The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has confessed to engaging in “psychological warfare” against its own citizens during the 2021 military operation in Gaza, known as Guardian of the Walls. According to a report by Haaretz, the IDF’s Spokesperson’s Unit created and operated several fake social media accounts to boost public support for the operation and spread positive messages about the IDF’s achievements.
Fake accounts posted videos and images of Israeli strikes
The report revealed that the fake accounts were opened and used in the first days of the operation, which lasted from May 10 to May 21, 2021. The operation was launched after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, prompting a fierce response from the IDF. The fake accounts posted videos and images of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, accompanied by hashtags such as #Gazaregrets and #GuardianoftheWalls.
One of the fake accounts was named Moshe Vaknin, who tweeted 27 times in three hours on May 12, 2021. The account commented on posts by right-wing politicians and urged them to share the videos of the IDF’s strikes. For example, the account wrote to MK Itamar Ben Gvir, “Itamar, share this urgently so that all of Israel can see [that] #Gazaregrets,” along with a picture of a collapsed building in Gaza.
Another fake account was named Dana Lock, who opened a Facebook page on the same day. The account featured a profile picture of a young girl with an Israeli flag and posted eight videos of Israeli airstrikes, with the caption “We will not remain silent!”
IDF acknowledges ‘error’ and says it will investigate
The IDF admitted that the fake accounts were part of a “psychological warfare” campaign aimed at influencing the Israeli public opinion and increasing its morale. The IDF said that the campaign was authorized by senior officers in the Spokesperson’s Unit, but not by the chief spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman.
The IDF said that the campaign was an “error” and that it will conduct an internal investigation to prevent such incidents from happening again. The IDF also said that it will review its guidelines and procedures for using social media platforms.
The IDF’s admission sparked criticism and outrage from some politicians and journalists, who accused the army of deceiving and manipulating the public. Some also questioned the legality and ethics of the campaign, as well as its effectiveness and impact.
Psychological warfare is a common tactic in conflicts
Psychological warfare is a form of propaganda that aims to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and behavior of target audiences. It can be used to demoralize, intimidate, persuade, or deceive enemies or allies. Psychological warfare can involve various methods, such as leaflets, broadcasts, rumors, cyberattacks, or fake news.
Psychological warfare is a common tactic in conflicts, especially in asymmetric wars where one side has a clear advantage over the other. For example, during the 2006 Lebanon War, Hezbollah used psychological warfare to undermine Israel’s confidence and credibility. Hezbollah claimed that it had killed or captured many Israeli soldiers, that it had destroyed Israeli tanks and helicopters, and that it had fired rockets at Tel Aviv.
Psychological warfare can also be used against one’s own population, as in the case of the IDF’s fake accounts. The goal of such campaigns is usually to boost public morale, rally support for a cause or a leader, or suppress dissent or criticism. However, such campaigns can also backfire and damage trust and credibility.
The IDF has admitted to using fake social media accounts to influence Israeli public opinion during the 2021 military operation in Gaza. The IDF said that the campaign was an error and that it will investigate and review its guidelines. The campaign has raised questions and concerns about the legality, ethics, and effectiveness of psychological warfare.