National Information Directorate

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Microphones-2-.jpg This article is part of the Propaganda Portal project of Spinwatch.

The National Information Directorate is a unit within the Israeli Prime Minister's Office charged with co-ordinating the efforts of press bureaus across government departments.[1]

The Jerusalem Post's website described the reasons for the Directorate's formation:

Established in the wake of the Winograd Report's criticism of insufficient coordination in the media effort during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the NID's purpose is to synchronize the content and tone of Israel's message across the many organizations that carry it to the world, whether official or unofficial.[2]

Operation Cast Lead

Following the launch of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in December 2008, the Jewish Chronicle reported that the Directorate had long been prepared for the offensive:

The Directorate, which has been up and running for eight months, began planning six months ago for a Gaza operation. A forum with representatives of the press offices of the Foreign and Defence ministries, the IDF Spokesman Unit and other agencies held numerous meetings to decide on the message.
The forum held two system-wide exercises in the past two months, one aimed at foreign media and, last week, one dedicated to the Israeli press.[3]

The Directorate claimed some success in influencing perceptions of the conflict:

Unlike in previous military crises, "we have close coordination and unified messages between agencies," says Yarden Vatikai, the director of the National Information Directorate, which is seeing its first trial by fire.[4]

Historian Avi Shlaim argued that the Directorate's activities were successful but mendacious:

The core messages of this directorate to the media are that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements; that Israel's objective is the defence of its population; and that Israel's forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel's spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies.
A wide gap separates the reality of Israel's actions from the rhetoric of its spokesmen. It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It did so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men. Israel's objective is not just the defence of its population but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza by turning the people against their rulers. And far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.[5]

The Guardian's Rachel Shabi highlighted the Directorate's use of new media and social networks in the conflict:

The hasbara directive also liaises over core messages with bodies such as friendship leagues, Jewish communities, bloggers and backers using online networks. Last week the directorate started a YouTube channel showing Israeli bombings in the Gaza strip. "New media is a new war zone within the media - we are planning to be relevant there," said Leibovich.[6]

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland discussed the role of the Directorate in a January 2009 podcast, in which he noted a change in Israel's information strategy in months leading up to the conflict.

"Even here at The Guardian we have been lavished with attention by Israel," he said. "I think the Israelis have understood that the BBC and the Guardian and others actually have powerful websites that have an impact in the arena that matters most to Israel, which is American public opinion."[7]

As the conflict wore on, Rachel Shabi concluded that the Directorate's work was proving successful:

Israel's war on Gaza was the first time we saw the "hasbara" directive in action. A body set up to spin (or "explain", if you like) the country's justifications for the war, it tightly coordinated key messages and worked on so many levels – mainstream media as well as diplomatic channels, friendship leagues, YouTube, Twitter and the blogosphere – that the effect was epidemic. It got world media repeating the Israeli government's core messages practically verbatim.[8]

Operation Pillar of Defense

Operation "Pillar of Defense" (sic) against Gaza in November 2012 was accompanied by "a no less well-planned and orchestrated media operation", according to Haaretz:

The National Information Directorate in the Prime Minister's Office, the Information Ministry, the Foreign Ministry's press operation, IDF Spokesman Unit and a long list of governmental and private volunteers are working together to mold the public perception of the operation in Israel and around the world. The Hasbara directors were informed in advance to prepare for a large military offensive, though only a small handful of them were aware of the operational details. Contingency plans had already been prepared and the PR teams had carried out exercises in recent months.[9]

People

Notes

  1. Anshel Pfeffer, Israel claims success in the PR war, Jewish Chronicle, 31 December 2008.
  2. Haviv Rettig Gur, 'Coordination is putting Israel ahead in the media war', JPost.com, 30 December 2008.
  3. Anshel Pfeffer, Israel claims success in the PR war, Jewish Chronicle, 31 December 2008.
  4. Haviv Rettig Gur, 'Coordination is putting Israel ahead in the media war', JPost.com, 30 December 2008.
  5. Avi Shlaim, How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, The Guardian, 7 January 2009.
  6. Rachel Shabi, Special spin body gets media on message, says Israel, The Guardian, 2 January 2009.
  7. Media Talk: Is the British media anti-Israel?, guardian.co.uk, 9 January 2009.
  8. Rachel Shabi, Winning the Media War, Guardian.co.uk, 10 January 2009.
  9. Anshel Pfeffer, The PR policy – 'civilizing' the operation, Haaretz, 16 November 2012.