Israel and Gaza's Pillar of Tweets: the cross-fire of 140 characters

Published November 18th, 2012 - 09:29 GMT

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@IDFSpokesperson announces war operation via Twitter
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Image 1 of 11: The tweet that launched a thousand missiles & rockets. The first we knew that this Gaza-Israel tit-for-tat was going to be modern was with the hash-tagged announcement. The Twitter war announcement by the IDF signaled in 2012, it was not only possible to break a heart by 'BBM', SMS or tweet but to break news of aerial assault via 'social' media.

IDF text message used in war of words
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Image 1 of 11: War threats, with love: As talk of a potential ground invasion flooded the wires and Twittershpere, so too did the Gaza residents get a courtesy call or at least SMS. The IDF sent out text message to Gaza mobile phones: 'The next phase is on the way' and boasted as much on their IDF Twitter account. Surprisingly, no 'xx' to be found as a closing.

Akka Palestine flag raised at full mast
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Image 1 of 11: A brave new world since those Arabs 'Sprung': Other propaganda stunts to fan the symbolic flames of war were in the off-line physical bold displays. For the first time since Israel's occupation of the Galilee in 1948, a Palestinian flag was hoisted at full mast on the Clock Tower of 'Akka. An emboldened Palestinian gesture.

Eliminated IDF poster opens eyes to the new war-game
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Image 1 of 11: War-play in a new war-game: Things hotted up on the twitterscape as tweeps banged the drums for war. The IDF posted a video of the attack that took out target, Ahmed al-Jabari, head of Hamas' military wing, along with a taunting "eliminated" poster. Qaeda's 'Most Wanted' were made into playing cards, but reality TV-like tweets is a crass first.

Ahmed al-Jabari's destroyed car used for propaganda tool
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Image 1 of 11: More hash-tags of mass destruction: #HamasBumperStickers was soon trending faster than you could say Gaza under attack. The Israeli humor drew its gas from the car-bombing Israeli habit of 'terrorist' wheels. One defender of Israel tweeted: "My car is a stairway to heaven, with a little help from #Israel #IsraelUnderFire".

 Al Qassam Brigades launch @AlqassamBrigade their PR weapon
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Image 1 of 11: @AlqassamBrigade burst onto the Twitter scene in answer to their Israeli counterpart, @IDFspokesperson (a hashtag as politically correct as war is morally wrong). The Al Qassam rejoinder to the IDF poster taunt came like a rocket: "Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves)".

Ismail Haniya with Mohammed Morsi: Friendly support
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Image 1 of 11: The brothers in arms? The mothership Muslim Brotherhood was quick to make contact with its off-shoot Palestinian Islamist political party and boost Gazan morale by extending words of support. Ismail Haniya's speech on Day 4 saw him put a brave spin on the Hamas predicament, saying that this time round, ‘We are not alone’.

Israeli reservists called in to scare Hamas
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Image 1 of 11: Scare tactics? Israel calls in 75,000 reservists as part of the IDF state 'hasbara' machine - an incredibly heavy handed contingency considering this number would never fit on the Gaza slip of land for a ground invasion. To put this into context, 'only' 10,000 were mobilised in 2008/09's operation, and Britain called up 45 K for Iraq.

Presidential tweep, Shimon Perez @PresidentPeres's propaganda
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Image 1 of 11: Boldly going where no head of state has gone before: President Shimon Peres was conducting his own hasbara campaign in parallel to the IDF official strand. @PresidentPeres was not short of re-tweets: Those who preach to us about morality should offer an alternative way to stop the rocket fire from Hamas. #israelunderfire#pillarofdefense

Twitter Hashtags for Gaza-Israel war
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Image 1 of 11: Warring words: While all eyes were on the rocket count and the death-toll, the online war-front between Gaza and Israel was soon getting more than its strip' worth of traffic and media attention. In essence it came down to a battle of the Twitter hash-tags in a clash of contesting war-labels: #Gazaunderattack versus #Israelunderfire

Twitter is the new front in Israeli-Palestinian warfare
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Image 1 of 11: Twitter thrown into the eye of the Israeli-Palestinian storm: How is the famous micro-blogger coping with this new trend in online warfare: Twitter's own rules: "Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others." have been tested. Will the social network bar either or both of the adversaries?

Propoganda is part of the war machine and has been since time immemorial - Churchill engaged in it as much as Bibi Netanyahu and his nemesis Ismail Haniya of today. Public morale, as well as combatant spirit, has to be supported to avoid despair in the face of an impressive enemy.

Yet in this latest Gaza war, hailed by the Jewish State as the Biblically derived, Operation Pillar of Cloud or Pillar of Defense, (for the more secular-minded) the propoganda has been more rampant than even the heavy-handed aerial assault. Disseminated through the internet, comes the war of words. The IDF began live-tweeting and blogging about its current military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip and before you could say Qasam Brigades, Hamas's military wing were there with their own real-time commentary.

Cranking up the rhetoric and twitter-warfare online, neither side could be further from bringing about a de-escalation in 'hasbara' terms. The cyber intimidation rages on, fulled by a retweeting mass public bigger than either of the isolated sides. As Hamas rockets add mileage to their range, finding their way to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, online taunts go further round the globe via retweets and Facebook walls.  

War of words and clash of tweets

Is social media the new weapon of mass destruction? It certainly looks that way as reports late Saturday claimed that Israel was targetting Gaza's press and media bases, striking out at the institutes of a new kind of arsenal.  

Left behind are the traditional pamphlets, poster campaigns and radio slogans of propaganda , ussurped by hashtags and tacky online taunts and You Tube-backed claims of destruction. Both sides lob bragging words to and fro, and boast their 'terror' campaigns through multimedia:  "Watch this video of an IDF pinpoint strike earlier today on a#Hamas commander's explosives-laden house in #Gaza:http://youtu.be/NB6LpbV99Pc".

Al Qassam Brigade make sure to litter their communiques with the qualifier 'weak' in reference to the enemy. They posted early on a YouTube video purportedly showing the launch of a Fajr 5 missile towards Tel Aviv for the first time.

The latest journalist media strikes in Gaza reveal the concern with combatting propaganda and narrative. As the word war escalates, new questions are met such as is 'following' either side akin to political endoresement? The IDF have inserted a disclaimer that states that 'following' does not comit tweeps to taking sides.

What do you think - which front will deterimine the victor - the Twitter-front of taunts and screen shots, or the real war of bombs and rockets?

 

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