New Article: Malka et al, ‘Protective Edge’ as the First WhatsApp War

Malka, Vered, Yaron Ariel, and Ruth Avidar. “Fighting, Worrying and Sharing: Operation ‘Protective Edge’ as the First WhatsApp War.” Media, War & Conflict (early view; online first).

 

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1750635215611610

 

Abstract

This study looks at the roles that WhatsApp, the popular smartphone application, played in the lives of Israeli citizens, who were exposed to war menaces during July 2014. During the war, WhatsApp became the subject of public, media, and political discourse, especially within the context of disseminating information related to combat – ‘authentic’ news items (before they were published in the media) alongside rumors that were devoid of factual basis. Research questions focused on the ways in which citizens used the application, the attributed effects of that usage on their lives, and the possible connections between proximity of residence to combat areas, patterns of usage, and perceived implications. Data are based on a representative survey of 500 Israeli citizens aged 16–75, all of whom are smartphone users (maximum sample error 4.5%). The survey was conducted during the third week of the military operation ‘Protective Edge’, which took place between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014.

The authors’ findings suggest that WhatsApp played a central multi-functional role in the lives of its users during the wartime, functioning as a mass as well as interpersonal communication channel. Participants used the application on a daily basis for various purposes: getting news and updates regarding the war; checking on their loved ones; delivering humorous satirical messages; spreading war-related rumors; and helping to promote voluntary aid initiations. Users expressed their beliefs that the application enabled them to stay updated and ‘in the know’, helped them calm down, and deepened their communal and national sentiments. While findings regarding WhatsApp and similar applications usages have been collected for the last few years, this research exposes its centrality under extreme circumstances. Further on, this work suggests that WhatsApp may be thought of as a unique combination of mass and interpersonal communication channels.

 

 

New Article: Gordon and Perugini, The Politics of Human Shielding

Gordon, Neve, and Nicola Perugini. “The Politics of Human Shielding: On the Resignification of Space and the Constitution of Civilians as Shields in Liberal Wars.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (early view; online first).

 

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0263775815607478

 
Abstract

In this paper, we use Israel/Palestine as a case study to examine the politics of human shielding, while focusing on the epistemic and political operations through which the deployment of the legal category of human shield legitimizes the use of lethal force. After offering a concise genealogy of human shields in international law, we examine the way Israel used the concept in the 2014 Gaza war by analyzing a series of infographics spread by the IDF on social media. Exposing the connection between the re-signification of space and the constitution of a civilian as a shield, we maintain that the infographics are part of a broader apparatus of discrimination deployed by Israel to frame its violence post hoc in order to claim that this violence was utilized in accordance with international law. We conclude by arguing that the relatively recent appearance of human shields highlights the manifestation of a contemporary political antinomy: human shields have to continue to be considered protected civilians, but since they are considered an integral part of the hostilities they are transformed into killable subjects.