“Computers and keyboards are the weapons, Facebook and Twitter are the battlefields. It is there that we fight, each and every day.” The fighting words come from First Lieutenant Sasha Dratwa, 25, who heads IDF’s elite “new media” unit. Dratwa, who replaced Lt. Aliza Landes, was interviewed by Jonatan Urich in the IDF’s website.
Dratwa was born in Belgium and immigrated to Israel at the age of 18 after completing high school. He served in the Nahal Brigade and in a technological unit. After his discharge, Dratwa studied interactive communications at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya. During Operation Cast Lead, Dratwa found himself running the first civilian war room in Israel’s history, conducting a real-time public relations campaign to disseminate justifications for the IDF’s activities.
Dratwa explained that new media work in the IDF is based on the understanding of tools that bypass the traditional media, with high-quality and available content, and openness to web surfers from around the world, including the existence of a genuine, honest dialogue with them.
“The tools are infinite,” Dratwa told the IDF Website. “The question is not whether we should be there but how we should be there. I came to the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit mainly to make noise. I want the world to see the reality of the IDF, through channels on which it is not used to getting that. We are going to surprise visitors from around the world who will be able to browse their personal computer and see an IDF that is different from what they view on their television screens in their family room.”
Dratwa came in with a long list of precise tasks that he wants to adopt and implement immediately.
“We need to use tablets and smart phones in order to immediately reach the general public,” Dratwa said. “We don’t have time for a long chain of approvals, we have to strike while the iron is hot – to be determined, fast and focused.”
Dratwa said that he intends to show, already in the coming months, the IDF’s face “as the world has never seen it before.” As part of this, he is already promoting new media work in French and Arabic, along with strengthening and improving work in English. And what next? Twitter in Arabic and the massive entry of the IDF into new media work in fluent Hebrew – because the Israeli population apparently also needs to be strengthened.
Dratwa is not alone and these ideas don’t only remain on paper. He heads a group of troops consisting mostly of soldiers doing their regular service, who come from all over the world with a rich professional background in the internet and new media.
“Every one of my soldiers understands the meaning of the work, the range of opportunities facing us and the importance of demonstrating our justness,” Dratwa said. “We are fighting in the field of delegitimization, which is no less significant than armored or artillery battles.”
“Justifying the IDF’s activities and Israel’s public relations efforts are significant challenges that are at the top of the IDF’s priorities,” Dratwa said. “We are receiving a significant investment of means and resources, as well as personnel, but also mainly the determination and dedication of the soldiers.”