|Cyberspace the new Middle East battlefield|
It is not easy killing 40 innocent children and, if not quite coming out smelling of roses, escaping with nothing more than mild condemnation from a world that seems spellbound by the unlikely new pioneers of spin, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF).
Or for anyone unfortunate enough to live in Gaza, the Israeli Attack Force.
For as fighting rages in the Gaza Strip the IDF is using the internet in a way never seen before, fighting a 'virtual war' to win over a global audience cynical about its motives and tactics during its latest spat with the militant Hamas administration.
Such is the power of the internet that the IDF has decided to be the world’s first national force to set up its own YouTube channel.
Launched at the end of the year so far more than 4,000 people have already subscribed to watch the constantly updated video footage of bombing raids from drones targeting militant strongholds. The Israeli consulate in New York has also hosted what is probably the world's first ever press conference on social messaging site Twitter.
All forcing Hamas’s web commandos to spring into action in a virtual counter attack.
Rather than shock and awe they are rely on the powerful images of broken, bloodied and twisted bodies to win over public opinion. All this has spawned a new type of soldier in the front line of the battle for hearts and minds, the computer hacker. Since the start of the conflict Arab based hackers have defaced or taken off line more than 300 pro Israeli websites.
But just as in the ground war Hamas has neither the sophisticated tactics nor the resources to compete.
Israel’s new found love for the internet as a communications medium stems largely from its disastrous invasion of the Lebanon two years ago, when its inability to get the facts of the story over, led to immediate criticism of the operation internationally.
Moving the PR battle online is just the latest in a tightening of military censorship over the past 40 years. British military planners realised after the Vietnam conflict just what damage could be done by having a free and open relationship with the media. TV images of Napalmed children did much to swing public opinion against the war and hastened the US withdrawal.
This lesson was well learned in Falklands where reporting and access to information was tightly restricted.
But this concept of military censorship under battle conditions has been taken to a new level by the IDF who have banned reporters from Gaza altogether, justifying this decision on grounds of safety. This means the world’s media relies on them for vast majority of factual information about what’s going on.
Combined with the Foreign Ministry’s decision to recruit speakers of foreign languages, in particular Arabic, Italian, Spanish, and German and the opening of a new international media broadcast outlet on the Gaza border, the Israeli government really has covered ever base to win the PR war.
The IDF’s tactics in successfully winning the media war are already being noted by the world’s military powers, bad news for free and unrestricted reporting of future conflicts, bad news indeed for the truth.