Prof. Ron Schleifer

The writer is an Israeli expert on the topic of Information/Psychological Warfare and military-media relations. He heads the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication. His recent book on psychological warfare was published in English by Sussex Academic Press. The upcoming cease fire with Hamas is the beginning of the real war – the political one. This is a good time to assess the psychological dimension of the operation and prepare for next phase. In the recent launch of Operation Pillar of Defense, psychological warfare was playing a critical role in the conflict. taking lessons from the last major operation of Cast Lead (c. 2008), the Palestinians are using some of their best PSYOPS abilities that are essentially non-violent, yet clearly destructive. The Palestinians are adroit at using the Internet, considered their main channel. The Islamic Jihad was also able to obtain phone numbers of Israeli citizens, sending them morale-lowering text messages. Notably, this is exactly what the Israelis were doing in Operation Cast Lead, indicating the Palestinians’ ability to learn and implement IDF tactics from the last conflict outbreak. At the same time, the Israelis have hijacked Hamas television and radio stations in order to inform Palestinians what areas to avoid in the event of a planned military bombing, thus helping reduce civilian casualties. Much of what Hamas and Islamic Jihad do over the Internet involves forging clips and other lies that do not adhere to the Western maxim that PSYOPS messages must be true, or at least partially true. Besides reports on false events( our missile hit the Knesset) Hamas and Islamic Jihad also use short pseudo-documentaries exploiting the credibility of the genre to disseminate outright lies to further their cause. What groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad ultimately desire is to harm the psychological well-being of the Israeli population. The Palestinians aim to showcase the incapability of the Israeli government. They aim to burden the economic cost of the war, part of which they are already doing to great effect by launching Qassem rockets without explosive warheads. One Qassem that costs a few dollars forces the Israelis to expend $35,000-50,000 on an Iron Dome missile. In addition to outstretching Israeli military and diplomatic efforts, they provoke a response that causes minimal damage due to Israeli technology while gaining international attention and sympathy. Hamas is meanwhile gaining political status to the point where Western countries are willing to negotiate a ceasefire – not with a terrorist organization, but with what they are treating as a legitimate government. One must keep in mind that this attack is not an isolated incident – it is one event in a long succession of events. These techniques started being used mainly beginning with the First Intifada, throughout the Oslo period, and then continuing with the Second Intifada, the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, and now during Operation Pillar of Defense. The main idea is to erode Israeli cohesion, in every possible way. According to revolutionary ideology doctrine which Hamas has adopted thoroughly, civilian casualties of their own people are an acceptable price. Hamas is working according to the revolutionary principle of “yanking the chain”: if one cannot defeat the stronger enemy outright, he must degrade the enemy through a series of seemingly minor blood-lettings until, over a long period of time, the enemy has effectively lost the battle – without realizing it right away. For Hamas, this is the ideal campaign. Israel is constantly under the danger of losing its legitimacy if it causes Palestinian civilian casualties. This is why, it should also be noted, that the Israeli informational messages throughout the operation so far have tended to revolve around the Iron Dome and its effectiveness. The Palestinians have clearly learned their lessons from Operation Cast Lead and other conflicts of the past. They learned how to distribute the message and how to appeal to Israelis and foreign audiences alike. The Palestinians will then play on western and Israeli guilt – an age-old PSYOP technique. Israel is facing now a barrage of visual images of

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