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Israel takes hold of Twitter and YouTube

Text by Hasnae MALIH

Latest update : 2009-01-02

Eager to rebuild its reputation in the international community after launching airstrikes at Hamas targets in Gaza, Israel is investing a lot of effort on the Internet to justify its offensive – to the great displeasure of many Gaza citizens.

In moments of crisis, many people turn to online community sites in order to share information as well as their feelings.


This was the case during the attacks in Mumbai and a similar situation has arisen with the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip. On the Internet, the Israeli military raids have elicited many comments from both Israelis and Palestinians.



Twitterings on Twitter



The Twitter mini-blogging site has once again become a true platform for citizen journalism. Users discuss operations on the ground and the diplomatic efforts being made to put an end to the offensive. Each second, a new message on the subject is published. Written in every language, commentaries pour in from the Palestinian territories, Israel and the rest of the world.


The flux and flow of information is such that Web users often find it difficult to orient themselves. For Gil Mihaely, a correspondent for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, not all testimonials are worthy of interest. Sometimes, emotion gets the jump on information.


Riding the crest of the wave, the Israeli consulate in New York has created a Twitter account in order to organise a mini press conference with Web surfers (extracts are available on the consular web site). According to David Saranga, who is in charge of the consulate’s public relations, the goal was to justify the Israeli strikes and to make an official statement available given the amount of unreliable information available elsewhere on the Web.




The Israeli consulate in New York.


YouTube hosts a new Israeli army channel



The Israeli army has even created its own channel on YouTube, on which it broadcasts black-and-white images of its own offensive, christened operation “Cast Lead.” So far the channel counts more than 4,000 subscribers and broadcasts some 15 videos – including images of air raids targeting supply tunnels near the Rafah border crossing and buildings allegedly used by Hamas.


Certain images have been removed by YouTube for infringements of the conditions of use, but several of them made their way online thanks “to the support of bloggers and televiewers,” according to an Israeli military spokesperson speaking with AFP, who added that this project makes it possible “to deliver Israel’s message to the rest of the world.”


According to Mihaely, if the Jewish state has taken hold of the Web, it is because “there exists an enormous demand for images and information from the ground.” But the Israeli army might also be seeking to rebuild its image in the eyes of the international community by showing missiles that hit their targets and thus contradicting those who claim that Israel is striking blind.


According to Omar Somi, acting chief of the Paris-based association Generation Palestine, this initiative proves first and foremost that “the offensive was well prepared and coordinated by the Israeli military apparatus, even at the communications level.”


For their part, neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority has launched such an initiative. “The Palestinians are lagging behind,” Somi says.


But perhaps not entirely. On the social networking community Second Life, a virtual demonstration was organised in support of Gaza.



On Facebook, who has the last word?



Facebook has not been absent from these events. Since Israel launched the Gaza offensive, many Facebookers have made their views known by; for example replacing their profile pictures with an Israeli or Palestinain flag, depending on which camp they support.


New groups of sympathisers have been born on the leading social networking site. Some, following the example of the 'Sympathise with Gaza' group, publish videos and photographs showing the centre of Gaza, which has led to many calls for a halt to Israeli strikes on the territory.


On the Israeli side, several groups launched sites – in particular one based in Sderot, one of the southern Israeli cities targeted by Hamas rockets – the day after Israel began Operation Cast Lead.



"Sympathise with Gaza" on Facebook.


On his blog, Amir Mizroch, a journalist at the Jerusalem Post, says a new group on Facebook urges Sderot residents to search the Internet to learn how to make crude homemade rockets, like the Kassams fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, and shoot them back into Palestinian territories.




Date created : 2009-01-01