Hamas launched a one-week social media campaign Thursday to improve its image and refute its designation as a terror organization. But the effort hit a stumbling block on its first day when the Gaza-based group’s #AskHamas Twitter campaign was appropriated Friday by Israelis and their supporters, who seized on the hashtag to mock or criticize Hamas.
The hashtag had been used more than 24,200 times by Friday morning, according to the social media analytics company Topsy, which registered the vast majority of the tweets as hostile to the Palestinian group.
This trend might make Hamas’ fledgling effort to revamp its image an uphill battle. The group’s media adviser, Taher Al-Nounou, said Thursday the social media campaign was directed at a Western audience in order to clarify Hamas’ ideology and its stance on many issues, according to Middle East Monitor. "The campaign is aimed at rejecting the labeling of the Palestinian resistance movement as 'terrorists'," he said. "It will take the form of questions and answers, as evidenced by the title #AskHamas, in order for the truth to reach the widest segment of ordinary Western people."
— Hamas Movement (@HamasInfoEn) March 12, 2015
Hamas has been classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union. A ruling late last year by a top EU court in Luxembourg ordered it to be removed from the bloc’s list of blacklisted terror groups, a move that was strongly criticized by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The EU said last month it would appeal the ruling to its highest legal authority.
The group announced through its @HamasInfoEn Twitter account that the question and answer session would be led by the female Hamas MP Huda Naim at 5 p.m. GMT. Critics wasted no time, however, in using the hashtag to tweet disparaging questions:
#AskHamas How do you feel about your leader hiding out in a fancy hotel in Doha while there was a war in Gaza?
— Lahav Harkov (@LahavHarkov) March 13, 2015
— ElderOfZiyon (@elderofziyon) March 12, 2015
#askhamas do you feel comfortable launching your social media campaign on a site founded by a Jew
— Jonny Braham (@jonnybraham) March 13, 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.
â€” Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) March 12, 2015