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In the midst of its Gaza operations, the IDF is entering yet another conflict zone: the Internet.
The Israeli army announced yesterday the creation of its own YouTube channel, through which it will disseminate footage of precision bombing operations in the Gaza Strip, as well as aid distribution and other footage of interest to the international community.
"The blogosphere and new media are another war zone," said Foreign Press Branch head Maj. Avital Leibovich. "We have to be relevant there," she said.
Her sentiment reflects a growing awareness in the Israeli government that part of the failure of the 2006 Lebanon campaign was Israel's lack of readiness for the intense media debate surrounding its operations. Since the beginning of the Gaza air strikes, Israeli politicians have been appearing regularly on the largest international news networks to defend the IDF.
Leibovich's YouTube initiative at http://www.youtube.com/user/idfnadesk is one more piece of the new media offensive.
Some of the footage might be considered disturbing, such as one video that allegedly depicts men loading rockets onto a pickup truck, to be driven to the border and launched into Israel. The grainy, silent, black-and-white video was transmitted from a plane flying overhead. Moments after the men finish loading their cargo, they are incinerated by an air strike.
Major Leibovich was not overly concerned. "The intelligent audience watching the footage will know that people killed did not have peaceful intentions toward Israel," she said. "I don't believe they'll be disturbed."
"The important thing is to get the truth out there," she added, noting that in addition to curating the YouTube channel, her office had delivered multiple private briefings to bloggers around the world. She said that members of her department were also getting ready to start their own "vlogs," a new media term for regularly posting videos of oneself speaking one's mind in diary form.
Members of the IDF's various foreign desks intend to use these vlogs to discuss a number of aspects of the conflict, in both English and Arabic, in a personal setting that they hope will overcome the stiffness of television news.