Hamas terrorist group has been TikToking about Jerusalem and Israeli-Arabs for a year
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A confluence of events helped start the current war with Gaza, but terrorism experts say that Hamas has, under the radar, been aggressively using TikTok to promote its “ownership” over the issues of Jerusalem and mistreatment of Israeli-Arabs for an entire year.
IDC Herzliya International Institute for Counter-Terrorism director Boaz Ganor issued a recent report that highlights Hamas’s leap in its social media campaign on these issues.
Citing University of Haifa Prof. Gabriel Weimann’s research, Ganor noted that Hamas has been especially active on TikTok in communicating with Israeli-Arabs over the last year.
Ganor said that there was a jump leading up to the war from periodic video posts on TikTok to hundreds of video posts in a short period.
But what is unique about this round of fighting, according to the report, is the combination of an extensive Hamas media campaign to rally support from Israeli-Arabs along with concrete calls for them to take up arms.
The report maintains that rioting in some Israeli-Arab communities was not merely spontaneous outrage over the Sheikh Jarrah controversy or other specific incidents.
All of these incidents happening at the same time would have inflamed the situation in the best of circumstances, but the report clarifies that there was a sophisticated and premeditated incitement campaign by Hamas to achieve the chaotic effect that has occurred in some Israeli-Arab communities.
For example, to connect itself with Sheikh Jarrah and extend its ideological influence from Gaza into east Jerusalem and among Israeli-Arabs within the Green Line, Hamas sent out a steady stream of messages that “Jerusalem will remain the conscience of the Palestinian nation.”
Next, the report quotes a Hamas spokesman, Abu Obeida, who called on Israeli-Arabs to take concrete acts of support for Hamas, knowing that the organization “had swords and shields for you.”
In addition, Hamas distributed fake or manipulated news and images, including footage of a burning tree on the Temple Mount, to enrage the Israeli-Arab public.
In fact, Hamas itself set the tree ablaze, but portrayed the incident as though this was part of a campaign by radical Jews to take over the Temple Mount.
Ganor does not reserve all of the blame for Hamas.
He writes that “the participation of some Israeli-Arabs in the current conflict is a result of continuing Israeli neglect and the failure to address the needs of this sector of the population.”
In fact, Ganor said that the current situation could be viewed as “an opportunity (maybe the last) to formulate a strategy which will integrate force against disturbers of the peace, criminals and illegal weapons possession, alongside processes for winning over hearts and minds by fixing discrimination and economic reforms.”
Another point in its social media campaign has been to make threats Hamas is incapable of fulfilling, simply to rally enthusiasm.
Ganor speculates that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are undertaking this strategy more systematically than in the past.
He suggests this is because of a combination of Iranian and Hezbollah influence, since leaders of the Islamic Republic as well as Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah have frequently used this strategy in the past.
The fact that PIJ “is one of Iran’s marionettes” also displays the role of Tehran in the current round of conflict, even if it is not the central actor.
The report traces a variety of other causes leading to the current round of conflict, as well as suggestions for avoiding the next round.
“Safety is our top priority and we do not tolerate violence, hate speech or hateful behaviour. We have already taken action to remove content that violates our Community Guidelines and we will continue to take action wherever necessary, including cooperating with law enforcement where we receive a valid request,” responded Tik Tok.