New IDF film unit to combat bad press
Yaakov Katz
Palestinian locals with news cameras have had upper hand in media war.
More than a month since the war in Lebanon ended, the IDF is in the process of analyzing its performance, not only on a combat level but also how it appeared in and dealt with the media, both in Israel and throughout the world. One conclusion by IDF Spokeswoman Brig.-Gen. Miri Regev was to establish a Combat Film and Photography Unit under which soldiers in infantry and armored platoons will be trained how to film and document military operations under combat conditions. Regev has appointed Maj. Zvika Golan, current spokesman of the Northern Command, to head the new unit. The US Army, Golan said, already works with a similar model and has a soldier in every infantry platoon armed - alongside his machine gun - with a camcorder. The history of the IDF's unit goes back six years to the beginning of the second intifada. While the IDF claimed Palestinian terrorists were using groups of stone-throwing children as cover, the Spokesperson's Office had difficulty backing up the claim without documentation of the events. The Palestinians also had the upper hand after news agencies handed out cameras to locals who filmed the IDF shooting into crowds and as a result, Golan said, severely damaging Israel's international image. At the time, there was a documentation unit that operated out of Tel Aviv, said Golan, but it was never able to get to the territories in time to film the action. In addition, the soldier cameramen were not trained as combat soldiers and it was dangerous to send them into battle to film without proper training. As a result, the Spokesperson's Office distributed cameras to combat soldiers who participated in the operations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. That, however, did not end successfully since the combat soldiers were not properly trained as cameramen and their footage was not suitable for media use. During the war, Golan, 39, served as the spokesman of the Northern Command, but in a few weeks will take up his new post as head of the Combat Film and Photography Unit. One of his first tasks will be to set up a film school to train hundreds of soldiers a year to film under combat conditions and in places - like Lebanon and Gaza - where journalists and regular cameramen are not allowed. "This is important because it could change the way we are perceived in the world," Golan said, adding that Regev was behind the initiative and that it was her decision to set up the film school following the war in Lebanon. The IDF Spokesperson's Office is undergoing additional changes with the appointment of Lt.-Col. Ariella Avraham as head of a new department to be charged with initiating positive articles about the IDF. Avraham served in the past as the spokeswoman for the navy and was replaced as head of the Media Department by Lt.-Col. Vered Pharhy, formerly with Military Intelligence.
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