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  You are in: Home > Middle East Studies > Psychological Warfare in the Intifada  

Psychological Warfare in the Intifada
Israeli and Palestinian Media Politics
and Military Strategies

Ron Schleifer

Ron Schleifer is a senior lecturer at the Ariel University Center in Israel and Head of the Ariel Research Center for Defence and Communications. For the past 25 years he has been researching the psychological warfare perspective of the Arab–Israeli conflict.


Psychological warfare is a touchy subject in western democratic societies. It raises the spectre of Nazism and totalitarian methods of mind control, yet provides an explanation for the spectacular success of the Palestinians in their fight against Israel, and their ability to exert political pressure on this regional power.
… This is the first book of its kind on PSYOP (psychological operations – military actions designed to influence the perceptions and attitudes of individuals, groups and foreign governments) in Middle East research. It provides a much needed in-depth analysis of the techniques used by both the Israelis and the Palestinians. The volume clarifies the rationales for psychological warfare in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict from 1948 to 1991, examines the development of concepts of offensive and defensive psychological warfare as developed by the Nazis and the Soviets, as well as US and British tactics of persuasion, and the ways the main actors have adapted these tactics to the specifics of the Intifada.
… Close attention is paid to the formulation and dissemination of Palestinian psychological themes directed at the Arab world, neutral parties and the enemy, and official Israeli (largely unsuccessful) attempts to counter them, including official government stances and directives to the Israeli Defense Forces. The Intifada, conducted under media scrutiny, resulted in a total re-examination of Israeli military strategies, which has important bearing for the future conduct of armies fighting local insurgency, most recently the US Iraq experience. This book is essential reading for all involved in Media Studies and Military Strategy.

List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations
Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction: The Intifada Phenomenon

1 Defining Political Warfare: Propaganda, Terror and Insurgency
2 PSYOP and its Implementation in the Intifada: SCAME – Source, Content, Audience, Media, Effects
3 The Palestinian Political Struggle: Ideology, Semantics, Islam, and the Social Structure of the Movement
4 Political Warfare Themes: Different Perceptions of Historical Experience
5 Foreign Media in the Territories: Palestinian Strategies
6 The Palestinian Information System: Journalism and Radio
7 The Israeli Information System: The Government Press Office and the Foreign Ministry
8 IDF Preparations for Political Warfare: Themes, Tradition and Initiatives
9 Strategy and Tactics in the Conduct of the Intifada: Tools of Dissemination
10 Lessons Learned, Initiatives Foregone: Fundamental Requirements for Political Warfare

Appendix of Documents
Sources and Bibliography

“Here is a thoughtful book concerned with the relationships among the media, the military, and policy makers. Schleifer examines the first intifada that began in 1987 and ended in 1993 when Israel granted limited authority to the Palestine National Authority. He correctly claims this to be the first book of its kind detailing how both the Israelis and the Palestinians used psychological operations (PSYOPS) ‘designed to influence the perceptions and attitudes of individuals, groups and foreign governments.’ This approach is quite different from the media and communication approaches found in most of the academic literature, such as Jim Lederman’s Battle Lines: The American Media and the Intifada (Westview Press, reprinted 1993). Among its many themes, the book contextualizes the Arab-Israeli conflict; details how both Israel and the Palestinians drew from an American PSYOPS manual and identifies the PSYOP themes used by both sides; and finally in the last chapter offers a hindsight evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of each party. Recommended.” Choice

“Ron Schleifer provides valuable insights into the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians with lessons for students of strategy and counterinsurgency applicable to current operations in the Middle East… Israeli themes were fewer in number and less novel than the Palestinian, mainly because the Israeli information officials saw the Intifida as a continuation of past hostilities. The Israelis stressed the historical context of the struggle, pointing out that Israel is a democracy with impressive achievements in culture, technology, and society. At the same time, Israeli information attacked the duplicitous, evil, and violent Palestinians as well as the world media, whose highly critical coverage of the Intifida was unprecedented in Israeli history.

Palestinian themes were more diverse and numerous. Targeting the home audience, they focused on mobilizing Palestinian society and consolidating support for the battle, which Schleifer organizes into conscription, dedication, and hate themes. Toward ‘neutral’ countries, they used themes to ‘blacken’ Israel, to call for justice, and to further ad hoc political proposals. Two kinds of themes targeted the Israeli audience, largely divided between the army and society as a whole, which was further split as to how to deal with the situation.” Defense Intelligence Journal

“In this study, Ron Schleifer examines the nature of psychological operations (PSYOPS) in the Arab–Israeli conflict and looks at how they were applied during the first Intifada (1987–1993). He explores the ways in which the Palestinians were able to use the media’s attention to disseminate psychological themes that invariably shaped opinions in Arab countries, Israel, and the rest of the world. Noting that the success of Palestinian PSYOPS during the uprising led the Israeli military to re-examine many of its strategies, Dr. Schleifer concludes that a comprehensive understanding of the efficacy of psychological warfare will be critical for all armies fighting future insurgencies.” Middle East Journal

Psychological Warfare and the Intifada is as much a discussion of military tactics and strategies as it is a study of the first Initifada. At times, especially early on, it feels as though he is using the Intifada solely as a case study of psychological warfare/operations (PSYOPS). While this might be perceived as a shortcoming or narrowness of vision, it is rather a point in his favor. His approach sheds light on an area every bit as relevant to the present, though little discussed by more traditional historians and political scientists — the role of infor¬mation, and to a lesser extent, the media, in determining the outcome of violent conflicts. His dogged study of PSYOPS leads Dr. Schleifer to conclude that the Palestinians, especially the PLO, emerged from the Intifada stronger because they knew more about Israeli and western culture than vice-versa. Such specific, relevant knowledge allowed the Palestinians to form and project a message that would better affect public opinion, which in turn acted as a massive force-multiplier.” Digest of Middle East Studies


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
September 2006
Illustrated throughout with pictures of the Intifada and facsimile documents
Hardback Price:
£55.00 / $69.50
Paperback Price:
£16.95 / $32.50

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