Between Israel And Hamas, The War Escalates On Twitter As Well As On The Ground - Social Songbird

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Between Israel And Hamas, The War Escalates On Twitter As Well As On The Ground

Two Sides Battle Online For Public Support


Since President Johnson coined the phrase ‘hearts and minds’ in reference to the effort to earn the support of the Vietnamese people during the United State’s military incursions there, warring forces have been acutely aware of the need to engage enemy forces not only on the battlefield but also in the arena of public opinion. In the rapidly evolving world of social media such work is performed not only by official representatives but by the legions of opinionated citizens from around the world seeking to lend their voice to one side or another of a conflict – particularly one as emotionally fraught as that between Israel and Palestine.

The hashtag  #GazaUnderAttack has been trending on Twitter ever since attacks escalated between the two territories, and with Israel’s recent ground invasion of the Gaza strip use of social media by residents to keep track of both troop movements and the civilian cost of the conflict has grown as well. It has also been pressed into use to link together those who oppose Israel’s actions across the world, appearing on banners at anti-war demonstrations from London to Sydney.

The lack of accountability of these online commentators is, as always, a difficult issue. The Independent reports that ‘Analysis by Abdirahim Saeed of BBC Arabic found that some of the pictures of violence circulated on the #GazaUnderAttack thread were recycled images from as long ago as 2007’ while The New York Times notes that ‘there are [now] 40 people in the interactive unit of the Israel Defence Forces, including videographers, animators, graphic artists and computer programmers.’ 

While Gaza may have the popular support on social media#GazaUnderAttack has been used in almost four million Twitter posts, compared with fewer than 200,000 for #IsraelUnderFirethe institutional strength behind the Israeli assault is seen not only in the weaponry on the ground but also in the coherence and sophistication of their online campaign.

Earlier this week the Israeli government was seen to be paying to promote tweets from the official account of the Prime Minister of Israel supporting the escalation of the conflict against Hamas, as Al Jazeera reports that ‘spending money on tweets to shape global perceptions may be the next frontier for [efforts to build public support for military action].’ Likewise The Guardian reports that ‘In recent years Israel has recruited hundreds of students to assist in its hasbara, or public diplomacy campaign, [who] act openly and covertly, many engaging in below-the-line online discussion threads to promote Israel’s interests.’ 

What emerges from this is an image of two very different social media strategies: one popular, dispersed, enthusiastic but poorly funded, and the other a highly centralised and efficient organisation backed by a wealthy state. While the outcome of the ground offensive seems to many to be a foregone conclusion, considering the vast superiority of Israel’s military, the battle for public opinion is not won with soldiers and guns. Hearts and minds were difficult enough to come by in South-East Asia in an era when only the newspapers and television had a public voice; when everyone with a computer or a phone can make their opinions heard by the world the management of public sympathy by interested agencies becomes a far more complex task.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Between Israel And Hamas, The War Escalates On Twitter As Well As On The Ground Reviewed by Anonymous on Monday, July 21, 2014 Rating: 5
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