#AceWorldNews – GAZA CITY – July 26 – As part of Israel’s PR efforts during operation Cast Lead (2009), the IDF has established a Youtube channel to tell Israel’s side. As seen on Arutz Sheva. and supplied by israelnationalnews.com at the time it purported to have 7,000 followers and today as the screenshot shows it is down to 1,981.
Five years later, the involvement of the army in the documentation and dissemination of propaganda has increased, through YouTube videos and official accounts on Facebook and Twitter, which show a constant flow of messages.
Today’s media strategy includes dozens of infographics and visualizations that attempt to depict Israel’s rationale in a graphic and simple manner similar to that employed by the award-winning Visualizing Palestine project, which focused on visualizing the effects of occupation for Palestinians in Gaza.
One of the most viral visualizations shows how a house in Gaza becomes a target. “When is a house a home and when does it become a military target?”, the image reads, in response to accusations that Israel indiscriminately bombs houses in Gaza.
Another one compares “what Israel does to protect civilians” vs. “what Hamas does to endanger its civilians.”
An online struggle for “hearts and minds”
Israeli military operations are always accompanied by robust media reports that seem intended to mitigate their impact on international public opinion. From the sensorial “Cast Lead” in 2009 to the self-explanatory “Protective Edge” in 2014, several fronts of “hasbara” (pro-Israeli propaganda, in Hebrew) have been developed to show the world Israel’s rationale.
In 2008, just before attacks on Gaza began, the Israeli administration decided to replace traditional press conferences of war time with a wide array of initiatives based on social media. Guidelines for the campaign were developed by former army officer Yarden Vatikai, in coordination with the Ministry of Defense and the Jewish Agency.
One of the initiatives consisted of teaching new media workshops to army officers in the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.
“In terms of communicating our message, the future is in new media”, Defense Forces spokesman Avi Benayahu said in February 2009. “The IDF has moved online to win hearts and minds.”