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Social Media Warfare: Shaping Public Opinion on the Israeli-Hamas War in the United States

By Allie Grande

A media adviser of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a Facebook live broadcast as he opens the weekly Cabinet meeting at his office, Jerusalem, Jan. 21, 2018. - Gali Tibbon/AFP via Getty Images via Al-Monitor

Following the commencement of the Israel-Hamas War on October 7, social media pages around the world have been flooded with infographics, misinformation, and gruesome posts surrounding the conflict at hand. Given the inherent controversy and disagreement encompassing Israeli-Palestinian relations, differing opinions, posts, and voices were circulated through social media apps such as X (formerly Twitter), TikTok, and Instagram. Not only did these posts affect younger generations, but they have also impacted the outlook on domestic Israel relations, Israel lobbying groups such as AIPAC and J-Street, and the United States’ relationship with Israel. 

As social media continues to spread (mis)information regarding the conflict, and relatively uninvolved participants of the United States have started to voice their opinions and support for both Israeli and Palestinian causes. These opinions are often formed by social media news, or social media infotainment, that has failed to contextualize the entirety of the conflict. An article by the Associated Press explains that there have been accounts of false claims, such as one stating that the top Israeli Commander had been kidnapped, along with doctored photos and videos pretending to be news sources or first-hand accounts from the conflict. Through the utilization of apps such as Tiktok, raw and unfiltered footage has gained traction from the algorithms of those who are watching, and opens up the opportunity for misinformation, conspiracy theories, and propaganda to be created as there are little-to-no checks on the trustworthiness of the videos being posted.CNN, for instance, has explained that footage from video games, such as Arma 3, and the Russia-Ukraine War were being circulated, claiming to be from the Israeli-Hamas War. As a result, novice viewers make assumptions and form opinions surrounding the conflict based upon information that is presented to them (which is not entirely correct) which ultimately leads to a shift in the Israel lobby that exists within the United States. 

Anecdotally, the Israeli-Hamas war has also created tensions within the  United States and around the world, manifesting onto the social media platforms of Gen Z viewers. On campuses such as American University or George Washington University, where debates and protests have occurred. Public support outside of college campuses has also been affected by this conflict, as unconditional United States support has declined due to “decades of brutal Israeli control

Aid to Israel, though not controversial in the overall United States constituency, has created debate regarding whether or not we should be aiding Israel. Social media users, specifically younger, pro-Palestine generations, have shifted blame to Israel regarding this attack, calling it a “defense” against an otherwise hostile Israel. Regardless that there was a clear terrorist attack by a militant organization with objectives to not only obliterate Israel but to eradicate Jews, some citizens of the United States have sought to support Palestine through this conflict, and have otherwise written off the attack by Hamas as a defensive measure. Though citizens are not outwardly supporting Hamas, they are supporting the attack that was done by Hamas, and have called for the freeing of Palestine. Social media has become a tool in which this argument is able to be spread and reached by people across the country, and even the world, thus its manifestations into college campuses across the country, resulting in not only antisemitic but also Islamaphobic attacks. 

However, the Biden Administration alongside a majority of the United States constituency continue to support providing aid to Israel during this war. On both sides of the aisle, as explained by The Hill, Democrats and Republicans recognize the urgency to provide aid to Israel, given that the Hamas attack was unprovoked, brutal, and involved innocent civilians including women, children, concert-goers, and Holocaust survivors. Americans, with 71% of support from survey takers, overwhelmingly support the United States’ policy in the Middle East to protect Israel and deter further adversarial Hamas attacks. With providing aid, in the coming weeks the Housewill seek to provide an aid package for Israel exclusively, rather than to combine this aid package with one that would be granted to Ukraine. This package, proposed by the House GOP, would be made up of $14.3 billion to Israel for the Iron Dome and defense systems. The newly installed Speaker of the House Mike Johnson believes that an aid package exclusively for Israel will garner support from both democrats and republicans, and will likely advance onto the Senate floor for approval. 

The federal government has continued to provide support to Israel in multiple capacities. The U.S.Department of Defense has sought to give Israel the necessary military capabilities to combat Hamas, and has sought to ensure that the conflict does not spill over into neighboring countries. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has stated that the United States and Israel are working together at the ‘highest level’, and that President Biden will continue to work with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the war. In a press briefing with the State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller, has stated that the United States will be assisting the providing of necessary resources such as food, water, medical care, and fuel to the people of Gaza while providing priority to American citizens who remain in Gaza. 

As the conflict continues, it is likely that propaganda, misinformation, and infotainment news will continue to be utilized. It is imperative that news be fact-checked, or even funneled through moderation systems on apps such as TikTok, X, or Instagram to ensure that citizens in countries such as the United States are able to formulate informed opinions regarding this conflict.

Support for Israel has undoubtedly grown within the United States as empathetic sentiment has flooded the U.S., since this attack has been coined by some as “Israel’s 9/11”. However, with the rapidness and ability to gain social media traction, it is likely to see progressive calls for a ceasefire and discontent with the Biden Administration as they will likely continue to support Israel.

Allie Grande is a Senior in the School of International Service. She focuses in National Security and Foreign Policy and brings forth experiences from internships with former House Representative Anthony Brindisi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, The United States Department of Defense, and the White House. In her free time, Allie is a member of the Phi Mu Fraternity, is an avid foodie, and bartends at Kramers Bookstore and Afterwords Cafe. 

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