Electronic media as a weapon of political war: The Hamas strategy

Opinion: amid assertions on the essential role that journalism plays in a democracy,  transmitting live information from the battlefield may have dangerous consequences which the other side can use advantageously

Dr. Joel Fishman|Updated:
Recently the role of the foreign media has been in the news. At the beginning of April, the government of Israel temporarily shut down Al-Jazeera and briefly suspended the activity of AP, which had been providing it with live feed.
According to Communications Minister Shlomo Karchi, there was an issue of security with the live broadcast of troop deployments. Advocates for the network argued in favor of the “essential role that journalism plays in a democracy.” At the same time, transmitting live information from the battlefield may have dangerous consequences which the other side can use advantageously.
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שלמה קרעי
שלמה קרעי
Confiscated AP equipment, Shlomo Karhi
(Photo: Communication Ministry, Knesset spokesperson )
General Vo Nguyen Giap who led the forces of North Vietnam to victory manipulated Western news media in a manner that turned the freedom and vulnerability of an open democratic society to his advantage. He adeptly utilized the medium of television (with the aid of eager American helpers) in order to undermine domestic American support for the Vietnam War.
General Giap said: “In 1968 I realized that I could not defeat 500,000 American troops who were deployed in Vietnam. I could not defeat the Seventh Fleet, with its hundreds of aircraft, but I could bring pictures home to the Americans which would cause them to want to stop the war.”
In June 1989, American historian William M. Hammond published an article, “The Press in Vietnam as an Agent of Defeat.” He quoted General Westmoreland who stated in 1972 that “modern technology provided the press a means of indirectly involving the American public with the war on an almost hourly basis.” It revealed the naked uncensored truth regarding war to the American public.
In time, the cumulative pressure of anti-war protests, fed by television news from Vietnam, became a major domestic issue which destabilized the American government. In 1972, Henry Kissinger told Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin that “…For us it [Vietnam] isn’t just an international problem; it has now become a major domestic problem. We cannot permit our domestic structure to be constantly tormented by this country ten thousand miles away….”
If one looks at the larger picture, the effect of electronic media coverage is tremendously important in undermining the domestic support of one’s adversary. It represents a type of outflanking operation, and the experience of the American anti-war protests in 1968 shows that it has been formidably effective.
As we face the reality of 2024, it is easy to recognize how the enemies of Israel and the United States are using the same “indirect strategy” which the North Vietnamese employed in the sixties and early seventies. It does not require a great leap of imagination to understand how this game is played.
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הפגנה פרו-פלסטינית נגד ישראל באוניברסיטת קולומביה
הפגנה פרו-פלסטינית נגד ישראל באוניברסיטת קולומביה
Anti-Israel protesters at Colombia University
(Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images North America / AFP)
In fact, with internet and social media, it has become more sophisticated. The basic goal of the war against Israel involves divorcing it from its traditional hinterland (and the Diaspora communities), which have been among the sources of its support. In addition, Breitbart reported on May 17, that Republican Senator Ted Cruz declared that “the Biden administration must investigate reports of Communist China and Cuba directly funding and influencing radical left-wing organizations to incite anti-Israel and anti-American protests across the U.S.” Cruz noted that “the goal of such externally funded subversion campaigns is to create chaos, weaken the country, and ‘tear us apart.’”
Joel FishmanJoel FishmanPhoto: David Rubinger
In simple language, the United States, in its own right, has become a target of the same type of strategy which for years the enemies of Israel have used against its spirit of national unity and resilience which have been its strength.
Although our information is incomplete, there are clear indications that the trend toward externally funded subversion campaigns against both the United States and Israel will increase in breadth and intensity.
Dr. Joel Fishman is a historian, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Fellow and a senior researcher at the Research Department of IDSF-Habithonistim - Israel's Defense and Security Forum
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First published: 11:11, 05.25.24
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