Ashley Rindsberg
Novelist & essayist.

Twitter’s terror handle

What are Hamas's Al Qassam Brigades doing on Twitter?

The last thing you’d expect to find beneath Twitter’s cute little blue bird is an @ sign followed by the name of one of the world’s bloodiest and most ruthless terror groups. But to my surprise (and disgust) while searching for new streams on Twitter, a handle called @AlqassamBrigade was suggested to me by the social media platform.

Incredulous, I clicked the link. What I discovered is a Twitter stream that bills itself as “The official website of the Al-Qassam Brigades in Palestine.” Al Qassam is the paramilitary wing of Hamas, the Iran-backed Islamist political organization that has controlled Gaza since 2006.

Hamas is classed as a terror group by the US and the EU, as well as a number of other nations. As its “military wing,” the Al Qassam Brigades are directly responsible for carrying out terror attacks — including some of the deadliest attacks on Israeli civilians, like the August 2001 attack at a Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem that killed 15 people and injured 130, the Dolphinarium attack in Tel Aviv in 2001 which killed 21 young partygoers and the 2002 Passover festival attack in Netanya, which took the lives of 30 people.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas in Gaza and prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, made headlines last year for praising Osama bin Laden as a “martyr” and “Arab holy warrior” and condemning his killing by the US. (Here’s a more complete rundown of the terror group and its activities.)

So what are the Al Qassam Brigades doing on Twitter, complete with a slick illustrated background of two terrorists at work (ostensibly targeting more civilians)? For the terror group, which enjoys a fairly robust following of nearly 2,500 people on Twitter, the motivation is clear: the dissemination of anti-Israel Islamist agitprop.

Though showing a good deal of sophistication and discipline by Tweeting headlines and links to news stories in a polished English, the group also seems to be using Twitter to give itself a sheen of credibility and even legitimacy. Aware of the rules of perception in our age of media warfare, the administrators of the handle also show restraint in most Tweets.

But dig a little deeper, and you come across @AlqassamBrigades Tweets openly calling for the “slaughter” of Zionists, as in the April 16th Tweet:

There are also calls for the destruction of Israel, as in another Tweet from that date which reads:

This raises some serious questions for Twitter, a social media platform that relies on its reputation as a forum for fair, tolerant and, presumably, non-genocidal ideas. Twitter has so far not responded to my emailed request for comment.

Given the ferocity of Al Qassams, their insistence on the destruction of Israel, their belief in and use of terror, and their previous threats against Americans and US assets in the Middle East, it defies belief that they be allowed to promote their views on an American social media site which at least nominally prohibits “Violence and Threats” and “Unlawful Use” in its rules and regulations. And yet, there it is, Twitter’s very own terror handle.


About the Author
Ashley Rindsberg is an author, essayist and freelance journalist. In 2010, Rindsberg traveled to Nicaragua to investigate the disappearance and death of his best friend, an experience that inspired his novel, He Falls Alone. Rindsberg is also author of The Gray Lady Winked, a work of non-fiction which looks at how the New York Times’s reporting shapes the world.