As Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense enters its second day, much attention has gone to the IDF spokesperson’s Twitter account, which has been announcing developments in the war regularly and with a measure of the bravado that most other military PR units try to keep under wraps.
We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.
While there are also repeated references to rocket attacks on Israel, the tone of remarks like these invites questions about who the IDF is attempting to reach, for this does not seem to be an attempt to convince key foreign publics that Israel is acting rightly. It seems instead to be aimed at sectors that are already supportive of Israel. Does Israel feel so isolated that its PR mavens have abandoned all hope of broad international support, even when attacking a loathsome extremist group?
Many figures in the Netanyahu government appear to have this mindset. While it likely has little impact on decisions to launch a deterrence campaign like this one in Gaza, it has unsettling implications for the broader peace process, for the crisis with Iran, and perhaps ultimately for Israel’s liberal political system.
Intriguingly, the al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, have also been involved in the Twitter propaganda war. Many of the remarks have no basis in reality but spread like wildfire anyway—they claimed, for instance, to have struck a power plant in Tel Aviv. Unlike the IDF spokesperson, however, the al Qassam Brigades are a bit less careful in managing their image—while they usually refer to their activities as “Resistance,” they mark some of their attacks with the hashtag #terrorism.