An unprecedented battle — on Twitter

Last night’s launch of Operation Pillar of Defense has given social media users more real-time updates, excitement, disappointment, and even laughs than perhaps any war before. It would be fully appropriate to say that social media has become of paramount importance in this conflict.

Yesterday the #IDF broke the news regarding Ahmed al-Jabari on Twitter — before it was out anywhere else. While countries have only made such announcements through press conferences in the past, the IDF announced the start of the operation via Twitter, and even followed up with a video of the targeted killing.

Since then, the IDF has been live-blogging and posting updates in order to demonstrate why Israel must to defend their own citizens (over 200 rockets fired since last night) and also fire up other supporters of Israel to get involved and educated.

But they aren’t the only ones.

Hamas has now been routinely posting absurdities on their Al Qassam Brigade Twitter account as well — including to the IDF. After the IDF Spokesperson tweeted this:

Hamas responded with:

This is the first time we have seen two groups exchanging fire, via Twitter, during actual fire.

Since then, Al Qassam has continued reporting that they are firing rockets in many areas of Israel, including Tel Aviv (except Hamas has not fired rockets at Tel Aviv). These tweets erupted in mass celebration from Palestinian (and likeminded) groups on Twitter, who once again demonstrated the ugly face of anti-Semitism.

This anti-Semitism has been furthered by the myth-filled #PrayforGaza hashtag that has been trending worldwide for several hours today. While many tweets express pain and disappointment with the conflict, a significant number are outright obscene, with Holocaust comparisons and all.

In fact, when I responded to an inappropriate tweet myself, this was the response I received

But again, they were far from the only people getting involved. This morning the hashtag #HamasBumperStickers made for quality entertainment. People from all over the world expressed their creativity through made up Hamas Bumper Stickers, so many people in fact, that they made it trend worldwide. Some considered it inappropriate given the situation, others were pleased with the comic relief.

Regardless of whether or not the Hamas Bumper Stickers are in poor taste, Twitter has become a medium on both sides of the conflict for self-expression and advocacy. We have seen an unprecedented effort by Hamas, and especially the New Media team of the IDF and Government of Israel, to get the facts out about the conflict.

Advocacy groups like StandWithUs, The Israel Project, The David Project, and Hasbara Fellowships are also working furiously on all social media outlets to educate, and of course news outlets are liveblogging and tweeting around the clock. New campaigns like Israel Under Fire are also emerging as effective voices in disseminating information through clips, photos, infographics and more.

Whether you’re trying to get hard facts, commentary, a laugh, or a cry, social media seems to be the right place for this Operation Pillar of Defense. Be sure to join in the action by using hashtags #IsraelUnderFire and #StoptheRockets.

About the Author
Emily Schrader is a writer and political consultant originally from Los Angeles, California. She made aliyah in 2015 and works for a nonprofit organization in Jerusalem. Emily has a BA from the University of Southern California and MA from Tel Aviv University. She has previously written for many different publications including The Weekly Standard, The Jerusalem Post, and more.