The Middle-East war is fought in many fronts. While Israel has managed to maintain its militarily superiority, it’s been continuously defeated on the PR and media fronts, which it has neglected for many years. The way the recent flotilla event was conducted PR-wise, is merely the tip of the iceberg of Israeli inability to comprehend the importance of International Media and PR as a legitimate warfare strategy.
In this case, for instance, assuming that Israel needs to maintain the blockade on Gaza, let’s see how it could have conducted a Media-savvy operation.
- In the months prior to the flotilla voyage, Israel, who had no doubt collected all details about the passengers, could have preempted and published the identity of those passengers with links to Al-Qaeda and Hamas. This would have made it apparent that the intentions of the Flotilla passengers were not necessarily as peaceful as portrayed. It might have also made some of the genuine humanitarian activists on board reconsider their decision to join the trip, as I believe that many of them were unaware of the terrorist affiliation of their crew mates.
- When the Flotilla neared Israeli water, all communication with the ship should have become public. This would have made the non confrontational alternatives known. That is, that Israel didn’t object to the transportation of the humanitarian aid, and that the flotilla was welcomed to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where it would be inspected, and the cargo, accompanied by some of the flotilla’s members, would be shipped to Gaza by land. This, after all, was exactly what they offered, but without using it to gain support. It would have also made it clear to the world that sending in troops was the last option, only after every other compromise had been declined by the ship.
- The preparation of the Flotilla passengers for violent confrontation should have also been broadcasted live, before the commando boarded the ship. After all, Israeli helicopters were flying above the ship and could easily have broadcast the violent intentions of the passengers.
- The Israeli commandos themselves should have made it visible to the media that their guns were paint-guns rather than real ones. Trying to fix the wrong perception after the event, once the public had made their mind, was ineffective, as could easily be predicted.
The result of the confrontation with the Israeli professional army was known in advance. This leaves us to believe that the very purpose of the confrontation was to be defeated, and thus to score another win on the PR front. The fact that both the prime minister of Israel and the communication minister were not available for comments immediately after the event demonstrates how little Israel understands the importance of media as a strategic tool in modern warfare. This is a front that Israel has been neglecting for too long, and must master, at least as much as it has mastered the military front.