Israeli reporters on the job.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Like many military operations in the past that ended with unexpected casualties – including last winter’s Operation Cast Lead – the IDF was caught unprepared and without an adequate response to the reports on Monday morning that some 10 activists aboard the Mavi Marmara had been killed.
As usual, instead of taking the initiative and setting the media tone, the Israeli PR machine was scrambling for damage control on Monday.
This does not mean that the IDF did not prepare. Meetings were
conducted in the weeks leading up to Monday’s operation between the IDF
Spokesman’s Office and the Foreign Ministry. The first tactic chosen
was to try and undermine the flotilla’s legitimacy and show that the
ships were organized by a radical Islamic group called IHH that was
based in Turkey and had ties with Hamas.
The government also went out of its way to prove that there was not a
humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Reporters were invited down to
the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza and shown the truckloads of food
and medical supplies that Israel transfers daily to the Strip.
But, as in the past, when hell broke loose, the government and military spokespeople could not be found.
While the initial reports of dead and wounded came out at about 5:30
a.m., it took the IDF more than four hours to respond. This is without
a doubt an improvement compared to the 2006 fiasco surrounding the IDF
air strike that hit a home in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kana, which
the military only explained over 12 hours later.
The IDF had hoped to obtain a complete media blackout and planned to
jam the signals from the Mavi Marmara
. This did not
work and the cameras on the boat successfully transmitted images
throughout most of the takeover and enabled the activists to get their
message out about the Israeli “aggression.”
Without an Israeli response – which came out later in the day and
seemingly proved that the soldiers acted in self defense – the media
was full of one-sided reports based on Al Jazeera. What Israel needs to
realize is that in today’s media world, every minute counts.