Tweeting, twittering or even chirping are not my forte, but I learned a few years ago, when I was participating in some training for aspiring Democratic women candidates, that social media is extremely important in electoral campaigns. So I have a twitter handle – is that the proper nomenclature? @LoraLucero I typically check Twitter once or twice each day. I prefer Facebook.
A Twitter tsunami struck yesterday when Hamas officials in Gaza announced a social media campaign on Twitter with the innocuous hashtag #AskHamas to reach Western audiences (hence the English!). I presume their goal is to reform the “terrorist” label that some Western governments have attached to Hamas. They want to answer questions directly rather than relying on the Western mainstream media which is notoriously biased in favor of Israel’s framing of the issues in the Middle East.
I wrote about the first day of this Twitter campaign here, but I failed to understand then just how successful this social media strategy might be. Thanks to a media specialist who shared some important insights with me, I’m chalking up #AskHamas as a big win for Hamas. Here’s why:
- Traditional mainstream media in the U.S., U.K. and Israel all claimed that the #AskHamas campaign ‘backfired’ as though their journalists and editors were all reading from the same script — and maybe they were. The similarity in their framing of the campaign was striking. I observed the tit-for-tat on Twitter and believe another legitimate framing would be that there was an attempt to ‘hijack’ the campaign by some very hostile and belligerent voices that I would label Zionists. The difference between ‘backfired’ and ‘hijacked’ is important. The first sounds like a failure on the part of Hamas; the second puts the onus on those who attempted to derail the campaign. This is so eerily familiar that I shouldn’t have been surprised. The framing of Israel’s assaults on Gaza often follow this same pattern.
- Israeli leaders avoid the word ‘occupation’ almost to the point of absurdity. The reason for this avoidance is that ‘occupation’ entails responsibilities under international law upon the occupying power that Israel would prefer to avoid. The framing of the conflict is very deliberate and legal scholars have noted (see here “Illegal Occupation: Framing the Occupied Palestinian Territory”) that Israel’s avoidance of the term ‘occupation’ renders the conflict, at least in the minds of the uninformed, as between two equal adversaries rather than between an occupier (Israelis) and the occupied (Palestinians). Much of the mainstream media has bought into Israel’s framing, but Hamas’s Twitter campaign took mainstream media out of the mix and went directly to the people, especially the young and tech-savvy who get much of their information about the world from social media. And then we were all allowed to watch as the Zionists and hatemongers tried to OCCUPY #AskHamas. It was unbelievably refreshing to see them exposed, by their own hand, and drawing the parallels between Israel’s physical occupation of Palestine and their attempts at occupying the Twitter-Sphere was irony at its very best. Thank you!
- During my ninth month visit to Gaza (Sept. 2012 – May 2013) I had the opportunity to meet and speak with many Palestinians, many of whom were Hamas supporters as well as Hamas officials. I found each and everyone of them polite, articulate, intelligent and thoughtful. They were willing to spend time answering my questions, even when my questions probably sounded inane and naive. They demonstrated the same calm and patience in responding to questions on their #AskHamas Twitter campaign, while ignoring the Zionist trolls and hatemongers who wanted to distract and provoke a confrontation on social media. It was clear to me (and probably to anyone else observing this campaign) just who was the adult (Hamas) and who were the unruly and frustrated children (Zionists and hatemongers). Thank you again!