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Critics Struggle to Undermine IDF’s Social Media Blitz

This video of the Israeli strike on Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari was temporarily removed from the IDF’s YouTube page this morning for supposedly violating its “terms of service.” A short time later, it was put back up. My multiple emails to YouTube’s press office have been ignored, but All Things Digital managed to get this email response from a spokesperson:

“With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”

This shows just how worried anti-Israel activists are about the online response to Operation Pillar of Defense, by far Israel’s most muscular and carefully-honed social media effort yet. Enough Israel detractors “flagged” the YouTube video as “inappropriate” yesterday that YouTube put up a note warning viewers that the clip might be considered offensive.

That attempt to censor the video — as well as the IDF’s Twitter account and websites — is a sign of panic. Israel has finally found a way to circumvent the pernicious media bias that has always favored anti-Israel groups, and it has these groups terrified and scrambling.

So far, the Israeli military’s public relations department hasn’t been fazed. They’ve rolled out a new Tumblr page, where they’ve been posting videos of IDF dropping thousands warning leaflets from the air above Palestinian neighborhoods and succinctly explaining the Hamas rocket attacks that sparked Operation Pillar of Defense. They’ve also launched a Pinterest, a Flikr page, an Instagram, and a GooglePlus account that they’ve been updating by the minute.

The Israelis have also been smart about the content. The video clips, images, and tweets are actually newsworthy, as opposed to the usual stale and timid statements on government social media accounts.

It’s by far the most cutting-edge combination of PR warfare and military warfare, perfectly packaged to go viral in the current media environment. BuzzFeed’s Matt Buchanan writes:

Much of the criticism of the American media during the height of the Iraq War focused on its role repeating White House talking points and propaganda. But using the tools of social media, as Israel is doing, reveals there’s no longer a need to rely a media middleman, or to filter the raw feed of war through an “embedded” — and, military officials hope, captured — journalist’s mouth or keyboard. A nation is officially tweeting its wartime activities. The military can broadcast exactly what it wants to, directly to its citizens, allies, and enemies. The IDF even appropriates the language of news, prefacing several tweets with “BREAKING” — and native social media, at one point saying “in case you missed it” before pointing to a YouTube video of it killing Ahmed Jabari in a missile strike. And unlike any propaganda machine before it, it’s inherently viral. It’s designed to spread. So the IDF spokesperson provides posters and YouTube videos and a constantly updated Flickr account; they’re more shareable than plain text. Its tweets are a mixture of documentation, saber rattling, sober reminders of the reality of war, and upbeat updates on the advanced state of its technology. All delivered direct to you. Please RT.

Israel has long struggled to get its message through the anti-Israel filter of the international media. It’s finally landed on the perfect solution: go over the media’s heads.


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