Whenever tensions are on the rise in Israel, tensions begin to rise simultaneously through the Twitter accounts of Palestinians, Israelis and their respective supporters.
Thousands of young activists are transforming their social media accounts into weapons to fight a massive propaganda war for their global viewers to watch. And with a hot topic like the Arab Israeli conflict, they’ve got one hell of an audience.
Ever since The Arab Spring utilized social media in the spread of their movement, “hashtag activism” has been the catalyst for many grassroots initiatives today, especially in the Middle East. With just the click of a button, one can spread a wide range of facts, figures, and influential opinions. 140 character tweets have sparked movements, and a tool like social media can raise awareness, get youth involved, and spread ideology more rapidly than ever before.
Currently in the region of Israel, some of the most frequently used hashtags are the Arabic words for intifada, Palestine, and uprising, according to trendsmap.com. There are also unique Twitter accounts which slander the state of Israel, praise current terror attacks, and encourage the onslaught of a third intifada.
@ayoub_SWEET tweets in Arabic, “They are the soldiers of Allah and heroes of the earth #Palestine,” regarding the terrorists who have perpetrated recent stabbings and attacks. Maybe @ayoub_SWEET is not so sweet after all.
According to Topsy.com, in the past week, #IntifadaAlAqsa has been used 20,976 times, a hashtag expressing that this recent outbreak of violence is related to the fact that Palestinian officials claim Israel wants to divide al Aksa Mosque, despite Netanyahu’s insistence otherwise. #PalestinianLivesMatter has been used 1,461 times and #IsraeliLivesMatter has been used 4,522 times.
@alihadi68 writes, “ ‘When I see them I see us’: 2 minorities who’ve suffered more from oppression/racism than anyone #BlackLivesMatter #PalestinianLivesMatter,” in response to the viral video featuring Lauryn Hill
, an influential activist and singer from America, comparing the struggle for racial inequality in America to that of the Palestinians.'
#IStandWithIsrael has been used 20,351 times and #SolidaritywaveBDS has been used 9,895 times. @Joseph08403020 tweets, “Palestinians are attacking random Jews with knives… and Israel is the aggressor? #IStandWithIsrael.”
The hashtag #stopincitement has also gained traction.
@nilyb33 tweets “No BBC news, we are not ‘killing innocent Palestinians,’ we are being stabbed by them daily. #Stopincitement,” and @StandWithUs quotes Prime Minister Netanyahu, “I say to the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority: Do not turn murderers into heroes,” with the caption “We agree! They are absolutely not heroes and should not be treated as such! #Stopincitement.”
StandWithUs is an organization which promotes Israel advocacy on college campuses, and has a very active social media presence. They harness social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, to spread pro-Israel messages and get younger people involved. One of their recent social media campaigns included the hashtag #StopIncitement alongside pictures of handwritten messages of support for Israel with passports from different countries sent in by StandWithUs followers. This pro-peace initiative encouraged worldwide support and pride for Israel.
Michael Dickson, the Executive Director of StandWithUs Israel, said an interview with The Jerusalem Post
that the organization believes the influx of terror attacks in Israel is exacerbated by incitement.
"The terrorist attacks are being fueled by a constant stream of incitement to kill on Palestinian social media, and backed up by an education of hate that indoctrinates ordinary Palestinians," he said.
"From cradle to grave, they are taught to hate Jews and led to believe lies and conspiracy theories about Jews. So it’s no wonder that young people, brought up in this system, are willing to take a knife or an axe, to shout “Allahu Akhbar” and kill Jews indiscriminately in the street. We want to bring this issue to the forefront of debate about the wave of terror attacks currently taking place in Israel, and we want people to understand that words and images can inspire to kill."
"A day after Abbas said he was tearing up the peace process in his UN speech, a Jewish family was shot. There is a direct correlation between the videos online teaching Palestinians how to stab Jews and the act of terror attacks themselves.”
When asked about the range of reactions received from the #EndIncitement initiative, Dickson explained that there has also been an outpouring of positive support for the Jewish state.
“We have had photos sent to us from all over the world, using the hashtag #StopIncitement. Aside from our main English Facebook page, which has a weekly reach of roughly 40 million, our StandWithUs Arabic page is also very popular. We have had submissions supporting Israel from Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Indonesia, as well as from the UK, US, Sweden, France, Mexico, India and many more places."
"It is important that people understand that the hate education in Palestinian society must stop. It’s also gratifying to see such amazing support for embattled Israelis from across the globe.”