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Israel and Hamas clash on social media

The lethal military confrontation between Israel and Hamas is being mirrored in a bitter clash on the battlefield of social media.

Each side has taken to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to denounce the other, and to present accounts that are at best partial and often blatantly distorted.

The propaganda war between Israel and the Palestinians is not new, but this battle-round is being fought with unprecedented ferocity. And like the asymmetry in the military conflict, the strength and resources of the Israel social media troops outweigh those of Hamas and other Palestinian organisations.

The Israel Defence Forces has an official Twitter account (@IDFspokesperson) in English, with 2,92,000 followers, providing dozens of updates every day on military activities plus graphics, photographs and video. Apart from data on air strikes and rocket launches, it also comments on Hamas’s motives and actions, and posts “infographics”, such as one purporting to show how Hamas uses Palestinian homes as military command centres and weapon storage facilities.

The IDF is also active on YouTube and Facebook, and Israeli government ministries, officials and embassies have Twitter accounts.

In recent years Israel has recruited hundreds of students to assist in its hasbara, or public diplomacy campaign. These individuals — some of whom are paid — act openly and covertly, many engaging in below-the-line online discussion threads to promote Israel’s interests.

On the other side of the conflict, Hamas and other Palestinian organisations have used social media in the propaganda war. Hamas’s military wing, al-Qassam, has increased its Twitter activity, posting in Arabic, English and Hebrew and using graphic and distressing pictures of injured children, funerals and the destruction of homes. It has 1,1,900 followers for its English posts (@qassamfeed). It uses language such as “genocidal aggression”, “resistance” and “martyrs”, which is part of the daily discourse among Palestinians.

Hamas has also hacked Israeli television channels to warn Israelis about its military intentions. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2014

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2020 5:37:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/israel-and-hamas-clash-on-social-media/article6225966.ece

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