Analysis: Israel's PR machine fails yet again

Without an early Israeli response, media was full of one-sided reports.

Israeli reporters on the job (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
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 wereconducted in the weeks leading up to Monday’s operation between the IDFSpokesman’s Office and the Foreign Ministry. The first tactic chosenwas to try and undermine the flotilla’s legitimacy and show that theships were organized by a radical Islamic group called IHH that wasbased in Turkey and had ties with Hamas.
The government also went out of its way to prove that there was not ahumanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Reporters were invited down tothe Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza and shown the truckloads of foodand 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 5:30a.m., it took the IDF more than four hours to respond. This is withouta doubt an improvement compared to the 2006 fiasco surrounding the IDFair strike that hit a home in the Lebanese village of Kafr Kana, whichthe military only explained over 12 hours later.
The IDF had hoped to obtain a complete media blackout and planned tojam the signals from the Mavi Marmara. This did notwork and the cameras on the boat successfully transmitted imagesthroughout most of the takeover and enabled the activists to get theirmessage out about the Israeli “aggression.”
Without an Israeli response – which came out later in the day andseemingly proved that the soldiers acted in self defense – the mediawas full of one-sided reports based on Al Jazeera. What Israel needs torealize is that in today’s media world, every minute counts.