- Published on Sunday, 05 August 2012 15:06
The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) has taken its public relations battle to a new level in recent times amidst a drastic shift in public opinion regarding Israel and its appalling human rights record.
The IOF have launched an online game, entitled IOF Ranks, aimed at ‘correcting misinformation’ and spreading an IOF-friendly version of political reality around the Internet.
‘Want to help fight the misinformation about Israel and the IOF online?’ the IOF website reads. ‘Well; now you can. Here at the IDF Blog you can join IOF Ranks – the ultimate virtual army.”
The virtual army is as advertised: an online army of people utilising social media to spread IOF material on the Internet.
You enter the game in the rank of ‘Green Private’ and must work your way up the ranks by ‘liking’ or ‘recommending’ IOF-approved posts on facebook or re-tweeting them. Each ‘like’ gives you a set number of points. As does a re-tweet and a facebook recommendation. A scoreboard and live stream of facebook and twitter activity creates an online community full of like-minded people rehashing the IOF version of regional events.
Combining the expansive possibilities of social media with the motivational pull of a rewards-based flash game IOF Ranks is the latest attempt win the public battle for hearts and minds, which the Israeli government is losing dramatically as more people become aware of the reality of occupation.
In the game you are a soldier (a virtual one, of course) called to duty to protect your country against the fierce assault by human rights organisations, international law, the mainstream media and ‘self-hating Jews’. Pictures of rockets with the captions ‘share this image because the mainstream media will not’ create a sense of patriotic duty in the online player as they help fight the hasbara war against the evils of the mainstream media and the ‘anti-Israel bias’ therein.
The growing awareness in the public of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians – which here is called ‘misinformation’ – has been cause for growing concern amongst Israeli politicians and public relations specialists as of late. Just this past Friday Britain’s Guardian newspaper reports that British Ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould has warned that British public support for Israel is quickly eroding and that the decline is being driven by Israel’s settlement activity and the blockade of Gaza. -
In the game the usual clichés are all present in the articles you are meant to re-post. Hamas are never referred to without the designator ‘Islamic terror group’ or similar and Palestinians are routinely either depicted as ski mask clad terrorists or not at all.
The IOF blog features posts on ‘security issues’, Gaza and ‘Judea and Samaria’, the Israeli title for the Occupied West Bank. Given that the website refers to the West Bank as ‘Judea and Samaria’ it is safe to assume that they don’t consider it to be occupied land.
Dishonest language is used continuously to describe the occupation of the West Bank and the alleged ‘security issues’ that go with it. Popular demonstrations through the West Bank villages of Bi’lin, Nabi Saleh and Ni’lin are referred to as ‘violent riots’ where IOF soldiers have to ‘gain control’ and ‘ensure the safety of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria communities.‘ Of course Judea and Samaria is the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the ‘communities’ are illegal settlements that are build upon the rubble of Palestinian villages in violation of the Geneva conventions. No evidence is given for the claim that the protests are in any way a danger to the settlers, who are often more heavily armed than the soldiers are.
This morning I decided to inquire further and sign up for an account. I spent an hour or so browsing the site and reposted a series of articles to my facebook account. My ‘points’ accumulated and before I knew it I had racked up over a thousand IOF points and have no acquired the rank of ‘Specialist Sergeant’ with an ‘anti-terror warrior’ badge and an award ‘for consistency’.
The next level up is ‘Green Staff Sergeant’ but I decided not to pursue the promotion.-
This game is the latest in a growing trend of online advocacy by the Israeli government and its fellow travller organisations Stand With US and Hasbara. Last year the Israeli Foreign Ministry teamed up with the National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) to launch a program encouraging student participation in distributing Israeli propaganda over the Internet. The program pays students $2000 for a one-year commitment of spending 5 hours online each week posting Israeli government-approved articles and commenting on ‘anti-Israel’ websites and providing pre-approved talking points.
In a document entitled ‘Students in the Struggle against Anti-Semitism on the Internet’, originally published in Hebrew but translated by news site Electronic Intifada, the NUIS state that amongst the goals of the program is to ‘to deepen and expand hasbara activities of students in the State of Israel’.
Students are able to engage in Hasbara ‘from the comfort of home’ and earn money whilst doing so.-
It is unclear how successful this turn to social networking advocacy will be though. To return to the recent report run by Guardian British Ambassador Gould’s own illustrative assessment of the shift in public opinion bears quoting in full:
"The shift was a result of Israeli government policies, Gould said, suggesting that it could not be countered or obscured by hasbara. The Hebrew word for explanation refers to efforts by the Israeli government and its supporters to promote a pro-Israel agenda and challenge what it sees as negative media coverage.
“The centre ground, the majority, the British public may not be expert, but they are not stupid and they see a stream of announcements about new building in settlements, they read stories about what's going on in the West Bank, they read about restrictions in Gaza. The substance of what's going wrong is really what's driving this," Gould said."
Just as it is the Israeli policies that are driving the media coverage discrediting traditional Israeli government mythology it is unlikely that this newest IOF misinformation campaign in the form of a social networking game will have any significant effect in shifting public opinion back towards Israel.