“I’m hearing criticism from sources dealing with Israeli hasbara in recent days. The fact that they allowed Yocheved Lifshitz to make a statement on a live broadcast was a mistake,” Amichai Stein, a journalist with Israel’s state broadcaster Kan, tweeted on Tuesday.
“It’s uncertain if anyone held a discussion on the topic beforehand and asked themselves all the questions.”
Hasbara is the Hebrew word used to describe Israel’s state propaganda efforts.
The 85-year-old Lifshitz is one of two Israeli women Hamas released to the Red Cross at the Rafah border with Egypt on Monday night.
Hamas says Israel had earlier refused to accept the two women.
A video released by Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam Brigades, showed parts of the handover. Right before she is passed to the Red Cross, Lifshitz pauses, turns around, takes the hand of one of the Qassam soldiers and tells him “shalom.”Asked to explain that action at a press conference at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital on Tuesday, Lifshitz said, “They treated us gently, they provided for all our needs.”
Israeli senior Yocheved Lifshitz was asked why she shook the hand of a Qassam Brigades fighter when she was released last night from Gaza. Her answer: “They treated us gently, they provided for all our needs.” pic.twitter.com/AcCcHaq20N— Ali Abunimah is now on bluesky (@AliAbunimah) October 24, 2023
Food and medical care
Lifshitz described her initial capture from Kibbutz Nir Oz, an Israeli settlement close to Gaza, as a frightening ordeal.
“I went through hell, something I didn’t think human beings would do to one another,” she says in the video from Al Jazeera at the top of this article. “I have never gone through anything like it in my life.”
“They arrived at the kibbutz and kidnapped us, taking us to surrounding fields,” Lifshitz recalled. “The young men beat me and hurt me and took my watch and jewelry. They were riding motorbikes and took us to the entrance of a tunnel.”But once she was taken to Gaza along with other Israelis, the situation improved.
“When they arrived they told us that they believe in the Quran and wouldn’t do anything bad to us,” Lifshitz said of her captors.
She described being taken to a “spiderweb” of tunnels.
“We walked through the tunnels and reached a large hall where about 20 people were gathered,” Lifshitz said. “Then they separated us and took one group to another room. There was a doctor with us, another doctor who came every three days, and a nurse who examined us and gave us the same medicines that we get at home.”
“They provided us with everything we needed and were afraid of diseases spreading,” she added. “They were also very friendly and shared their food with us.”
The truth is off message
The press conference “with Lifshitz’s extensive and repeated description of the care she and other hostages received in captivity, was quickly criticized by some Israeli PR professionals and commentators as a major Israeli misstep and a propaganda victory for Hamas,” The Times of Israel lamented.
It is understandable why Lifshitz’s testimony would anger Israeli officials and even some journalists: The Israeli government’s “Hamas=ISIS” messaging that is being used to justify the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza, depends on painting Palestinians as demonic beasts incapable of empathy.But Lifshitz’s account of humane treatment – in spite of the overall circumstances of her captivity – is only the latest of a growing number of Israelis telling of such experiences.
From Israel’s perspective, the truth that Palestinian fighters did not immediately set about killing every Israeli they encountered, is off message.In the meantime, Israel has spread completely unverified atrocity propaganda, including the notorious debunked tale that Hamas fighters beheaded dozens of Jewish babies.
There is growing evidence that many Israeli civilians were killed by Israeli forces who attacked Palestinian fighters and Israeli civilians indiscriminately, causing many of the approximately 1,300 deaths Israel says occurred during the Hamas assault.
The full truth about what happened on or after 7 October could be established by an independent investigation, something Israel is unlikely to ever permit.
Both women “in good health”
The other woman released on Monday night along with Yocheved Lifshitz, 79-year-old Nurit Cooper, has not made a statement, but both women were reported to be in good health.
Their husbands Amiram Cooper, 84, and Oded Lifshitz, 83, are among more than 200 Israeli and foreign noncombatants and Israeli military personnel still detained in Gaza following their capture during the 7 October Hamas offensive and its aftermath.
Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas official, has said that many civilians were brought into Gaza from Israel not by Qassam fighters but by Palestinian civilians who poured through the boundary fence after Israeli defenses collapsed faster than expected.
Hamas has said it plans to release all detained civilians as circumstances allow.
Last Friday, Hamas released two American women, a mother and daughter, the first civilians to be returned home from Gaza.