The Assault Weapon of the Israeli Army's Spokesperson's Unit

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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IDF Spokesperson Ran Kochav.
IDF Spokesperson Ran Kochav.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

With all due respect to “multidimensional,” “integrational,” “variability” and other words in Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi’s new lingo, it seems the most suitable term to describe the Israel Defense Forces’ strange ties with G., the operator of the Abu Ali Express news channel on Telegram, is “temporary”; that is, an abbreviation of temporary insanity.

G. won the status of an initial because he’s a secret agent in the “war on consciousness” on social media. The IDF pays him for consulting during this so-called war, and, at the same time, as if there were no connection, his channel serves as a platform for spreading information or disinformation on the army’s operations and the Arabs in general, as Haaretz’s Yaniv Kubovich reported Wednesday.

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Not to neglect the “enemy within” – a key player in the “war on consciousness” – the channel also smears mainstream military reporters (Almog Boker of Channel 13 News, Amir Bohbot of Walla, Nir Dvori of Channel 12 News), portraying them as Hamas spokesmen. Even if you thought the three were the closest thing to the army spokesman after the late Roni Daniel, this won’t stop G. and the IDF from delegitimizing them in order to conquer your consciousness.

Even the loyalty of former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, now finance minister, was cast into doubt and painted as pro-Hamas, too.

So get this: The IDF hires war-consulting services from a person who operates a news channel with millions of views, who libels a defense minister five minutes after he resigns and accuses him of playing into Hamas’ hands. But of course, we mustn’t conclude that the IDF paid him to besmirch Lieberman. What are we, anti-vaxxers?

It’s a done deal that the IDF has shifted from defensive to offensive cyberwarfare. But under Kochavi, we’re witnessing a similar process in spokesmanship. The IDF spokesman has long stopped focusing on providing information, damage control and improving image, and now serves as a combat unit. In G.’s case, it’s war by the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit by proxy.

This isn’t the first operation of “the unit.” During the fighting with Gaza in May, it deceived (according to foreign reports) the foreign media by telling it a ground offensive was underway. The deception was part of psychological operations (that failed): Hamas was supposed to read online that an invasion was underway and have its fighters flee the tunnels and die in the air force’s bombing. For all intents and purposes, the spokesperson’s unit worked as a covert assault squad, using its services as intelligence weapons and the foreign reporters as involuntary IDF agents.

It’s hard to believe anyone bought the explanation by Jonathan Conricus, the IDF’s international spokesman and social media chief, that it was “a human error for which I take full responsibility.” Human error? Responsibility? After his discharge from the army, with the training he acquired in the spokesperson’s unit, Conricus can open a brothel for words.

In 2019 the IDF also used the unit to mislead the enemy. Hezbollah fired a missile at a military vehicle on the northern border and the IDF carried out a deception operation: It evacuated two bandaged soldiers in a helicopter to the Rambam hospital in Haifa. To deceive Hezbollah, the spokesperson’s unit used Rambam and the Israeli journalists who saw two bandaged soldiers being taken away on stretchers. They let the Israeli public believe that those soldiers had been wounded, and the hell with everyone’s mothers.

The unit waited two hours before releasing a statement that there were no casualties. Sometimes an ambulance is just an ambulance. And sometimes it’s not. When the Arabs use ambulances and hospitals in the fighting, they’re described as barbarians who breach humanity. When we do it we’re just thinking out of the box.

The IDF spokesman’s denial of using G.’s news channel as an assault weapon can be framed and hung on the wall, alongside the rest of the IDF’s values, in the word brothel that will open in the future in the name of Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.

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