Waging #battle 140 characters at a time

In an unprecedented move, the Israel Defense Force has become the first state army in history to tweet its military campaign. On a platform that has rapidly been becoming the conduit for a huge variety of conversations – ranging from the most mundane to major international developments (think Arab Spring) – Israel announced its latest military campaign earlier yesterday, moments after taking out Hamas Military Chief Ahmed Jabari in Gaza.

Immediately upon the initial raid yesterday morning, IDF spokesperson Avital Leibovich tweeted the following:

Within minutes, the official IDF Twitter account posted:

It was not until an hour after this tweet that the IDF posted a press release on their website regarding the military campaign, dubbed “Amud Anan” or “#PillarofDefense.” In what was perhaps the most striking tweet thus far (pun intended), the IDF posted the following:

The IDF is live-tweeting and live-blogging each attack, and a search of various trending hashtags (#IDF, #Gaza, #Israel, #UNSC, #Hamas) reveals hundreds of tweets in reaction, many predictably lambasting Israel. In a campaign that is certain to impact global media and perception on an international stage, Israel is making history with its innovative use of social media.

The IDF is covering its own campaign more efficiently than any other media outlet will be able to. Alongside up-to-the-minute tweets, the IDF is live-blogging the Gaza attacks, offering more details than the 140-character Tweet limit. Those eager for the most up-to-date developments will likely be turning to the tweets sent out by the IDF, allowing news junkies the opportunity to first take a look at matters from the Israeli side before later taking into account the spin that major news outlets will place on the latest updates.

When a government takes responsibility for the way its military moves are portrayed in the media, the international audience is afforded the equivalent of a play-by-play of history in the making.

This war is literally taken to Twitter—for every rocket there are thousands of Tweets and conversations. However, besides for the trending hashtags and online responses, the IDF and Hamas are literally having it out in 140 characters at a time:

In the past, Israel has largely left the coverage of its military campaigns up to the world media, leaving the door open for skewed media portrayal and biased reports. Perhaps the bungled treatment of Israel in the international press has finally led Israel to take matters into its own hands?

The Israelis, at long last, have finally created their own PR machine. Time and time again, Israel is misrepresented and portrayed negatively in the media. Now however, the Israelis control the game. However, some social media users are unsure about how the feel about the Israeli media posting pictures of attacks. Adam Popescu, an avid Twitter user, says “I’m pro-IDF but I’m not sure about taking to Twitter and sharing videos of people being killed. No matter what their guilt is.” On the other hand, there are those who are proud that Israel is finally empowered to transmit the news without media biases. For the most part, the media simply overlooked the +12,000 rockets that have been launched at Israel over the past decade. Now it’s time for Israel to set the record straight once and for all.

The common man has also taken to sharing this war via social media. Paul Danahar @pdanahar just Tweeted: “Just took off from #Gaza in the last 30 seconds,” along with this picture:

What does this mean for the nature of warfare? Security? Secrecy? The element of surprise?

The IDF’s approach to spreading their news and updating the world on this fledgling war and Operation Pillar of Defense marks a major revolutionary moment in military communications. As Uri Friedman posited:

What does it mean for us as a society when we can follow a targeted killing in real time, and watch a video of it on YouTube hours later?

I will just add, what does it mean when the IDF and AlQassam are taking the time to actually combat one another in cyberspace and in the Twitter verse as well as on the battlefield? Time will most certainly tell.

Chana Brauser, News Editor of The YU Observer, contributed to this article

About the Author
Rachel Delia Benaim is studying at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is just trying to tell it like it is. If you enjoy my articles, coffee is always appreciated. Cheers.