IDF spokesman lost the narrative on botched Gaza mission

“Loose lips sink ships,” and the way to counter it is with good, trustworthy information to replace the bad.

November 12, 2018 13:51
2 minute read.

Destroyed car allegedly used by Israeli special forces in Gazan city of Khan Yunis, November 12, 2018 (Palestinian Press Agency)

Destroyed car allegedly used by Israeli special forces in Gazan city of Khan Yunis, November 12, 2018 (Palestinian Press Agency)


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At about 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, Palestinian sources reported major explosions from Khan Yunis. And from that point on, Palestinian sources continued to be the ones reporting most of what happened.

Yes, the IDF almost immediately tweeted: “During IDF operational activity in the #Gaza Strip, an exchange of fire broke out. Details to follow.” But those details were slow to come.

Did the fact that a senior Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades terrorist was killed indicate a return to targeted assassinations? Was this an intelligence-gathering mission gone awry? Rumors flew on social media and on WhatsApp.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon lamented on Monday that “everyone hears a shard of information and sends messages. Not only does that not help, it hurts us... You are endangering soldiers and security forces that are in action 24 hours a day. Hold back, I’m asking you.”

But it’s not enough to ask people to hold back. “Loose lips sink ships” was a World War II era slogan; this has been a problem for a long time. And the way to counter it is with good, trustworthy information to replace the bad.

It only took the IDF about an hour to deny that a soldier had been kidnapped, which was a good start.

But it took the IDF 12 hours to say: “The special operation yesterday was not intended to kill or abduct terrorists, but to strengthen Israeli security. The force waged a heroic and very complex battle and was able to exfiltrate in its entirety.” It took the IDF 10 hours to confirm that Lt.-Col. “M” was killed and another soldier was wounded.

Meanwhile, the Qassam Brigades did a victory lap Monday morning, saying they “taught the enemy a hard lesson.”

It’s clear that the IDF has different considerations than a terrorist organization. And that’s a good thing. Families should be informed of the loss of their loved ones. Facts should be clarified to avoid spreading false information.

This is far from the first time the IDF has dropped the ball on telling the Israeli side of what happened. In May, when 64 Palestinian rioters were killed at the Gaza border in one day, the IDF had little to say by way of explaining itself. Only when a Hamas official said on television that more than 50 of those killed were actually members of the terrorist organization, were at least some questions answered satisfactorily.

That was a different situation than now, because in May, the country was bracing itself for violence, while this week’s debacle was a surprise. Plus, Sunday’s operation took place just after Israel allowed Qatar to send funds into Gaza and cease-fire negotiations were continuing. So clearly, the messaging couldn’t have been prepared in advance.

But the IDF has a massive, some may say unwieldy, operation for dealing with the press. Where was it all night?
A 12-hour wait for even just a tiny bit of information means the IDF Spokesman is just giving up the narrative to those who seek to hurt us.

Clearly something needs to change in their procedures – to get information out to the public before the misinformation gets out of control.

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