The Toughest Q’s Answered in the Briefest Tweets
The Israel Defense Forces, recognizing that success in neutralizing the Hamas movement in Gaza is as much a public relations challenge as a military one, has enlisted an arsenal of Internet tools to take their message directly to a global audience. There is a military channel on the video-sharing site YouTube where you can watch suspected Hamas sites being obliterated by ordnance; blogs that spread the message of the foreign affairs ministry; and in the newest wrinkle, a news conference conducted through the microblogging service Twitter.
"Since the definition of war has changed, the definition of public diplomacy has to change as well," said David Saranga, the head of media relations for the Israeli consulate in New York, which conducted the Twitter news conference on Tuesday. Some, including the MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, mocked the idea of a government spokesman addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in tweets barely a sentence long. "The Israeli government is trying to explain a conflict that people write books about, a conflict that newspaper writers struggle to explain in 2,000 words, in 140 characters at a time," she marveled.
Mr. Saranga said Tuesday's online dialogue, which was open for questions from anyone with a Twitter account, was "the first governmental press conference ever held on Twitter." And he made no apologies for using common text-messaging abbreviations — 2 for to, 4 for for, and r for are, and other shorthand like civ for civilian — in his answers. "I speak to every demographic in a language he understands," he said. "If someone only speaks Spanish, I speak in Spanish; if someone is using a platform like Twitter, I want to tweet."
Still, it is a long way from the courtly Abba Eban, the public face of Israel in its earliest days. For example, when he was Israel's ambassador to the United States in 1958, Mr. Eban was asked by Mike Wallace in a TV interview to assess Israel's relationship with Egypt's leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Here is how he put it: "Well, at present, Nasser's policy is one of acquiescence towards us, and there has been a relative tranquility on our frontier with him. Perhaps the memories of the Sinai expedition have had a salutary effect in causing him to avoid his previous belligerent provocations …"
What follows are some of the questions and responses on Twitter, many in text-messaging dialect.
Question from peoplesworld: 40 years of military confrontation hasn't brought security to Israel, why is this different?
Answer from israelconsulate: We hav 2 prtct R ctzens 2, only way fwd through neogtiations, & left Gaza in 05. y Hamas launch missiles not peace?
EhsanAhmad: you didn't get my point that Hammas is an elected govt and if u keep attacking them they got right to attack you
israelconsulate: if hamas's goal were 2 btr the lives of its cit. they wouldn't target IL. they would invest in edu/hlth not in bombs
explore4corners: How many attacks have there been against IS in the last 6 months? How many casualties? The MSM doesn't report that here.
israelconsulate: ovr 500 rockts Hit IL in the 6 mts of CF. per the last 72 hrs mre thn 300 hit IL. kiling 4 ppl & injuring hndrds
carrotderek: On what conditions would Israel consider a ceasefire?
israelconsulate: CF must ensure no more rockets on IL+ no arms smuggling. btw crossings for Human Aid r open and trucks are entering
backlotops: 1 side has to stop. Why continue what hasn't worked (mass arial/grnd retaliation)? Arab Peace Initiative?
israelconsulate: we R pro nego. crntly tlks r held w the PA + tlks on the 2 state soln. we talk only w/ ppl who accept R rt 2 live.
shahidkamal: Your nation has been disgraced on Twitter. This inverted Nuremberg Trial will not rescue your image.israelconsulate: the point of this was to hear what ppl say and to share our POV with fellow twitters.