Jerusalem24 – The Israeli Army’s “Awareness Operations Center” attempted to influence the support of the residents of the Strip for the resistance during the war on the Gaza Strip in 2008.
In a study published by the Israeli National Security Institute entitled “Israeli Information Campaigns in Gaza: The Digital Age as a Field of War,” the center, which was established in 2005 with the aim of managing “awareness operations”, worked during operation “Cast Lead” to weaken the popular support for Hamas among the residents of the Gaza Strip. During the operation, the main goal of the center was to create a rift between Hamas and the residents of the Gaza Strip, and prepared a campaign for that with the help of civilian advisors, which included videos and leaflets, and the center also developed capabilities to produce quick content during the war.
Among the rumors that the Awareness Operations Center broadcast to the residents of the Gaza Strip: that Hamas leaders fled and left civilians, and that Hamas is using civilians as human shields, and the center also claimed that the movement is stealing the humanitarian support provided to the Gaza Strip.
The tools the center used at the time were pamphlet drops, seizing radio and television stations, and being active on the Internet (especially in online forums that were popular in the Gaza Strip). The Israeli army’s media campaigns were mainly aimed at influencing the Palestinian people, and their perception of Hamas, and the Israeli army tried to reinforce the impression that Hamas had been hit hard. Howeer, unlike the war with Hezbollah in 2006, the Israeli military chose not to focus its psychological activities on Hamas leadership, due to the belief that personal attacks will not have a desirable effect on the population and may even mobilize popular support for Hamas leaders.
On the other hand, the Israeli army worked to prevent the radio and television broadcasts of Hamas, lest the movement’s message reach the residents of the Strip, and the National Security Council issued messages contrary to Hamas’s narrative that were broadcast on radio stations controlled by the Israeli army.
The study stated that the Israeli army used other tools, including “automatic calls”, that is, the phone calls that civilians in Gaza receive with an automatic message. For example, in the middle of the night, Gaza residents received a call saying: “This is not a dream, this is Hamas’s nightmare.” Automated communication has been a very useful tool for expanding the reach of their target audience.
As for operations “Pillar of Clouds” and “Protective Edge,” the Awareness Operations Center changed its approach, and began to mainly engage in direct psychological warfare against Hamas, not in an attempt to influence the perception of Hamas on the street in Gaza.
This change in position was largely due to doubts about its ability to undermine popular support for Hamas during the operation, according to the lessons learned from Operation Cast Lead, as the Center found it difficult to gain real momentum for any narrative that harms popular support for Hamas, in addition to the difficulty of measuring the extent of achievement. In this area, it is difficult to demonstrate actual success in achieving this goal.
It is worth noting that the study was exposed the Israeli army’s operations on awareness during the wars on Gaza from 2008 to 2014, and dealt with the organizational problems of the bodies working in the field of awareness and their targeting of different audiences. Whether the Palestinian public in general and the Palestinian resistance in particular, and the Arab public, in addition to addressing Awareness operations aimed at garnering international support and justifying the army’s operations, especially in the age of the Internet and social media platforms.