Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the threat of conflict has plagued every country geographically located in that part of the Middle East. Israel has fought numerous wars against Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. The Inhabitants of Palestine, specifically the Gaza Strip have had a ceaseless conflict with the Israeli Defense Forces(IDF), who they see has an military enforcer of an oppressive government, Israel. However, the Israeli Government view all military measures taken as simply defending their sovereign right of existence. Though the conflict between Gaza and Israel is more or less the same, many changes in strategies have taken root. One of these changes made was in the psychological warfare aspect of conflict. More specifically, the use of social media as a way to spread propaganda and affect the minds of both enemy and ally, has leveled the playing field in the battle for sympathy. Both parties are able to use social media to directly spread their views and perspectives on whatever crisis is at hand. The most current conflict to have taken place was on November 14, 2012 when Israel killed a top Hamas leader. Hamas is the governing body of the Gaza Strip, a party that is labeled as a terrorist Organization by for the Israeli and American governments. The military wing of Hamas is called the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. After the IDF strike against Hamas Leader Ahmad Jabari, al-Qassam retaliated with a barrage of rocket strikes against Israel.
The interesting aspect of this conflict was not only the physical strikes between both parties, but the Twitter clashes they both shared. Here are some of the tweets by the Israeli Defense forces and the al-Qassam Brigades (HAMAS):
But the twittersphere concerning this conflict extended beyond the respective military twitter accounts. Palestinian university students used their skills in foreign languages to tweet in English, French and Hebrew… in addition to Arabic. Sentiment for the Palestinians skyrocketed after numerous tweets involving life during the siege; many included horrific photos of children injured or killed due to collateral damage by Israeli drone strike. The hardest part about that is the fact that Israel’s missile defense system prevented any serious damage by al-Qassam rocket fire, so the use of horrific images to show the terrorizing nature of Hamas is severely limited. Instead, Israel depends on the informing the public of successful kills of top Hamas leaders, giving them a profile showcasing the terrorist acts committed by the deceased.
As the terms “Gaza” and “Hamas” trended globally, hash-tags for each sides cause were created: #PillarofDefense, the name of the latest military operation for the Israelis.For the Palestinians, #GazaUnderAttack, #Gazzeateşaltında (Turkish for the same) and several other foreign-language derivatives. By 5 p.m. of the first day of the strikes, the IDF’s tag had received 808 mentions, while the #GazaUnderAttack derivations had around 120,000.
So even though the military might of Hamas is extremely weak compared to Israel, it would be ignorant and stupid to overlook the potential power Hamas holds using social media to garner support internationally. Though Israel has effectively held a blockade of Gaza since 2008, there is no stopping the exportation of propaganda from inhabitants within this small strip of land.