Convergent media and the conflict between Israel and Hamas

Not surprisingly, the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza received a lot of attention in the media, through both journalistic sources and individual information and opinion sharing. The western media covered events in the Middle East as they unfolded, conducted interviews both there in person as well as over the phone here in the States, and followed related events here. Social media sites, news websites, newspapers, and television broadcasts were awash with the latest on the ongoing crisis.

This struggle highlighted the coming together of a culture, reaching past oceans and lands to unite the Jewish people across geographic and other boundaries. Social media and website communications were swimming with posts about the conflict. Invididuals and organizations shared information about the conflict, past and present, as well as detailed media bias in covering and adequately explaining the struggle were posted via photo, video and text. Ways to help including local rallies put on by the Jewish Federation, places to donate money and goods, including food and care packages for the soldiers, and other ways to support Israel were shared via invitations, as well as photos, text and the like.

One popular Jewish informational site encouraged people to contact a variety of sources here in the States, including politicians and media sources that weren’t posting or accurately telling the Israeli side of the story. Notably, they also encouraged people to contact Twitter about closing down the Hamas account, since it had been designated as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” by the US government. They cited federal law, specifically that it is illegal to “provide ‘material support’ to terrorists – which includes the provision of any “service” or “communications equipment.”

The war between Israel and Hamas is not just by air or on the ground; there is a full-fledged social media attack taking place between them. The Israeli army has been sharing it’s side, including photos, videos, blogs, and text via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, You Tube, and the like. It’s no surprise then that the Jewish people far and wide have taken to communicating about this crisis in the same way, particularly when there is a long shared frustration about accuracy in media reporting on this subject. Social media and the Internet have allowed for coverage, and with it unity and support, like never before during this type of crisis. With that has come some incredible communications, both positive and negative.

People in Israel were able to update hundreds of friends and family spread across the globe that they were still safe after rockets and other attacks. Photos, videos, and information disputing the misinformation from some other mainstream sources were able to be shared far and wide across social media and websites. I have seen repeated mention of many more Palestinians being killed than Israelis, yet little mention of other reasons for this besides just blaming Israel. It wasn’t until researching a number of Jewish sites that I read for myself that this is due mainly to two things: 1) Israel has better security measures including alarms that sound warnings for people to take cover as well as the interception of many of the rockets, rockets that have been being fired into their country for years, their own recent attack of Hamas a calculated response to take out sources of this rocket fire. 2) Hamas uses women and children as its army, it surrounds terrorist leaders and resources with them, uses them to fight, straps explosives to them, puts them in the line of fire. While Israel makes targeted attacks, attempting to minimize civilian casualties, and expressing intense remorse over those that do occur, great care was taken to minimize them. Meanwhile, Hamas has been sending rockets over for years, without the same regards, targeting Israeli civilians.

Furthermore, much media coverage suggests that peace would arise if Israel would simply give the West Bank to Hamas. I watched a television interview where a spokesperson from Hamas shied away from giving a straight answer of whether or not they would stop sending rockets into Israel if given the land they wanted. Despite getting a clear “yes,” the journalist reduced the conflict to it being an issue of Israel needing to give them the land if they wanted peace. Another much the less publicized fact of the matter, one that again I had to research to find, made easier by the social media and other online efforts by the IDF and Jewish people and organizations, is that Hamas does not want the existence of Israel or the Jewish people in any way. They are aiming to eradicate Israel, piece by piece, pushing for this land as a staging area to continue their assault on Israel.

Given this, it’s no wonder that pro-Israel discourse on Facebook, Twitter, and other media outlets was met with such hot contention, though the extent of it was surprising. Arguments about the conflict were reminiscent of the recent political back and forth as we neared the presidential election. One friend of mine recounted being threatened on her Twitter account, and actually having to readjust her privacy settings and remove friends and followers. I have seen countless retaliatory posts simplifying the struggle to an issue of Israel not giving the land, and that they have killed more Palestinians, with little commentary following explanations and responses to this. So while social media has brought the Jewish people together in support of Israel, it seemingly has had mixed effects regarding the American people. In some instances, it allowed for the flow of information and increase in knowledge and understanding. In others, it has divided people in ways that without the social media presence of this crisis, may not have occurred. Regardless of one’s alliances, we cannot deny that the use of convergent media in this case has been inflammatory, with interesting implications for the role of convergent media in future crises.

54 Ways you can help Israel. November, 2012.

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