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Gaza War's New Front: Facebook

January 09, 2009

Israel, at first glance, seems to be dominating the information war over Gaza. The Israeli government has launched a campaign to dominate the blogosphere <http://blog.wired.com/defense/2008/12/israels-info-wa.html>: Pro-Israel hackers are waging cyberwar <http://blog.wired.com/defense/2009/01/israel-dns-hack.html> against Hamas, and the Israeli military has kept the international press off the battlefield <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/world/middleeast/07media.html?ref=business>.

But as the /Financial Times/ notes, social networking site Facebook <http://www.facebook.com/> has become an important venue in the Arab world for protesting the Israeli campaign, as well as a potent fundraising tool for supporters of the Palestinian cause.

Correspondent Abeer Allam writes from Riyadh <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/915d9da0-dd25-11dd-a2a9-000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1>:

 /Arab governments often control public protests, leaving donations
 as one of the few means available to express support for the
 Palestinians and anger at the Israeli offensive./

 /Facebook has played a pivotal role, coordinating groups of young
 people who pray or donate money to the United Nations Relief and
 Work Agency for Palestine Refugees, Red Crescent Society and other
 relief organisations./

This <http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8454730966> Facebook page, for instance, includes links to the Palestine Red Crescent Society <http://www.palestinercs.org/>, Muslim Aid and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees <http://www.un.org/unrwa/>. It also has a link to a Facebook page opposed to pro-Israeli hackers.

Of course, Israel has plenty of Facebook friends as well. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported today <http://jta.org/news/article/2009/01/08/1002088/pro-israel-demonstrations-held-in-london-brussels> how Matt Freelander, a young Jewish Londoner, organized a pro-Israeli demonstration through Facebook; around 1,000 people showed up for the rally. Radio Netherlands notes <http://www.radionetherlands.nl/currentaffairs/region/middleeast/090106-Gaza-propaganda> another Facebook site that aims to round up a million supporters of Israel.