When Israel attacked and invaded the Gaza Strip exactly five years ago, its political and military forces realised that its success or failure relied mainly on the accuracy of the intelligence gathered by the Shabak security agency. They also knew that the use of such information is necessary during military operations in order to minimise casualties.
Thus the so-called Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 witnessed concentrated efforts by Israeli agents to pass on intelligence gathered about the Palestinian resistance and its plans. Using the intelligence, officers in the field could either call for air strikes and missiles on specific locations; back-up for different units; or a tightening of the circle around the resistance fighters.
There remains some frustration within the ranks of Shabak and Aman (Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence) due to the failure of the executive to protect their Palestinian agents; the Israeli forces used the information passed on in a manner that revealed the sources, which led to the killing of many agents by the resistance groups. Since the army was at war, there was no time for caution, and officers justified their position by saying that everything must be dong to preserve the lives of the soldiers in the field; “their safety is a priority over the safety of agents”.
During that war on Gaza, the Israelis employed psychological intelligence tactics by scattering leaflets into heavily populated areas in the Gaza Strip and threatening to intensify military activity in order to break the Palestinians’ determination. This was on top of continuous shelling which killed and injured many, and caused massive destruction.
In addition, they bombarded Palestinians with phone calls threatening serious repercussions for anyone found with weapons or military equipment in their homes. Moreover, they ordered those living near the Gaza border to leave their homes and go to the city centres, while other phone calls threatened those living near the borders. All of this was done in order to separate the body of the resistance fighters from the people.
Coinciding with the war waged by the army on the people of Gaza, certain voices emerged in the media, especially the military correspondents, expressing discontent with the limitations and orders issued by the military spokespersons. The people of Israel were not allowed to see what was really happening in Gaza in their name due to the strict official news blackout, with which the Hebrew-language media cooperated. Recruits continued to join the army with information based on the official narrative, which encouraged war against the Palestinians.
Furthermore, the occupation forces made a point of confiscating soldiers’ mobile phones while they were in the Gaza Strip to prevent them from sending text messages regarding their losses or pictures of troops fighting. This is a nightmare scenario for the military censors.
The army turned itself into a resource for the media, although some journalists suspect that senior officers sought to distract the international community deliberately with an overload of information about Israeli towns near the border which are sometimes hit by random missiles fired from Gaza.
Security and intelligence officers have also called on technical specialists to block Arab satellite television stations, such as Al-Jazeera, from broadcasting; they accuse them of inciting the Arabs against the occupation. They have requested the chairman of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council to block such stations because, according to them, “We cannot allow the enemy to broadcast during war, especially stations that broadcast lies and incitement in an attempt to demoralise the civilians and soldiers in the state.”
The authorities imposed advance censorship on reports broadcast about military operations and banned Israeli and foreign journalists from entering the Gaza Strip to cover the operations from the front line.
Traditionally, Israel enlists a large media team for its wars on Gaza and they are trained for months in order to prepare them to perfect the art of disinformation. It has also learned from its previous experiences to use public relations and other means of communication to reach diplomats in order to ensure that its own version of events prevails.
Days before the 2008-9 war, the Israelis began their media campaign by stressing to the foreign ambassadors that their patience with the Palestinian attacks was running out. They used their best spokespeople in the media battle, who accompanied the diplomats representing dozens of countries on a tour of the settlements adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
The author is a Palestinian academic. This article is a translation of the text published by Felesteen newspaper on 29 December, 2013.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.