Book Review: Psychological Warfare in Arab Israeli Conflict

‘Psychological warfare in Arab Israeli conflict’ is a scholarly work of Ron Schleifer. He has entailed a deep analysis of psychological warfare in the context of Arab Israeli conflict.

Introduction

The book examines the Arab and Israeli efforts to gain the sympathies of the world; while, tracing back their struggles from the British mandate of Palestine to the Mavi Marmara affairs in 2010. The author has also highlighted the successes and failures achieved during the conflict.

Schleifer characterized psychological warfare as a non-violent and nonmilitary means to achieve military goals. Stating that it has been implied in all lower-intensity conflicts to total war. The rising influence of media has increased the role of psychological warfare in policymaking, both in times of war and peace.

Basic Terms in Psychological Warfare

Ron Schleifer starts his book with basic terminologies and principles of psychological warfare. The terminologies of propaganda, diplomacy and psychological operations are mainly analyzed through particular connotations; while keeping in view the historical, social and political context i.e. Nazism. Schleifer states that the terminologies involve the social construction of reality; in which, any term can provoke misperceptions and hostility, while the other may evoke an image of tyranny.

While discussing the theoretical conceptualizations, Schleifer has discussed the principles of a target audience, message and means of delivery. These three elements attain a significant role in psychological warfare. According to Schleifer, to successfully wage psychological war, political, social identities, perceptions, and communications hold a significant role.

Psychological Warfare Against Britain

After explaining the theoretical conceptualization, the author also explained the evolution of terminologies in the 20th century. Schleifer chronologically traced the roots of Israeli’s propaganda to manipulate the international opinion against Great Britain’s anti-immigration policies after World War II. It mainly overviews the Yishuv’s psychological war during; the Arab Israeli war in 1948-82, the Israeli Lebanon war during 1985-2000, the First and Second Intifada. Yishuv, David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and Avraham Stern successfully combined the persuasive tactics, military activities; coupled with, the strong knowledge of the British and Arab cultures powerfully impacted the targeted audience.

Psychological Warfare During Intifadas

Schleifer argues about the themes, justifications, argumentations, and emotional elements which characterized the Intifada. Some themes and argumentations were associated with a particular group. For example, the theme depicting that Israel is violating International Law was prominent among the Palestinians. However, the Israeli commentators also advocated the same theme for the Palestinians. Hence, during ‘psychological war’ there tends to exist the overlapping of some themes. This illustration can be seen in the speeches of Netanyahu and Mehmood Abbas, in which, some common motives and social representations characterized the discourse of the involved groups in the conflict.

Planning of Psychological War

The author has distinguished between the Palestinian and Israeli way of psychological war after the breakdown of the political process in 1999. Israel main actions included Karine-A in which it involved state of the art intelligence, Aerial activity by deploying gunship helicopters, utilizing the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) during Operation Desert Shield, and exploiting the captured documents.

Palestinians mainly utilized the means of dissemination by establishing an independent radio station named Voice of Palestine and Newspapers called ‘Al-Hayat Al-Jadida’ and ‘Al-Ayam’. Moreover, Palestinians used internet sources and symbols to project the centrality of their theme. Furthermore, Palestinians also used other effective ways of psychological techniques by firing on the Jerusalem Gilo’s neighbourhood, suicide bombing, firing Qassam rockets on the Negev and shooting the settler’s vehicles.

Mavi-Marmara Affair

In the concluding chapter, Schleifer has entailed a mesmerizing case study of the Mavi Marmara affairs. Mavi Marmara affair is a clear illustration of ‘information warfare’, in which, all the elements of psychological operations, network operations and electronic warfare are included. The deployment of informational elements in Mavi Marmara affairs shows the relevance of psychological warfare in the contemporary era.

Critical Analysis

The book entails a comprehensive analysis of the Arab Israeli conflict and the accounts of psychological warfare. However, the book lacks the theoretical contribution to the existing literature as the argument does not position itself in any theoretical framework. Nonetheless, the book provides valuable comprehension of the decade long Arab Israeli conflict and geopolitical struggles in the Middle East. Despite the theoretical deficiency, the book provides a rich insight for scholars and policymakers interested in Arab Israel conflict.

Conclusion

Ron Schleifer’s masterpiece states that ‘psychological war’ is a flexible tool for strategic planners to achieve their goals. The weaker sides use psychological war as a force multiplier. This provides greater flexibility in adapting and implementing favourable ideas. Moreover, military-media relations are also a significant element of psychological operations. To pursue goals, both sides in the Arab Israeli conflict employed psychological strategies. Therefore, the book succeeds to entail a deep analysis of the Arab Israeli conflict and conceptualized the art of psychological warfare.

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