Mid-week, the Israeli Defense Forces began what is appearing to be another serious campaign against Hamas infrastructure in detail, and Gaza civilian infrastructure in general. Hamas and other militants in Gaza have responded to Israeli responses to Palestinian responses to Israeli actions or responses. So far at least 15 Palestinians and three Israelis are dead from this rapidly escalating set of confrontations.
The United Nations Security Council met Wednesday evening, resolving nothing. Egypt has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv, and Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil will be visiting Gaza, possibly today.
Since Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Israel has gained no allies. But opponents of Israeli policies in Israel, in the occupied territories of the West Bank, in Gaza, and internationally, have increased markedly, mostly after the senselessly brutal attacks upon Turkish and American civilians on the MV Mavi Marmara, which left nine dead, some brutally executed at short range after surrendering.
The IDF began the operation on twitter, putting out a lot of tweets, some of which were either answered by Hamas-connected twitter accounts, or fake Israeli ones, designed to appear as if from Hamas. Currently, a trending hashtag is a tasteless niche, #HamasBumperStickers:
Since yesterday, anonymous and other global hacking communities have been taking down Israeli government and NGO web sites. The image at the top of this article is a screenshot I took of a Mexican anonymous collective’s takedown of Advocate Israel.
The Washington Post just published an article titled Is Hamas Winning the Twitter War?
Today, Israel launched a military strike on Hamas in the Gaza Strip – and a complimentary social media campaign, which has chronicled much of the “Pillar of Defense” operation with polished video and photos. But despite the Israeli Defense Force’s calculated deployment on Twitter, Facebook and Flickr (plus a blog and game platform that awards points for “spread[ing] IDF content”), Israel might not actually be winning the Twitter war. By one metric, it’s losing 150 to one.
As the terms “Gaza” and “Hamas” trended globally, Twitter users staked out hashtags for their respective causes. On the Israeli side: #PillarofDefense, the name of the latest military operation, which appears to have been started by the IDF account. For the Palestinians, if not necessarily for Hamas: #GazaUnderAttack, #Gazzeateşaltında (Turkish for the same) and several other foreign-language derivatives. As of 5 p.m., the IDF’s tag had received 808 mentions, while the #GazaUnderAttack derivations had around 120,000.
Given the scale of Israel’s social media operation, that’s an awfully small piece of the audience. The IDF made Pillar of Defense a uniquely social-oriented operation, announcing it with a tweet rather than a traditional press conference.
Since then, the account @IDFSpokesperson has kept up a day-long stream of ultra-shareable posts, with more videos, graphics and calls for retweet than a social media best-practice class. Between videos of rocket strikes and taunts to Hamas, the IDF urged followers to repost images like their red-tinged graphic of deceased Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari, which bears the stamp “eliminated” in capital letters. Followers retweeted that photo nearly 600 times; another, bearing the caption “RT if you think #Israel has the right to defend itself,” has been shared more than 1,700 times.
Today on twitter, while more cyber battles are underway, the battle is also being fought on other fronts. Just as some thought the 2008-2009 Gaza War was partially a ploy by then-Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to gain advantage in the February 2009 Israeli parliamentary elections, so this campaign may be part of the actions being taken by Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu to leverage their advantage in the upcoming January 22nd parliamentary elections there:
Meanwhile, experts are starting to question the timing of the Israeli attack on Gaza which is not viewed as accidental. Israel will hold a general election on January 22 and conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to retaliate harshly against Hamas.
Eric Draitser, a geopolitical analyst for Stop Imperialism sees the attack as fitting in with the pre-election campaign to influence Israel’s general election.
“The timing of the attack is not a coincidence. Even though Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen as the only option, he was also pushing hard for Romney to win,” Draitser told RT. “And now this attack could be one of the ways Netanyahu is trying to exercise his own power in the country, showing that Israel is not weak and that the administration will push forward with this imperialistic agenda no matter who won the US election.”
Netanyahu’s partner in the upcoming election, his Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was quoted yesterday as saying ”Jewish state more important than democratic state. We [are] the only Jewish state so more important to be Jewish.”
Social media tools used by military, anonymous hackers reaching out to take down sites and services worldwide, cell phone zones cut off through a variety of means legal or illegal. 21st century war in a very urban setting – Gaza.
Israel is increasingly at a disadvantage diplomatically in Western Europe, and is fighting this Gaza War without Egypt being a de facto ally. Just like the last Gaza War, this one is taking place in the interim between a U.S. presidential election and the January 20th inauguration. Unlike the last one, this one is being watched closely by U.S. mainline Protestants, and by student activists on campuses around the world, amidst social and violent upheavals in Syria, Yemen and Libya, and in a world made more wary of Israel by the last Gaza campaign, the flotilla attacks, and the endless drumming for war against Iran. Global BDS is gaining more traction daily, and the Palestinian Authority is continuing to push for upgraded U.N. recognition.