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July 3, 2012 1:17 am

New Twitter Ratings Paint Bleak Picture of Influence for Israel

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avatar by Ezriel Gelbfish

Didi Remez, the most influential Digital Diplomat, at a rally in Sheikh Jarrah. Photo: LisaG v Flickr

AFP’s new e-Diplomacy Hub has rated Didi Remez, a leftist Israeli activist, and Azmi Bishara, a former Arab Member of the Knesset, as the most influential digital diplomats in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, ranking higher in influence than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

On June 21, the France- based AFP, which boasts the title of the oldest international news source in the world, published  the e-Diplomacy hub, an app that displays specific Twitter feeds on interactive maps and tables to show how political activists are using Twitter across the world. The site also features a built in algorithm designed to measure influential voices in a given area, by monitoring the hashtags of a number of important individuals, including heads of state and political activists.

Topping the list of the most influential digital diplomats in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank is the Israeli Didi Remez, a self-styled human rights activist who was formerly a spokesman for the left wing activist group Peace Now. Mr. Remez has accrued more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, and frequently writes about his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he has named the IDF a “tool of dispossession” and referred to the “rapid evaporation of what remains of Israel’s democracy” on the liberal news blog

Azmi Bishara, the former Arab MK who founded the Balad Party, was rated second on the app’s list of influencers. Mr. Bishara resigned from the Knesset in 2007, and was later stripped of his parliamentary pension, after being questioned by the Israeli Police on suspicion of aiding and passing information to the enemy during wartime, a crime he emphatically denied.

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Remez and Bishara ranked higher than the Twitter feeds of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the State of Israel, who came in third and fourth place respectively. At roughly 57,000, Netanyahu’s followers on Twitter number close to half those of Remez.

Along with other social networking websites, Twitter has been widely acknowledged as a catalyst for social and political change, and is accountable in part for various uprisings labelled the ‘Twitter Revolutions,’ which include the 2009 Moldova civil unrest, the 2009-2010 Iranian election protests, and the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

In the separate index for the West Bank and Gaza alone, the top two spots of influence were filled by pro-Palestinian Twitter feeds, with Ali Abunimah, a Princeton-educated  Palestinian-American journalist taking the highest spot, and the Electronic Intifadah, an online anti-Israel news source co-founded by Abunimah, rating next. Other Twitter feeds that ranked in the top ten include the official Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, one of the largest wire services in the region, and the Palestine Center, a Washington D.C.- based think tank focusing on Palestinian Arab affairs.

AFP’s index does not claim objectivity, and has been accused of omitting some noteworthy people and organizations that are politically active on Twitter. The index also measures only Twitter activity, and is not necessarily indicative of other political influence.

The index differs from other lists of influential Twitter users because it is empirically based on Twitter’s numbers, by mathematically crunching traffic on Twitter’s website. Other ratings, such as the FP’s Twitterati 100, are curated subjectively, based on the opinion of the list’s author.

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