Israel’s Meeting Goals in Gaza, But Not Online

by Arthur Schwartzman

Gaza isn’t the only battleground; the press and social media platforms bear insurmountable importance. And YOU can help.

| Topics: Gaza, Hamas
Israeli troops hit Hamas targets in Gaza
Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Israel is under attack. More than 3,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza on densely populated civilian territories. For over a week, people live in fear, cowering inside bomb shelters or their mamad (Merkhav Mugan Dirati: lit. residential protected space). With that being said, the world doesn’t sympathize with Israel, but how can they sympathize with the cause of a terrorist organization?

By the looks of it, Israel is losing the hashtag war. Hashtags like #FreePalestine or #SaveSheikhJarrah or #GazaUnderAttack generate more traction on social media than those like #IsraelUnderFire and #IStandWithIsrael. There could be a myriad of reasons, including:

  1. Strength in numbers. The Arabic-speaking world is vast, and the religious underpinnings of the conflict make for an easy choice for Muslims worldwide.
  2. Disparate military power. Israel’s superiority on all fronts makes Hamas the underdog, and underdogs are easily sided with.
  3. The progressive narrative of the West. Left-biased media outlets portray the Palestinians as a disenfranchised group whose rights are constantly under assault, by colonialist Israel.

In the narrative war, numbers are used as a bat to bash Israel with. The number of dead and injured on the Palestinian side is higher than on the Israeli side. That’s the way it has always been. Despite the IDF’s scrupulous procedures to do all in its power to keep innocent Gaza civilians from harm, when destroying terrorist infrastructures, some people can get hurt. What other army calls the residents of a building they’re about to destroy on their personal phones to warn them to flee? I don’t know of any other forces with such humane policies. Even so, in an operation such as this, there are casualties, and mainly because Hamas likes to hide behind a human shield, fully exploiting Israel’s politeness.

None of that matters. Truth has lost its weight in this post-truth era. The right TikTok clip, taken out of context, generates emotion in the viewer and leaves him or her with no choice but to shout: “That’s unjust! How could they?!”

Israel, meanwhile, is barely keeping up with its hasbara (Israel’s public diplomacy). One of the critical improvements in the 2014 Gaza War, as compared to previous operations, was Israel’s ability to explain to the outside world that we are the good guys, as unlikely it may seem, and that it’s much more complex than “They started it!”

To an extent, Israel was caught unprepared for the scale of Hamas’s assault. The same can be said of the hasbara department. This department has changed hands frequently ever since it was established; currently, it belongs to the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, headed by Michael Biton. With a caretaker government running this country for the past two years, the ministries are treated more like trophies to be handed to the highest bidder than tools used for the good of the public. Israel is portrayed unjustly. Meanwhile, pro-Palestinian demonstrations have taken place across major European cities, including Paris, Berlin, London and Madrid.

If our public image already wasn’t doing so well, the IDF then destroyed a building that housed the headquarters of the Al-Jazeera network, the AP news agency, and the headquarters of other broadcasting stations. It didn’t help to explain that military assets belonging to the intelligence unit of Hamas were also present there. It also didn’t help to point out that the foreign journalists were all safely evacuated prior to the taking down of the building.

In response, AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt released the following statement: “We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza. They have long known the location of our bureau and knew journalists were there… This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life. A dozen AP journalists and freelancers were inside the building and thankfully we were able to evacuate them in time. The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”

More effort should be put into hasbara and stopping the demonization of the State of Israel. Gaza isn’t the only battleground; the press and social media platforms bear insurmountable importance. Israel neglected this front for far too long. And we see this problem manifested here at home first and foremost with violence spilling out onto the streets of our nation. Israel is not the bad guy, and people who have been told otherwise from childhood need to be presented with a counter-narrative. Hasbara isn’t just Israel’s apologetics to the nations; it ought to be directed to our communities at home.

By liking, sharing and retweeting truthful reports about Israel, the tables can turn. You, too, can aid in the battle of advocacy for Israel. The world hates the truth, but there is only one way the battle of narratives can be won – one bird at a time. Just recently, Israel Today was attacked by a pro-Palestinian hacker group, but don’t let that deter you from sharing and reposting good, honest journalism from Israel. The issue has always been a sensitive one, but if we approach the online arena with candor and composure, we may win the ones sitting on the fence.

Hamas is a terrorist organization that targets civilians, and Israel has the right to defend itself and ensure lasting peace to its citizens. It’s that simple truth that Israel has to try to communicate to the world.

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