A War of Words in Gaza

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Israel and Hamas have extended the olive branch—for the moment. The rockets have stopped firing, but a war of public opinion will continue as the balance of power shifts in the Middle East. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his administration have demonstrated political competence, convincing Hamas to join peace talks and helping broker a peaceful negotiation. At the same time, Hamas has been emboldened by the international attention won from the conflict; it has successfully made Gaza an international issue, and it may well force Israel to ease its economic blockade on Gaza.

In the coming weeks, international support will be crucial for both Hamas and Israel. Throughout the conflict, the two sides bombarded one another through the media, attempting to gain the upper hand as the true ‘victim’ of the conflict. Hamas attempted to demonize Israel as the aggressor, killing Palestinians indiscriminately. Israel, on the other hand, depicted Hamas as a terrorist organization that “is an enemy of peace…dedicated to destroying the state of Israel.” [1] The two sides are playing a risky game of media propaganda, promoting their own innocence yet condemning their enemy’s malevolent actions.

Yet, the world does not share any sort of clear-cut view of Hamas or Israel. The clash between Israel and Hamas has created intense public controversy, illustrating a major difference between Middle Eastern and Western nations. The Western world, including the U.S., considers Hamas a terrorist organization. According to the Council of Foreign Relations, Hamas has killed over 500 people in terrorist attacks since 1993. [2] It is important to remember that Hamas’ original manifesto “advocated the destruction of the state of Israel, and called for the raising of ‘the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.’” [3] With this in mind Israel and its Western supporters fear Hamas as a group dedicated to the destruction of the state of Israel.

However, many Muslim nations in the Middle East were reluctant to condemn Hamas during its conflict with Israel, and the success of Hamas will most likely draw the support of more Muslims. Hamas, and other Middle Eastern nations, accuse Israel as the aggressor in this conflict—the nation to be blamed for atrocities against the Palestinian people. Indeed, at a glance the number of casualties does not support Israel’s cause: 160 Palestinians killed and hundreds wounded in Gaza, compared to six Israelis killed. [4]

Yet, Israeli officials point to Hamas’ apathy toward its own people, hiding weapons caches and operatives in civilian areas, in which Israeli strikes would undoubtedly kill civilians. With more than a million or so Israelis under constant threat of missile attack from Hamas, Israel chose to retaliate fiercely. However, these attempts to punish Hamas may backfire on the international stage. As peace talks will undoubtedly continue, Israel will have to deal with harsh rebukes from other Middle Eastern nations who side with the Palestinian cause. They must continue to justify their use of force in defending their people, just as Hamas will continue to profess the innocence of the Palestinian people—themselves included—at the hands of a tyrannical Israeli state.

Indeed, both Israel and Hamas play a dangerous game. Both must garner support beyond their borders, defending their own interests and actions within this conflict while excoriating their enemy’s. Often they have attacked their enemy for very similar actions—namely dropping bombs and injuring or killing civilians. In fact, both sides have used Twitter to attack the enemy in this regard. When bombs fired from Gaza landed near Jerusalem, they were “hailed by Alqassam as showing the ability of its forces to take the fight to the enemy, while the Israeli military feed includes the news as an example of wanton destruction.” [5]

In another instance, after killing the head of Hamas’s military wing, Ahmed al-Jabari, the official Israeli military Twitter feed circulated posters that showed missiles falling toward the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, and the Sydney Opera House, asking, “What would you do?” Below was the note: “Share this if you agree that Israel has the right to self-defense.” [6]

Both sides have taken a proactive stance, attempting to sway support to their cause; they have inflamed their supporters and drawn worldwide attention. Israel cannot afford to lose more international support, as it did following its 2008-2009 conflict with Hamas. In turn, Hamas sees an opportunity to erode international support for Israel and bring the issue of the Gaza strip to the fore of international politics. The question that remains is whether these two sides’ propaganda and fierce animosity will sway the international community, or if these attacks will only further divide Israel and Hamas and prevent a long-term, peaceful solution.

 

Sources:

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/world/meast/hamas-explainer/index.html

[2] http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/world/meast/hamas-explainer/index.html

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/16/world/meast/hamas-explainer/index.html

[4] http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/23/world/meast/gaza-israel-strike/index.html?hpt=hp_inthenews

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/world/middleeast/in-gaza-conflict-fighting-with-weapons-and-postings-on-twitter.html

[6] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/22/world/middleeast/in-gaza-conflict-fighting-with-weapons-and-postings-on-twitter.html

[Image Credit: http://www.abc.net.au/news/image/4380842-16×9-700×394.jpg]

About author

Harrison Ebeling

Harrison is a history major from Baltimore who first became interested in politics while studying American history and the U.S. political system in high school. That interest continued to grow with his involvement in his high school newspaper and its advisor’s avid political interest. Harrison is particularly interested in the cooperative—or uncooperative—workings of America’s bipartisan system as well as the U.S.’s international policies. He also loves sports, particularly squash, volleyball, and basketball.

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