On October 7th Israel experienced the biggest Hamas attack with missiles floating all over the country and hitting cities across the Southern border with Gaza. Cities like Sderot, Kibbutz Nir Am, Yad Mordechai, and Netiv Ha’asara, all near the Gaza Strip were hit by the rockets and then attacked by the Hamas terrorists, who crossed the border shooting civilians and creating a massive massacre trail all over the small towns, kibbutzim, the musical Nova festival or villages like Kfar Aza.
Israeli media, as well as other international media and channels, has covered the massacre, but Russian-affiliated media decided to take another angle to diminish the crimes committed by Hamas.
The Data Collection Methodology:
This article aims to delve into the recent shift in Russian propaganda which has begun drawing parallels between the atrocities in the Russian-Ukrainian war and those attributed to Hamas. Our investigation tracks the unfolding of this narrative and its implications in the broader informational warfare landscape.
Our research tracks the content, spread, and reception of these narratives using a combination of AI-driven analysis and digital tools across platforms like Telegram (mostly),VK, and other Russian-affiliated media. The peak of the narratives provided by these channels is in the time span between October 7th and October 11th.
Chronological Unfolding of the Narrative
October 7th: Israeli Bucha - fake or real?
The narrative evolved with Russian propaganda sources making assertions that the Bucha massacre was a mere hoax, drawing comparisons with real events in Israel. Likes this one from the Wagner group affiliated channel - https://t.me/apwagner/13976
Citation: “Anglo-Saxon PR structures have become the scriptwriters and directors of the most notorious anti-Russian actions, such as the provocation in Bucha.” - Russian Security Council.
At the same time, Israeli media outlets began presenting a comparative analysis between Hamas's actions and those of Russian troops in Bucha.
This drew a swift and intense response from dominant Russian propaganda Telegram channels, leading to a notable shift in their narrative concerning events in Israel.
“I turned on Israel's Channel 9. A portly, drunken military correspondent is saying that he has only seen horrors like today's in Bucha. He recalls how Russian "orcs" were "casually shooting women and children." - message by Larkin Telegram channel at 23:09 Moscow time. This led to the further unveiling of the narrative in other Russian Telegram Channels on October 8th.
Concurrently, several Russian channels outright dismissed any misdeeds by Hamas in Israel, equating such claims to the alleged "Bucha hoax."
“In Israel, current events are actively being compared to Bucha, and it's said that just as the Arabs acted, the Russians did the same in Bucha, indiscriminately shooting women and children. There's no need to pity the Jews. They get what they deserve.” - Telegram channel Alex Parker Returns was one that got the biggest attention.
The other narrative promoted the idea that war crimes in Israel are a staged 'complex operation' to push the US to increase aid to Israel.
Also, this narrative emphasizes that Israel and Western countries blamed Putin and Hamas calling them “the butchers” to aggravate the real situation. However, these Telegram channels believe that this won’t help Israel prevail in fighting with Hamas.
On October 8th these narratives were spread by 33 actors.
90% of them are Russian-affiliated or support Russian narratives with 70 messages spread and 1.94 M views and 10k reactions.
The main idea of this stage is to show that the US and Israel are deliberately showing horrific materials of Hamas terrorist acts to aggravate the situation and approve their stiff actions on Hamas.
However, Russian propaganda, as always states that this is all staged or it doesn’t help the negotiation process. Such exposure only creates rage in the Islamic world and will not result in a swift conflict resolution.
The spike of the narratives floating around Hamas atrocities happened on October 11th. The biggest narrative of the day spread by Dmitrii Nikotkin.
The narrative in a nutshell:
- Palestinian Bucha - the Israeli army exaggerates the size of the massacre caused by Hamas. The news about 40 beheaded toddlers in Israel was confirmed to be fake by the Israeli side. Then why do Israel and its Western partners spread this?
- Why did Israel try to dehumanize the Palestinian people and Hamas?
- All this exaggeration benefits only Israel and its Western allies.
The conclusion of the post: “And here's the most accurate description of the war in the Middle East right now: "genocide of Palestinians in response to Hamas terror, which will spawn new Hamas terror and a new genocide of Palestinians." The main creator of this war is the West. However, the ones who will suffer and die are the innocent Arabs and Jews, who have become hostages to the spiral of violence”.
The post got 333k views and 8k reactions.
The other narrative articulated by like Aleksey Samoilov (pro-Russian war politology expert):
“Events in Israel create a favorable backdrop for us. It diverts attention from the Special Military Operation. Moreover, against the backdrop of Israel's bombings (although from its own interest perspective, it acts correctly), Ukraine and the West will no longer be able to pin new 'Buchas' on us”.
Also, this is backed up by the bunch of sub-narratives that now the West has to decide between Israel and Ukraine in terms of support. And Ukraine would have to show more “Buchas” to out-stage Israel in its grief, chasing help among its allies. None of these are true.
However, this is a staggering example of how Israeli grief is being used and even enhanced by Russian Telegram. This is exposed as a “favorable situation” if Israel will have a long-lasting war with Hamas. And if Israel takes any harsh measures this is positioned by Russia as a “war crime against Palestinian people”, even though Hamas and Palestinian citizens are not the same.
Our data indicates a vast reach for these narratives. Over a short span, more than 150 messages related to this theme were disseminated across 156 channels. These posts accumulated an impressive 4.83 million views, evoking 99.9k reactions. Such metrics underscore the potent influence of these channels in shaping public opinion.
Russia tried to speculate on the Hamas-Israeli war covering its own war crimes in Bucha (Ukraine) and supporting Israel in covering the Hamas crimes. However, when Israeli media decided to compare atrocities committed by Hamas to ones committed by Russian troops in Bucha - Russian propaganda backfired on Israel blaming it at all means that all of the massacres both in Ukraine and Israel are staged.
Russia's conspicuous support for Hamas, mirrored by its attempts to shield its ally's wrongdoings, further showcases the nation's broader geopolitical strategies. The dissemination of misinformation about events in Ukraine and Israel serves dual purposes – obfuscating the actions of allies while deflecting international criticism.
Russian Telegram sees a long-lasting benefit in the Hamas-Israeli war and would be happy if the conflict could last longer so that both Israel and Ukraine could not prevail as democratic states and could hold war criminals accountable for the massacres done on their territories.