The World's First Social Media War: Israel v. Hamas

George Washington's picture

Media watchdog organization Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting notes:

The conventional corporate media timelines usually stress, whatever the facts, that Israel is responding to violent attacks by Palestinians.

For example, the New York Times and other mainstream media claim Israel only responds after “persistent Palestinian rocket fire", which is false. FAIR documented this occurring numerous times over the past decade.



(Of course, the media is always pro-war, always serves the powerful and real reporting is strongly discouraged.)


But it's not just corporate media ... Israel and Hamas are fighting in social media as well.


Specifically, 26 year old snowboarder Sacha Dratwa has overseen a savvy social media campaign which currently has the upper hand:


AP notes:

The Israeli government is trying to pre-empt a publicity pounding over its Gaza offensive by aggressively pushing out its version of events, furiously tweeting and Facebook posting updates from a "media bunker."




Media experts say that Israel's public relations campaign is just an extension of the traditional effort by government propaganda machines to dictate and control the media narrative during a conflict.


"The underlying reasons of Israel's propaganda are to silence the enemy, gain international support and justify wars," says Helga Tawil-Souri, associate professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University.


"Their goal has not fundamentally changed over the years, only the platforms on which these are disseminated," she said.

USA Today reports:

As the conflict in Gaza intensifies and claims more lives, a new front has opened up: Both sides are now battling it out in social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook in an intense public relations offensive.


In addition to Facebook and Twitter accounts, the IDF is also on Tumblr and Pinterest, posting photos of the military operation and of day-to-day army life. The Israeli military also is streaming images from drone cameras to Twitter posts.




The Israeli strategy marks a departure from previous conflicts with Palestinian territories and is in large part down to negative response to how they have handled the media in the past, experts say.




"Since then, the IDF has invested heavily in its social media operation," said Rebecca Stein, professor of cultural anthropology at Duke University who has studied the IDF's use of social media.


"It has realized it has to talk in the vernacular of social media – its output is more polished," she says.


Philip Howard, a fellow at Princeton University who specializes in social media and political Islam, said it is likely it is likely that Israel's tweets before the initial airstrikes were first time an army has provided advance warning of an attack using social media.


"There are examples of military officers blogging or posting things that enemy governments dislike," he said. "But this was no slip-up; there was a deliberate strategy to 'get ahead' of social media by tweeting in advance."

Forbes writes:

Both Israel and Hamas have essentially live tweeted the confrontation from its beginning, mixing military updates with threats, YouTube videos, graphic images and made-for-Twitter graphics. The IDF has also been pushing its message on Tumblr and Instagram.


The all-out battle on social media has bewildered many following the confrontation online. Mathew Ingram, a senior writer at GigaOM, tried to sum up his thoughts in a tweet: “Fascinating, horrifying, bizarre, disturbing,” he wrote. “I think I have officially run out of adjectives to describe what Israel and Hamas are doing.”


***Jeff Jarvis, director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York  Journalism school, said in a phone interview that while he had not quite figured out what gives this confrontation such an odd feel, the aggressive, official use of social media made may be responsible.


Jarvis pointed out that social media has been used in conflicts before– notably in the Arab Spring—but that governments perhaps have not been as involved.“Twitter has been used by witnesses and participants in these events and media was the outlet for institutions,” he said. “So what we see now, is the institutions heading over into the medium of the witnesses and participants.”


It may, of course, just come down to creative and tone. The graphics posted by both sides, for instance, have been especially strange. One posted by Israel’s @IDFSpokesperson account portrayed rockets raining down on the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben, and the Eiffel tower and asked “WHAT WOULD YOU DO?”


***Another, posted by Hamas, showed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hoisted in the air by a Qassam rocket ***


When a military at war asks its Twitter followers to “Please Retweet,” or check out its Tumblr, or posts an image of a rocket hooking a Prime Minister’s undergarments, it is hard not to sense a disconnect between that messaging and the bombing taking place in real life. As The Verge’s Joseph L. Flatley put it, “One liveblogs award shows or CES keynotes, not armed conflict.”


Still, Jarvis thinks the strategy is an effective one because it allows the two entities to go straight to the people, as opposed to speaking through the media . “You want to get your message out without being reduced to somebody else’s selection of sound bites,” he said. “This allows them to go around the mediators.”

Of course, Israeli service men are not the only ones engaged in pro-Israeli social media efforts. As we've noted for years, Israel has employed its civilians to automatically vote stories questioning Israel down and to send pro-Israel letters to politicians and media (see this, this and this).


Indeed, Israeli prime minister Netanyahu publicly thanked Israel's keyboard warriors for battling on social media for the cause:


AP points out:

In an operation attached to Israel's press office, hundreds of volunteers produce and post instant videos and graphics about the latest twists in the Gaza offensive from Israel's point of view. Its Facebook site, "Israel Under Fire," has gained more than 24,000 "likes" over the last week.




"We're removing the media middle men," said Daniel Seaman, deputy director general of Israel's Ministry of Public Diplomacy, as youth buzzed around with computers and smartphones. "They used to say the Elders of Zion controlled the media. Well, here are the youngsters of Zion who are running it."

On the other hand, Ynet says that Hamas has won the media war.

And RT says that Hamas has won the social media war on Twitter:



Postscript: Israeli's bombings of international media centers is being categorized by Israel as rooting out Hamas terrorists, and by many in the media as targeting journalists.

Of course, the U.S. has been manipulating social media for years. And just as Israel warned reporters not to interview anyone from Hamas, the U.S. is wary of competition from anyone else using social media.

And if any side happens to be using the ultimate dirty trick, that could unfairly shift the media dialog.

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Disenchanted's picture



The ‘Kids’ Behind IDF’s Media


Young Israeli soldiers have pushed older commanders into adopting a more aggressive social media strategy


web bot's picture

Brilliant, brilliant work GW.

Uber Vandal's picture

Speaking of media war, this YouTube video mentions ZH at 4:33, and asks the age old question, "Who is Tyler Durden?"

As a bonus, you can see a GW headline in the collage, too, at 4:37!



Pink Floyd's picture

GW, you have no credibility.

How comes you are publishing your supposedly thoughtful articles ONLY when Israel takes action to defend itself?

You are blind to the thousands of missiles that were fired by Gaza into Israel for years.

You don't care until Israel fights back.


Your values are questionable, GW.

Otherwise, how comes that a minor skirmish draws so much of your attention, but you are blind to real atrocities.

How much coverage did you provide for the Syrian disaster? 70,000 dead, 100,000-s refugees. But, Arabs kille by Arabs is ok.

How much did you write about the genocide in Darfur? African - who cares... ?


I'm disgusted.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care for the life and suffering of people. I say that we should be minded of the causes and proportions. The people in Gaza brought this war on themselves, and the price they are paying is hardly a footnote relatively to other bad things happening (which apparently don’t register in your book, GW).



AurorusBorealus's picture

How's The Wall around Israel coming Pink?  All-in-all, Floyd, you are just another brick in the wall.

dolph9's picture

Nobody believes the Jewish lies anymore but Jews themselves, and a few Americans.

But when you live in bubble (as Jews and Americans do) it's easy to convince yourself that everybody is on your side.

Innocence of Islam's picture

Did you see the FB page "Fuck Israel"?

Most of the blood and dead are of poor Syrians.

But their suffering is not in vein. We use it against Israel still.


Isn't that innocent?


nah's picture

gaza sux now

q99x2's picture

Awwh why don't they get a life and stop bickering. Idiots all of them. I'm sick of hearing about morons. I'm ready to boycott oil and oil products completely. F the queen too.

Pink Floyd's picture

Indeed it would be better for the environment if they stopped firing at each other.

But, if they must, why do they have to distrub us all...

Can't they just do all these fighting quitely, like civilized Arabs or Africans who kill each other in the many 1000s without so much attention?


Joseph Jones's picture

Hoffman's definition of Judaism: "The worship of the Judaic male as God."

A NT Bible vs.:

"God's foolishness is wiser than man's wisdom, His weakness is greater than man's strength."

The Rabbis/Judaics read this vs. as:

"The Judaic male's foolishness is wiser than g_d's wisdom, the Judaic male's weakness is greater than g_d's strength."


Innocence of Islam's picture

Good fit for the Onion and Qouran.


semperfi's picture

Who gives a rats ass about 'social media' - fuck it.

Coldfire's picture

Social media in the war context is crowd-sourced propaganda. But the many children murdered by the state of Israel make this Hamas's battle to lose.

williambanzai7's picture

"Destroy the image and you will break the enemy."

Tommy Gunner's picture

Mike Peled... son of an Israeli General exposes the lies that the state of Israel is based upon...  he is of course one of those 'self-hating jews' we all hear about.

Suggest you watch this speach and make up your own mind who the monster is in the Palestine Israeli conflict


And please do forward this link around

Pink Floyd's picture

The guy, Miko Peled, may make headlines and serve your agenda, Tommy.

But, that does not make him right.


He speaks coherently, but spews half-truths and irrelevant facts.

But, even if he is correct one has to focus on the present.


For all those how insist on the historical narrative, recall that once there were no Arabs (that is, except of those who fought each other in the Arab peninsula).

Those days the Mid-East was teaming with Pagans, Christians and Jews.

A few hundred years after the Arab occupation of the Mid-East pagan virtually disappeared, Christians became minorities and Jews hardly survived and ever diminishing numbers.

I just wonder what happened... 


But, history won't help.

What will help is recognition by the parties that it is time to stop the fighting.

Imagine that, Hamas giving up on lobbing missiles into Israel.

What do you think will happen next?



steelrules's picture

A christian God; what I was raised under would tear Israel limb from limb for what is has done to the innocents in Palestine.

God's chosen people my ass, more like butchers.

Innocence of Islam's picture


You just forgot to mention that the web site, presstv, is owned by the Iran gov.

I'll believe Iran's presstv when they will say something positive about Israel.

Aren't these images from Syria (which btw had more casualties than Gaza - daily)?


Regardless, it is time for the people of Gaza to get used to the idea that there is a price for firing missiles into Israel.

Maybe they will make up their minds and stop firing missiles?



steelrules's picture

Truth can come from any source, and all US media is owned by Jews so that's not skewed?

 The 4 dead children in that picture are from Gaza at the hands Israel.

The people of Palestine have lived in an open air concentration camp and seen their land systematically stolen.

At some point the entire Muslim world will join forces and turn on Israel and wipe it off the map, and it won't be because muslims wouldn't live in peace or share the land with the Jew.

By Israel's own hand they are making the Dome of the Rock legend come true, but it won't be armageddon for the world, just Israel. 

TPTB_r_TBTF's picture

You need to read your Bible!  In your Bible, your God commands the Tribes of Israel to go into this disputed land and kill all the natives.  Nothing new thousands of years later.  These people are still on their genocide trip.  Still doing what your God of War desires.  Read all of your Bible, not just the parts you like.

steelrules's picture

Just because I was raised catholic doesn't mean I believe in any religion, it's all superstition and mumbo jumbo.

But I'll concede this much to the church, I learned and live by rules that would never allow me to harm an innocent, unlike the barbarian tribes of Israel you speak of, who see all non Jews as sub human trash.

SmackDaddy's picture

Yeah Catholics would never harm children.  Just buttfuck 'em.

steelrules's picture

Thers's evil in all religion, that's why I don't subcribe to any.

Wrong is wrong even if done by Jews, but they don't see it as wrong.

Joseph Jones's picture

After you murder Christ's Son Jesus, and turn the so-called "Christian" world into your slavish sycophants, incinerating mere Palestinian children is, well, "child's play" (no pun intended).

New_Meat's picture

"War is politics conducted by other means."

Thousands of otherwise smart and active individuals have been put to sleep with this truism.

- Ned

{Twitter and Facebook and ... are messaging channels that are able to be perverted to publish a view that has skoshi' "truthiness" able to connect to a range of certain constituencies. }

Joseph Jones's picture

"Politics is the entertainment division of the military industrial complex."

Frank Zappa

DaveyJones's picture

we're having a media war about the media war. It's like two mirrors faced together  


George Washington's picture

Yup ... each side is declaring victory in the wedia war.

New_Meat's picture

Yep the fucking:

"wedia war."

That moves the conversation from reality to the GW universe.  Most people in Far Rockaway are out of their houses, but we don't see this in the wedia.

- Ned

DaveyJones's picture

Speaking of. Interesting (and revealing) debate this morning. Notice how when one side is cornered logically, they revert to calling the argument jingoisms and buzzwords and refuse to walk the logic....

The one thing I would have added, what I think is the most important part of this "story" is the undisputed fact that the deal was cut and paperwork had been exchanged drawing out the hamas leader thinking (logically) that it was a moratorium and safe. Both sides absolutely knew it would have this effect and then bingo.

In this debate one side claims they are for a negotiated two state solution but claims the other side is not committed. It is utterly illogical and dishonest to suggest you are a sincere negoatiator while revoking deals with deadly results.

knukles's picture

Folks, it's called the Hegelian Dialectic and this discussion is 110% full military power, perpendicular to the earth, options none example of how it works and why it is so successful.

Debate the immaterial ad nauseaum, distractions galore and the Grand Plan continues afoot in front of the very folks desperately trying to win an argument to prove themselves Right, while loosing everything at the altar of their Own Petty Ego..

Eddie Bernays was Brilliant.

Fix It Again Timmy's picture

In the past few days we have witnessed, yet again, the “American superpower” groveling at Netanyahu’s feet. When Netanyahu decided to again murder the Palestinian women and children of Gaza, to further destroy what remains of the social infrastructure of the Gaza Ghetto, and to declare Israeli war crimes and Israeli crimes against humanity to be merely the exercise of “self-defense,” the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, the White House, and the US media all promptly declared their support for Netanyahu’s crimes.

On November 16 the Congress of the “superpower,” both House and Senate, passed overwhelmingly the resolutions written for them by AIPAC, the Israel Lobby known as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the only foreign agent that is not required to register as a foreign agent. The Global News Service of the Jewish People reported their power over Washington with pride. Both Democrats and Republicans shared the dishonor of serving Israel and evil instead of America and justice for the Palestinians.

The German assault on the Warsaw Ghetto is one of the horror stories of Jewish history. Such an event is happening again, only this time Jews are perpetrators instead of victims. No hand has been raised to stay Israel from the goal of the operation declared by Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai to be “to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”

Iconoclast's picture

I sat watching with open mouth as he tore Obama a new arse in the Oval Office when he (Obama) dared to mention a return to the legal 1967 borders. Obama sat there lack a naughty schoolboy being scolded by the headmaster. Tail wagging dog to 1000%, this tail whistles and the dog comes. Un fukcin believable. Obama could stop this s.h.i.t. in Israel/Palestine in a heartbeat. 

SheHunter's picture

Somewhere I found a current list of names of Jews who hold top seats of political power in our country.  Helps explain why our government grovels at the feet of terrorist nation Israel.  If I can find the link I will post it is sobering.  Bernanke for one.

MrSteve's picture

Well I guess there wasn't a persistent rain of rockets on Israel according to your logic. But wasn't it Hamas locating their rocket gantries near homes, schools and family housing that assured innocents would be killed as collateral damage? Is that part of the media war, assuring kids get killed so there will be "outrage" provided by your crack prose? It is OK that you project your own barbarian values onto your enemy. Its part of the media war. It is part of what ZH is for, per GW's posting about here. Did you ever imagine you would be one of the loathsome dogs of war?

Its OK you post your agitprop here on ZH, we are used to the same group casting votes for your position or against your hated opposition. We don't expect objectivity, fairness or even rational thought from apologists for atrocities like you and you don't disappoint any of us when you avoid those things. Have nice day!

Iconoclast's picture

Where the fuck do you expect the gazans to go in the prison complex deliberately created by Israel's ethnic and social cleansing policy? This phoney war is not a war, it's about clearing the area for israel's expansion. 8 million living in a place the size of Vancouver island doesnt work considering most of it (80%) is desert and shitty scrub land. This is a resource and fertile land grab and the game might change when Palestine is recognised at the UN next week.

TPTB_r_TBTF's picture



But wasn't it Hamas locating their rocket gantries near homes, schools and family housing that assured innocents would be killed as collateral damage?


No.  It is Israel's attacks on Gaza which assure that civilians wil be killed and labeled collateral damage.

Savyindallas's picture

US Congress-Israeli asskissng sycophants  -they are such an embarrassement to this country-at least to those who understand what is going on. Our country and the American people have really gone down the toilet. The Empire is corrupt, rotting and collapsing. Far too few patriots  -or people with a brain -this country is toast. So sad.

New_Meat's picture

Yo--"Fix it again Timmy" --and how fucked up is this as a handle????

Dude, you don't have any handle on history, do ya?  The Soviet army is advancing on Warsaw, the Wermacht is "defending", the Pole Jews are trapped, and the Wermacht takes a knee.

"In the past few days we have witnessed, yet again, the “American superpower” groveling at..."

Yes, this is laid at THE FEET OF EGYPT's Muslim Brotherhood President.

Don't cha' know

- Ned

Cathartes Aura's picture

I think this is where the attention needs to be focused,

Both Democrats and Republicans shared the dishonor of serving Israel and evil instead of America and justice for the Palestinians.

the more "voters" and media consumers learn about the dual-nationality passport holders IN GOVERNMENT the better chance they make the mental connections of how Israel shapes the amrkn discourse, and is subsidised to create more terror and wars.  anyone identifying as "patriotic" should be able to see the infiltration of another "nation" at the very least.

it's a great way to wake folks up, even incrementally. . .

Joseph Jones's picture

Michael Chertoff is dual-Israeli citizen and member of Chabad Lubavitch, the most caustic branch of Holocaustianity-Judaism. 

nmewn's picture

The Luuuuve Boat...soon will making another run...the luuuuuuve boat...promises something for everyone...oh, sorry...I just went all Arab Springy didn't I? ;-)