After the army’s ouster of Egypt’s first democratically-elected president earlier this month, some see an opportunity to remove the Hamas leadership in the occupied Gaza Strip, perhaps identifying with a similar dynamic of conflict between a neoliberal secular establishment and an elected Islamist leadership.
In recent weeks, a handful of events and groups suddenly appeared, primarily in social media, across the Arab world, including in Palestine, hoping to ride the coattails of events in Egypt.
On 4 July 2013, Al Masry Al Youm reported on a demonstration in Ramallah where activists – all anonymous or pseudonymous except for one named Rita Abu Ghosh – expressed solidarity with the Tamarrod movement in Egypt and identified with their demands.
On 8 July 2013, Ma’an News Agency reported that “masked demonstrators affiliated to a new group calling itself ‘Tamarod’ marched through Ramallah … calling for a third intifada.”
Tamarrod – whose name is Arabic for “rebellion” – is the coalition of Egyptian opposition groups that announced the 30 June protests that formed the backdrop for the 3 July military coup against President Muhammad Morsi.
While the original Tamarrod insists it represents a broad swath of Egyptian society and embodies the 25 January 2011 uprising that toppled Morsi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak, it has enjoyed support and funding from elite old regime figures, including fiercely anti-Islamist billionaire tycoon Naguib Sawiris.
So far, the examples above are the only physical manifestations of groups borrowing the name “Tamarrod” in Palestine. Everything else is online.
This so-called movement in Palestine can be observed only from online artifacts from social media, particularly on Facebook.
Social and mainstream media continue to conflate multiple online campaigns using the name “Tamarrod,” which may lead to confusion in the future. In Egypt, there were at least three Twitter accounts and one Facebook page identified with the “Tamarrod movement” but soon after the coup, these personas and accounts mutually disowned each other, and activists even appeared on TV to deny the existence of Twitter accounts that were linked from the ostensibly authentic Facebook page.
It was these mutually competing claims and confusion related to Egypt that made me curious about the multiple online instances of accounts claiming to represent “Tamarrod” in Palestine.
Movement of Facebook pages
On 4 July 2013, the United Arabs Emirates-based website 24.ae reported on the creation of a Facebook page for a Palestinian “Tamarrod campaign” of Palestinian activists in Palestine and the diaspora.
Oslo Freedom Forum participant Asmaa al-Ghoul writes about “a Palestinian movement called Tamarod” whose Facebook page launched on 1 July 2013. The article quotes from posts on the Facebook page, but there was no apparent effort to speak directly to activists associated with this movement or to verify their authenticity.
Al Ghoul only speaks to Hamas leaders and experts who explain the historic links between Hamas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and predict trouble ahead for the Hamas government.
Online dissemination and reputation
Some social media users were eager to suggest that Palestinians need or had already launched a Tamarrod-style movement of their own.The English-language reports from Ma’an News Agency and Al-Monitor were not widely shared, but the focus of interest came from Zionist, pro-establishment, or liberal bloggers and think tankers. Americans for Peace Now disseminated the Ma’an report in their daily news update. The Al-Monitor report was spread by the US-based think tank Project on Middle East Democracy
Copycats, confusion and unverifiability
There are multiple Facebook pages claiming some version of the name “Tamarrod” for a Palestinian movement.
- https://www.facebook.com/tmrodfalasteen was reported by Al-Monitor and has over 19,000 fans.
- https://www.facebook.com/Tmrdgaza was reported by 24.ae and has less than 600 fans.
- https://www.facebook.com/tamradgaza1 has over 7,000 fans. It also has a Twitter account @Tamarrod_Gaza and a YouTube profile.
- https://www.facebook.com/tamard.pal has over 5,600 fans. It also has a Twitter account @TamardPal and a web site.
It is difficult to measure the reach of these Facebook pages, but “Tmrdgaza” has the fewest fans and least apparent engagement. “Tmrodfalasteen” has the most fans and good engagement. “tamradgaza1” meanwhile has fewer fans than “tmrodfalasteen” but many times more posts. Engagement on “tamradgaza1” is much higher than “tmrodfalasteen” in proportion to its number of fans.
Before this post was published, Tmrodfalasteen had 142 posts, Tmrdgaza had 174 posts, tamard.pal had 304 posts, and Tamradgaza1 had 964 posts. It is difficult to get more information about these pages without being an administrator of the page.
In contrast, it is easier to read Twitter accounts. The Twitter account @Tamarrod_Gaza is linked to the Facebook page tamaradgaza1, and on Twitter, the majority of its followers are apparently Egyptian. The account retweets mostly users who identify themselves as being in Egypt.
The social media artifacts for all of these Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are available on Github.
Tamarrod Gaza and 11 November
The group identifying as “Tamarrod Gaza” on Twitter and Facebook, with more than 7,000 fans, has made some disturbing posts that resemble the kinds of incitement seen in the Egyptian media.
This anti-Semitic cartoon suggests that Islamists are stooges of the United States, which is in turn controlled by Jews:The account also posted an alleged memo which is used to say that Hamas collaborates with Israel: In another post, Tamarrod Gaza uses an old photograph and makes vague suggestions that it portrays a current event.
In fact, the photograph comes from a website affiliated with the Fatah political faction, a bitter rival of Hamas, and is at least a year old. The text of the tweet says “This is how Hamas militias deal with Gaza’s youth.”The timeline is full of other examples of old anti-Hamas Fatah propaganda. This tweet makes a direct parallel with events in Egypt, saying “Oh Egyptian, you are the brother of Tamarrod Gaza against Hamas militias”: This tweet accuses the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (and by implication Hamas) of condoning or complicity in Israeli war crimes: The account disseminates several videos from Fatah affiliated accounts. This tweet, for example, accuses Hamas and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood of engaging in the “same terrorism”: This tweet directly accuses members of Hamas of killing Egyptian soldiers in August 2012, an accusation frequently spread in Egyptian media for which no evidence has been produced: The group claims to be planning on the ground action for 11 November 2013, the ninth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, who was chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and remains an icon for Fatah.
The people behind the Facebook page “Tmrdgaza” have posted announcements about the date 11 November 2013, and the page includes multiple postings that refer to the @Tamarrod_Gaza Twitter account and the “tamradgaza1” Facebook page, which have a larger audience and more sophisticated social media apparatus.
Recent posts on the “tmroodfalasteen” Facebook page, which has over 19,000 fans, suggest an intent to become a more verifiable and accountable entity.
We were going to announce the names of the coordinators in Gaza and the West Bank, but this will be delayed for some time to protect the safety of the youth, after threats were received from individuals associated with one faction or another.
To begin with, we are not afraid of anyone and the Tamarrod campaign will continue and the division will be ended whether people like it or not. As for those who are sending threats, either as comments on posts or as private messages, we wish to say to them “Enough of your servitude, and your threats are mere bubbles in the air that express the emptiness of your lives. Wake up and stop putting your party above your Palestine.
Following up at 20:25 UTC on the same day, they wrote:
The names of spokespeople for Tamarrod Palestine will be announced soon.
When Hamas announces that Tamarrod aims to sow chaos in the Gaza Strip, this is a serious defamation and a misreading of our movement’s goals.
Tamarrod aims to revive the abilities of the Palestinian people everywhere, on the path to realizing the goals and hopes of every Palestinian wherever he may be.
Ending the occupation, ending the division, ending corruption are demands of every Palestinian, regardless of his orientation. We clarified on more than one occasion that this trifecta of evil is a multi-headed enemy that stands in the way of the Palestinian people, land and future.
We hope that Hamas will learn from past mistakes and from the experience of others and stand among the ranks of the Palestinian youth who are loyal to their people and cause, far from the factional rivalries that have damaged Palestine and its people so greatly and deeply.
It is not clear if there is a connection between the activists behind the “tmroodfalasteen” Facebook page and those identifying with “Gaza” and planning 11 November events. If there is, the aggressive propaganda and Islamophobic and anti-semitic imagery may cause some problems for anyone leveraging the “Tamarrod” brand in Palestine in the future.
Hey Palestinian, Rebel!
Orouba Othman, the spokeswoman of the movement in Gaza, told Al-Monitor in an interview at her office on July 20 that while her movement was encouraged by the Egyptian experience, the idea doesn’t only belong to Egypt.
“We are a group of youth from Palestine and the diaspora who couldn’t meet in person, but social media has made it possible for us to talk and exchange ideas. We ended up launching this movement in June,” Othman said.
The ultimate goal of the movement is not only to end the division, but to depose both governments — including the Palestinian Authority, since the movement does not recognize the legitimacy of any government under Israeli occupation, Othman explained.
But Othman said she has yet to be summoned by Hamas security for interrogation.
The media continue to conflate multiple groups and campaigns using the name “Tamarrod” as a single movement, when it is clear that there are different agendas, tactics and personalities using the same name.
While all claim to reject factional rivalries and loyalties, some of the discourse clearly repeats the kind of factional rhetoric that is common on sites associated with pro-Fatah, anti-Hamas social media accounts.