that is the first


point in understanding this. Arab regimes across the region have


failed, economically, politically, on the security front, they have


failed to form a regional structure, any form of permanent stability.


Absent some form of channel where the Arab public can get involved in


governance, Islamism has been the only gateway. Are the old


ideologyists of ba'athist and others have failed and will a caliphate


sweep before it. We know this new wave of Islamist politics is a


threat to elites and states across the region.


There is another thing that's become clear too, that trying to drop


another western construct, liberal democracy into the current cauldron


of the Middle East simply isn't going to work. For now, at least,


the called Arab Spring is going nowhere. In some placeses, like


Iraq, it has been trumped by the politics of identity. While the old


authoritarian ottoman model, ruled by the Pasha or general, has shown


its resilience in Egypt and Algeria. Where the old strong men are swept


away, Gadaffi or Saddam, fragmentation has followed. That


means old borders coming into question too.


The most obvious example has been the disappearing bordered between


Iraq by ISIS, it is a new Sunni state, the Kurds have gotten in on


the act pushing forward their quest for statehood, Libya is in danger of


fragmentation with the east, and the ancient lines Cyrenaica. Don't


forget that even in Iraq or Libya, there are still leaders who aspire


to control of the whole, not just some rump statelet. You find a


tenacious commitment to the state as the unit of primary identity. Now


there are a lot of other identities going on, religious, ethnic as well,


but the state survives, and the state survives as the unit of


primary identity across the whole of the region. And don't forget that


other hangover of British rule, Israel. There has been a 100 year


argument about its existence and borders. And that times like now


that conflict can inflame the whole region. But new forces are coming


into play. New alliances in fact emerging in the Middle East, and


where as outsiders are happy to sell weapons to these power brokers,


regional players are key. So Iran has made itself the guardian of the


Shia, forging a power block with Hezbollah in Lebanon, President


Assad's regime in Syria and increasingly the rump state of Iraq.


Saudi Arabia champions the Sunni Arabs, pouring resources into the


Syrian opposition, and its cache has made a client of Egypt too. The


Saudis are not necessarily fighting the Iranians, based on religious


foundations. In part this is a traditional conflict between two


very important regional powers which have a very significant influence,


fighting over controlling the Middle East at a time when the US is


disengaging. But this isn't just a simple binary soweddy Iranian


contest. Saudi Arabia's will has been flouted by Qatar, also Sunni,


backing Islamists in Egypt and Gaza. Israel too makes its own rules.


Some, dare I mention Tony Blair, say the west must take sides and ally


with the Saudi block. The more general western attitude is to steer


well clear. Should we in the west be worried? Yes and deeply. Because


there is turmoil in the Middle East and it is likely to stay that way


for the foreseeable future. And whether or not we want to get


involved we will be affected. This will come back to bite you. If you


think of the huge trouble of turning, of the United States and


the international community turning its back on Afghanistan, leading to


the birth of Al-Qaeda and a transnational Jihadi movement, it


took days for a young Jihadi tourist to move across, it days hours to go


across the border and get into Syria. Clearly this problem will


come back and bite Europe especially hard, and also the United States.


Growing chaos in Libya or Iraq could raise energy prices and hit economic


recovery. Refugees from Syria or Libya flee to the EU, airspace is


becoming unsafe for the big chunks of the region. As for the ungoverned


space that is also opening up in several countries, it provides a


potential home for piracy, extremism and perhaps even the next 9/11. So


why are the boundaries that have been relatively firm for the best


part of a century now being redrawn. Is there any hope of a return to a


more peaceful settled region, what does it mean here for us in the


west. With me to discuss this are my guest, the cofounder of the Shark


Forum, and former Director General of Al-Jazeera, the television


station, and we have the longest continuously serving American


official in Iraq, and from Tel Aviv we have the former director of


Israel's Intelligence Service, Mosad. In the studio here with me is


a professor from the London School of Economics and Egyptian activists


and author. Good evening to you all. If I could


start by asking you do you believe that the Middle East is entering


perhaps its most unstable and dangerous phase for many decades?


Actually I do believe that, and I do believe maybe this is the phase of


real transformation, maybe this is the most difficult time that the


Middle East is going through since 1917, since the First World War when


the boundaries and the borders of the so called Middle East were


drawn. I think right now there are trends that are combined together


that might change and reshape the region. One of them is the rise of


generals and military versus the decline of politics. The other one


is the fact that the regional system is collapsing and the boundaries and


the borders amongst countries in the region are becoming more irrelevant


than ever. The third is the delegitimisation of the state,


because the state is not seen as an actor that can represent the hopes


and dreams of the nation. And the fact that democracy doesn't exist


any more. Three years ago we tellrated Tahrir Square, and thought


we were going into a new values-centered system that would


restructure the Middle East on democracy, but democracy has been


murdered in Egypt and across the region, and that is to the silence


of the International Society and the collaboration of regional powers, I


think we are going through this phase where ISIS has become an actor


and more and more people are moving towards an alternative out of this


and feeling betrayal. This sounds like total disaster. Is this


unstoppable chaos? It is indeed a disaster generally speaking. The


fact is the region is more unstable now than it has been in a century, I


agree on that front. These historic trends are not easily predictable.


It is hard to say whether it is unstoppable or not. Certainly the


forces of history are moving very quickly and we all have to be very


careful, particularly in the west to preserve our strategic alliances and


be on guard for strategic foes like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other radical


Islamist groups which are clearly gaining momentum across the region.


If we could move on to this question of borders and whether the map is


being redrawn. Now there are those who simply argue that the existing


borders were an imposition of colonial powers like Britain, and


that therefore they were always at some point going to collapse,


because they don't reflect the cultural, racial economic realities,


is that your view, Professor, that what we are seeing is inevitable?


The modern Middle East was invented by the colonial powers. The modern


state system is not and was not economically socially viable. It is


not viable, period. We simplify it great deal if we say it is a matter


of boundaries. Even though the modern state system was seen as I


will imate it has taken deep root since the 1920s. The crisis is


bigger, what we are witnessing in the Middle East now is a


revolutionary moment. A moment that really is comparable to the great


revolutionary moments in history, whether you are talking about the


French Revolution or the Russian revolutions. What we are witnessing


unfolding before our eyes is fierce social and political struggles,


bottom-up politics, the system has been turned upside down, you have


Civil War, ideolgical wars, the old system is resisting, the counter


revolutionary forces in the region, a new system is not born yet. It


would be a mistake to say this is the end of the story. It will take


many years for the dust to settle on the battlefield in many countries in


the region. You were a great supporter, indeed activist in the


Arab Spring, but given the chaos we are now seeing and atrocities on a


really terrifying scale, do you think that actually what we saw then


has turned out to be a rather dangerous and bad thing? No, I


don't, not at all. I would say that I was an activist on behalf of the


Egyptian revolution, I think the Arab Spring as a term is very


problematic. Even in Egypt we have had democracy over, well an elected


President thrown out. It hasn't worked has it? It hasn't worked so


far. I think that the example of Dr Morsi being dethroned is


problematic, because it was certainly done in the wrong way. But


it was actually reflective of the will of the people. The people will


probably live to regret it, but we were in the process of a revolution.


I think it is really strange how people talk about historic processes


taking place in the region, as though they were talking about


natural phenomena. While in fact there are actors making things


happen, what is happening in Gaza now is from Israel, it is the will


of the people, it is not an inevitable historic process, it is


very much a part of what is destablising the region and making


life difficult. We have to remember that the Islamist movements all


started as protest movement, all started as dissident movements


against autocratic, dictatorial regimes, and then of course they


take the path that they take and in the long absence of victory, I think


also Iraq. Again talking about an historic process in Iraq and how it


is breaking up and talking about racial ethnic religious divide,


let's remember what the United States there. Let's just remember


that this entire region, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine,


was all a unit that worked and that worked for hundreds and hundreds of


years with this entire... We are where we are now and we have to move


on to the issue of shifting alliances. And if I could talk to,


it is pretty widely recognised that what ISIS is doing in fracturing


Iraq, fracturing Syria, committing terrible atrocities is pretty


appalling. Was the west simply mistaken in turning against


President Assad in Syria? Can you hear me? I think that the west, I


said I think that the west miscalculated on Syria. Like almost


everybody else miscalculated on Syria. I don't think that the Assad


regime would have survived today without the support of three outside


elements, one is Hezbollah from Lebanon, who are fighting on Syrian


soil and are carrying much of the brunt of the battle. The other is


Iran, which also has boots on the ground today, and the third is


Russia which is supplying the Assad regime with the necessary weaponry


in order to maintain its supremacy in the battlefield. And that, I


think, is something which we have to take into account today, no less


than what you have mentioned up until now. We have a situation in


the Middle East where on the one hand we had known state actors, like


Hamas and the Hezbollah, and we have other non-state actors which are


becoming semi-independent, like the Kurdish region in northern Iraq. So


the situation is varied in the Middle East. Many things are


happening simultaneously. It would be wrong to lump everything


together. If I could just ask you, do you think we have to in a sense


simply accept a sort of new caliphate is being created by ISIS


and accommodate it? I think it is a something that has risen out. Sorry


go on? I think this is a phenomena that has risen out of this kind of


chaos and despair, and the feeling of lack of hope in the future and


the feeling that the channels of real change and reform have been


blocked and the feeling of humiliation. Actually it is not only


ISIS and the caliphate, it is what is happening in Gaza that is going


to even radicalise the Arab world further, and maybe accumulate all


that kind of anger and feeling of humiliation and direct it towards a


cause that resides in the hearts of the Arabs and Muslims and unify


them. So what I see right now in Gaza is actually what might become


the beginning of a new trend in the region where all these kinds of


problems might be directed towards the cause which we call the cause of


Palestine, the Israelis at the moment are committing maybe suicide


in provoking a nation that is going through transformation and the


Israelis who are now bombarding our images, our TV screens, our mobile


phones with images of civilians that have been killed, I think this is


going to be even much worse than whatever we have experienced in Iraq


and any other place. We will come back to that in a second. Before we


move on to the issue of the threat to all of us. I have one further


question on this issue which is to you Mr Kadaire, America appears to


have shown itself utterly powerless, John Kerry's attempts to broker


peace over Palestine have failed miserably, what should America be


doing in this situation? Indeed we have noticed a remarkable series of


American foreign policies over the last 15 years or so, obviously


President George W Bush was an ultra activist and now President Obama is


essentially an isolationist, essentially withdrawing from most


parts of the Middle East in favour of what is essentially an


isolationist policy. I think it is critical for the United States and


for Washington to actively reengage with the region, with all of our


regional allies, the Israelis, the gulf Arab countries, the Egyptians,


the Turk, in Baghdad and in Erbil, because what is clearly evident over


the past several years that with the American vacuum that's been left


under the Obama registration in the region -- administration in the


region. World powers and regional powers trying to fill the vacuum. In


Iraq there is a proxy war being waged between Iran, some of the gulf


Arab countries or individuals, for example Turkey, the same thing is


occurring in Syria. As was said there is a proxy war being waged


again between some gulf money and clearly the Russians, Hezbollah and


the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are involved. So it is a very unstable


situation and one thing I can continue to hear from frankly all of


our regional allies, our historic allies, they feel that the Obama


administration has disengaged and many regional leaders are counting


down the days for Obama to leave office hopeful that a future


American President will reengage in the region and support its allies


and go on the offensive against historic foes like the Iranian


Revolutionary Guards or Al-Qaeda. I have to move us on to the issue of


the general threat, both within the region and to the rest of the world.


I would therefore like to pick up with you professor, do you agree


with what was said that broadly what we are seeing in the Palestinian


territories has the potential to spark a really devastating wider


Middle East configuration? It really does. I mean one point we must make


very clear is that the Palestinian tragedy resonates deeply, not just


in the imagination of the Palestinians, in the imagination of


Arabs and Muslims and worldwide. What is happening with Israel's


savage attack in Gaza has already made Hamas a popular movement in the


eyes of millions of Palestinians. That is a major shift in Palestinian


public opinion, it is seen as a symbol of defiance, resisting


Israel's massive military machine, resisting Israel's occupation of


Palestinian lands. In many ways we are witnessing the making, not only


of a third Intifada, but a wider regional conflict as a result of the


massacres and slaughters in Gaza. Where do you see this going in terms


of the impact on the west? Well it depends what attitudes the west has,


I suppose, the west has a huge role and a huge responsibility and it has


been engaged, we have had the quartet, we have had Tony Blair


flying in and out of the region quartet, we have had Tony Blair


like that. The thoughts are that there should be no intervention?


Unless they would like to put a no flight zone and military embargo on


Israel that would be really useful. There is a strong call for that from


all sectors of civil society now. If I could ask for a second, what do


you think the terrorist threat might be from all of this outside of the


region? Allow me just a minute to comment and to reply to some of the


comments which have just been made because I think it is only fair to


allow me to say something about some of the statements just made. First


of all I would like to make it clear that the Hamas which controls Gaza


is a terrorist organisation. It is not an organisation which has been


pronounced terrorist just by Israel, it has been were you nounsed by the


-- pronounced by the Government of Egypt which you know has a border


with Gaza. It has been pronounced a terrorist organisation not only by


the United States of America but many states in Europe. Secondly


Hamas are using method which is are supported amongst others by Iran


today, just as Iran is active in Syria. So I don't think that this is


simply a question of the Hamas being the mouth piece of the Palestinian


movement. I'm sure President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority would


not take this line of thinking and neither do I. I think, therefore,


that we should not discuss the Palestinian issue in this manner as


an adjunct to all the other problems. If we want to focus on the


general problems in the region that is fine. If you want to turn to the


other issues I'm willing to discuss it in detail. You have to discuss


whatever it is you want to discuss. But make sure we know what we are


talking about. We have to move on at this stage. I really just want to


ask whether at this particular juncture you see any hope for


stability returning to the region? Absolutely i think we are going


through a phase in our history whereby we are trying to find some


kind of consensus, political consensus. You should remember that


this region has been deprived from having this kind of dynamics for


decades. We have been ruled by authoritarian regime, we have been


ruled by wrong system, by legitimised states that have never


lived up to the hopes of the public. Right now we find we have that


space, there are many issues to be settled, the issues of identity and


sectarianism, the issues of democracy and the issues of


Palestine, I emphasise it is at the heart of the change. I cannot talk


about a new Middle East without speaking about the location of


Palestine in it. It will go on for some time this debate. Thank you


very much to all of you, we have used up our allotted time, which


doesn't surprise me it was fascinating, thank you very much.


Today over 100 Palestinians and three Israelis died in the on going


fighting in Gaza. The biggest outrage of the day was an attack


before dawn on Gaza school where hundreds of Palestinians, displaced


by the violence, had sought refuge. 16 people died and over 100 were


injured as they slept in what they thought would be a safe haven. We


can talk now to our correspondent who is in Jerusalem, Tim, what's


been the international reaction to this incident? Well the White House


tonight has strongly condemned the attack on the school. Although it


has also condemned people who are hiding weapons in UN facilities. The


UN itself has described the attack as reprehensible and said it warned


the Israeli military authorities 17 times about the location of the


school in the refuge camp. Israel, for its side says it is


investigating, although it says initial indications show there was


in coming Palestinian fire from the school. Tonight a statement from the


Government saying that the operation in Gaza will continue as long as is


necessary to destroy what it calls all terrorists infrastructure. I


have spent the day at an Israeli village right on the border with


Gaza to find out why the public here still so strongly backs their


Government in that aim. On the edge of warzone, they are trying to bring


in the harvest as normal. Israeli farmer grows her tomatoes yards from


the border fence. She can hear the boom of Israeli missiles falling on


the other side. There are regular in coming shells from Hamas in Gaza,


already one of the Thai workers she employs has been killed. It is


definitely dangerous. I don't have a safe place to run to, I know that


all I have to do is lie here on the ground and with my face down and


cover my head with my hands. I'm afraid. She and her husband are


sticking it out here, along with two volunteer workers from the north of


Israel. Though half her village has fled. She has long been a peace


activist, trying to build connections between Israelis and


Gazans. But now, particularly since the discovery of Hamas tunnels


leading to the village, she reluctantly supports her country's


operation in Gaza. When I say violence begets violence, they think


it is just a saying, but it is so true. Because it brings up hatred,


it brings out the worst in people. But how can I make my childrens my


grandchildren living here, how can I allow them, give them a safe life if


I don't do what they are doing now in Gaza. Across the border it has


been another day of death and destruction for Gazans, but the vast


majority of Israelis think the operation is justified. The Prime


Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has told people to prepare for a long


operation in Gaza, and for now public opinion here is


overwhelmingly behind him. The questions from the point of view of


Israelis are how long it will actually take to completely destroy


Hamas's military capability and whether the problem of das STAE, as


they see it, can ever be solved by military means alone. Israel


unilaterally withdrew forces from Gaza in 2005, that subsequently


allowed Hamas to build up its stockpiles of weapons. The man who


was then national security adviser believes Israeli forces must now


destroy those stockpiles for good. We are not that concerned about the


possible high-risk as some people suggest. It is not that is what we


want. But as long as Hamas resist and reject any idea of a ceasefire,


and we are left with only two military option, either to stay


where we are or to try to move forward in order to gain more


military achievement, I believe the latter is more visible. But day


after day it is Palestinian civilians who are being killed, as


well as military targets destroyed. Today at least 17 died in an Israeli


strike near a market. Earlier 15 lost their lives when a UN school


was hit. Israel says its forces were responding to mortar fire from the


school. The UN says it had warned that civilians were sheltering


there. After a strike yesterday on Gaza's only power plant Israel has


been accused by some human rights organisations of deliberately


targeting civilian infrastructure. Critics say that is the doctrine, a


reference to Israel's attacks on the stronghold of Hezbollah militants in


Beirut in the Lebanon war of 2006. Israeli leaders say its forces


always try to avoid civilian casualties, that was easier in


Beirut than Gaza. In southern Beirut Hezbollah concentrated the vast


majority of its leadership in a few small streets, where we could really


target them and exact a very dear price on Hezbollah leadership. In


Gaza the situation is different. Hamas leadership and terrorists are


dispersed both above ground and underground in residential


compounds, in schools and clinics and so on, therefore we cannot


concentrate the same fire power and achieve the same outcome. By


definition in such a crowded area achieve the same outcome. By


will be collateral damage. As that collateral damage mounts and


international pressure grows for ceasefire, some say there will have


to be a political deal to disarm Hamas, removing weapons in return


for massive investment in Gaza. I think there is a chance to achieve


something that can endorse, it could surprisingly be from Hamas on one


hand, if not Hamas, those who support Hamas, Qatar, Turkey and


others. I will not exclude any possibility of huge investment of


money in order to rebuild Gaza to build the infrastructure and to


bring some better hope, better future for the people of Gaza. The


only Israeli demand as part of this package deal is that Gaza will be


demilitarised as far as heavy weapons are concerned. And there has


been a lot of fighting where we can see?


Back on the border Roni knows any such deal is a long way off. She too


thinks in the end only talking will bring a solution in Gaza. They are


leading us on, Hamas. They are bringing us to this, to the point we


are at at the moment, I will never forgive them for that. But on the


other hand I think that unless we do talk to them and understand where


they are coming from we're not going to OK get any where. A little


earlier I spoke to the Israeli Government spokesman. I started by


asking him why Israel's bombardment of Gaza is killing so many innocent


civilians? First of all there is a war going on between us and Hamas.


And in every conflict unfortunately you have a situation where innocent


people get hurt. That is part of history. What we are doing is making


a maximum effort to avoid civilians getting caught up in the crossfire


between us and the terrorists. I think a very genuine effort by


Israel to be as precise as we can in hitting terrorists. But I can't


promise, as no army can promise that innocent people get caught up and


hurt in a conflict. Have you looked at these cases, the bombing of the


market took place when a truce was supposedly in place, do you know


what went wrong? Well, to be fair, we announced that for our


humanitarian truce, and Hamas immediately declared there is no


truce, and they continued shooting rockets at Israel. A truce is a


two-way street, it is not just Israel holding its fireworks it is


Hamas also holding its fire, and its public record that Hamas rejected


the truce. That particular place in the market was an area of combat


today. I don't know exactly what happened at the market yet, we are


still investigating. We will get to the bottom of it. But in the case of


the school, the UN itself has declared it as a violation of


international law, and has also pointed out that the people in the


school were people who had been evacuated from their homes because


you had warned them to get out of their homes and they had gone to


where they thought was a place of shelter and it turned out they were


not safe there. Surely that embarrasses you? It is a tragedy


what happened at the school and we simple thighes with all the --


sympathise with all the international outrage, we didn't see


what happened at the school happen. It is not clear to us that it was


our fire, but we know for a fact there was hostile fire on our people


from the vicinity of the school. We do know for a fact that there have


been three documented cases that the UN has spoken about, not Israel,


where weapons, rockets have been stored in UN facilities in in UN


schools. It is clear that this demonstrates Hamas has a deliberate


policy of brutalising UN facilities, using UN facilities as a human


shield, violating UN neutrality, violating the humanitarian essence


of a UN body and they should be condemned for it. I know that the


secretary-general of the United Nations has ordered an investigation


how this has happened, and if the particular agency involved can do


more to prevent its institutions being turned into part of the Hamas


war machine. But the problem in this case is that Ban Ki-Moon has said


that all the evidence does point to you having bombed the school? That's


what he said today? We will investigate that, and if we find it


was fire from Israel we will apologise if that is the case. When


it is shown that we have mistakenly killed civilians we have apologised.


There was the terrible story of the four boys on the beach, President


Perez himself -- Peres himself got up and apologised. We don't want to


kill Gazan civilians we have a policy not to target civilians. What


I find striking is the perception in much of the outside world in Israel


has changed. There was a poll of British people and it showed that


more than 60% of British people think that Israel is guilty of war


crimes. It is only marginally less than the people who think Hamas is


guilty of war crimes. Doesn't that embarrass you? It is a bit strange,


on the one hand Israel is a democracy, imperfect, but a


democracy, we have representative Government and a free press and


institutions that are transparent and so forth. And we're up against a


brutal extreme terrorist organisation, Hamas. Which is in the


mode of Boko Haram in Nigeria, or ISIS in Iraq, or Hezbollah in


Lebanon. Radical and extreme organisation that rules Gaza with an


iron fist. One of the problems with the pictures coming out of Gaza, and


I dare to challenge even the BBC reporters there, that Hamas can


control the message much more than we can out of Israel. Because if you


walk down the street in Gaza with a camera of the BBC, even a Newsnight


camera if you allow me, you ask were there Hamas people outside the


school shooting at Israeli soldiers, what can people say? Of course they


can't say because Hamas doesn't allow criticism. I think in many


ways Hamas can send out a very warped picture of what is going on


in Gaza. How many pictures have you seen of dead Hamas... There may be,


to an extent, a distorted picture of the sort that you describe, but it


is a fact that 22 Palestinians are dying for every one Israeli and this


is shocking much of the world. Do you care what the world thinks about


your behaviour in this war? Of course I do, that's why I'm staying


up here in the middle of the night doing Newsnight. Of course I care.


But let's be clear, we don't have moraly casualties, not because Hamas


isn't trying. We have had now 2,700 rockets fired at Israeli cities. But


you have the Iron Dome which protects your cities, you are more


or less invulnerable to these rockets? So we have, I think


invulnerable is too strong a word, Sir. We have invested millions of


dollars in protecting our people in bomb shelters and in sirens I'm sure


the British Government would do the same for the British people. We


can't allow people to shoot at our cities and trying to kill our people


with impunity, that is clear. We cities and trying to kill our people


have had now this onslaught going on for weeks, we have been told that


part of the aim is to close down these tunnels. When will you have


done the job that you want to do? Ultimately our goals are defensive,


I would even say defensive in the extreme. We just want to have piece


and quiet and a bit of security for our people. So if we come out of


this and the Hamas military machine is diminished and they understand


that they cannot shoot rockets at Israelis with impunity, that would


be a good thing. And what could it be, even better if Hamas comes out


of this weakened both militarily and politically, that could give a bit


of oxygen maybe to Palestinian moderates to move into the vacuum


and maybe have a more energetic peace process. The world woke up to


the power of social media to effect huge political change with the way


Twitter and Facebook were used in the Arab Spring. Now in the


conflicts proliferating throughout the Middle East the Internet has


become an instrument of terror, with ISIS releasing horrific footage of


the ISIS releasing horrific footage of


frighten its enemies so they flee before a bullet is fired. We report


on the new propagada war, this film contains very disturbing images.


Conflicts in the Middle East run along very old lines. The Israeli


Palestinian conflict goes back decades. Tensions between Shias and


Sunnis go back centuries. And they are boiling over in Iraq and Syria


and beyond. But a new fault line has emerged in recent years. Social


media. Cyber battles are now changing the age-old conflicts


between the people in power and the power of the people. Most of us use


these tools now, for some they are weapons. To start a revolution or to


wage a war. The power of social media was mobilised in 2009 in


Iran's failed Green Revolution, and then in the historic uprisings


called the Arab Spring, they started in Tunisia, Egypt and across the


region. It is not just activists who have recognised this power.


Governments, regimes use it too. In Syria, for example, the Syrian


electronic army is described as the first virtual Arab army. It hacks


into websites of the opposition, western media, and human rights


groups. In real wars social media has become a weapon in every


armoury. In the Gaza war Israel is turning to it to take the high


ground. To deny they targeted civilians in a school. To make it


clear Hamas is the agressor. There is even a clever app that allows you


to imagine the range of these rockets. Wherever re wherever you


are. The narrative is carried by many people on many fronts.


University volunteers joined the effort. A large portion of our


efforts is trying to comment and talk back on articles and posts that


are pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. We do it on Facebook and Twitter and


websites and articles that we find. Right now the war is not only in the


front it is also a lot in the media. But Hamas is on this frontline too.


Videos from their tunnels are widely available on video sharing sites


like you YouTube and they are active on Twitter too. They have even


released guidelines on how Gazans should use Twitter to report Israeli


assaults. But Israel is an old hand in this information war. With an


army of savvy spokespersons, coached by the best in the business.


Persuadables won't care how much you know until they know how much you


care. Show empathy for both sides. But as the old saying goes, a


picture is worth a thousand words. In the Gaza war, so strong are the


images, they are worth millions of words. Buts the images used by the


most violent groups that have no compare. That is That's the points.


Videos released by compare. That is That's the points.


Iraq, they are meant to shock, and they do. Images like young Shia


soldiers in Iraq being led away and executed en masse are the latest to


emerge. On the one hand they are doing it to scare a target audience


which in this case is specifically Iraqi soldiers, trying to fight


against them. On the other hand it is an element of recruitment, you


are trying to attract people and showing you are strong and you


control the territory and does these things to people. The final note


which is more to ISIS is the idea of showing extreme brutality and using


it to draw people in. Across the Middle East conflicts are merging in


some ways, remaining distinct in others. But when it comes to the


battle for hearts and minds, even the most asymmetric wars are being


fought with at least one weapon now available to all.


With me to discuss who is winning the Middle East battle of social


media is my guest. These images of ISIS slaughtering Iraqi soldiers in


this brutal way. I mean they are obviously deeply shocking. They do


remind me a bit, I don't know if you remember during the Chechen conflict


there were images released of Chechens slaughtering Russians, does


this represent, in your view, a stepping up of and a change in the


way the Internet is used to get a message across? ISIS is doing what


many other groups have done, it is doing it fundamentally more


effectively, more effectively than competitors and its ex-parent


organisation Al-Qaeda. What is the point of it? The point is simple, it


is two fold, one to show how strong they are, to intimidate their


enemies and it has worked. Iraqi soldiers surrender without a fight,


because they have seen those videos, and the second point is to show


other groups why they should join ISIS, that is also, to some extent,


not to the extent ISIS hoped is working. Why join us rather than


Al-Qaeda, well Al-Qaeda is sitting in Pakistan in a house doing


absolutely nothing, where as we have taken over half of Iraq, here is the


video to prove it. Do you think these image, these brutal images


actually work to an extent to recruit potential new soldiers? I


think they do, although of course we have had many cases where Jihadists,


wet behind the ears, have turned up in Syria and Iraq and found the


reality of combat is far worse than evidenced by the glamorous videos


that they had seen on-line. It has a dual effect. The other factor is the


more brutal they appear the more they can shock some people into


surrender but the more they scare Iraq's Shia majority into resisting


their brutal sadistic form of rule even more vociferously. There is a


slight oddity, if you look at Hamas that released film of their


competence of going through the tunnels and attacking Israeli


soldiers, that broadly reinforced the Israeli case that Hamas is a


brutal terrorist organisation. To an extent therefore may well have back


fired in terms of world opinion? I think it will backfire more than the


images of the tunnels, which were effective in showing that Hamas were


still in the game and their ceasefire conditions need to be


taken seriously, with the images of syringes and handcuffs broadcast


within those tunnels is a chilling image to Israelis who understand the


history of kidnapping that those tunnels were used for. The fact that


Hamas is still able to inflict a cost on Israel, that rephoners their


point that -- reinforces the point that the ceasefire has to be on


their terms too. Does social media and the Internet broadly now level


the playing field between the state and terrorist organisations when it


comes to propaganda? No, I would say, part of the reason is the same


medium that is used as propaganda by both of these competents, state and


non-state, is also used very, very effectively by reporters on the


ground who can connect immediately viscerally to use and cancel out


both of those claims. I'm very grateful, we have one run out of


time, that is all we have time for tonight on the Middle East special.


Good night.


On Newsnight, a Middle East special, including fracturing borders in Iraq and Syria, continued violence in Gaza, and the social media propaganda war.

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