The 'War of the North' and the weaponization of Western media

The Western media along with social media platforms, are the soft power weapons that all these parties deploy in order to attempt to neuter Israel and prevent it from fully using its power.

IDF soldiers train in the north of Israel in preparation for any future wars with Hezbollah in Lebanon. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
IDF soldiers train in the north of Israel in preparation for any future wars with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Whether within the context of a full-scale direct war with Iran, or as an attempt to attack Israel without requiring Iran to be directly involved, a war on Israel’s northern borders with Hezbollah, Shi’ite armed groups, and perhaps the Syrian state by default, seems inevitable. The intensification of the rhetoric and actions in the confrontation between Israel, Iran, and her proxies in recent weeks brings such a conflict even closer.

Israeli military and civilian leaders have already dubbed the potential conflict the “War of the North.” Given Hezbollah’s comprehensive entrenchment throughout not only southern Lebanon, but to the east and center of the country as well, almost all of Lebanon will become a battlefield. Israel’s entire North, from the Mediterranean Sea to the eastern edges of the Golan Heights will be a war front.

With various reports of Russian forces and resources being drawn down in Syria for the benefit of the war in Ukraine, the possibility that Russia would serve as a buffer between Israel and its enemies and perhaps even weaken and reduce Iran’s role and influence in Syria, is becoming less and less likely.

In this War of the North, Israel will have to do what it chose not to do in the Second Lebanon War of 2006. Namely, make a major land incursion with overwhelming force, and with enemy forces arrayed against Israel on the Syrian side of the border as well, significant numbers of IDF ground forces could very likely have to engage in combat on Syrian territory for the first time in nearly 50 years.

The land incursion would be accompanied by absolutely massive and lethal firepower from land air and sea. IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi has repeatedly stated as much. Such firepower and decisive maneuvering combined would be necessary in order to neutralize and eliminate as much of Hezbollah and its allies’ men and material as quickly as possible, and allow for the IDF’s ground incursion to proceed quickly and effectively.

 IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi with officers from the Israeli military's cyber units (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT) IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi with officers from the Israeli military's cyber units (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

Hezbollah and Iran’s other proxies’ embedment in civilian areas and exploitation of civilian infrastructure means that the military action that Israel will be forced to take in order to defend the homeland and defeat its enemies will unavoidably affect a significant amount of collateral damage. Cyberwarfare will also play a significant role in such a war. Given Hezbollah’s exploitation of Lebanon’s telecommunications network and electrical grid, civilian use of those and other networks and services will be impacted.

This, of course, is precisely what Iran, Hezbollah, and their allies want, as it creates a false narrative and a biased view of the situation, which is in turn an already hostile (if not worse) international media utilizes to create a public outcry to stop the conflict or – as per the false narrative – stop and condemn Israel alone. This is fundamental to all of Israel’s enemies’ strategies.

The Western media especially (whose major outlets have an ideologically leftist stance for the most part), along with social media platforms, are the soft power weapons that all these parties deploy in order to attempt to neuter Israel and prevent it from using its power fully and effectively to rout the enemy. As is par for the course, in a War of the North, terrorists will attempt to bombard Israel with rockets, mortars, and now potentially suicide drones and cruise missiles, and then cynically and unabashedly proclaim desperation and fain victimhood.

THEY WILL attempt to attack, murder, maim, and kidnap Israelis from their towns, villages, and kibbutzim in the Galilee or Golan all the while demanding that the international community, especially the West, stop “Israeli aggression and war crimes.” As in the past, uncorroborated and unverified videos and images of death and destruction from what is purportedly the enemy’s civilian population will be adopted as absolute truth, and presented with selective and partial context or none at all by international media outlets. Authentic and verified videos and photos will, of course, be presented as well, but again for the most part without context or enough background information for the viewer unversed in the conflict, its participants, or its nature to understand the reality of the situation.

Israel, just as in kinetic combat, has to strike first in the war over public opinion and consciousness. Yes, its results might be pre-determined because of the world view of the majority of the establishment media especially in the West, but it is an effort that cannot be abandoned or relegated to a minimal priority and sparse resources. The virality of social media, the world’s unprecedented connectivity, and the increasing aggressive activism of many parts of Western society reminiscent of the 1960’s, requires that we engage in a comprehensive manner.

It is important but not sufficient to have senior IDF officers give briefings in Hebrew mostly to the domestic press about the severity and size of a potential conflict in the North. The same goes for the effective, but limited-in-impact tours of the northern border and Hezbollah tunnels given to foreign diplomats and journalists. While they might help the governments of those countries understand the situation, that understanding and awareness does not trickle down enough to the countries’ general populations.

What is required is more drama and gravitas for bigger bolder headlines and more coverage of the situation. As a conflict would draw closer, the Israeli government would need to move quickly and use the press much like former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu did when announcing the seizure of Iran’s nuclear archive.

A dramatic international press conference by the prime minister on the border – perhaps opposite a Hezbollah site with revelations about Hezbollah’s use of human shields – would be very effective. It would allow for a broader explanation of what Israel will have to do to defend itself and therefore make aware and better prepare global public opinion for the destruction that would be brought upon Lebanon and perhaps parts of Syria. Additionally, every major foreign leader who visits Israel should be pressed ahead of time as part of the visit to tour the northern border together with the prime minister and to give live statements and even a joint Q&A from the area.

Another possibility would be for the prime minister at the time to give exclusive one-on-one interviews with major foreign news personalities, dependent on them being conducted on the northern border and which could include a short tour with the prime minister that would serve to explain some of the threats on the ground. Such an interview would also be required to have half of its time devoted to the situation on the northern border, Iran and Hezbollah. Access in exchange for content; it is a standard model in the world of international media and geo-politics.

The State of Israel has to coordinate and set timelines for options such as these already now if it has not already. No stone should be left unturned in the war against our enemies and their allies engineering of the consciousness.

The writer is an Israeli hi-tech entrepreneur and a member of the Israel Leadership Forum. He is involved with various Israel advocacy causes including working with Christian Zionist and pro-Israel Noahide groups.