Why Israel Loses Against Enemy Propaganda Warfare

Israel has a policy of not engaging in propaganda and disinformation. Israel engages in Israeli public diplomacy, i.e. it is telling the truth from an Israeli angle. The enemy however as most combatants in armed conflicts engages systematically in propaganda and disinformation. Israel’s major mistake is therefore to not explain its policy of not engaging in propaganda and disinformation. While Israeli journalists know that Israel does not engage in propaganda and disinformation, this information policy has not been explained to foreign journalists who expect any party to an armed conflict to lie. Foreign governments have long held the same expectations on Israel due to Jerusalem not having explained its military tactics, strategy and goals well in advance of the outbreak of war. 

Simply put, non-Israelis expect any party to an armed conflict to lie as much as possible and they just do not understand that Israel has a different policy because nobody told them so. Israel never made an attempt to explain well in advance of war that it refuses to engage in propaganda and disinformation because engaging in propaganda and disinformation would put Israel’s international credibility and foreign political support on the line. Israel is no doubt strategically wise to refrain from engaging in propaganda and disinformation although there is no question that it could score many points tactically speaking were it to do so. 

The foreign media is trying to be impartial and is seeking to find a middle ground between enemy propaganda and Israeli public diplomacy. This results in international news coverage of Israel’s wars being a curious mixture of Israeli information and enemy propaganda. Foreign leaders uncritically quickly take their official positions as gleaned from international news reporting and not from expert assessments from their own military establishments. Official government criticism against Israel resonates back into the media echo chamber and is seen as confirmation by journalists that Israel is acting wrongly. 

One problem of course is the lack of non-propaganda information from the enemy side and this of course is because there is no open society there. However, the international media is relatively uncritical of enemy propaganda in naively swallowing many of its lies.

Israel must engage in a sustained information effort long before the next war to explain to foreign journalists that while Israel pushes information from an Israeli angle, Israel is firmly opposed to propaganda and disinformation. Of course, Israeli journalists already know this but their international colleagues do not because no one was assigned to tell them!

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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