Monday, May 23, 2011

Danny, Paul and Nabka

Last week my good twitter companion @emm_ah was directly addressed by @DannyAyalon. The Israeli deputy foreign minister got back to her, giving her the Israeli twist on historical and actual facts about Palestine she had tweeted on #Nakba day. How does a busy politician like Danny find time to dive into the twittersphere? The Israeli foreign policy must be an auto-running project.

Last week it became public, at least public to me, that the Taliban in Afghanistan have started their own twitter account - @alemarahweb - to give their counter twist to the American twist on Afghanistan. The Taliban report events like "55 US-NATO invaders, 16 local puppets killed, 19 vehicle eliminated in Khost operation, May 22" and have 5767 followers. (And that is not counting the 132'400 NATO troops still present in the country, ten years after 9/11, where no Afghans but mostly Saudi citizens were among the alleged perpetrators. The Saudis? These are the people from Wahhabi and Monarchy ruled Saudi Arabia, the strategic partners of Barack Obama, unmentioned in his Middle East speech last Thursday.)

Last week Paul Kagame, the former guerilla commander and now leader of Rwanda tweeted it out on the internet, hitting back at a very surprised British journalist who had dared to call Kagame "despotic and deluded" in one of his tweets. "Wrong u r", replied @PaulKagame, "u have no such right", showing off his talent as a sharp shooter in yet another arena.

Last week, Lady Gaga broke the barrier of 10 mio followers on twitter, a record number, topping Barack Obama who checks in at 8'182'282 followers as of now. (I might be killed for that but I confess: I like Lady Gaga, the art persona.)

Last week Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the French head of the International Monetary Fund was arrested in New York City, under suspicion of having tried to rape a hotel maid in his 3000 $ a night suite at the Sofitel on Times Square. From future president of France - the moral hurdles for this post seem very low - to inmate of the much dreaded Rikers Island prison, he went from heaven to hell in 24 hours. While DSK was rotting under the sword of being an unfaithful rapist, Nicolas Sarkozy back home leaked that Carla his model wife was expecting a love child. We just can call off the French elections of 2012; Marine Le Pen will make it to the second round but eventually lose to Daddy-O-Sarkozy. But what has all of this to do with twitter, the common thread of this post? French netizen @j_pinet, a young member of Sarkozy's UMP party, tweeted about Strauss-Kahn's arrest almost before the man himself could feel the shining handcuffs around his wrists. Hmmmm. (No, I don't buy "la théorie du complot". I do believe though that presenting DSK as a trophy of the NYPD has once again illustrated the "mindset of indignity" behind the American justice system.)

10 million Little Monsters: Lady Gaga

Strauss-Kahn had his Nakba last week, Palestine 63 years ago. But where is the Palestinian leadership when real things happen in the virtual world? They are ABSENT! No Palestine, no leadership, no twitter. Abbas, Meshaal, Haniya, Erakat and the guys seem forever locked in their decades old rhetoric that has the effect of a nuclear cloud over Fukushima: unheard, unseen, but extremely harmful to their own people. In times where online communication is the backbone of any meaningful campaign, staying off the social media platforms is a political suicide. The traditional wars are over: you don't win battles with rocket propelled grenades these days (have you ever?), you win them by winning the public opinion. Engage the world and the world will engage you. You don't stop tweets with an Iron Dome! A future Palestinian state will be conceived in Berlin, Washington and New York, and not in the West Bank and even much less in Gaza. 

If feel sorry for all people tweeting every day like crazy for the rights of the Palestinians and the statehood of Palestine. Their case is a lost one. Their online "fact slamming" rather constitutes a group therapy for themselves than being a means to a solution for Palestine. The Palestinians executives (I am deliberately avoiding the word "leaders" here) don't seem to mind and don't seem to realize what potential is at their disposal. Their heads are turned inward, at Hamas, at Fatah, and not outward, where the world is yearning for a modern approach of Palestinian leadership to emerge. The history of Palestinian leadership is repeating itself online: they have never failed to miss an opportunity. 

I hardly say anything good about Israel in these lines, but here it is: as a state they are thoroughly self-centered, they are ruthless, they are all kinds of things, but - from a managerial point of view, they are almost perfect. They have a strategy, they know what they want. They want all, they want everything, they want peace, they want war. Nothing makes a difference, it's all the same. They play all the cards in their decks to their advantage: the European guilt of having caused the Holocaust; the American subordination to the Jewish lobby come election time; and the perennial indecision of the Arab nations. And they tweet.

It's not only die hard politicians like Danny Ayalon who tweet, no, tweets do also come from the kind staff of @IDFSpokesperson for instance. On their twitter page, they are represented by a young blond woman, a tourist guide in uniform, who makes you think that she should be the one cleaning your backside once you end up suffering in a nursery home. Israel is depicted as a friendly female face here, evoking her favorite self image of a anti-colonialism movement - how has this narrative ever worked back in the sixties and seventies? - pushing the frontier towards civilization just as the Americans did 200 years ago when they pushed the Native Americans almost into the Pacific Ocean in their drive to California.

Enough! I don't think I want to see Mahmoud Abbas himself on twitter. This too would be too gruesome to watch. I don't want to read "we have to get them to come back to the negotiation table" in 140 characters. So here's my call to the Palestinian leadership, if there is any: develop a communication strategy for the third millennium, free of whining. Get rid of your loser image. Set up innovative social media units to dominate the cyber waves. Engage with your supporters online, put their tweets into action. Talk to your friends, talk back to your enemies. In short: become like Israel! As hard as it seems and whether you like it or not. When they can tweet and run then: Yes You Can!

SURPRISE ISRAEL! For further reading, here's an excellent article by The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart. Quote: "Netanyahu talks a lot about Palestinian violence, but he seems utterly flummoxed by Palestinian nonviolence."