As the war between Gaza and Israel heightens to levels unseen since the devastating Operation Cast Lead, the competing narratives behind the conflict have reached a new platform: social media.
The war between hashtags embodies the deep mischaracterizations that are so prevalent on multiple ends of the conflict. While supporters of Gaza have been banding under the hashtag #GazaunderAttack, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has created its own response-- #PillarofDefense. The translation from Hebrew can be interpreted as Pillar of Cloud, a Biblical reference to God incarnating himself as a cloud to confuse and terrorize Egyptians in order to protect the children of Israel.
All moral implications of using Biblical imagery for military operations aside, the IDF has taken its social media coverage of the attacks on Gaza to new levels. It has successfully created a brand for the Israeli military, and its sleek designs and infographics serve to suppress the horrifying stories of occupation out of Gaza.
Take, for instance, their newly launched Tumblr page. Idfonline.tumblr.com features images with bold, Helvetica font detailing how many Qassam rockets have been launched into Israel. “Share this to show life under fire,” the post implores, ironically a sentiment that could serve daily life in Gaza more accurately.
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Or take its new graphic depiction of “How Hamas sees Israel,” with a young Jewish family and their small cat the focus of a gigantic, red target. While Hamas has made it clear that it intends to increase attacks after the assassination of senior Hamas official Ahmed Jabari, the IDF has created this statement without any citation of Hamas explicitly stating any goal of targeting civilians.
Yesterday, the IDF twitter, @IDFSpokesperson tweeted, almost to the point of hilarity, “Clarification: No rockets were fired from #Gaza on Tel-Aviv. #Hamas propaganda is constantly spreading misinformation.” But Hamas doesn’t have a Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook page to condense their misinformation into trendy infographics the way the IDF does.
In its own defense, Hamas posted a short video entitled, “How Does the IDF Minimize Harm to Palestinian Civilians in Gaza?” Despite the well-produced digital short, no numbers of civilian casualties are mentioned. Eight civilians, including an 11-month-old baby, have been killed as a result of air strikes, with 120 civilians injured.
But these are not the stories the IDF wants the public to see. Brilliantly, it has created a social media campaign that markets occupation as if it were Coca-Cola, a PR combination of capitalism and terrorism at its finest.