Israeli military has slick PR operation – but in Middle East info wars, there’s a new player

World

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and the Israeli government have possibly the most formidable public relations operations in the world.

They’re used to being criticised and are adept at getting on the front foot with their messaging, where other nations would simply flounder with mixed messages, and a lack of joined-up thinking.

In Israel, their spokespeople are always on message. They’re fighting a war every bit as important to the nation as their soldiers fighting on the frontlines.

We can’t see what the Israeli forces are doing with our own eyes, so we are dependent on a feed of pictures from the IDF.

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Pic:IDF/Telegram
Image:
IDF image purportedly showing Israeli forces operating in Gaza. Pic:IDF/Telegram

They’re heavily edited – the soldiers and locations pretty much unidentifiable. But they do give us a glimpse of what the invasion of Gaza looks like.

I write my stories clearly identifying the images from the IDF, and “purportedly showing” what their press office says it shows.

But Israel doesn’t have complete control of the information.

We have our own colleagues in Gaza sending us eyewitness information of developments there – but just as we aren’t with the IDF, they aren’t with Hamas.

And the Middle East info wars have a new player in the form of the Hamas PR machine.

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Hamas video claims to show IDF clashes

Nowhere near as slick as the IDF, the militants have published pictures of their fighters emerging from tunnels, they say, and apparently engaging with Israeli targets.

Just as we can’t verify what the IDF says, we can’t with the latest Hamas pictures either.

But from what I have seen from my experiences covering war, I can safely say this is what the battlefield would look like.

Israel still isn’t calling this an invasion – but they have invaded, they just call it something else.

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The latest IDF feed shows Israeli soldiers pushing deeper into Gaza and into urban areas.

The soldiers’ heavy backpacks illustrate they are carrying everything they need to survive on their backs, and that means an extended operation deep into enemy territory with little, at least initially, resupply.

The moving of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and bulldozers clearing the way is designed to show us they’re making headway inside.

Soldiers putting up wooden blinds in houses illustrates that they have taken over entire areas.

Hamas released video showing their drone pictures of an Israeli position with soldiers in the middle of a circle of tanks. It sends a message that Hamas too has technology and surveillance skills.

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Another clip, showing fighters emerging from a tunnel and apparently attacking Israelis, is a clever bit of public relations. It says everything to their audience – functioning tunnels, surprise attacks, and not being defeated.

Both sides know that messaging in this war is key.

Not swallowing it hook, line, and sinker, is our job.

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