THERE is no greater metaphor to describe the events in Gaza than the fog of war.

Try as you might, not even the most well-resourced broadcaster, the sophisticated foreign correspondent and the most informed military tactician could honestly say that the brutal situation in Gaza is rational, predictable and even knowable.

The term “fog of war” first came into widespread usage in Carl von Clausewitz’s epic essay on conflict Vom Kriege (1832) in which he said: “War is the realm of ­uncertainty ... wrapped in a fog of ­greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and ­discriminating judgement is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.”

The recent near obliteration of Gaza in response to a Hamas attack on Israel has only darkened the world and has allowed a toxic smog to settle over world affairs.

Seeing clearly is now virtually impossible and believing even the most simple stories is a risky pursuit.

The media has played its own role in complicating and muddying events. Where journalism normally seeks to ­explain and convey hard truths, the threat of ­military conflict is always heavy with loaded ­language, and official ­pronouncements from nations around the world – including Israel itself – have deepened the fog.

In the pursuit of the evasive concept of balance, even our very best ­broadcasters unlock binary opinion and become ­susceptible to the very thing they seek to avoid – bias. The BBC has been accused of being pro-Israel and yet also criticised for not always describing Hamas as a ­terrorist group.

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Into all of this has come a battalion of tribal opinion drawn from the ranks of football ultras, celebrity actors and ­retired Israeli warmongers.

A substantial body of Celtic fans defied their club and turned a European match against Atlético de Madrid into a stand-off against Uefa in support of Palestine. The support for Palestine went way ­beyond the ultra Green Brigade and seeped around the stadium.

A letter issued by Artists For Palestine UK, and signed by Steve Coogan, Tilda Swinton, Miriam Margolyes and ­Maxine Peake, among more than 2000 others, demanded that governments “end their military and political support for Israel’s actions”.

They were fine words, backed by ­honest and deeply felt emotions, but never has an open letter felt so futile. As many ­individuals, organisations and ­nations ­rallied to demand an immediate ceasefire, an unholy alliance including ­America, Britain and Israel was still clinging to the ­absolute right of the Israeli Defence Force to wreak havoc on Gaza.

The fog of war does not only ­confuse the war itself but the opinions that ­surround it.

Earlier this month, as the Hamas attack on ­Israeli kibbutz unfolded and hostages were brutally dragged back into Gaza, many mistakes were made and other big stories simply disappeared in the fog.

Last Tuesday, The New York Times had both the self-confidence and ­common ­journalistic decency to correct a ­prominent and widely circulated piece of misinformation. Amid the fog of war, “The New York Times published news of an explosion at a hospital in Gaza City”, leading its coverage with claims by ­Hamas government officials that “an ­Israeli ­airstrike was the cause and that hundreds of people were dead or injured”.

The report included a large headline at the top of the paper’s website.

Israel subsequently denied being at fault and blamed an errant rocket launch by the Palestinian faction group Islamic Jihad, which has in turn denied ­responsibility.

It was the classic claim and ­counter claim indicative of the fog of war. ­American officials told the New York Times that their evidence indicated that the explosion was a result of a rocket from Palestinian fighter positions.

Backing away from their original story, the correction admitted that they had relied “too heavily on claims by Hamas, and did not make clear that those claims could not immediately be verified”.

It may be days, years, even decades ­before ordnance mapping, ballistic ­reports and journalism establish the true facts.

It was the classic case of speed ­bypassing accuracy. Mistakes were made, social ­media amplified them and in the ­emotional crossfire, many jumped to ­emotionally charged conclusions. The fog deepened.

Such is the emotional ferocity of the Israel-Gaza war that while many stories were accurate, others were lost beneath the canopy of death and destruction.

AT any other time, the killing of two Swedish football fans in Brussels on the night of an international fixture would have dominated the headlines but the ­incident was under-reported.

Sweden’s prime minister said the ­country was suffering “unfathomable ­sadness” after the fatal shooting of two Swedish football fans, one in his 60s and one in his 70s. It was all lost in the fog, deemed irrelevant in the face of a ­full-blown Middle East crisis.

Those news reports that did survive ­almost inevitably connected the killings to the crisis in Gaza and searched the ­murderer’s social media posts for ­comments supporting the Palestinians and the wider cause of Islamic Jihad.

Roaming into this gloaming came ­unintended consequences.

The National: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. Picture date: Wednesday October 18, 2023. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA Wire.

A few days after the Hamas attack, Keir Starmer (above) approved an email to all Labour Party members that they should resist talking about Gaza online and that elected officials up to and including MPs should not attend pro-Palestinian ­rallies on the basis that Israel had a right to ­defend itself.

It was a cynical directive designed to ingratiate Labour with the right-of-centre media and to hive off soft Tory voters across England, in the hope that they might be attracted to vote Labour.

Ironically, this kind of cynicism – now habitual at the strategic core of Starmer’s Labour Party – risks the stability and ­electoral credibility that Labour hope to secure.

Following Starmer’s visit to the South Wales ­Islamic Centre last weekend, the party rushed to ­social media to reassert Israel’s right to defend itself but offered nothing of ­comfort to those among ­Britain’s Muslim communities nor ­Labour members who also wanted to hear words of support for Gaza’s besieged people.

It sounded not so much that Israel had the right to self-defence, but the right to switch off water and gas supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip.

Community leaders from the South Wales Islamic Centre said it was dismayed at a social media post about the event and apologised for any “hurt and confusion” brought about by Starmer’s remarks.

The event has driven a wedge deep into the ranks of Labour activism, with ­senior council members in English wards ­resigning, others withdrawing their ­campaigning efforts and in Scotland handing Labour leader Anas Sarwar a monumental headache as he tries to break the SNP’s power base in central Scotland.

Starmer has come into direct conflict with longstanding Labour values and now runs the serious risk of being a ­politician so desperate for power that he is blind to the risks of courting the mainstream. His over-calculated mission to attract white middle England to vote Labour risks ­alienating communities on both the left and diverse Britain who should be natural Labour voters.

It will be a very long time before we know the true casualty list of the fog of war, but an unexpected casualty may well be the unanimity that the Labour Party so dearly desire.