Op-Ed: Psychological Warfare, Hamas Style
Prof. Ron SchleiferThe writer is an Israeli expert on the topic of Information/Psychological...
As far as Operation Protective Edge is concerned, things should be placed in perspective, and an academic approach can be useful in doing just that.
It is imperative to differentiate between a psychologically conducted war, in which the armed forces of a nation are used to influence the other side – take the bombing of London in WWII, for example – and psychological warfare in general, which is a non-violent campaign, using mainly public relations techniques, that goes on while a war is taking place.
Confusing the two leads to a failure in achieving a correct understanding of the situation at hand. Hamas does not have an army in the conventional sense of the word as it is only a guerilla movement that gained control of an area and runs it. Since its resources are limited, it must rely on external aid, in this case, from Iran.
But Hamas is engaging in "Revolutionary Warfare", a form of conflict whose rules were laid down by the Communists and polished by Mao Tse Tung. They entail several basic principles:
1. Attack your enemy's soldiers by nibbling at them bit by bit, hit them and retreat in order to save your strength.
2. The Art of the Yanking Chain: The above "nibbling" tactic must be acted on slowly and patiently, so that the enemy becomes accustomed to the situation. Add strength to the attack in small, almost unnoticeable increments so as not to alert the enemy to what you are doing, so that he does not strike back at you powerfully.
3. Sabotage. It is imperative to cause damage to the enemy's efforts and bring about his collapse due to external and internal pressures.
4. Create the impression, especially in your own ranks, that you have an alternative to the present government. For that reason, create the impression of bureaucracy, law-enforcement and military entities.
5. This process demands extreme cruelty towards all other forces. All who are not "with us" are considered against us.
6. The impression left by your activities must be magnified in every way possible. For this reason, it is advisable to use propaganda via a vis the home front and the enemy as well as towards neutrals.
Propaganda aimed at the enemy is called "psychological warfare" today.
Its principles are:
-Solidify support from within the ranks
-Convince the enemy that he hasn't got a chance no matter what he does
-Convince him that he is wrong, that he is immoral, that he has no future.
There are specific ways to accomplish this:
1. Create guilt feelings, especially by demonstrating the terrible effects of the war on civilians. That means seeing to it that many civilians are injured in order to create political pressure from without and ethical pressure from within. Guilt sells.
2. Lower the morale of the citizens and soldiers of the enemy
3. Demonize the enemy
How to get the information across? Mainstream media, such as newspapers and television, will do it, as will alternative media such as leaflets and microphones. They are all the same today, now that internet includes newspapers, television, radio and twitter.
That is the reason that for the last 30 years, Hamas has developed a relationship with the foreign press. TV and radio stations have been established and every major city in the world has a Hamas representative. Much efforts were invested in students.
Hamas' psychological warfare contains nothing new. What is surprising is the organization's ability to adapt to a new reality, especially its ability to copy Israel's methods. In the Cast Lead Operation, Israel used text messages and phone conversations. Hamas has expanded this model. It came prepared with lists of phone numbers of journalists and sent text messages. Texting is not so terrible in and of itself, but it gives the feeling that "we know about you".
They also have increased the number of good quality clips, despite various errors, and of whatsapp.
Pretending to be ISA and other sources also causes confusion.
In sum, the psychological warfare is intended to lead to heightened uncertainty and tensions in the wake of the rockets.
The strategic goals are manifold:
-Increase economic fallout, such as tourist and trade losses, empty IDF storehouses.
-Cause political fallout in the case of injuring civilians.
-Bring about a split in Israeli society, causing controversy, argument and mutual accusations with regard to the pros and cons of a land invasion.
-Raise fears of a land invasion – "we are waiting for you"
There is a straight line leading from the "disengagement" and going by Gilad Shalit and Cast Lead to Protective Edge. It consists in trying to make life unbearable for Israelis, showing them that it is impossible to live here, with the main goal being to prove that Israel cannot win against Islamic forces, that it is we, the Hamas, who dictate the agenda even though we are weak for the time being.
Written for Arutz Sheva, translated by Rochel Sylvetsky