Israel has been engaged in a public relations campaign since its inception. In Hebrew it is referred to as ‘Hasbara,’ meaning explanation. The primary focus of this campaign is to improve the world’s view of Israel. The Guardian reports,
Accordingly there are around 350 official Israeli online channels, covering the full range of social media. For instance, besides its well-known Twitter accounts in English, Hebrew and Arabic, the Israeli Defence Force even has its own Pinterest page, featuring photo collections with themes such as “Soldiers’ Stories” and “IDF Style”.
In 2013, the Israeli government revealed that it would also recruit “covert units” however. These would be staffed by a mixture of international supporters and domestic students, whose high intelligence, low income and familiarity with social media make them generally well suited to professional trolling. “We need a unified effort to explain why we have a legal right to be here in Israel,” the Knesset member Dov Lipman told the Jerusalem Post. “That is key to defeat the movements pushing to boycott, divest and sanction Israel.” Those who signed up would get quick access to government information, and leaders of student groups would also be awarded scholarships.
Sure enough, during the war in Gaza the following summer, a student group called Israel Under Fire emerged as one of many voices promoting the Israeli side of the story. “We counter Palestinian propaganda and explain the Israeli perspective,” the group’s leader, Yarden Ben-Yosef, said. “Social media is another place where the war goes on. This is another way to tell our story.” We do not know whether Israel Under Fire was itself one of these covert units, or whether Ben-Yosef got a scholarship. The group’s Facebook Page is still active today.
Estimated troops Low thousands.
Favourite subjects Palestinian brainwashing, friendliness of Israeli troops, justifiedness of Israeli force.