he two most powerful Palestinian political movements in Gaza – Hamas and Fatah – are slugging it out in a social media war that is pitting video against video and hashtag against hashtag ahead of municipal elections in the Palestinian territories slated for October. The widespread use of social media for the first time in Palestinian elections has seen both sides locked in a conflict of narratives over conditions in the coastal strip ruled by Hamas since 2007, which has lived through three devastating conflicts with Israel in the last eight years. The battle of words and images was triggered by a series of slick videos posted on YouTube representing Hamas’s pitch for the municipal elections – not least in Gaza City, one of the three most important and populous Palestinian cities. The message, after years emphasising Israeli occupation, siege and resistance, is relentlessly upbeat, featuring two key phrases that have also been deployed as hashtags on Twitter and Facebook: “Thank you, Hamas” and “Gaza is more beautiful”.
The online battle has continued as the Israeli military – on Sunday and overnight on Monday – launched some 50 strikes against targets in Gaza. The attacks by jets and Israeli tanks were in response to a missile, claimed by a jihadist group, that hit the nearby Israeli community of Sderot.
The Hamas videos, featuring drone shots, pop music and stylised production, depict a Gaza at odds with the grinding reality of high unemployment, frequent power cuts and war-damaged buildings.
Instead, the scenes flit from the new sea-side corniche to artfully-lit office blocks and an amusement park opened by Hamas, to universities, municipal labourers hard at work and lifeguards on the beaches.