Meet The Man Responsible For The IDF's Twitter Feed

  on November 22 2012 1:31 PM
Israeli Soldiers Near Gaza
Israeli soldiers stand near a mobile artillery unit as it fires a shell from its position outside the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters

As Hamas and Israel broker a tenuous peace, there's another war in the Jewish state that doesn't seem to be winding down: the social media war.

During the week-long conflict between Gaza and Israel, the IDF was ceaseless in its publicity campaign on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and other new media platforms.

 

On Twitter, it posted hundreds of links to YouTube videos and its own blogs, where it explained why it was taking such critical, violent action in Gaza.

 

“75% of children in Sderot, an Israeli town bombarded by rockets, suffer from PTSD,” it tweeted on Nov. 19, with an accompanying link, one of many IDF tweets that discussed how Israelis were victims of Gaza-based rocket attacks.

 

Earlier that day, among hundreds of other messages, the official IDF account offered explanatory tweets about its Gaza air strikes as part of a larger IDF public relations effort to inform the world that it wasn't attacking civilians.

 

“Targeted overnight in #Gaza: Underground rocket launchers, terror tunnels, training bases, #Hamas command posts&weapon storage facilities,” the IDF tweeted.

 

According to Tablet, the IDF began its virtual war during Operation Cast Lead, Israel's name for its 2008 Gaza offensive.

 

Explains Tablet, “In the past year, the new media desk has rapidly expanded into new terrain, from commissioning content designed for viral sharing to creating a Foursquare-style game for the IDF blog that rewards frequent visitors to the site with badges. The IDF is also posting video of its drone strikes, including footage of the assassination of [Ahmed Said Khalil] Jabari," the most senior Hamas official to be killed by Israel since Operation Cast Lead four years ago. Other video posted online included footage of Israelis taking cover during air raids and Iron Dome units successfully thwarting rockets launched from Gaza.

 

The Israeli government is identifying and disseminating talking points it feels are essential to Israelis and the world, according to Sacha Dratwa, the 26-year-old head of IDF social media. Dratwa specifically wants to cut out the middleman represented by traditional, "old news" media outlets, in an effort to give the public real-time, unmediated and unfiltered updates directly from their source.

 

“We believe people are getting information from social media platforms and we don’t want them to get it from other sources—we are the ones on the scene, and the old media are not on the scene as are the IDF," Dratwa told Tablet.

 

With almost 200,000 followers, the IDF's twitter feed has an immense reach, and its goal is to change how outsiders think of Israel. Dratwa, despite his humble persona -- he's an immigrant from Belgium who, according to his public Facebook profile, enjoys snowboarding and drinking -- shoulders most of the Israeli social media battalion's workload. Though he and his team sit behind an army of computers, they're virtually on the front lines of the war as well. 

 

Hamas does not have an official Twitter page, though the Al-Qassam Brigade--the organization's military wing--does have a private, unconfirmed Twitter profile.

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