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Lev Topor

Red triangles, bee stings, and Hamas supporters

A cartoon is shared on X, promoting that Israeli soldiers are harmlessly stung by bees. The stings represent red targeting triangles promoted by Hamas.
Source: A Caricature by Mahmoud Abbas, shared on X, @QudsNen
A cartoon is shared on X, promoting that Israeli soldiers are harmlessly stung by bees. The stings represent red targeting triangles promoted by Hamas. Source: A Caricature by Mahmoud Abbas, shared on X, @QudsNen

In recent conflicts between Israel and the terror organization Hamas, a new and disturbing tactic has emerged – the use of red triangles by Hamas or other antisemitic anti-Zionist terror organizations to signify Israeli casualties. This symbol, which has been seen in various forms of media and propaganda, carries a disturbing message and is part of a broader strategy by Hamas to communicate its actions and objectives. Further, Hamas supporters, even American and European students rioting on Western campuses, present the red triangle to support the terrorist organization.

Unfortunately, and in complete contrast to the arguments of such protest or encampment organizers and attendees, decorating a campus encampment does not promote the idea that Gazans should be granted aid and relief, but rather the idea that they support Hamas and its genocidal atrocities against Israelis and Jews. Such red triangles are promoted by including them as signs, drawings, or stickers on encampments, by including them as post-event graphic additions to social media posts or as the promoting of a borderline material aimed to evade counter-speech and social media monitoring, such material include the images of bees and the red triangle as their sting, claiming that Israeli soldiers had been stung by bees. Another disturbing promotion of such evasive anti-Zionist and terror-supportive material is the placement of the Palestinian flag vertically so that the red triangle will point down, just as the Hamas red triangle.

As was extensively reported by MEMRI, the triangle originated in the Palestinian flag, yet, historically, the red triangle, has been a symbol with various meanings. During World War II and the Holocaust, it was used by the Nazis to mark political prisoners in concentration camps and also mark Jewish political prisoners when one triangle of the Star of David was red. In more recent times, symbols like these are often repurposed by different groups to convey new messages. For Hamas, the red triangle has been adapted as a means of marking and publicizing their claimed successes in targeting Israeli civilians and military personnel. As reported by MEMRI, the red triangle can be vastly seen on campus encampments.

Red triangles above Israeli casualties, photographed by Palestinian terrorist forces. Source: Al-Qassam and Al-Quds Brigades Telegram channel

A Red Triangle in a Call for action by NYU students. Source: NYU Encampment Updates Telegram channel

A red triangle is emphasized on the Palestinian flag (Encampment in Tokyo, Japan). Source: X, @OnlinePalEng

The use of such symbols is a form of psychological propaganda. By marking Israeli casualties with red triangles, Hamas aims to instill fear and demoralize both the Israeli population and their armed forces but also to get support from this easy-to-understand sign on the streets of Paris, London, Berlin, and New York, among others, as well on university campuses. This tactic serves multiple purposes. By visibly marking their actions, Hamas creates a narrative of resistance and strength, which can be used to rally support within their own ranks and among sympathizers. The red triangle is a stark, visible reminder of the violence and the ongoing threat. It’s designed to haunt the Israeli populace, serving as a constant reminder of their vulnerability.

The use of such symbols and especially the use of seemingly non-affiliated themes or graphics like the use of bee stings to mark casualties is deeply troubling from an ethical and humanitarian standpoint. It dehumanizes victims and reduces their deaths to mere symbols. This highlights the brutal reality of asymmetric warfare, where psychological impact is as significant as physical damage. The adoption of the red triangle by Palestinian terrorists and their sympathizers is part of a wider trend in modern conflicts, where media and symbolism play crucial roles. In an age of instant communication and social media, the impact of these symbols is magnified. They can spread rapidly, reaching global audiences and influencing perceptions far beyond the immediate theater of conflict. Red triangles now appear on stickers, drawings, illustrations, social media posts, and even shirts and badges. Such badges should alert every law enforcement agency worldwide as those who bear it present their support for terrorism and antisemitism, and to Hamas.

Bee stings/Red triangles misinformation on X (the soldiers were stung by real hornets, it was reported as anecdotal news). Source: X, @sasa_ghada

Lastly, this psychological propaganda is very difficult to tackle. How can one argue that a flag cannot be placed vertically in a protest, how can one argue that red triangles of the [ab]use of bee and hornet imagery is antisemitic when only those who are themselves antisemitic (or scholars of antisemitism) know the true meaning of such red triangles? It is my suggestion that high-level researchers of antisemitism be included in the monitoring teams of social media platforms and law enforcement task forces dealing with antisemitic pro-Palestinian protests and encampments, to try and stop this vague and seemingly non-antisemitic theme. It is.

A cartoon is shared on X, promoting that Israeli soldiers are harmlessly stung by bees. Source: A Caricature by Mahmoud Abbas, shared on X, @QudsNen
About the Author
Dr. Lev Topor is the co-author (w/ Prof. Jonathan Fox) of 'Why Do People Discriminate Against Jews?' Published by Oxford University Press in 2021 and the author of 'Phishing for Nazis: Conspiracies, Anonymous Communications and White Supremacy Networks on the Dark Web' Published by Routledge in 2023. Lev publishes scholarly works and reports on the topic of antisemitism, anti-Zionism, racism and cyber. Previously, Dr. Topor was a research fellow in ISGAP, in the Woolf Institute (Cambridge), in the CCLP (Haifa University) and in The International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem (Jerusalem).
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