Many supporters of the U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization Hamas and its military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, have taken to Instagram to laud these groups' violent attacks, eulogize the attackers, and incite to further violence against Israelis. It appears that the majority of the accounts are belonging to Palestinians. However, many of these accounts that support these group's causes are based in countries such as Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Thailand.
These supporters on Instagram will often have the term "Qassam" or a variation of it in their account name. The influence of the accounts that support these groups varies; some have only a handful of followers while others have hundreds of thousands – for example, the Palestine.Quds account has 219,000 followers. It should also be noted that among the account holders are many women who are vocal in their support for Hamas and the Al-Qassam Brigades.
In addition to graphics that are disseminated by numerous accounts, some of the accounts post images of what appear to be their operators' own weapons. The ease with which such violent accounts can be found on Instagram is also notable. A hashtag search in Arabic for the term "Al-Qassam Brigades" yielded over 44,000 results. In addition to the numerous supporter accounts, it appears that the Al-Qassam Brigades itself has an account on the platform, though it has taken an understated approach to disseminating its content; there is no indication of any official association with the Al-Qassam Brigades in the account's profile picture, username, or byline, and yet the group's official Arabic-language website links to this account alongside its official Twitter and Facebook accounts. This is likely done to avoid having the account deleted or suspended by Instagram.
A September 2017 Daily Beast report discussing the use of Instagram's "stories" feature by ISIS militants quoted an Instagram representative as stating: "There is no place for terrorists, terrorist propaganda, or the praising of terror activity on Instagram, and we work aggressively to remove content or an account as soon as we become aware of it. We prioritize reports related to terrorism, and we have dedicated teams that work to stop the spread of terrorist content."
The U.S. designated Hamas, including the Al-Qassam Brigades, a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997.
The following report will include examples of pro-Hamas and pro-Al-Qassam Brigades Instagram accounts that incite to violence.
"It's never OK to encourage violence or attack anyone based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, disabilities, or diseases...
"Follow the law. Instagram is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups."
The Official Al-Qassam Brigades Instagram Account
On the top left corner of the official Al-Qassam Brigades Arabic-language website, six boxes direct users to official accounts on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
The link to the group's Instagram page leads to an Instagram account called palnews2017.
The Palnews2017 account follows only one account; the official AqsaNewsChannel Instagram account. The current incarnation of Al-Qassam's official account dates back to September 2, 2017.
Hamas' Designation As A Foreign Terrorist Organization
Hamas was founded in 1987, and its military wing, the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, was created in 1991. In October 1997, Hamas and all its aliases – "the Islamic Resistance Movement; Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiya; Izz al-Din al Qassam Battalions; Izz al-Din al Qassam Brigades; Izz al-Din al Qassam Forces; Students of Ayyash; Student of the Engineer; Yahya Ayyash Units; Izz al-Din al-Qassim Brigades; Izz al-Din al-Qassim Forces; Izz al-Din al-Qassim Battalions" – was placed on the U.S. State Department's list of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The State Department lists the Al-Qassam Brigades as an alias for Hamas, and notes that it has "conducted anti-Israeli attacks, including suicide bombings against civilian targets inside Israel." It should also be noted that in July 2017, the European Court of Justice decided that Hamas should retain its status of terror organization. Following this decision, judges overturned a past ruling that annulled sanctions and freezes on its assets.
Al-Qassam Brigades Supporters On Instagram
The Instagram account al-Qassem_11's byline reads: "Long live our [Qassam] Brigades... Al-Qassam Brigades, Oh Allah have mercy on our martyrs and dead... The martyr 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades... Oh Allah give us victory..."
In one post, user Al_Qassam_11 uploaded a photo of a gun and user 96libya20pal wrote: "Flowers have been spread on your way, Glory and resistance and martyrdom is my request, May Allah protect you O kind man."
One Instagram account called Palestinian_lovers is dedicated to posting material in support of Al-Qassam. The account's byline reads: "Palestine Defense Army ... there are two roads with no third one. Either victory or martyrdom . My steadfastness will destroy my prison guard. The chains will document my poems. Oh climber to its dome, I fear that you will fall, as I envy you."
One image which shows a masked individual about to stab a Jew in front of the Dome of the Rock has a caption which reads, "Stab them in their neck O son of the West Bank. "
Palestinian_lovers wrote: "Palestinians continue to be able to use all means to defend their lands and sacred places and to avenge the wounds of the wounded ones, the suffering of the prisoners, the blood of the martyrs and the sighs of the bereaved ones as well as the orphans. A thousand salutes to those who love stabbing .. hashtag Palestine Defense Army. # those who loves stabbing. "
One post by the account Palestine.quds, which has 219,000 followers, was dedicated to the killing of three Israeli security guards at the Har Adar attack in September 2017. Some of the comments were celebratory.
The byline of the account Palestine.quds reads: "An account specializiation in the Palestinian issue... Arabic news... Palestine|Al-Quds Palestine news, Palestine news website, various topics"
User alihassanhamas from Malaysia has an account dedicated to the Al-Qassam Brigades.
User Layanhassan72 uploaded a graphic featuring an Al-Qassam militant and U.S. President Donald Trump. The caption reads: "If you are a mule to the Jews, we are the soldiers of Allah."
In one post Haris Khan aka Mashal6936 from Pakistan shared a graphic featuring an armed militant that reads: "Jihad is not a crime!"
User We_will_come_back_to_Palestine posted a photo of Emad Akel, a slain commander of the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, holding a handgun. The user commented: "The hero martyr Emad Akel, [may you be] in Paradise Oh martyr."
The Qasamqasam200 account features both official Al-Qassam videos and large-scale images created from individual photos lauding Al-Qassam militants.
User Qassami_97's byline reads: "We are [merely] passing [in this life] and life is not for us. One day we will pass, leaving everything before. Oh Allah, conclude my life with a righteous act through which I meet you. We've adored death so that we live in honor or die as martyrs."
User palestine_palestine2 posted an image of a hand gripping a knife in the shape of Palestine. The caption reads: "Your knife is freedom October is the month of the Knives uprising. A month is which the youths of Palestine have sacrificed their souls for their country. They have started sacrificing their souls for Palestine in the third day of this month with Muhhand Al-Halabi and the youth of Palestine have continued their uprising with the latest martyr Nimr. It is still going on and it will continue and liberation."
User Mohd_ameer_atiqullah posted a photo of an armed militant with the caption: "Follow me Shoot Some IDF soldier."
User Qassam46_thailand_, based in Thailand, is dedicated to expressing support for the Al-Qassam Brigades.
Qassam_thailand_2003 is another Thailand-based account.
In one post, user Izzuldalqas shared a photo of a militant holding a rocket. In the same post, he promoted another Instagram account, Nasheed_Mujahid, which shares jihadi nasheeds.
The byline of Nasheed_Mujahid reads: "Here I will upload Nasheed the spirit of jihad and Nasheed of without the music." The account also includes one nasheed from Hizbullah.
One Al-Qassam Brigades fan page, pageofmuslims_qassambrigades, features supporters from around the globe posing with hand-made signs.
Several of the images uploaded on the account appear to be from militants, who pose with signs showing that they follow and support the pageofMuslims Instagram account.. The most recent international supporter featured on the account is from a post on October 1, with an Australian supporter.
One supporter placed a hand-written "Page of Muslims" sign among knives and Al-Qassam Brigades military fatigues.
One image shows a masked supporter from Indonesia posing with a gun.
One supporter claimed to be in Russia.
Another supporter claimed to be from Algeria.
The byline of bent.alqassam11_'s account reads: "The love for Al-Qassam will not end. My soul is Al-Quds, my heartbeat is Gaza. My love to (Palestine) shall never go away as long as it lives in my heart. Al-Qassam is the honor of the Ummah. Oppression shall not continue long..."
User bnt_palestinia_q_4 posted a video still that reads: "Gaza resists." She also added: "Soldiers and commanders in garrison, we do not fear death, we are the men of Palestine and the men of the [Palestinian] cause..."
The inst_qassam account, which appears to be based in Gaza City, eulogized two men who were killed named Abd Al-Hamid Muhammad Al-Maghribi and Ahmad Sulaiman Sahmoud.
Turkey_qassam is one of many Turkish-language accounts that are supportive of the Al-Qassam Brigades.
The byline of turkey_qassam account reads: "Qassam Brigades. My greatest love[s] are Allah and his messenger!"
Account aesha.o posted a photo of a toddler dressed in Al-Qassam Brigades army fatigues and holding a toy gun. The caption reads: "Little Qassami [member of Al-Qassam Brigades], in love with Hamas since young age..."
A search for the hashtag "Al-Qassam Brigades" in Arabic on Instagram yields 44,386 results.
There is sometimes overlap between social media platforms. In one post, user hdeth_alshonda uploaded a graphic that commemorated the two-year anniversary of the "heroic Itamar operation that sparked the Al-Quds uprising." A hashtag that reads: "Martyrs Talk" is included, as are links to pro-Al-Qassam Brigades content on Facebook. This post references an October 1, 2015, attack in Itamar in which two Israeli civilians were murdered.
Instagram user Hdeth.AlShohada also runs a pro-Al-Qassam Facebook page that has over 900 followers.
It should be noted that it is difficult to determine the full scope of the accounts featuring content in support of Al-Qassam. Instagram accounts dedicated solely, or mainly, to disseminating pro-Al-Qassam content must be differentiated from accounts that are sympathetic to the group and that post a mix of personal content and include an occasional reference to Al-Qassam. For example, the Instagram account bwjfr3972 posts images of Al-Qassam militants, but these posts are interspersed with others focusing on flowers and food.
One graphic posted by bwjfr972 both encourages non-militants to take up violence against Israelis by stabbing them and celebrates the efforts of official Al-Qassem militants. The graphic reads: "And in my hands revenge." The hashtag included with the post reads: "Prayer_Upon_The_Prophet."