Throughout my exploration of digital diplomacy, I have found time and again that smaller nations can use social media in order to leverage their diplomatic standing. I refer to this phenomenon as social media mobility. This week I was interested in examining if Palestine is using social media to increase its visibility, promote its foreign policy among other diplomatic actors and frame its actions in the global arena. Thus, I decided to evaluate the state of Palestinian digital diplomacy.
It should be noted that this analysis was limited to official accounts of the Palestinian Authority and did not include accounts operated by the Hamas movements who rules over the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian Digital Diplomacy at the Embassy Level
In order to analyze embassy level digital diplomacy I sought to examine the number of twitter followers Palestinian embassies attract. Initially, I planned to focus on Palestinian embassies to European countries that are involved in the Middle East peace process (i.e., France, UK, Germany) and the US. I was quite surprised to find that the majority of Palestinian embassies are not active on twitter. In fact, Palestinian digital diplomacy may be characterized by a lack of official online accounts.
I was however able to identify two Palestinian embassies that were active on twitter- The PLO embassy to the US and the Palestinian embassy to Germany. The graph below compares the number of followers of 19 embassies to the US.
As can be seen in graph, the Palestinian embassy to the US attracts only 2,400 followers on twitter which is substantially lower than most other embassies in this sample. Thus, it seems that in the US the Palestinian embassy does not exhibit social media mobility. Notably, Israel’s embassy attracts the largest number of followers of all embassies evaluated. This suggests that Israel may be in a better position to promote its framing of events in the region.
Next, I evaluated the number of twitter followers that embassies to Germany are able to attract. This evaluation can be seen in the graph below.
Here again, the Palestinian embassy fails to exhibit social media mobility and is ranked last out of 14 embassies comprising the sample. Moreover, as was the case in the US, the Israeli embassy attracts the most followers of all embassies in the sample. This suggests that Palestinian diplomacy may be ill-equipped to compete online with Israel’s narrative.
Finally, I examined the number of twitter followers that embassies to the UN in New York are able to attract. Here the results were quite different, as can be seen in the graph below.
Out of 18 missions to the UN, Palestine ranked 6th coming ahead of Norway, Sweden, Israel, Russia and Canada. There is also a sizable gap between the Palestinian mission and the Israeli one which ranked 10th. It is therefore possible that within the UN, Palestine is able to use social media to leverage its diplomatic standing and counter Israeli narratives.
Palestinian Digital Diplomacy- Attracting the Media and Foreign Ministries
My second analysis aimed to examine Palestinian digital diplomacy’s ability to attract followers from three important groups: news organizations, foreign ministries (MFAs) and UN realted multi-lateral organizations. As there is no Palestinian MFA, I examined the following 5 twitter accounts:
- The Palestinian Media Center (@PalestinianGov)
- Palestinian mission to the UN
- Palestinian embassy to Germany
- Prime Minster of Palestine (@RamiHamdalla)
- PLO ambassador to the US (@Amb_Areikat)
- PLO Negotiations Affairs Department (@nadplo)
In order to conduct this analysis I used a sample of 69 foreign ministries, 570 news organizations (both global such as CNN and local such as The Guardian) and 40 UN related multi-lateral organizations. This analysis is shown below.
As can be seen, the Palestinian mission to the UN attracts the most MFAs and multi-lateral organizations. However, the number of followers is rather small. Only 5 foreign ministries out of 69, and 5 news originations out 570, follow this mission. The Palestinian Prime Minister, the most senior Palestinian official on twitter, attracts a mere 5 MFAs and 4 news organizations while the Palestinian Media Center attracts only 4 MFAs, 2 news organizations and 1 UN related multi-lateral organization. The PLO Negotiations Department attracts the most news organizations yet here again the overall number is quite small, 6 out of a possible 570. Moreover, this department is not followed by any of the 69 MFAs included in my sample. While the PLO mission to Washington attracts news organizations and multi-lateral organization, the PLO ambassador to the US and the Palestinian embassy to Germany attract no news organizations, MFAs or UN related multi-lateral organizations. These figures are surprising given the small number of official Palestinian channels on twitter.
Palestinian Digital Diplomacy- A Comparison with Israel
My final analysis compared between the number of MFAs, news organizations and multi-lateral organizations that Palestinian channels attract as opposed to their Israeli counterparts. The first comparison, shown below, is between the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers.
As can be seen, the Israeli PM attracts far more MFAs and news organizations than the Palestinian PM.
The graph below compares between Israeli and Palestinian embassies to the US and Germany. As can be seen, both the Israeli embassies to the US and to Germany attracts far more MFAs and news organizations than thier Palestinian counterpart. However, in both the US and Germany, Palestinian embassies attract more UN related multi-lateral organizations.
Next, I compared between the Israeli and Palestinian missions to the UN, as shown below. As can be seen below, the Palestinian mission attracts more news organizations, MFAs and multi-lateral organizations that Israel’s mission. This again suggests that within the UN system, Palestinian digital diplomacy rivals Israel’s.
Finally, I compared between the official Palestinian Media Center, PLO Negotiations Affairs Department and the Israeli MFA. While these Palestinian bodies may not be exact counterparts to the Israeli MFA, both should attract diplomatic instiutions and news organizations given their position as official sources of information.
As can be seen below, the Israeli MFA attracts far more MFAs, news organizations and multi-lateral organizations that both the Palestinian Media Center and the PLO Negotiations Department. Despite the fact that it focuses on media relations, the Palestinian Media Center’s twitter account attracts only 4 MFAs out of 69 and 3 news organizations out of 570. The PLO Negotiations Department attracts no MFAs and only a small number of news organizations and multi-lateral organizations.
Much of Palestinian digital diplomacy may be characterized as peer-to-peer diplomacy and networked diplomacy in which groups of activists throughout the world promote the cause of Palestinian independence online. This analysis attempted to focus on official Palestinian channels that are operated by the Palestinian government.
Results suggest that there are few official channels and that such channels fail to attract twitter followers, MFAs, news organizations and UN related multi-lateral organizations. The comparison with Israel suggests that Palestinian diplomacy may be ill-equipped to compete with Israel’s online framing of events and narratives. Within the UN hub, however, Palestinian diplomacy may eclipse Israel’s online efforts. As such, it appears that the Palestinian government has yet to realize the potential of digital diplomacy in shaping the global discourse, framing government action and communicating with diplomatic establishments.