Digital Diplomacy and Conflict: The Israel-Palestine Social Media War

In a world where conflicts are often fought with hashtags as much as with bullets, the Israel-Palestine conflict exemplifies the immense power of social media.

In a world where conflicts are often fought with hashtags as much as with bullets, the Israel-Palestine conflict exemplifies the immense power of social media.  This conflict has been a long-standing and complicated issue, with a prolonged history of violence, occupation, and political tensions, resulting in the genocide of a group of people primarily due to their race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion (Andreopoulos, 2018), or in this context, to the Palestinians. As a result of this, many people suffered, including families being split up, lives being lost, and a long-lasting hostility that has endured in the area for decades (Cervi & Divon, 2023). This dispute has taken on a new dimension in recent years with the rise of social media, as both sides have used these tools to fight fiercely for control of the narrative and public opinion worldwide. This has impacted the international politics surrounding the conflict, influencing how the world views and handles the ongoing tensions. Social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter have become major forums for the struggle for narrative dominance, with both sides seeking support and the ability to shape public opinion worldwide. While social media has raised voices and highlighted injustices, it has also spread disinformation and widened divides. This essay contends that social media has a dual effect on the Israel-Palestine conflict that is both threatening and beneficial, posing both major obstacles and a source of hope, and would be further analyzed using the realism and liberalism theory of international relations.

The Power of Social Media in Gaining Support

It is undeniable that social media plays a crucial role in gaining support and raising awareness in this Israel-Palestine conflict. These platforms’ rapid and global reach has helped to spread a sense of solidarity among people all over the world by bringing the realities of the conflict into people’s social media pages. The liberalism theory presents an alternative viewpoint on social media’s significance in the fight against the genocide happening in Palestine. Liberals stress that to combat challenges to international security, collaboration, multilateral institutions, and the advancement of democratic ideals are crucial. Additionally, through encouraging candid dialogue and democratic principles. The significance of individual liberties and rights in international relations is emphasized by liberal thought. Social media facilitates cross-border connections and discourse among individuals that go beyond conventional power relations (Nye & Owensby, 2015).

One of the major positive effects of social media is its potential to raise international awareness of the crisis. During the 7 October 2023 escalation when Israel responded to Hamas with a counterattack, social media was flooded with real-time updates, images, and videos providing an immediate portrayal of the conflict. These posts are often shared by Palestinian journalists such as Motaz Azaiza, Plestia Alaqad, Bisan Owda, and many more Palestinian journalists sharing live updates. The truth and facts revealed by these journalists through their posts often show Israeli attacks that destroy people’s homes and show innocent victims and babies who died because of Israeli attacks. Posts like this gave the international world a humanized picture of the suffering and struggle endured by the Palestinians. Moreover, personal stories that are shared on social media platforms have been particularly powerful. For instance, posts showing children impacted by the conflict, broken families, and people standing in the rubble of their homes went viral and attracted sympathy and support from all over the world. These stories strike an emotional connection with viewers, humanizing the crisis and emphasizing the urgency of action is required (Teruelle, 2013). Furthermore, hashtags such as #FreePalestine started to take shape and became rallying cries for their respective causes, mobilizing millions of people to share information and engage in activism. This #FreePalestine campaign resulted in a very big act as more people came to the streets to demand justice for Palestinians and to demonstrate against genocide. Therefore, in my opinion, this shows how social media may be used as a platform by liberals to promote tolerance, encourage cross-border communication, and refute extreme narratives through digital diplomacy and counter-speech. It is undeniable that these aspects of social media are very beneficial for gaining support and awareness.

The Spread of Misinformation

In contrast, the realism theory showed a way of viewing social media as a tool to spread misinformation. The realism theory highlights that the goal is to survive and to seek power. In this context, I argue that the genocide happening in Palestine could be categorized as the neo-realism theory, that Israel will do anything to survive and will behave violently in order to show power and influence. States will go against other states to gain power even if it extends to behaving cruelly such as conducting a genocide. The realism theory explains how social media could be used as a tool for Israel to achieve their goals.

The vital nature of social media means the rapid dissemination of information that shapes perceptions in ways that are not aligned with reality. Moreover, social media is a weapon in the warfare of the information age. It expands upon the examination of three discrete subjects: news and information exchange, propaganda, and social networking (Prier, 2017). Using a previous narrative as a starting point, the propaganda message is then amplified via a network of automated “bot” accounts, forcing the social media platform’s algorithm to identify it as a trending subject (Prier, 2017). For instance, the genocide that is happening in Palestine has been twisted as propaganda by the Israeli alliances such as churchome (an Instagram username)that used Instagram to disseminate propaganda. In a post by churchome, it is seen that there is a picture of a building destroyed and collapsed due to attacks, and on top of that there is a very large writing “PRAYING FOR ISRAEL”. But in fact, the building was the result of Israel’s attack. This Instagram post means it contains propaganda that spreads misinformation about the reality of what is happening. This post also became very viral because, with the nature of social media, this post has been spread by various public figures who have millions of followers such as Justin Beiber, Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, and other top artists. Because of these artists, people who do not understand the real victim will think that the victim is Israel. Thus, this is why I think social media could also cause the spread of propaganda.

Discussion and Conclusion

Using the liberalism and realism theory, it is clear how social media can deepen divisions and dehumanize people, but it also presents a special chance to promote peace. These social media platforms’ algorithms frequently encourage divisive content, strengthen entrenched opinions, and limit the possibility of compromise. These deep-rooted differences are seen in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where social media exchanges frequently lack the complexity required for fruitful discussion. When combined with the power of well-known individuals who have millions of fans, they have the ability to influence opinions that may not always be accurate. Despite these challenges, social media can serve as a tool for reconciliation. These forums have been successfully utilized by Palestinian journalists to advance unity and peace which succeeded because hashtags such as #FreePalestine started to take shape and became rallying cries for their respective causes, mobilizing millions of people to share information and engage in activism. Thus, this is why I think social media plays an important role in the Israel-Palestine conflict, both widening conflicts and providing means for peace. By nature, social media’s influence highlights the need for a holistic approach that prioritizes truthfulness, empathy, and positive interaction. Using social media responsibly is essential as digital diplomacy develops to build understanding and support long-term conflict resolution.

Farah Muna Safa Taqiya
Farah Muna Safa Taqiya
I am Farah Muna Safa Taqiya, an undergraduate student of International Relations at Gadjah Mada University. I am passionate about studying international social-political issues and I enjoy expressing and sharing insights through my writings.