According to a number of reports, the media wing of Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, announced a social media operation aimed at Europeans on Thursday. One feature: The group would set up an English-language Twitter account (@HamasInfoEn) and allow senior members of the group to take questions via the hashtag #AskHamas.
What could possibly go wrong?
A lot, obviously. According to social media analytic company Topsy, there have already been over 3,000 tweets with the hashtag #AskHamas in the last three hours and almost all appear to be negative. Incredibly, the campaign isn't even due to begin until Friday.
Here's a small selection of the (less offensive) tweets:
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) March 12, 2015
— Dumisani Washington (@dumisani6) March 12, 2015
I have a question. Why did you let Tony Blair go free? #AskHamas
— Dima S. ديمة (@YasminWaQahwa) March 12, 2015
— Peter Lerner (@LTCPeterLerner) March 12, 2015
#AskHamas This hashtag campaign seems like a very bad idea. Are you sure the guy who suggested it isn't actually a Mossad spy? Just saying.
— Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) March 12, 2015
Right now, #AskHamas is going so terribly that you have to wonder if someone was seeking to discredit Hamas. However, the campaign appeared to have been retweeted by Hamas's Arabic language account and some high-profile members of Hamas, as well as featured in a number of Palestinian news outlets. There have been no denials issued from Hamas at the time of writing.
If real, the hashtag appeared to be aimed at changing the minds of the group's skeptics. "The campaign is aimed at rejecting the labeling of the Palestinian resistance as 'terrorists,'" Taher al-Nounou, Hamas media coordinator, said Thursday, according to comments carried in the Turkish press. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel.
#AskHamas may face some difficulty, but it looks like Hamas is really taking some steps further into the social media battle against Israel, which already has a slick and well-publicized Facebook and Twitter strategy. And, given the first tweet on @HamasInfoEn, Hamas understands the risks.
Zionist propagandists will try to convince you that this is a rocket, not a tweet. Do not fall for that.
— Hamas Movement (@HamasInfoEn) March 11, 2015