Want to help defend Israel? Become a virtual soldier

New digital IDF initiative takes army’s "hasbara" battle into the online world.

IDF Ranks screenshot 370 (photo credit: Screenshot)
IDF Ranks screenshot 370
(photo credit: Screenshot)
It could be the solution that millions of Jews and supporters of Israel worldwide are looking for: A chance to sign up for the Israeli army and help in the fight to defend the Jewish state – virtually.
A new initiative launched this week by the IDF Spokesman’s Office on its blog provides an online option for those cannot or do not want to physically join the army, but nevertheless want to contribute to the well-being and future of the Jewish state.
“Have you ever wanted to join the military and fight to defend Israel?” reads the introduction to “IDF Ranks,” an online game that allows participants to sign up via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and earn points by disseminating as much positive information about the army and its activities as possible.
As players earn points, they are rewarded and allowed to move up through the ranks of the IDF, starting with the first level of “Green Private” just for signing up, and moving through to “Skilled Private,” “Veteran Private,” “Specialist Private,” “Green Corporal” and onward, until they pass through 48 different levels and accumulate 1 million points.
Those who are really addicted to social media or are especially dedicated to spreading the views of the IDF can even reach the rank of Lieutenant-General. “All rise for the new Chief of Staff! You’re the commander of the Israel Defense Forces, sir. Salute!” states the text below the game’s final badge of honor.
According to the game’s rules, in order to earn points or rewards, the virtual soldiers merely have to surf the IDF’s active blog – filled with articles about Israel and the Arab world, videos and images – “like” the items, share them with their friends on Facebook or retweet them on Twitter. In the virtual world, websites and online campaigns get more publicity the more they are shared and viewed on social networks.
The game, which clearly has super hasbara (public diplomacy) potential, is a brave attempt by the army to harness the power of social media in sending messages and defending the state online.
While some individuals from the unit are extremely active on social media networks, the sheer number of anti-Israel activists online has meant that Israel is increasingly failing in combat against its critics.
The first-ever study of Israel’s social media habits – carried out in May by Google Israel, together with the School of Media Studies at the College of Management Academic Studies – showed that Israelis are highly connected digitally but less engaged in speaking out for Israel. Recent statistics show that Israel ranks only 44th on the list of global Facebook users, with about 3.5m. using the social networking site and only five percent of the population active on Twitter, a platform often used more for social interaction.
In contrast, estimates show that the number of Arab users on Facebook worldwide has already surpassed 43m., with more than 1.3m. Twitter users.
There are numerous online campaigns against Israel, especially aimed at exposing the negative actions of the IDF.
However, with Israel’s supporters worldwide growing increasingly active on social networking sites – who perhaps have more of an interest in promoting Israel’s viewpoint than their counterparts within the Jewish state – the IDF Ranks game might help the army stand a chance against its online attackers.

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