Sooner rather than later, every student of propaganda has to face the fact that a lot of what the propagandist says is not designed to convince, but to provide self justification. In many cases, people choose their worldview and allegiances not after an objective and honest search for truth, but following their deepest desires and instincts. After choosing sides, many turn to propaganda for the rationales that would make their opinions and subsequent action seem honest, fair, and objective. This need is very well-known to the propagandist, who, as Jacques Ellul pointed out: “ … builds his techniques on the basis of his knowledge of man, his tendencies, his desires, his needs, his psychic mechanisms, his conditioning”.[1]

Predictably, the genocide and ethnic cleansing happening in Gaza as these lines are being written is not being denounced in clear terms by the mainstream media, the traditional channel for official justifications to reach the masses. The point to be made here is that this reality, and the psychological mechanisms mentioned by Ellul, should never stop us from pointing out the fallacy and the double-standard, or from separating fact from fiction. We can only hope that good faith and an honest search for truth will always remain among the principles that most people strive to achieve.

Those who have chosen journalism, going further, have a duty to find out the truth and to be as objective as possible. I believe this isn’t the case with the version of events in the Middle East as described by British author and journalist Douglas Murray. What follows is an analysis of a recent interview (11/08/23) he gave to Piers Morgan, right from the border of the embattled Gaza Strip. Let’s take look at his arguments.


The discussion started with Piers Morgan remarking that Douglas Murray doesn’t believe in the principle of proportionality. Murray’s statements on this subject — that asking Israel to be proportional is a “deep perversion” and a particularly British “fetish” — were made in a previous interview. In Murray’s own words, a proportionate response would mean to “find a music festival in Gaza and rape precisely the number of women that Hamas raped … ”, as well as repeating exactly the other crimes attributed to Hamas on the October 7 attack.

In its Practical Guide to International Humanitarian Law Doctors Without Borders (DWB) explains that proportionality is:

a core principle in international law, which provides that the legality of an action shall be determined depending on the respect of the balance between the objective and the means and methods used as well as the consequences of the action. This principle implies an obligation to appreciate the context (and) … it is the responsibility of those who act.

At first sight, Murray seems to confuse proportionality, as used in modern International Law, with the “eye for an eye” principle of Talion, the ancient Babylonian law which states that criminals should be punished by receiving precisely the same injuries they inflicted upon their victims. But, in fact, what Murray is talking about is not even an “eye for an eye”, as bad as that would be, but collective punishment, since the victims of what, according to him, would be a proportional response would be civilians, and not Hamas. If we come back from the ancient times and laws still lingering in Murray’s mind, we find that international humanitarian law, as stated in the DWB document cited above, “uses the principle of proportionality (precisely) to limit the damages caused by military operations on civilian population and objects. Once a State has resorted to the use of armed force, jus in bello kicks in to regulate and restrain the use of force … “.[2]

What Murray is condoning by his refusal to consider any concept of proportionality is nothing short of revenge and, as already stated, collective punishment, both war crimes. But that’s only half of the critique we can make about his statements regarding this particular subject. Murray dishes out proportionality, not in relation to what Hamas did back on October 7, but according to what the state of Israel says happened.

We now know that, in the case of the Supernova music festival, Israeli Apache helicopters fired toward crowds that included both Hamas attackers and Israeli partygoers, obscuring the extent of the responsibilities for each of the crimes committed on that day. One of the sources of this information is none other than Haaretz, arguably Israel’s most influential daily newspaper. It is up for debate if the Israeli soldiers were following the infamous “Hannibal Directive”, a military protocol stablished to prevent Israeli soldiers from being taken as hostages, but the testimony of Colonel Nof Erez, a member of the Israeli Air Force, seems to give credence to that hypothesis: “Hannibal Directive was probably deployed because once you have detected a hostage situation, this is Hannibal”.

As we will see, from start to finish, Murray’s opinions are firmly rooted in what the state of Israel and their representatives say happened on October 7 and afterwards, in most cases without showing evidence and even deleting their own posts from official social media accounts shortly after publication because of the little sense they make. One example is the extensive accusations of Hamas raping female partygoers and other victims of its attack, an often-repeated Israeli talking-point.

The lack of conclusive evidence on this subject has been reported by a number of Israeli sources. On November 9, for example, Times of Israel published the article titled “Amid war and urgent need to ID bodies, evidence of Hamas’s (sic) October rapes slips away”. The piece explains that despite “definitive” witness testimony, forensic determination was “impossible” to secure. As the report says, accusations of rape are based on three kinds of sources: “terrorist interrogations, witness testimony, and various footage […] But … physical evidence of sexual assault was not collected from corpses by Israel’s overtaxed morgue facilities …”.

Furthermore, as Times of Israel also states: “ …morgue officials have not designated individual cases as rape because of a lack of court-compliant physical proof … [and] the government has not released explicit footage or pressed rape survivors to share their stories”.

Almost two months after the attacks, the chances of seeing any kind of “court-compliant physical proof” are already gone, while the scant screenshots presented as “visual” evidence tend to show a lack of clothing or the presence of wounds in specific parts of a victim’s body, in both men and women, as indicative of rape. Hamas’ members interrogation, conducted by Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet, followed the official objective of “[producing] videos that Israel could use in the global information war”, making them pieces of propaganda and completely unreliable as evidence. Surprisingly, a retired Israeli intelligence officer who returned to service after the October 7 attacks, the source of the quote made above, also explained for NBC News that the propagandistic videos are “for the West”. Talk about spilling the beans!

And what about those “definitive” witness testimonies of rape? The few that exist are mostly anonymous or made by rescue personnel (from the controversial Zaka organization) deemed as lacking proper training by most Israeli media reports. They also mention that these rescuers were not looking for that sort of information, but only the kind that would help identify victims. Finally, on October 14, Mirit Ben Mayor, head of communications for the Israel Police, told Times of Israel that she “was not aware of October 7 rape survivors having made formal complaints to the police”. A United Nations investigation, announced on November 29, might shed some light into the subject soon, but only if the Netanyahu regime agrees to collaborate. The international body has made an “appeal for evidence”, but the Israeli government is so far refusing to cooperate due to an alleged “anti-Israel bias”. More recently, Haaretz published an article centered on the investigations carried out by Dr. Cochav Elkayam-Levy. In it, reporter Hilo Glazer assures his readers that the “evidence” collected by Elkayam-Levy — an expert in force-feeding of detainees in hunger strikes — “leaves no room for doubt … Hamas terrorists systematically carried out acts of rape and sexual abuse”. But, in fact, the purportedly definitive evidence suffers from the same kind of shortcomings already mentioned. Furthermore, Elkayam-Levy recently presented a picture of dead kurdish female soldiers, taken in 2022, as October 7th Israeli rape victims.

On the Human Level

The interview between Piers Morgan and Douglas Murray also reflected on the “human level”. When Morgan asked the political commentator and author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It? about the horrifying death toll produced by the Israeli army in Gaza — which by the time of the interview already surpassed 17,000, almost half of them children — Murray casted doubt on the actual culprit:

… should those deaths really be attributed to the Israeli side … we saw the other day the BBC and other media … reported that the people who were lying dead on the street and one of the main routes through Gaza was alleged to be a … massacre carried out by Israelis turned out wasn’t the case at all … it was Hamas massacring Palestinians fleeing south, as the Israelis had recommended they do

Murray seems to be talking about the October 13 bombing of a convoy of Palestinian civilians fleeing south through the Salah al-Din Road, where around 70, including many children, were massacred. A BBC Verify report, ‘building on work from open source analysts’, was published on October 16. It states that it is ‘hard to tell what caused the explosion based on the videos of the aftermath’.

This is a rather dubious piece of journalism: the same open source analyst quoted by the BBC Verify service to support the geolocation of the incident, named Chris Osieck, clearly tells his “X” followers that the culprit for the massacre was an Israeli airstrike, and he made this statement three days before the BBC report, on October 13. The BBC omits this while using other pieces of information provided by the same analyst, resulting in an article that casts unnecessary doubt on the nature of this particularly egregious war crime.

Murray seems to be using the BBC report linked above to repeat more IDF talking points. On October 16, Times of Israel quoted Jonathan Conricus, IDF spokesperson, saying that the strike on the fleeing convoy was a ‘false flag’ carried out by Hamas.

The Salah al-Din Road massacre only covers for a tiny fraction of the Palestinian civilians murdered since October 7th, and after listening to Murray’s response, Piers Morgan doesn’t put any kind of pressure on him to explain if the other thousands of Palestinians killed are somehow also attributable to “false flags” carried out by Hamas, an argument Murray surely wouldn’t dare to make. The whole interview reminds us of the nature of mainstream media ‘debate’, as remarked by Noam Chomsky: ‘The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum—even encourage the more critical and dissident views.’ Following this golden rule, segments of the interview do look like a ‘lively debate’, but always within the strictly limited spectrum Chomsky warned about.

Murray also insisted in telling Morgan that Gaza “could be Singapore by now” because of the billions it receives from foreign aid. He said that “instead of building upwards, they built downwards, instead of building great buildings, they built great tunnels”. At this point, there seems to be no intention by the interviewer to point out one pretty well-known fact: Israel has been deliberately bombing and demolishing Gaza’s infrastructure for decades with complete impunity. In May 2021, to give just one example, Israeli airstrikes destroyed or damaged 450 buildings, including hospitals, desalination plants and the headquarters of several media offices.

Marches in London and Freedom of Speech Advocacy

This is a particularly interesting point: The murderous bombing of Gaza has turned many alleged “freedom of speech advocates” into censorship promoters. Glenn Greenwald made an analysis of this in a recent Rumble video, where he talks about the dozens of Americans fired since October 7 for their pro-Palestinian views, while nobody is ever treated in such a manner for espousing pro-Israeli views. All the while there is silence from many right-wing “freedom of speech advocates” known for making a lot of noise against cancel culture.

Regarding the massive marches that took place on London on November 11 (three days after the interview analyzed here), Murray explained that, in his opinion, they shouldn’t go ahead, “ … not because they should be banned, but because it’s a grotesque insult to the British people [and] a deliberately provocative day to choose for such a march”.

Are not the “British people” marching for the Palestinian cause and for an end to the criminal bombing of civilians? Or perhaps, according to Murray, the hundreds of thousands marching before, on November 11, and after that, are foreigners, outsiders, not “real” Brits? This is another typically conservative talking point: we represent the “real” British and the marchers are somehow alien, “terrorist supporters”, or, as Suella Braverman tweeted, not “decent British people”. What they are missing is that the massive turnout actually reflects the fact that, according to polls, a huge majority of Brits support a ceasefire. They are not “calling for terror”, as Murray also claims throughout the interview.

Murray also argues that, according to The Telegraph, “half of the organizers of the November 11 marches are linked to Hamas”, but the piece in question draws mostly upon allegations made by Israeli lobby groups, like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, and outfits and linked to its military and intelligence branches, like the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, while failing to mention that some of the most important organizers were bodies with a long tradition of anti-war protesting and not specifically pro-Palestine, such as Stop the War Coalition and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

This segment about freedom of speech is where we do see some real debate by Morgan, whose show’s full name, by the way, is Piers Morgan Uncensored. Murray uses broad generalizations to present all marchers as “glorifying terror”, because according to him even those who do not seem to be doing that are marching alongside people who are repeating the “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be Free” slogan or calling for Intifada. The idea that this slogan is a call for violence is absurd, since there’s no rational grounds to assert that demanding freedom must somehow imply violence. Besides that, the condition of apartheid and the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories are widely-accepted facts, and the Palestinian people have the right and duty to resist such conditions, which makes the term “Intifada” (uprising) also perfectly legal and valid.

Murray insists in saying that the protestors are not marching for peace. Again, his argument is rather weak, and ignores the broad differences between what’s going on in Gaza as compared to past conflicts: “The crowds in question”, Murray says, “are one hundred times larger than the number of people who came out when hundreds of thousands of people were being killed in Yemen … [and] when Bashar al-Assad killed hundreds of thousands of people in Syria”, therefore, he asserts, they don’t march for peace, but against Israel and in favor of its destruction.

Radicalization of Palestinians

At this point, Murray makes another typically conservative (or perhaps even supremacist) argument, that implies the Palestinians might be a different breed of instinctively violent and irrational people. When asked by Morgan about the possibility that the present military assault on Gaza could be “an opportunity for far greater radicalization of all those young Palestinians, who watch their loved ones getting killed … “, Murray answers that “[the] question supposes that there is a sort of peaceful Palestinian population in Gaza … “.

Contradicting his previous statement that “Hamas has been holding the Palestinian people of Gaza hostage for the last 15 years” (minute 6:55), Murray replies that “there is some responsibility for peoples in Gaza … if you elect Hamas and they kill Fatah, and then they remain in power for all the years afterwards … I’m afraid that there is some responsibility”. He then adds that the British took the view that the German people were responsible in some way for Hitler, implying that the Allied terror bombing of Dresden of February 1945 is somehow justified and is not, therefore, collective punishment and a war crime.

This is the point of the interview where Murray makes the comments that have been compared to Nazi-apologism: “ … even the Nazis were actually ashamed of what they did, you know … SS battalions who spent their days shooting Jews in the back of the head and pushing them into trenches had to get very drunk in the evening to forget what they had done … I tell you one very big difference, if you look at the footage, the raw footage … they will see something that is at least as barbaric as what the Nazis did, but there’s the difference, they did it with glee, they were deeply proud … “.

We haven’t seen this footage, aired by the IDF to a select group of politicians, diplomats, and journalists, with the “urge to support Israel”, as explained by Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations. But what serious historical sources could make Murray’s assertion that “the Nazis”, in general, “were actually ashamed of what they did”? This is just another absurd fallacy used to demonize the current enemy as particularly evil and depraved.

But what about all those videos we have seen, where IDF soldiers shoot at unarmed civilians, including children, without any kind of mercy or regret? What about the videos showing Israeli settlers or citizens, and, again, soldiers, cheering after the killing of a Palestinian or chanting for the murder of all Arabs? This is a typical double-standard, as explained by Herman and Chomsky, where the victims of one side are widely publicized, while those killed and mistreated by the ally are deemed “unworthy” of attention. Evidence shows we could make the same assertion about “glee” and “pride” Murray made, but about the other side. But we don’t have a propagandistic need to demonize in the latter case.

As a farewell, Piers Morgan tells Murray that it was “powerful” to talk to him. This is yet another example of how fallacy and dubious “facts” make their way into mainstream news reporting for the benefit of power, without substantive pushback, but beneath a gloss of “lively debate”.

[1] Jowett & O’Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion, 5th Edition, Sage Publications, 2006, page 299.

[2] The parenthesis is mine. Jus in bello, Latin for ‘right (conduct) in war’, is the law that governs the way in which warfare is conducted.

(Featured Image: “Damage in Gaza Strip during the October 2023 – 35” by Wafa (Q2915969) in contract with a local company (APAimages)‏‏ is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.)


  • Daniel Espinosa

    Daniel Espinosa is a Peruvian writer and journalist. He is a columnist for Hildebrandt en sus trece, an independent Peruvian news weekly, and is the author of Propaganda Pura y Dura, his first book (in Spanish).