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                           By Dr. Ron Schleifer1

                       Translation by yonatan silverman


       It is no secret that from its founding the IDF has not invested
much effort in the area of psychological warfare, but in Operation Cast
Lead there was suddenly a refreshing change in attitude: this is the first
time in its history that the IDF launched a military operation with a
psychological warfare strategy prepared in advance and devised by a
designated unit and coordinated with the operational forces. 2 The
operational unit for psychological warfare in the IDF is The Center For
Awareness Operations (CAO) which is subordinate to the operational
and intelligence branches. The unit was founded on the ruins of the
Information Warfare Field Security wing at the end of the Second
Intifada and immediately fell into the Second Lebanon War. 3

       This article will describe the basic assumptions of the program
and its execution in the field, and to the extent possible it will evaluate
the effectiveness of the effort. It will also describe briefly the
psychological warfare counter efforts of Hamas, which were minimal at
best during the fighting. The article is based on careful examination of
the materials published for the public by both sides during the


        Psychological Warfare is a doctrine of warfare that aids the army
in achieving its objectives via non-violent persuasion. Since the First
World War psychological warfare has been used more and more, and as
the intensity of physical warfare decreases the use of psychological
warfare increases. Ironically, psychological warfare has developed an
inferior image as though its main occupation is the exploitation of lies
and deceptions, and as if it is strictly limited to disseminating paper
announcements from the air that have no influence. Here we wish to
note that nothing is farther from the truth, as we will now explain in

       Psychological warfare's main objective is transmitting information
to designated groups at the time of war in order to support the military
and political objectives of the side that is initiating the effort.
Fundamentally the doctrine of initiation is quite simple. One must
examine the war's objectives in totality, filter out from them the
psychological warfare objectives, characterize the desired target groups
(the enemy's army and its various elements, its civilians, and so on),

examine which messages will reasonably persuade the enemy – and
then go ahead and transmit them.
       Armies of the western world are beginning to acknowledge the
doctrinal importance of psychological warfare and its contribution to
victory, in particular in recent decades, in which radical Islam has
achieved political victories against the armies of the industrialized west.
Consequently there has been much effort to develop and implement the
doctrine in the armies of the USA, Great Britain, NATO and the countries
that comprise this organization.

       In order to properly analyze a psychological warfare campaign
one needs to examine its basic assumptions, the messages one
chooses to transmit, how to go about transmitting them in actuality, and
finally, one needs to evaluate their influence.

       As mentioned, paper announcements containing a few lines of
written text or some relevant illustration are unfortunately the generally
accepted image that characterizes such warfare and therefore everyone
understands these things are not persuasive, and even that
psychological warfare is a waste of resources yielding nothing. This
inaccurate concept must be eliminated and one must point out that
messages transmitted during a war fall into two categories: persuasive
messages and vital information messages. Persuasion is aimed to
change positions and it is done or should be done, long before the start
of the battles. When the first shot is fired the persuasion stage ends.
The initiator of psychological warfare then aspires to change the
conduct of the enemy's soldiers or civilians through updates on
situations or through new articles of information which their leaders
would of course prefer to keep concealed. The method that has proven
to be most practical over the last century is transmission of a short
message on a piece of paper dropped from the air – the abovementioned
paper announcements; but the truth is that every other method of
transmitting information, like messages from loudspeakers, electronic
mail or www 0.2, are also means of transmission that can be used, so
long as the enemy can receive the information during battle.

       I will demonstrate in the following that in Operation Cast Lead a
variety of methods for transmitting information were introduced.

      Operation Cast Lead – The Psychological Warfare Campaign

Objectives of the Campaign:

      From an analysis of the messages and working methods of the
CAO it emerges that the IDF's psychological warfare objectives in
Operation Cast Lead were:

         To damage Hamas's psychological warfare capability, its
          transmission channels and the credibility of its contents.

         To damage the credibility of Hamas as an organization capable
          of governing.
         To enlarge Israel's achievements as opposed to Hamas's
          failures and sow demoralization among its activists and the
          various circles of supporters surrounding it.

Target Groups:

       During the war the CAO was involved in imparting vital
information mainly to three target groups. Hamas soldiers, the circle of
civilian supporters for Hamas and the Palestinian society in Gaza.

The messages:

      For Hamas Soldiers:

      "You Who Are Dying In Battle: You Have No Chance Against The
IDF's Special Units And Its Weapons; Your Officers Have Fled And Left .
You Are Alone In The Battlefield."

      During the operation it was reported in the press that the IDF had
taken control of the enemy's tactical communications network, but it
should be noted that Hamas also broke into the IDF's communications
network. Nonetheless, one may assume that the IDF's direct
communication with Hamas soldiers during battle gave them the very
unpleasant feeling that there is nothing the enemy does not know about

To Civilians:

      The messages were mainly messages that attacked the

        "Your leaders have fled and abandoned Gaza's civilians, they
were completely wrong about Israel's response and are consequently
unable to function. Hamas exploits civilians as human shields; Hamas
steals for itself the aid designated for Gaza residents. And the
concluding message: The IDF is completely prepared to enter the Gaza

       Messages of this character were transmitted via paper
announcements, and one of them was properly called in professional
argot "inform on them". The announcement called on the residents of
the Gaza Strip to save their lives and their property and report (without
compensation) on hiding places of weapons or booby traps, and thereby
save their lives their families lives and their property. The
announcement contained a telephone number for transmitting
information and indeed this telephone number received thousands of
calls – mostly abusive. From the numerous comments from Hamas
about the calls to inform one may assume that the matter was very

troubling to the organization since they feared that those who did not
support them in Gaza would exploit the opportunity and indeed report
things to Israel. Consequently this action on Israel's part was
considered a success; and in fact this was a classic case of "inserting a
wedge", one of a hundred psychological warfare techniques. In the case
of inserting a wedge, the objective is to bring about a separation
between various elements of the population, and in this particular case
between Hamas and Palestinian society in general and thereby damage
the legitimacy of Hamas's rule.

       The message regarding the IDF's complete preparedness for a
ground invasion was aimed to undermine the feeling that Hamas
cultivated about having built a comprehensive booby trap network
against soldiers and so the population had nothing to worry about from
Israel's possibly launching a ground invasion in the Gaza Strip.

Transmission Channels:

       Traditional psychological warfare doctrine distinguishes between
two means of transmission. One is traditional media like television,
radio and the press, and the second is the alternative media, which the
side with limited resources naturally uses. The alternative media include
paper announcements, fax, graffiti and loudspeakers, among other
things. In the new media age the cards have been reshuffled and the
internet is now an arena integrating television, radio and the press,
together with electronic mail, blogs, Twitter and the like, and all this at
extremely low cost. One should also add the cellular phone which
makes everyone who owns one a broadcast station on one hand and on
the other an accessible consumer of messages. In Operation Cast Lead
the IDF exploited all transmission means to an extent unprecedented in
Israel's wars.

        Even though a hundred years have passed since armies first
exploited the massive use of printed announcements dropped from the
air into the battle field, the fact is this is still the most accessible
medium for transmitting a message during conventional warfare.
During the operation millions of printed announcements were dropped
on the Palestinians, including the announcement mentioned above, all
of which required significant effort considering the operat ion took place
in the winter. In the interests of the Israeli and foreign media whose
representatives were concentrated on one of the local hills overlooking
the Gaza Strip, they were also included in the drop off zone.

       Most of the announcements were directives relating specifically to
conduct. The IDF also transmitted humanitarian messages dealing with
such things as when and where food would be distributed, and in the
final analysis the number of drop offs and the quantity of
announcements were limited, one assumes, so as not to diminish the
dramatic effect of information falling from the sky and making it

       In the electronic arena, it seems that the method of transmitting
messages was mainly through taking control of Hamas communications
channels and its sustenance, and penetrating them, more than with
radio broadcasts which offered the option of consuming them or not.
Inasmuch as the broadcasts of the Israel Broadcasting Authority are not
received for various reasons in the Gaza Strip, the IDF broke into and
took control of the Palestinian broadcasting media and exploited them
to transmit messages of the CAO. Consequently an alternative news
edition was broadcast on radio and video clips were also broadcast on
Hamas television.

       On a tactical plane messages were broadcast on the
organization's internal communications network, SMS messages were
transmitted to the cellular phones of many residents of the Gaza Strip
and recorded messages were also sent to the home phones of Gaza
Strip residents.

Preparation of the Messages

       The character of the message and its length are dictated by the
medium in which it is transmitted. An SMS message on a cellular phone
is the shortest possible and it must therefore contain a complete idea in
3 or 4 words. In a printed announcement it is possible to include a few
short sentences, and in a radio broadcast of course much more.

       Every message transmitted to the enemy must cut across the
psychological barrier of its being a message from the enemy designated
to exert influence, and therefore, above all, it must be perceived as vital
and relevant and also elicit interest. The format that has proven to be
effective in every war in the twentieth century is news, insofar as
following the heat of battle the demand for information grows by a factor
of ten. At the same time, as mentioned above, humanitarian content also
is an effective means for eliciting the reader's interest.

        In most cases of transmitting messages to Palestinians it is
possible to distinguish an unchanging line of penetration. The message
in fact is pushed into Palestinian space and consciousness (although
this says nothing about its reception. See further "Influence of
Psychological Warfare") The printed announcements occupy the
physical space, and the SMS message also achieves a certain
penetration, perhaps because this is a widespread phenomenon to
which the consumer is accustomed after initial irritation, and this is
also the case with recorded telephone calls that reach the home phone.
But when an unexpected frequency takes control over radio broadcasts,
or television, which is considered an intimate medium – the guest in the
living room – the penetration into someone's privacy is overwhelming.
Messages in the form of news are transmitted via television including an
opening signal. And in order to increase the power of attraction the
program opens with vital information about humanitarian aid and

naturally continues with reports in a matter of fact tone about
developments in the battles in the various areas. From the style and
tone of the language it seems that the printed announcements were in
spoken Arabic, and radio and television broadcasts were in the
accepted literary language.

Hamas Psychological Warfare

       Hamas's psychological warfare was in operation mainly before the
fighting and after it, and less during the fighting itself. Before the
fighting the organization formulated its deterrent, and it was based on
the message that the Gaza Strip had been turned into a death trap of
hidden tunnels and explosive devices. 4 Hamas reserved the bulk of its
propaganda effort for the stage after the war (the Goldstone Report, for
example), through which it attained significant achievements. During the
fighting itself, Hamas's efforts in the propaganda field were limited on
account of its inferior manpower and technology, but as we shall see, it
did apply itself for the purpose of influencing the local community – the
Palestinian population – during the fighting.

        From the perspective of target groups, Hamas's order of priorities
was different from Israel's psychological warfare. Its highest priority was
the local community – Palestinian society, afterward the West, and
finally Israel. This stemmed from the gap in physical means relative to
Israel, a gap that also influenced formulation of the messages.

      Following Hamas's taking control of Gaza and the violence with
which it established its rule there, Palestinian society split into a number
of segments whose loyalty, especially in the face of Israeli pressure,
needed to be verified. There is no need to state that the CAO campaign
was aimed to prevent exactly such clarification and verification.

       The West from the perspective of the conflict in question, was
essentially a neutral target group, which is to say a target group that
included powers that were not tied directly to the conflict but whose
influence could give either side an advantage. This meant Europe and
the United States, and the objective was that they apply pressure on
Israel to withdraw from Gaza and halt the military pressure.

        As mentioned, the Israeli population was the last in Hamas's order
of priorities although its messages about injuries to innocent people
and damage to property were directed there. At the conclusion of the
fighting Hamas stepped up this propaganda campaign in order to cause
a split in Israeli society after the level of patriotism had fallen and the
average Israeli citizen was inclined to examine the influence of the war
on his own life, on the IDF and on the international arena. This Hamas
propaganda is significant for the next stage of the confrontation when it
breaks out and it is aimed to tie the hands of Israel's defense
establishment and its preparations for the future.

Hamas's Messages

       Before the operation Hamas's messages were of two kinds: 1.
cultivation of the image of the Gaza Strip as a giant death trap on one
hand (with respect to the IDF and Israeli society), and 2. the damage
from the siege and in particular the negative effect of the siege on non-
combatants (the neutral group).

       When the shelling and the ground operation began Hamas then
moved to take hold of the Palestinian society so that its political
influence there would not falter. Its messages were turned inward and
dealt mainly with national unity and Israel's offensive.

       At the conclusion of the war Hamas leaders rushed to exit their
bunkers and the battle over the effect of victory started immediately. In
Israel this was considered ridiculous, but such is not the case,
perception of victory is a matter of psychology and not necessarily
connected to physical reality in the field.

      Hamas's Means Of Transmitting Messages:

       The finest hour for media of mass technology is during war. The
hunger for information is extremely strong and therefore each side
aspires to harness the communications media to itself and its interests.
The private enterprise communications media are generally perceived
as reliable and therefore sending through messages via these media is a
main objective for each side. In order to approach the Israeli public
Hamas exploited Israel's democratic openness and fed Israeli media and
world media through the telephone (one must recall that entry to Gaza
was forbidden to journalists) 5 and through the internet. The approach to
the Israelis was mainly concerning the injustice being committed
against non-combatant Palestinian civilians. The messages were aimed
to increase the concern and the guilty feelings of the public and as
these feelings may ultimately also reach the IDF soldiers. 6

       At the beginning Hamas had in its possession a satellite
television station (Al Aksa) and a ground station (Al Kuds), newspapers,
radio stations and assorted internet web sites. 7 A small number of the
web sites are official sites that are at risk for breaches by hackers
(organized or voluntary) but while most of the Islamic sites are not
directly identified with the organization they feed off its content and
disseminate its messages. Likewise Hamas has in its possession a
public relations center which is a clearing house for its propaganda and
is headed by Pathi Hamad, a Hamas member of parliament. A number of
correspondents remained in the Gaza Strip and broadcast to the news
agencies photos of the IDF offensive. 8

      After the broadcast stations were occupied by the IDF, as
mentioned, the web sites remained, the interpersonal communications
and the broadcasts at times when the Palestinians were permitted to

broadcast without interference. (The dilemma in imposing a block or
breaking in is that the enemy will continue to broadcast on the channel
in spite of the repeated break ins.) It was impossible to deal with the
news sites that were fed by organization activists using satellite
telephones. This was because of the large number and their ease of
connectivity, which is to say blogs and social networks. The IDF derived
a number of conclusions following the war and even established a
designated unit in IDF Spokesman for the purpose of employing these
networks and providing information for them. 9

             Hamas's other communications methods were mostly
      feeble but one should note that all of this activity was undertaken
      during a military offensive that possessed a clear advantage. Yet,
      in spite of this the organization gained control of the IDF Radio
      regional frequency and caused no small communications
      upheaval. Likewise journalists reported that a balloon with printed
      announcements was flown onto the Israeli side and out flew from
      it announcements printed in Hebrew (inferior), and SMS messages
      were transmitted to cell phones in the southern region, SMS
      messages that had spelling errors that caused the Israeli public to
      disregard them.

             Rumors were one medium of which Hamas made effective
      use. Some rumors were disseminated regarding the number of
      wounded, but the IDF Spokesman has a very reliable reputation
      and no serious damage was caused following these false rumors.
      In one case Hamas did gain control of the situation and caused a
      penetration into the Israeli public. A rumor that it spread claimed
      that Gilad Shalit was wounded in a bombing. 10 This is a clear
      example that sophisticated equipment isn't needed to cause the
      enemy significant psychological damage.

Influence Of Psychological Warfare From Israel And From Hamas

       In conventional warfare it is relatively easy to assess the influence
of the steps taken against the enemy and make necessary
improvements, to reallocate to make corrections as needed. In
psychological warfare this is more difficult. On a personal level few
people will acknowledge (even to themselves) that they have been
influenced by some campaign or message, and this includes soldiers
and officers. Likewise, on account of the hostility it is not possible to
organize surveys or questionnaires as in a civilian marketing survey. So
psychological warfare is forced to find indirect routes to measure its

       The first criterion in assessing influence is whether the population
followed orders – in other words – changed their behavior. The general
impression is that there was obedience to IDF orders. Out of the millions
of printed announcements that were disseminated it is hard to assess
how many reached their targets and were read by the population, and as

mentioned above, how many watched the videos that were broadcast on
the frequency the IDF broke into on the television station, but it is easier
to check the recorded telephone conversations: in some cases the party
receiving the call just hung up the phone, and in some cases he listened
to the message. From the Palestinian complaints in blogs and on web
sites it appears there was a high percentage of people who listened to
the recorded message.

       Follow up of the Hamas messages shows that a message that
repeated itself a large number of times was that the Palestinian people
supports the Hamas government. A similar message claimed day and
night that the Israeli psychological warfare has no influence. This is an
indirect indication that Israel's psychological warfare was possibly
influential, and Hamas had to devise countermeasures.

       Likewise, from a comparison of messages it emerges that there
was a sort of indirect dialogue in which Israel is the initiator and Hamas
is on the defensive. Every time CAO issued a statement, Hamas
messages were immediately broadcast to the Palestinians for the
purpose of refuting the Israeli statements.

      In his victory speech Ismail Haniya flattered the Palestinian
people for withstanding bravely the IDF's divisions and hundreds of
psychological warfare soldiers. The CAO staff smiled at this in
happiness and sadness. In happiness for the compliment and in
sadness for the persistent gap between needs and resources. The
Hamas compliment for the IDF's psychological warfare operations can
represent a landmark in the unit's importance as it integrates further and
further into the IDF's fighting framework.


        In general, there were no surprises in the IDF campaign but the
fact is there did not need to be any surprises. Psychological warfare
operates according to fixed principles of self empowerment while
cutting the enemy down: weakening him through encouraging
desertion, falling captive, apathy and disinterest, and lowering the
morale and motivation of the army and its civilian support. This is the
general framework, there are endless details of course and much room
for creativity.

      The basic content of psychological warfare messages have
repeated themselves throughout history – if it is a matter of a
conventional army – the message will be "you don't have a chance"; if
the army is relatively weak or a guerilla movement, it transmits
messages that stress its determination and willingness to sacrifice,
along the lines of "it isn’t the tank that wins…" What changes from age
to age is mainly the means of transmitting the messages.

       In the distant past the means of transmission were shouts and
written notes. In our present information age, these means include such
developments as Twitter, beepers and the laser. In this area the IDF is
making significant first steps. The problem in our information age is that
the cost of using these media has dropped significantly and
consequently the terrorist and guerilla organizations can also use them,
and they do use them with creativity and imagination, and the themes
that come up are not held up at any transition point through a long chain
of command.

According to Hamas's reactions, the CAO deserves a standing ovation
for its performance. Its messages infiltrated into all layers of the
population, sometimes including the leadership itself and made them
very insecure. The CAO almost succeeded in creating the impression
that the organization's regime in Gaza was collapsing and this obligated
the Hamas leadership to invest much effort in re-establishing its ruling
power. No one knows if the collapse of Hamas rule was in Israel's
interests but it would appear that this was not a guiding purpose of
CAO. The unit was occupied very much in stressing Israel's
humanitarian side, although under ideal conditions this is possibly the
function of the IDF Spokesman unit, if it had the means to broadcast to
the Arab public; but after the High Court Tzoran ruling Israel lost the
ability to broadcast by radio to the Arab public and this ability has not
been returned since then. 11

       Hamas, whether deliberately or under duress, refrained in
accordance with rules of guerilla warfare from direct confrontations with
the IDF and also its psychological warfare operated on a low flame. In
terms of the physical fighting the organization concentrated on enticing
IDF soldiers into traps and attempting to kidnap soldiers. Its
psychological warfare was mainly reduced to responding to messages
of the CAO. Hamas reserved its main propaganda efforts for after the
war. In other words, the political battle field , which as Clausewitz says is
the principle battle field in the final analysis.

        Immediately after the conclusion of fighting Hamas began efforts
to create a consciousness of victory. The victory was characterized as a
victory of the spirit over substance. There was general demonization of
the Israeli enemy (Satanic killer of children) and they also stressed the
irrefutable fact that the Hamas regime was still firmly in control. The
victory speech was written in advance and was presented in public at
the first opportunity when there was already no danger to the
organization's leaders. Of course there is no relationship between
consciousness of victory as it was marketed to the Palestinian public
and the reality on the ground, and here Israel failed in its understanding
of the situation. While in Israel photos of the destruction in Gaza
symbolized the IDF's indisputable victory, for Hamas of all things this
same destruction represented its victory. The battle for "awareness"
was on a relatively small scale. It was focused on the populations of
Gaza and Judea and Samaria, and it was meant mainly for the neutral

segment, due to Hamas's perception that Israel depends for its survival
on the mercies of the West, and if the moral and political support of the
West is suspended, Israel's military and economic support will also be
suspended and Israel will collapse totally before the sword of Islam. The
Goldstone Report is an example of one link in a long chain of
psychological warfare tactics orchestrated by Hamas. This
understanding should preferably enter the military command ranks and
the ranks of politicians in Israel too.

Thinking Ahead

       As we have seen from the things that have come up there was
fundamentally nothing new in the persuasion campaign that was
conducted in Operation Cast Lead that we have not seen since the First
Intifada. The conclusion that was derived is that in anticipation of the
next confrontation the defense establishment and the IDF across the
board should conduct a simulation of the psychological warfare
campaign that will address the challenges that Hamas intends to toss
Israel's way. Just as the Infantry, Intelligence and Air Force are training
for the physical confrontation it will be most desirable also to prepare
for the persuasion battle so that Israel can achieve victory also at the
decisive stage of the political struggle.


1. Dr. Ron Schleifer is a scholar in the field of information warfare in the
School of Communications in the Ariel University Center. His book
PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE was published by Ma'arachot in 2008.

2. From the start of the war the Palestinians complained that the IDF had
taken control of Hamas television broadcasting and was broadcasting
videos in Arabic.

3. Amos Harel. "The IDF Decided To Re-establish The Psychological
Warfare Unit." Ha'aretz 25-1-2005.

4. The technique resembles very much the Iraqi psychological warfare in
the First Gulf War, on account of which the Americans deployed a force
much larger than required to execute the mission. Also in this case the
IDF. The urgent need to order IDF soldiers into harm's way is a factor
that comes from a long range perspective on future confrontations that
will take into account the burden on Israeli society such as days in
reserve service, a decrease in the society's readiness to enlist and the
economic cost in order to push back the confrontation to the extent

5. The matter of assessing the advantages and the disadvantages in this
step necessitates a separate discussion.

6. This technique was developed to a high degree of execution already
during the First Intifada.

7. www.aqsatv.ps, www.palestine-info.info

8. So for example an agency called RAMATAN

9. IDF Spokesman Will Recruit Computer Experts For Israel's Hasbara
War, 1-12-09. www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/spages/1131887.html?more=1

10. Report That Gilad Shalit Was Hurt In A Bombing 29-12-08

11. The High Court Ruling on Tzoran was a ruling of Israel's High Court
to dismantle the Voice of Israel's transmitting antennae station next to
the village of Tzoran on account of the health/radiation hazard. The
moshav Tzoran won their petition and the result was a big reduction in
Israel's radio signal reception particularly for the Voice of Israel's Arabic

Translation by yonatan silverman zalman_8@013net.net

             Editor And Publisher: Jonathan Adam Silverman
                       Balfour St. 26 Tel Aviv 65211
                             tel. 97235257215

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