Gaza Conflict Mirrored in Social Media Battle for Public Opinion
Thousands of miles away from the combat in
Rather than rockets, bombs and shells, the munitions are words. The battle for public opinion is marked by tweets from
In one case, tweets were fired off by the Palestinians so rapidly that one came just seconds after the other. The Israeli ambassador even held a Twitter Q-and-A in the midst of the fighting, receiving a major response from both supporters and critics.
Palestinians at their mission in
While the Palestinian mission might post bloody pictures from a
Diplomats from each side are hoping to gain at least public sympathy and perhaps influence government or legislative action with their postings in such arenas as
Influencing public opinion is a key factor in modern warfare, particularly one like the
A colleague of Pollock's recently gave a presentation in which he referred to the conflict in
For the embassy social media outreach in
Former U.S. official Pollock emphasized he believed that tweets or Facebook posts alone won't change the course of the volatile situation.
"I'm skeptical it's going to make a big difference in terms of direct appeals by the parties to the conflict," he said. "I think people are probably inclined to discount both sides because they're obviously going to be self-serving."
The Israeli effort seems to have volume behind it. "Today, the Embassy has more than 200,000 friends and followers," on Facebook and
"In the situation like
Many others posted bluntly-worded criticism of Israeli actions in
But the Israeli embassy seemed pleased with the large response. Shein claimed the interview's
The Palestinian mission in
"Social media has "served Palestinians tremendously because it has allowed them to get their voice into the conversation," Munayyer said. "It allowed Palestinians to get out there in this marketplace of ideas and in the past, they have not had this kind of access."
Another factor in social media is the ability to influence media coverage. "Now, your criticism might actually have an effect on the way the story evolves before it gets into print," said Munnayer. "It's not actually responding to media coverage. It is actually shaping it."
When Palestine Center director Munnayer felt cut off on the issue of
Interestingly, many of the official Israeli and Palestinian posts still refer to mainstream media reports on the issues. They might tweet a sentence beforehand giving the article their spin.
But both sides, for example, cite articles in
In addition to adding potential credibility when citing a media report, for diplomats it avoids having tweets reverberate on the embassy or mission where it can be seen as official policy. "I'm sure that plays into their thinking," said Munayyer.
Heavy use of
Pollock warned, "It is so intense, it can be a trap, rather than a real useful tool."
Currently a prominent freelance writer, Katz is the former Senior Diplomatic Correspondent of
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