Against the backdrop of widespread international criticism and muted senior official comment regarding Israel’s actions in the Free Gaza flotilla raid, the IDF and some ministries, as well as individual volunteers, turned to social media to counter bad publicity over the incident. While IDF YouTube videos apparently succeeded in attracting attention to Israel’s message, the government’s overall social networking effort appears to have been hastily and clumsily organized compared to a more effective effort at the time of the Gaza incursion from December 2008 to January 2009. Several prominent commentators rebuked the government for what they perceived as a tardy and unprofessional public diplomacy campaign during the incident.
This case-study deals with a strategic political strike against the State of Israel that was planned without interruption since February 2009 and materialized on May 31, 2010. Known as the Gaza Flotilla, this effort exceeded the expectations of its organizers in causing tangible and significant damage to Israel. Planning of the Gaza Flotilla was carried out over the internet and in public conferences by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) primarily operating from major cities of countries friendly to Israel, including London, Dublin or San Francisco. In the broader context, the Gaza Flotilla was just the tip of the iceberg. It is one incident out of many in a campaign entitled ‘Lifeline to Gaza’ designed to break the ‘siege’ of Gaza. The campaign itself is one of several being waged against Israel. Others include the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement, the ‘lawfare’ strategy, and the Durban conferences.
On April 28th, the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish IHH organization, announced that it intended to sail a flotilla to the Gaza Strip on May 24th. This date was later delayed until the end of May. The stated goal of the flotilla, dubbed “The Freedom Flotilla”, is to bypass existing humanitarian aid channels and to make port in the Gaza Strip, despite Israeli maritime restrictions which exist in the region. This is the fourth flotilla launched by the organization.