The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is such a hornet’s nest that most people have (understandably) given up trying to understand it, much less work toward a solution. The fact is, there are extremists on both sides and voices of moderation are few and far between. It also doesn’t help that the ongoing conflict has such religious overtones: Jews vs. Muslims, only one faith will survive, now on pay-per-view!!!!
But no matter what you think about the larger, historic conflict between two peoples with overlapping claims about the same goddamn strip of desert, it should go without saying that war and civilian casualties suck. Right? Can we all still agree that war sucks? Because if we can’t even utter those words without controversy, we’re fucked.
So assuming that war and the destruction of lives should not be taken lightly, can we all also agree that Israel’s social media efforts throughout this latest skirmish are kind of disturbing? On Twitter, the @IDFspokesperson account has been sending out snarky little tidbits of propaganda since the airstrikes on Gaza started last week, and the Israeli Defence Forces are also making use of Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr and YouTube.
In fact, the assassination of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari, which started this latest round of attacks and counterattacks, was broadcast on YouTube and then tweeted out — “in case you missed it!”
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) November 14, 2012
Isn’t there something… off-putting about this? There’s a weird triumphalism and scalp-brandishing going on here, aided by social media tools and a brigade of illustrators and graphic artists. (Hamas has been tweeting as well, but with nowhere near the sophistication, limiting themselves to more traditional shit-talking.)
The worst part of the Israeli military’s media machine, however, is the gamification of its war blog.
IDF Ranks is an interactive game, directly implemented into all of the IDF’s social platforms allowing YOU to be a virtual part of the IDF. Every action you take — reading, commenting, liking, sharing or even just visiting — will earn you points and help you climb the ladder of IDF Ranks. Specific actions will win you beautiful badges, and one day you might even become the Chief of Staff of IDF Ranks.
Wowee, the Chief of Staff?!?! And all you have to do is disseminate the Israeli government’s propaganda? Sign me up!
The media campaign clearly isn’t meant for Israelis, for whom the Palestinian issue isn’t new or in need of aggressive infographics. No, this whole social media blitz is aimed at us, people living in Europe and North America, in order to convince us that Israel is in the right. Regardless of who’s right or wrong, or who’s committing the bigger sins in this conflict, we should all cringe a little at this glib, hashtagged trivialization of the war. As ReadWrite’s Jon Mitchell writes, “Gamification is offensive when coupon companies do it. This is a WAR.”
Now please excuse me while I try to earn my Veteran Corporal badge. I’m only two Facebook likes away.