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MENA: Rage after Israel Attacks Gaza-bound Flotilla

Emotions are running high across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), after Israel attacked a peaceful flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to besieged Gaza – and the Twittersphere is ablaze.

According to Reuters:

The violent end to a Turkish-backed attempt to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip by six ships carrying some 600 people and 10,000 tonnes of supplies raised an outcry across the Middle East and far
beyond.

And no where is this rage more obvious than on Twitter - where thousands of tweets with the hashtag #flotilla, #Freedomflotilla, #Israel, #Gaza and the Turkish word for Israel #Israil – many of which have now been disabled – mushroomed in a few hours.

Reactions across MENA included sarcasm, anger and shame.

From Dubai, UAE, Mariam writes:

أنا مسلمة و كلي فخر و لكني اليوم أعلن اني تركية الروح. أنا لست عربية
I am Muslim and proud of it but today I am Turkish is spirit. I am not Arab.

Bahraini Esra'a Al Shafei sarcastically notes:

Israel has just announced the world's most dangerous weapons: Wheelchairs and elderly people. #Flotilla #FreedomFlotilla

Rami Boraie, who tweets as Ramsville, follows the same stream of thought, saying:

Nothing will happen because it will be called “self-defense” because water purifiers are just bombs waiting to be made.

Lebanese Jamal Ghosn tweets:

If you let someone get away with murder every time, you can't act surprised when it kills again. #flotillamassacre #flotilla

Bahraini Yacoub Slaise adds:

Israelis have never respected borders, they've existed for 60 years on that basis, never expect them to respect intl waters #freedomflotilla

Again from Ramsville:

It's obvious the
flotilla was a peaceful operation. To see israeli soldiers board with machine guns should show the ridiculousness of it all

And there was also action on the ground:

From Egypt, Bothania Kamel reports:

أكتر من 600 ناشط يتجمعون أمام وزارة الخارجية المصرية ضد وحشية اسرائيل و العدد في تزايد
More than 600 activists gather in front of the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry in protest against Israel's brutality – and their number is increasing

Palfest posts a photograph from the demonstration here:

A scene from the Cairo demonstration by PalFest

Ali Dahmash, from Jordan, also tweets:

The only demonstration I managed to see now was at the Prime Ministry and it's building up #flotilla http://tweetphoto.com/24880069

And here‘s Dahmash's photograph:

Activists gather in Jordan in protest against the flotilla attack

Meanwhile, after a few celebratory tweets that #flotilla is becoming a trending topic on Twitter, accusations surfaced that Twitter is ‘censoring’ the entry.

Dowza tries an explanation here:

There isn’t much available as to what happened but it’s not really surprising. Israel showed its distaste for international law once again and attacked an aid vessel outside of their jurisdiction. This was in international waters and the equivalent of piracy. There are reports  as to as many as 12-15 people being killed and steadily rising. It’s hard to get any sort of correct number because well… the israeli press is introducing all sorts of unsourced factors. One claims soldiers were attacked with knives. Can we believe this? I’ll elaborate later but for now I am interested in why #flotilla is not trending. Sure it may not be super important but Twitter was used with great success during the Iranian elections for people to speak out. It was even kept up so people could communicate. So obviously it is anti-Iran. But can we establish something else?

As said I’m more interested in why #flotilla is not trending worldwide on Twitter. If you look on trendistic which tracks tweets #flotilla is number 1.

He continues:

WHY is #flotilla not trending? This is obviously interference on Twitters part. There is no other rational explanation.

(…)

It is frightening to think that anyone is purposefully blocking words from being discussed by a greater audience so lets hope this is all some sort of coincidence. Given pro-israeli propaganda that is prevalent in almost every mainstream media outlet it wouldn’t surprise me.

Lets hope it’s an ‘error’.

This is what I got when I tried looking up #israil

And as the ‘errors’ continue, Twitter users are becoming more vocal.

SuadAK, from Bahrain, screams:

Twitter blocked #Israil too!!! Cowards #Twitter

From Bucharest, Romania, Florin Cosac appeals to Twitter:

@twitter: Stop censoring #israel, #gaza and #flotilla from trending topics NOW! #FreedomFlotilla

On the Guardian's Technology Blog, Charles Arthur attempts another explanation:

But at around 11am, as #flotilla began “trending” – rising to the topmost-used hashtags on the service – it seemed to vanish.

Was this censorship by Twitter? Quite a few asked the question.

Certainly if you went to the standard URL for such a search – http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23flotilla – you briefly got a result saying “Twitter error”.

However if you used the advanced search, you get the results as you'd expect.

What also happened was that people started using a new hashtag: #freedomflotilla. That rapidly trended.

The error in #flotilla search results quickly fixed itself, though. Possibly the rapid rise in the hashtag's visibility tripped an anti-spam filter at Twitter headquarters (where it was 3am in the morning, so we might assume that it's the machines, rather than the people, who are on duty – though then again, knowing the nocturnal habits of programmers, perhaps not).

So: shock as Twitter not being used to censor news. But it does show the enormous sensitivity there now is about Twitter's impartiality that any suggestion that a world event might be pushed out of its “trending topics” (displayed on the right-hand column of every Twitter user's home page) can create such frustration.

It doesn't, of course, help anyone on the convoy that was attacked. But getting information into public hands is a public good. Twitter is coming closer and closer to being viewed as a utility – certainly by those who use it. Perhaps we'd all feel more comfortable if it had a business model that had real, declared profits.

Stay tuned for more reactions as the day progresses.

22 comments

  • Andrew D

    Some video from the ship is here…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2010/may/31/israel-troops-gaza-ships

    Anyone see anything else? Good job on the ship’s crew for getting the footage out (despite apparent jaming by Israeli forces)!

  • Jackie

    Israel will say anything to justify what they did,
    we all know that those people where unarmed
    but now Israel says that the had weapons,
    wikipedia says they had pistol,Fox News is reporting
    that the Gaza Flotilla had links to al Qaeda,
    soon they will say there where missile on board,
    They will say any lie to justify what they have done,
    My Prayers go out to all those innocent People on the
    Gaza Flotilla and there family’s

    • ISARELI

      jackie i want you to come to israel and talk to soldirs that where on the ship. the letters writen by you are lies. Israeli soldirs came on the ships with believes that the ship is peacesful. unarmed mentally and fisecally. they where attacked one by one! by 10 guys on 1 soldir!
      there are videos and pictures that you can see!!
      so why ? why are you lying? your lying because you hate. and this hate is what caused the holocast.
      I will end with a hope that peace with come and people like you stop making the world a bad place.

  • Jackie

    It is time to stop lying People wake up!!!
    look around mother earth is acting up , earthquakes,
    flooding, volcano’s, ect… all over the world,
    our Sun is acting strange, War’s in country’s,
    rumours of War, The Gulf of Mexico turned RED.
    OUR MAKER IS COMING AND YOU CAN’T LIE TO HIM!!!!

    • -MA-

      Jackie, are you Muslim? Everything going on in the world now, is clearly and very accurately descirbed in the hadiths regarding the end of time! It may make an interesting read for you.

  • James

    The ‘activists’ knowingly entered a war zone, even after being warned and turned away before. War is a serious business and any fool who knowingly enters a war zone should not expect to be greeted with tea and crumpets.

  • shah

    Israel is the biggest terrorist nation in the world inciting hatred against the Arab world violating international human rights principles

  • Eda

    ISRAEL NEEDS TO STOP STOP STOP AND THINK ABOUT WHAT THERE DOING BECAUSE ONE DAY THEY WILL REALIZE AND WAKE UP FIGHTING IS NOT THE WAY TO DO IT THE LORD YOU MAY FIGHT WITH PEOPLE AND HAVE POWER OVER THEM BUT YOU WILL NOT HAVE POWER OVER THE LORD YOU CAN’T STOP EARTH QUAKES WHEN YOU DIE YOU TAKE NO MONEY NO POWER SO ISRAEL IT IS TIME TO STOP AND THINK LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR FIGHTING YOU HAVE NO POWER GOD IS ALL MIGHTY HE IS IN CHARGE.

  • […] Malaysian nationals were on board the Mavi Marmara when Israeli naval commandos raided a “Freedom Flotilla” of six ships carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid. This attack by Israel has sparked […]

  • […] We've covered the turn of events through the perspectives of local voices from the ground in Israel – The Freedom Flotilla: PR stunt or Humanitarian Act? – and Arab countries in the Middle East – Rage after Israel Attacks Gaza Bound Flotilla […]

  • Sallahudin

    Its high time for the People around the world to stop Israel. Oh !!! Muslims of the world when will wakeup??? & One thing that is for sure these acts of Israel & US will generate many Bin Ladins.

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