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Is Israel winning the YouTube war?

Since Monday’s clash between Israeli military forces and pro-Palestinian activists, both sides have issued video recordings to support their version of events (and, maybe more importantly, to unload blame onto their adversaries). So far, there’s no clear consensus about which clips to trust, but according to a report by Haaretz, there seems to be general ...

Since Monday’s clash between Israeli military forces and pro-Palestinian activists, both sides have issued video recordings to support their version of events (and, maybe more importantly, to unload blame onto their adversaries). So far, there’s no clear consensus about which clips to trust, but according to a report by Haaretz, there seems to be general agreement about which ones to like: of the four most viewed YouTube clips in recent days, all of which provide on-the-ground footage of the raid, the top three are videos issued by the Israeli Defense Forces. In fourth place with a measly 610,000 hits (in comparison to the 3 million total received by the IDF posts), is a clip from Al Jazeera.

The top spot goes to this snippet, which shows Israelis boarding the Mavi Marmara boat and calls attention (via handy yellow text) to activists wielding metal rods. At one point, according to subtitles, a voice in the background remarks, "Whoa, they just threw a soldier overboard…they tossed him."

By contrast, the Al Jazeera clip emphasizes that the flotilla was raided while in international waters and that shots continued to be fired even after the activists had raised a white flag in surrender.

YouTube surely isn’t the best barometer of success when it comes to international crises, but this data is nonetheless worth taking note of — not least because it seems fairly counter-intuitive. As spectators across the world mobilize to condemn Israeli actions, I’m surprised their views aren’t more clearly represented by these numbers.

Since Monday’s clash between Israeli military forces and pro-Palestinian activists, both sides have issued video recordings to support their version of events (and, maybe more importantly, to unload blame onto their adversaries). So far, there’s no clear consensus about which clips to trust, but according to a report by Haaretz, there seems to be general agreement about which ones to like: of the four most viewed YouTube clips in recent days, all of which provide on-the-ground footage of the raid, the top three are videos issued by the Israeli Defense Forces. In fourth place with a measly 610,000 hits (in comparison to the 3 million total received by the IDF posts), is a clip from Al Jazeera.

The top spot goes to this snippet, which shows Israelis boarding the Mavi Marmara boat and calls attention (via handy yellow text) to activists wielding metal rods. At one point, according to subtitles, a voice in the background remarks, "Whoa, they just threw a soldier overboard…they tossed him."

By contrast, the Al Jazeera clip emphasizes that the flotilla was raided while in international waters and that shots continued to be fired even after the activists had raised a white flag in surrender.

YouTube surely isn’t the best barometer of success when it comes to international crises, but this data is nonetheless worth taking note of — not least because it seems fairly counter-intuitive. As spectators across the world mobilize to condemn Israeli actions, I’m surprised their views aren’t more clearly represented by these numbers.

Clare Sestanovich and Sylvie Stein are researchers at Foreign Policy.

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