Israeli forces have distributed candy bearing political messages against Hamas in cities throughout the West Bank, Palestinian media reported on Sunday.
According to Ma’an news agency, on the first day of Ramadan Palestinians in Ramallah and Nablus were surprised to discover lollipops with a note attached to them in Arabic reading “Happy Ramadan, a bit of sweetness after Hamas made life bitter in the West Bank.” An erroneous use of the Arabic word for “bitter” caused Palestinians to assume with near-certainty that the source of the message was Israeli rather than Palestinian.
“After the airplanes and tanks, Israel uses sweets in its war against Hamas,” read Ma’an’s headline.
Safa, a news Agency associated with Hamas, reported that the IDF distributed matchboxes four days ago wrapped in a piece of paper reading “Warning! Hamas is igniting the West Bank.”
This is not the first time the IDF has used psychological warfare in its fight against Hamas. During Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2008-2009, the IDF’s psychological warfare unit (known by its Hebrew acronym Malat) dropped hundreds of pamphlets disparaging Hamas’s combat capabilities and took over Hamas media to broadcast Israeli messages.
“Your death is near; you have no chance against the IDF’s special units and its weapons. Your leaders have fled and abandoned you alone in the field,” read the Arabic message in the pamphlets.
‘I think this reflects Western thinking in an Eastern society,’ said the officer
The IDF would not confirm its involvement in the distribution of the objects, but a retired officer who was involved in establishing a psychological warfare committee in the West Bank during the First Intifada in 1987 was skeptical of the efficacy of such simplistic messages as the ones printed on the lollipops and the matchboxes.
“I think this reflects Western thinking in an Eastern society,” said the officer, who spoke to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity out of loyalty to his former position. “No doubt this captures headlines. Perhaps it gives the Israelis a greater sense of effective psychological warfare. I prefer different methods.”
Those “different methods,” he said, could include Israeli messages disseminated through pamphlets and online.
Meanwhile, Sameeh Hammoudah, a political science professor at Bir Zeit University, said that the Israeli lollipop messages may backfire.
“This is nonsense; it will bring no benefit to Israel,” Hammoudah told The Times of Israel. “On the contrary, it will cause a reaction of sympathy toward Hamas. Palestinians are angry with Israeli policies and will side with those who stand against Israel.”