IO 2.0 in the Middle East

Many viewers around the world were transfixed last week when news broke that the Israeli Defense Forces had attacked a flotilla of 6 ships owned and manned by the Turkish NGO, The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), killing nine people and injuring dozens. From the start, the pro-Palestinian activists had made clear that their intentions were to attempt to provoke Israel into an overreaction by trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, thereby generating international condemnation of Israel’s actions and growing awareness of the blockade of Gaza.

The geopolitical ramifications of the attack and its consequences, for Israel, Turkey, the United States, and the rest of the region, have been parsed to death. Nevertheless, the methods used by Israel and the IHH in the immediate aftermath of the attack offer lessons on IO and, as Mountain Runner likes to call it, “Now Media.”

As the New York Times explained, both the Israelis and the people on board the ships were ready for an information war: the IDF came with its own video cameras, and several journalists were embedded with the pro-Palestinian activists. Naturally, the IDF posted videos on YouTube defending its version of how events unfolded during the attacks on the ships. The videos were heavily edited and featured narrations and annotations to carefully illustrate the evidence that the video’s authors were trying to promote. The IHH was actually videocasting live on board the ships using the online video streaming service, livestream.

Unexpectedly, Israel’s use of YouTube for promoting its videos drew heavy criticism. The crisis’ audience was unsatisfied with the edited, censored videos, and called on Israel to release the full, time-stamped video so that viewers could draw their own conclusions.  The IDF tried to use YouTube’s ability to reach a large audience instantly partially backfired.  With new technologies come new expectations, and given the ease of posting video content online, viewers have placed new demands on that content.