Since the Israel-Palestine conflict flared up again last week, three Israelis and more than one hundred Palestinians, including civilians, have been killed.
But the artillery isn’t limited to rockets and bombs. Across the rest of the world, people are watching as war is waged between the official Twitter account for the Israeli Defense Forces and the account speaking for Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas's military wing. The rhetoric both sides employ recalls the techniques of both cyber-bullying and propaganda:
Cyberspace has never seemed so palpable as when I read these tweets. The IDF and Al Qassam Brigades may be posting from their respective countries, but their words meet in a space that belongs to neither of them, a space that requires neither visas nor passports from its visitors. Twitter highlights the Internet's status as terra incognita where pure freedom of speech holds sway.
I’m reminded of Carl von Clausewitz’s famous dictum that war is the continuation of policy by other means. By taking to Twitter, however, both Israel and Palestine have chosen to make their hostility even more visible. Seeing two accounts spar on this level — with the power to comment and reply just a click away — brings the conflict uncomfortably close to home.
Shani Boianjiu, who has written about women in the IDF, highlights the ramifications of this new trend:
Transparent, yes, and uncoded. It's almost alluring. By enabling military forces to both intimidate antagonists and live-tweet attacks, social media (from Twitter to Facebook and elsewhere) has shifted military announcements from simple propaganda to a lower-stakes form of warfare. Indeed, the medium has become the message: the tweets flying back and forth are trumpeting an emotional call-to-arms in people who otherwise might have been ignorant of the physical war.
It's a shift that gives me pause. They're not just politicizing digital feeds — they're doing much more than that. They're politicizing human lives.