Israel Battered in Gaza Propaganda War

Israel has taken a battering in the global propaganda battle over its war on Gaza, despite deploying all weaponry ranging from Youtube videos to Twitter blogs and an overworked spokeswoman, analysts said.

Governments have slammed the Israeli military onslaught on the Gaza Strip, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned attacks near U.N. schools that killed dozens and foreign media are angry at being kept out of the Palestinian territory.

With images of parents carrying lifeless children to overwhelmed hospitals dominating international media, angry protests have been staged in major capitals and Israeli websites have reportedly come under cyber attack.

European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told President Shimon Peres in a meeting on Tuesday that "Israel’s image is being destroyed" by its refusal to heed ceasefire appeals.

Hamas has concentrated on the Arabic media and shunned the West. Israel has launched a sophisticated public relations campaign to keep the focus on cross-border rocket attacks from Gaza that preceded the war.

Military spokeswoman Major Avital Liebovich has become an international media celebrity fending off tough questions about Israeli attacks and the mounting toll.

Israeli ambassadors have also been sent into the television battle.

The defense ministry has posted videos of Israeli air strikes on Hamas targets on Youtube, and the government has organized Facebook groups.
 
Twitter Debate

The Israeli consulate in New York this week organized a Twitter social networking debate on the merits of the war which drew more than 2,500 bloggers.

It was not conducted in the language of diplomacy, as this extract shows:

"Explore4corners: How many attacks have there been against IS in the last 6 months? How many casualties? The MSM doesn’t report that here.

"Israelconsulate: ovr 500 rockts Hit IL in the 6 mts of CF. per the last 72 hrs mre thn 300 hit IL. kiling 4 ppl & injuring hndrds."

Israel says it will not let world public opinion sway the decision whether to call a ceasefire in the conflict that has left more than 690 Palestinians dead since December 27.

According to the president’s office, Peres replied to Ferrero-Waldner: "We are not in the business of public relations or improving our image. We are fighting against terror, and we have every right to defend our citizens."
 
PR War

But Israel, which last year hired a British public relations firm that has worked with the Lebanon and Northern Ireland governments on their image, does care, experts say.

The Israelis "are the ones who have a grip on communications," said Dominique Wolton, a media specialist at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris.

"But Israel will not win the communications battle because, whatever Israel’s legitimate rights are, the unbalanced use of force and the unleashing of violence by Israel is acting against it.

"The word ‘terrorist’ is systematically linked to Palestinians."

Charles Tripp, professor of Middle East politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, told AFP: "As far as the Arab world is concerned, clearly, there is no question about who’s winning the propaganda war."

In Europe, Tripp added, "the very powerful images of what’s happening to civilians in Gaza must be having a greater impact than seeing Israeli spokesmen talking about the war on terror.

"In many ways, one of the main targets of the Israeli propaganda is Europe and the U.S., and I would have thought they’re not doing too well there."

In a BBC television interview broadcast on Wednesday, Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador to Britain, acknowledged the difficulty of the battle when the suffering of Palestinians is dominating the debate.

"In a sense, it is very hard for me but I know that our nation has to defend itself and its citizens," he said.

(Agencies via Alarabiya.net)

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