Hit by friendly fire from the IDF Spokesperson

Screenshot from Electronic Intifada - Source: Israellycool.com
Screenshot from Electronic Intifada - Source: Israellycool.com

Man down! Man down! I’ve been drawing fire for a long time from the enemy but now I have been shot in the back by the IDF Spokesperson. All of us working to improve Israel’s image have been harmed.

I don’t mind being shot at by the anti-Israel crowd: you know you’re over the target when you’re taking flack. Friendly fire, however, is distressing.

Over at the venerable Israellycool blog, my fellow bloggers and I have drawn attention, for years, to living conditions for some in Gaza. They are nothing like as bad as the “humanitarian crisis” the media love to peddle. There is a lot of debate over methods of Israel promotion, and that’s fine, we think putting out these truths is a valid technique and there’s room for it.

We have posted, since 2010, under the controversial heading of “Concentration Camp Gaza”. We did this deliberately because the anti-Israel crowd actually have the chutzpah to claim Israel is committing genocide despite the ever rising population of the people we’re supposedly murdering!

We’ve published pictures of the beautiful hotels, new malls and fully stocked supermarkets. We’ve shown brand new cars being delivered and Gaza’s Arabs enjoying a regular life. Of course there is poverty and deprivation in Gaza, but there is poverty and deprivation even among Jews in Tel Aviv and all over Israel too.

So the IDF Spokesperson tried it’s hand at this with a post entitled “What Happened to the Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza?”. It showed a series of pictures (some of which we’ve featured on Israellycool).

Unfortunately it also featured one image that is not from Gaza. And it’s easy to figure out. It shows a shopping mall bigger than anything I’ve ever seen in Israel, let alone Gaza. All you have to do is a reverse image search in Google (basic blogging techniques 101) and you’ll find it’s from a mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This is a screen shot from the Electronic Intifada (EI) website: one of the most vile purveyors of anti-Israel lies on the web. It’s particularly troubling when they’re able to write one of their damaging screeds based on the truth. As usual for the Execrable Intifada they primarily identify the picture as coming from India, but that’s a minor detail: they do point out this photo does appear to be reused many times.

Screenshot from Electronic Intifada - Source: Israellycool.com
Screenshot from Electronic Intifada – Source: Israellycool.com

While the rest of the IDF Spokesperson’s blog post is entirely justified and informative, this stupid mistake, both at the point where the post was written and then in failing to have it checked, is sloppy.

This really should be treated, internally within the unit, as a serious friendly fire incident.

Those of us who’ve worked in this field a long time have watched the IDF Spokesperson’s unit embrace social media mostly with joy and some trepidation. It’s great they can get their message out, direct, bypassing the failing and biased main stream media channels. We know AP, Reuters and the organs which disseminate their lies are broken and it’s great that growing numbers of people get their news direct from the IDF.

But it also means this unit has to up its game. It must institute strong editorial checks and make sure they can be applied quickly. Don’t lose the ability to publish quickly while waiting for senior review but that means multiple, senior, editors who can take decisions quickly.

And when they do make a mistake, don’t try to hide it (as they’re doing right now). Take the image down and put a note at the bottom of the post, acknowledging what happened and explaining the steps being taken to avoid future mistakes.

UPDATE: while I was writing this article (it was in draft for a few hours) the IDF put a clear correction at the top of the blog post and tweeted out a link to the updated blog post:

Correction: A photo previously included in this article was incorrectly sourced. It has been removed.

I can take it when blogs with no credibility whatsoever accuse me of being “the ugly, racist, homicidal dark side” of Israel advocacy or castigate me for “close ties” to the IDF and “function[ing] as an outlet for its anti-Palestinian propaganda”.

But I don’t like being shot at by my own side. IDF Spokesperson: beef up your fact checking procedures and your editorial control. You are too important to mess up.

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About the Author
Brian of London made aliyah from the UK to Israel in 2009. For many years he has blogged and broadcast about Israel, technology and other subjects. Most recently he's focused on the experience of driving an electric car every day. Brian has a scientific PhD but today owns a business in Israel.