[WAJ Note: Joe Truzman has become for me a must-follow on Twitter and through his GroundBrief newsletter for events happening in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. I wanted to introduce him to readers, so I asked him to write a post about who he is and how he does what he does.]

I am fascinated with the Middle East – particularly the security of the State of Israel in relation to its neighboring countries. There is always something happening of interest, whether it’s the militant groups in Gaza and West Bank, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iranian proxy militias in Syria or the Islamic State in northern Egypt. Israel is surrounded by enemies putting it in a unique situation where security-related events are constant.

This is where I provide material and analysis that you don’t see covered by international news organizations and most news related sources.

My name is Joe Truzman and I run a Twitter account and a weekly newsletter called GroundBrief. I focus on obtaining videos, pictures and other information regarding security related events.

I grew up in Canada and moved to the United States when I was 13 years old. When I was a child and into my teens, I remember flipping through the TV channels and if any news regarding Israel would pop-up, my father would immediately tell me to return to the program airing news about Israel. I would get stuck watching news about the first Intifada and everything else regarding the Middle East for hours. As the years went by, what was going on in Israel and the Middle East was always a topic at my parents house. It stuck with me as I became an adult and I began to moderately follow the news regarding Israel and the Middle East. In 2014, the Gaza war changed everything for me and I became very interested in the way Israel was fighting the militant groups in Gaza. For several years I followed anything regarding Gaza and Israel closely but never shared my thoughts and findings. I always kept it to myself and figured I was going to be informed about the news and that was it. It wasn’t until the assassination of Qassam Brigades engineer, Fadi Al-Batsh in early 2018, did I begin to share my findings on social media. The rest is pretty much history.

My goal is to bring into focus events happening on the ground backed up by analysis and interpretation to western audiences who normally don’t have access to this type of content.

Let’s be honest – when is the last time you saw a video on CNN of a grenade meant for IDF soldiers bouncing off the security fence at the Gaza border and detonating against the militants who threw it? Exactly my point. This is why I’m here – to provide content you don’t get to see with other news sources.

I remember the night I started down the path that I find myself today. It was hours after Al-Qassam Brigades engineer, Fadi Al-Batsh was assassinated in Malaysia. I received reports Al-Batsh was a Palestinian and an electrical engineer. The way he was murdered and his educational background made sense that there could be something more to the story. After doing some research, I found out a close relative of Fadi Al-Batsh – Taysir Al-Batsh, was Hamas Chief of Police and was targeted by an Israeli Air Force airstrike. Furthermore, I was able to uncover more information about Al-Batsh’s family and I published my findings on Twitter.

Living on the West Coast doesn’t exactly put me in a good position to get exclusive and up-to-date information about what’s going on in the Middle East, so I focused my efforts on developing sources online. Some of these sources are readily available for anyone to access. Others have taken many months to develop.

As the saying goes, “Information is power.” With the information I receive, I have to make sure it’s legitimate. There is a lot of misinformation out there and the only way I’ve learned to pick out what’s true and what’s false is through experience.

A great example is during conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza. At times, I am completely overwhelmed with reports of airstrikes, rocket launches and other events all coming in at the same time. I have to prioritize and check to make sure it is legitimate. There are times when it is impossible to verify if the claim is real and not misinformation. If I feel the report is exaggerated or highly unlikely, I’ll wait until more information comes in that I can verify.

When I do come across something I feel could lead somewhere, I start searching through my sources to see what I can pick up. Did I previously mention all the information I deal with is in Arabic? It definitely adds an extra degree of difficulty especially for someone who didn’t grow up speaking the language. In July, when Israel and the militant factions in Gaza were in conflict, I came across several reports from Palestinian media that I knew were entirely false or at best – misleading.

The report concerned an IAF air strike in Gaza City. Palestinians claimed Israel had bombed a playground and damaged a Mosque. The IDF claimed it was a site used by Al-Qassam Brigades for military training. When I saw video of the location of the air strike I recognized it immediately. It was the same location used by Al-Qassam Brigades during military meneuvers in the Spring. How did I know this? Al-Qassam Brigades releases professionally edited videos of what they do from time to time and they had done so when they trained at the exact site in question. I was able to put together some more information and released a report with the video of Al-Qassam Brigades training at the site the IAF bombed. Suffice to say it, the report did very well.

Interestingly enough, a few hours after I released my finding, the IDF’s Arabic Spokesperson’s Twitter account produced a similar report.

Objectivity is a very important part of the work I do. I make it a point not to allow my personal feelings to be a part of what I report. I have found this is one of the more difficult parts of the work I do. It’s a very fine line to traverse and has taken me time to figure out and understand.

I check and recheck my reports and tweets to make sure it won’t be seen as completely one-sided. From time to time, I receive messages from Israelis praising me; and from time to time, I receive messages from Palestinians praising me too – I think that’s enough to tell me I’m on the right path of objectivity.

My primary focus now is my weekly newsletter GroundBrief. I focus on subjects related to security in various countries in the Middle East. I kicked off the newsletter with an in-depth look at the March of Return in Gaza and presented evidence that it was a military operation commanded by militants from the various factions in the Gaza Strip. Other subjects I’ve covered include Al-Qaeda in Gaza, Iranian NGOs in the Palestinian Territories, and my latest investigative report uncovering militants portrayed in a Associated Press article as protestors wounded by IDF gunfire.

https://groundbrief.substack.com/p/groundbrief-associated-press-article

Here are some more examples of my research.

The thread in this tweet is quite informative. I argue against a New York Times article lacking valuable information regarding the killing of a Palestinian volunteer medic. Quite a few pictures of militants.

Here I report on militants I found active at the Gaza border during March of Return.

I will continue my work for the foreseeable future. I don’t know where it will lead me but so far the experience has been amazing.

My findings during Gaza’s March of Return were used in a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council, I was interviewed on RT and by Jewish News Service regarding Hezbollah, Gaza and Israel, my tweets used on dozens of international and Israeli news sites as well as many other examples I never imagined 9 months ago I’d be doing today.

I love doing what I do and that’s what makes this type of work so fulfilling and satisfying.

 
 
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