Escalations in Israel Updates: the many uses of Twitter

 Photo “Western Wall” credit @Israel official Twitter handle.  

Social media used tactically and as a civilian service in the Gaza-Israel war 

Repeat similar tweets also limited the account’s rocket alert posts…

Rachel Brooks

May 14, 2021 

As the war rages between Israel and Gaza, Twitter was utilized for both tactics and public service. On Friday, the New York Post reported that the Israeli Defense Force’s official Twitter handle had sent out a tweet with an ambiguous message that led Gaza fighters into the bombardment of the Gaza tunnels. New York Post reported that the IDF had launched a ground operation as of 9 pm on Thursday. The ground operations were vital to advancing the next phase of Operation Guardians of the Wall. 

“We have started to prepare infantry and armored units for ground operations,” spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus told the New York Post on Thursday as the IDF struck Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets from the air.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu likewise stated Thursday that the beginning of ground operations were the logical next steps of a ground defense as the Hamas “incursion” is far from over. 

The IDF gave Gaza the impression it had entered Gaza. This lead to global media circling the story of a ground incursion launched. The Jerusalem Post reported that this tweet led media outlets around the world to believe that Israel was attacking inside Gaza. The tweet on the Hebrew account was a bit more descriptive, announcing massive strikes on Gaza in which the ground forces participated through the ground fire, but had not entered the strip. 

The IDF likewise noted that the number of times it had tweeted alerts of rocket sirens near Beersheba triggered Twitter’s internal function. In a recent post, the IDF wrote that Twitter signaled a “message sent” error box due to the frequency of rocket alert posts. 

“We tried to tweet about sirens sounding in Beersheba but Twitter wouldn’t let us. We know it’s repetitive—but that’s the reality for Israelis all over the country,” wrote the IDF on May 14. 

As rockets raged, and the IDF pressed on with its response to the Hamas incursion, the official national Twitter account for Israel made other use of the social media outlet. It posted messages of solidarity from across the Middle East. On May 14, Yonatan Gonen, head of the Arabic-language New Media Section at the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shared a message of solidarity from Ali Al Basri of Iraq. 

“Hello, my name is Ali Al Basri from Iraq. I declare my full solidarity Israel and the Israel Defense Forces in the war on terror,” the message proceeded. 

“We believe that this war is not a confrontation against the Palestinian people. Rather, this war is between Israel and terror. Everyone should stand with the Israeli people and the IDF,” said Al Basri. 

This message came amid heated western rhetoric. The western left called for the “liberation of Palestine” and use the #FreePalestine hashtag to trend messages of solidarity with Hamas as well as condemnation of Israel’s defense against the militant group. The western left cites the inferiority of the Hamas military as a reason it condemns the Israeli response to the Hamas incursion. 

Social activists used the Twitter platform to likewise publish propaganda. Omar Al Zahrani a Saudi political activist, used the platform to publish the “liberate Jerusalem” narrative that Islamists use to push the agenda to end the Jewish state. 

“The Lebanese-Jordanian incursion into the Palestinian borders, although not complete, is a miniature experiment of what will happen one day, and the crowds will come east and west from land and sea to liberate Jerusalem,” wrote Al Zahrani.

Al Zahrani fled Saudi Arabia for the west after vocally supporting the ISIS movement. He has sought political asylum in Canada. Al Zahrani is an active critic of the Saudi monarchy, who used the media narrative films and projects to weaponize the assassination of Islamist propagandist Jamal Khashoggi in a political campaign against Crown Prince Mohammed bin-Salman, as lobby actors work to increase the rising tensions in the Gulf States.