Social networks provide a deadly new front between Palestinians and Israelis

clashes between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian protestors

File photo of clashes between Israeli occupation forces and Palestinian protestors

Palestinian new media activists now believe that they are leading a battle for the status quo with Israel in the current intifada. In fact, Facebook has closed many of their accounts, and has even gone so far as to say that many of their messages are ripe for prosecution.

Since the outbreak of the Jerusalem Intifada at the beginning of October last year, it has been characterised by confrontations in the occupied West Bank, a number of resistance operations against the occupation and Israeli military incursions, as well as disagreements erupting on social networks. The Palestinians have led a campaign to encourage news outlets to relay tweets and posts specific to the intifada, glorifying acts of self-defence in the face of Israeli aggression. Some of these include shootings and stabbings. Videos posted on Facebook and Twitter have reached an audience of millions. Palestinians have taken to the virtual world to publish news about the uprising, with some arguing that it is this publicity which motivates the youth to continue to resist the occupation.

In this online war, Twitter in particular has experienced a high volume of daily traffic intended to put pressure on Israel and its supporters around the world. When videos are posted such as that showing Israeli occupation forces treating Palestinian youngster Ahmad Manasrah with extreme violence, they attract hashtags from both sides, each seeking to push its own viewpoint on the world.

Israel has not remained silent in the face of Palestinian efforts on social media; it has shut down several Facebook pages and reported others to the company’s administrators, especially those pertaining to martyrs. According to the Israeli government, such sites are attempts to incite violence against Israel and its citizens. Nevertheless, Israel has started to wage this internet war by appointing dozens of people to report pro-Palestine pages to Facebook and other sites. Such reports often relate to pages showing Palestinians being killed by Israeli security forces.

Moreover, an agreement is believed to have been reached between the Israeli foreign ministry and Google, as well as some social networking sites, to ensure that all concerned work to block what they believe is incitement for retaliation against Israel on pro-Palestinian pages. The Israeli government is aware that the Palestinians are now using social networks to tell their own stories about the occupation and intifada, and to mobilise supporters. Support continues to grow despite Israel’s efforts to curb these online endeavours.

In an effort to counter pro-Palestinian posts, Israel, it is claimed, has opened more than 5,000 new Facebook accounts. Some Israelis can post in both English and Arabic and are given the specific task of infiltrating Palestinian pages and online Arab communities. Many of the same people are responsible for posting updates which incite Palestinians to kill Israelis, in an online version of false flag operations. In addition, the Israeli government has also arrested Palestinian activists based on their posts on social networks and online activism. Once in detention, they are usually charged with “incitement”; the numbers have increased since last October.

While the physical aspect of the intifada is relatively calm at the moment, the online war continues to rage, with Palestinians and Israelis posting and counter-posting at a prolific rate. The bullets may not be flying, but the war is continuing nevertheless.

(Source / 18.02.2016)

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