Hoax Twitter accounts – almost unnoticed in Palestine

It seemed like a new era of openness in Palestine — a new Prime Minister began to communicate with the public, on Twitter.

Well… by “communicate” I mean, at least, something more than just sending links to pictures of himself on Facebook.

Screen shot of the supposed Rami Hamdallah Twitter account - at 2 Tweets
Screen shot of the supposed Rami Hamdallah Twitter account - at 2 Tweets

1.) Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov 4 Jun
Welcome! This is my official Twitter account. Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of Palestine.

But for 16 days there were no Tweets, until this —

2.) Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov 20 Jun
I offered my resignation to the President of PA. Official note will be released soon. R.H.

[This, by the way, was the moment that the very new spokesman for the Government, Dr. Ehab Bessaiso, said he began to be suspicious, because of the use of “PA”, for since January [and under a decree from President Mahmoud Abbas] no one in the Palestinian Government would continue to refer to themselves as “PA”, or Palestinian Authority.

The first Tweet, in fact, said “Prime Minister of Palestine”…

However, there are Palestinians who do continue to say “PA” [sometimes disdainfully, to indicate that Palestine is hardly a fully sovereign state, that self-determination has not yet been exercised]…

There are some who think the PA is more important than the PLO [which, as UN-designated + generally-accepted “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, declared the State of Palestine in November 1988].

And, there are some who use terms interchangeably, almost carelessly, who think the terminology has very little meaning anyway.

I myself was more fixated on the term “offered” [“my resignation”], which conformed exactly to the way the announcement was worded in the few official comments and announcements that were made in Ramallah.

And, the Tweet came fast, rather soon after the actual event, though Hamdallah himself had driven off to his hometown of Anabta, in his own car without security escort — and switched off his mobile phone.

In any case, as Dr. Bessaiso said, the resignation was a surprise, nobody expected it. So, after this Tweet [which was reported in the international media, a full 16 days after the first Tweet, during which time nobody — least of all Rami Hamdallah himself, or any of his staff, or friends, or family — complained that this was a “hoax” account].

The initial reaction was surprise, confusion, and efforts to change the course of events, then [within an hour of the actual announcement by presidential adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh, an announcemnt which came before, and therefore preempted, a scheduled third meeting between Abbas and Hamdallah] two final Tweets —

3.) Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov 23 Jun
The President officially accepted my resignation. R.H.

4.) Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov 23 Jun
The situation in this country forced me to resign. Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform. R.H.
=================================

The fourth Tweet was, admittedly, a little peculiar.  But, its openness was refreshing.

Then, something happened.

It’s hard to describe or explain.  But the Twitter account, above, morphed into something else.   It became a hoax:

The name Rami Hamdallah was removed.  And the title of the account was re-written in all lower-case letters = @palestinegov

And the Tweets were now from palestinegov Rami Hamdallah [reversed + altered from above, where the Tweets were from Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov ]

The original four Tweets [shown above] remained, but others were added, for a total of eight, which were added and even interspersed between the original Tweets — though it’s not clear how the TimeLine could have been played with, in that way.

The account, in this changed state, can be seen here , as it was once it spun out of control.  The link, here , was provided by Benjamin Doherty @bangpound, via Twitter:

Twitter profile for @palestinegov
twitter.com/palestinegov
Professor RAMI HAMDALLAH, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. Official Twitter Accou
nt

8 Posts by palestinegov

1.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
Welcome! This is my official Twitter account. Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of Palestine.

17 days later 2.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah  [This NEW Tweet was somehow inserted into the original TimeLine]
I officially announce my resignation as Prime Minister. Serious health problem force me to resign. The President accepts resignation.   7 days agoReplyRetweetFavorite

3.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
I offered my resignation to the President of PA. Official note will be released soon. R.H.

4.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
The President officially accepted my resignation. R.H.

5.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
The situation in this country forced me to resign. Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform. R.H.

6.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah [NEW – added]
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi to be appointed as new Prime Minister.

7.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah [NEW – added]
President Mahmoud Abbas expressed me his intention to resign ‘as soon as possible’ after new cabinet’s appointment.R.H.

8.) palestinegov Rami Hamdallah
This account is an hoax created by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti

——– http://topsy.com/twitter/palestinegov ——-

 

Earlier, before it became clear that it was a hoax, and because of the more-or-less credible track record of the account, some people took the added Tweets seriously.

  1. Kamel Hawwash @kamelhawwash 26 Jun @PalestineGov: Dr. Hanan Ashrawi to be appointed as new Prime Minister.”
  2. Rawya Rageh @RawyaRageh 26 Jun RT @PalestineGov Dr. Hanan Ashrawi to be appointed as new Prime Minister #Palestine
  3. Blake Hounshell @blakehounshell 26 Jun wow, interesting! RT @sarahussein: Say what? RT @PalestineGov: Dr. Hanan Ashrawi to be appointed as new Prime Minister.

Some reactions once the hoax became clear, or known:

  1. Dalia Hatuqa @DaliaHatuqa 26 Jun Finally! (And who dat?) RT @PalestineGov: This account is an hoax created by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti
  2. DavidKenner @DavidKenner 26 Jun Apparently a serial hoaxer http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/30/twitter-hoaxer-tommaso-de-benedetti … RT @PalestineGov This account is a hoax created by Italian journalist Tommasso Debenedetti

  3. Hugh Naylor @HughNaylor 26 Jun . @PalestineGov OK, now that you’ve been found to be a spoof account, at least start tweeting some biting satire!

==============================

After working itself up into a tizzy, giving  plenty of clues and hints because it wouldn’t be very much fun if the hoax were ignored, all 8 Tweets were scrubbed — Rami Hamdallah’s name disappeared completely [though he remains in office, for now, as the Caretaker Prime Minister] and the name was changed back from @palestinegov to @PalestineGov :

Palestine Gov

Palestine Gov

@PalestineGov

Prime Minister’s Office, Palestine

Palestine · pmo.gov.ps

 

It originally had only 2 Followers:

Tomas Lee

@Tomas_smc

 Sderot, Israel
and

Lidar Gravé-Lazi

Lidar Gravé-Lazi

@JPost_Blogs

Jerusalem Post Managing Blog Editor. http://blogs.jpost.com/  All tweets and opinions are my own.

Tel Aviv

===========================================

————————————————————————-

And a spoof account for Mahmoud Abbas, too obvious to be believable..  It Tweeted on only one day, June 27, the day after the [hacked?] @palestinegov account went crazy. An account like this had been lurking around, doing nothing. Then, this account burst into brief life. It looked fake from the start [first, the photo, in which the facial features have somehow been sharpened, then the reference to “Palestinian Authority”, then the Tweets themselves:

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

@PalestinePres

MAHMOUD ABBAS President of the Palestinian Authority. Official Twitter Account

Ramallah

 

1.) Mahmoud Abbas @PalestinePres 27 Jun
Welcome! I open today this official Twitter account in English. Thanks, Mahmoud Abbas.

 
2.) Mahmoud Abbas @PalestinePres 27 Jun
Palestine wants peace and dialogue. PA accepts negotiations with Israel without preconditions.

 
3.) Mahmoud Abbas @PalestinePres 27 Jun
I’m ready to meet PM Netanyahu as soon as possible.

UN Security Council eases/removes financial sanctions imposed on Iraq because of its invasion of Kuwait

“Iraq has fulfilled all of its obligations”, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hosein Zeybari told the UN Security Council in New York just after it voted to remove financial and other sanctions imposed, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, following Iraq’s August 1990 of Kuwait.

[Iraq’s remaining obligations were placed, by the decision, under Chapter VI of the Charter…]

The UN said that the SC had unanimously adopted “resolution 2107 (2013), removing Iraq from its obligations under Chapter VII of the UN Charter concerning the return of Kuwaiti and third-State nationals or their remains and their property seized by Iraq’s former regime during its 1990 invasion of Kuwait”.

Middle East Monitor wrote here that “According to the UNSC resolution, Iraq has regained the international status it had before 1990”.

“Iraq is a rich country”, the Iraqi FM, and added that Iraq today is “a responsible and fully sovereign country”…

[Kuwait did not speak.]

Al-Arabiya reported here that “Iraq still needs to return missing property, national treasures and archives, as well as reparations for the invasion, in order to be embargo-free.  Iraq still owes around $11 billion to Kuwait. In total, Iraq was ordered by the U.N. to pay the Gulf country just over $52 billion. The debt is expected to be fully paid off by 2015…The resolution adopted Thursday calls on the Iraqi government to continue searching for more than 600 missing Kuwaitis and looted property but no longer allows for the measures to be enforced militarily”.

Hamdallah still in office: Facebook page[s] + Twitter account[s]

Somebody here, I think, thinks Twitter and Facebook don’t matter…

This is more than just a symptom — it is a syndrome. It’s because communication doesn’t really matter, here.

Communication is expected to follow formalistic rules. A political statement uses certain prescribed terms and is delivered in loud and rising tones. An elegant and polite person would never take such a strong stand as Rami Hamdallah did when he resigned last week [it’s considered “too divisive” — and this, in a place where division has wreaked havoc since January 2006 parliamentary elections brought a surprise win for the Hamas-backed Change and Reform Party, which stood for the first time].

At least, Hamdallah is behaving well enough to say, as requested, until something new is put together…

Daoud Kuttab wrote today [though with a somewhat vague timeline] that “The apparent conflict of authority between the president and the prime minister in the Palestinian areas is certainly not new: But, Kuttab wrote, The bias toward the presidency escalated after Haniyeh and his Hamas supporters rejected the authority of Abbas, forcing [!] the Palestinian
president to dismiss Haniyeh and appoint Salam Fayyad in 2007. The defacto suspension of the Palestinian Legislative Council meant that the appointed government did not gain a vote of confidence from the Palestinian representatives. When Fayyad attempted [recently] to question the power of the Palestinian presidency — with the refusal to allow back the resigned Minister of Finance Nabeel Kassis — he found himself on the losing end of a power struggle, and eventually had to hand in his resignation in April 2013. Hamdallah appears to have noticed this issue much earlier and seemed to have rinsisted on retaining all the legal and administrative powers that came with the office … Without a parliament to vote confidence into a government, the relations between the presidency and the prime minister’s office can get complicated. Technically, every prime minister takes on a legal position after being sworn into office in front of the president.
These consecutive governments in Palestine are known to be governments of Abbas, and he holds ultimate power to keep or dismiss the prime minister. However, the Palestinian Basic Law, which functions as a temporary constitution, gives the prime minister a lot of power, including being the reference point of all his ministers”. This is posted here.

Kuttab doesn’t stress enough, however, the fact that the Palestinian Basic Law has not yet been approved precisely because the Palestinian Legislative Council is in a state of “de facto suspension”…

In his piece, Kuttab does report that Hamdallah, after his appointment, publicly stated that “he hoped to stay prime minister until Aug. 14. On this date, an agreed-to prime minister — as part of the reconciliation process — would be found. [So] Hamdallah has not officially resigned from his academic post [as head of an-Najah University], but rather has taken a leave of absence”…

Kuttab also notes that “The fact that Hamdallah had clearly accepted a temporary position seems to have led some to believe that the real prime minister is one of the deputies”…

Continue reading “Hamdallah still in office: Facebook page[s] + Twitter account[s]”

Muqata'a announcement Sunday morning: Abbas accepts PM Hamdallah's resignation [then statements + denials…]

A third meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his recently-appointed Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who suddenly “offered” his resignation on Thursday afternoon, was scheduled for Sunday morning at 11:00 — but it didn’t happen.

Instead, shortly after 10:15 or so, Presidential Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh told the Agence France Presse [AFP] that “President Abbas has accepted the resignation of Hamdallah after he refused to work with 2 deputies.”  This was published here, and here.

President Abbas had appointed his economic adviser, Dr. Mohammed Mustafa, as one of two deputy prime ministers to serve with Abbas; Ziyad Abu Amr is the second.

Rami Hamdallah was clearly not a go-along, get-along kind of guy — in the circumstances, this is to his credit.

There was no [third] meeting this morning between President Abbas + Prime Minister Hamdallah, according to the Palestinian Government’s new Spokesperson, Dr. Ehab Bseisso — the statement from Presidential Spokesman Abu Rudeineh preempted the meeting.

Reports [in English] on Friday that Hamdallah had withdrawn his “offer” of resignation on Friday were later amended — it seems that  Hamdallah had not retracted his resignation, and it remained on the table.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported, here, that “President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignation of newly-appointed prime minister Rami Hamdallah, who has been in office for less than a month, and asked him to stay on as a caretaker government until a new one is formed, presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Sunday”.

Not long afterwards, two Tweets suddenly appeared on an account that had been opened in early June and declared the official Twitter account of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah [see our earlier post]:

Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov — The President officially accepted my resignation. R.H.

Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov — The situation in this country forced me to resign. Conflicts, confusion, corruption. Palestine needs a real political reform. R.H.

There is no indication, yet, that Hamdallah has agreed to stay on as “Caretaker” Prime Minister for another two tortuous weeks.  [One report suggested that Abbas must name a new Prime Minister within two weeks.]  But, a colleague who interviewed Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad today in Ramallah said that it might be seven weeks before a new government is in place .  [However, al-Ahmad declined to repeat his remarks in a recorded interview.]

UPDATE: Apparently Hamdallah is staying on.  Ma’an News Agency Tweeted on Monday morning that Hamdallah told their reporter in a statement that the Government “will pay salaries on time, without delay”...

After Then, the Government Media Center Tweeted this:

Gov. Media Center @PalestinianGov Ramallah-Government Media Center: Prime Minister D. Rami Hamdallah wishes to make clear that he does not have a… http://fb.me/1fisCXdyk

The full test of this statement, posted on the Facebook link, says:

Ramallah-Government Media Center: Prime Minister D. Rami Hamdallah wishes to make clear that he does not have a personal Twitter account. He stresses that the Palestinian Government Media Center is the official institution for issuing statements for the Prime Minister and the Palestinian government.  PGMC Note: We urge all media to take care in reporting statements purported to be from the Prime Minister and emphasize the necessity of checking with the PGMC for confirmation of any statements.

This statement was issued shortly after I contacted Dr. Bseisso to ask about Dr. Hamdallah and Dr. Mustafa. Dr. Bseisso promised to call back with answers to some questions, but never did.  [It makes no sense, however, to urge media to take care and to check with the Palestinian Government Media Center for confirmation, if calls are not returned.]

Was it with this Tweet that the Government Media Center took over this @PalestinianGov account?

The statement of denial [of having a “personal” Twitter account, which was not the question] is  in Hamdallah’s name, but issued by the Government Media Center @PalestinianGov … In the absence of any further information, it is not unreasonable to continue to believe that the Hamdallah Tweet could be genuine, but someone doesn’t like it and wants to supress it.  The other possibilities are deliberate sabotage [by someone with access to the this Twitter account], or the Twitter account was hacked.  Neither possibility is mentioned by the statement issued by the Palestinian Government Media Center –+ it sure looks like damage control by someone who did not  if not censorship.

Two Ramallah-based journalists had a laugh about it:

Dalia Hatuqa @DaliaHatuqa – lol @emilie_baujard: Pal Gov Media Center: PM Rami Hamdallah wishes to make clear that he does not have a personal Twitter account

Continue reading “Muqata'a announcement Sunday morning: Abbas accepts PM Hamdallah's resignation [then statements + denials…]”

Rami Hamdallah "offers" his resignation on Thursday + confirms by Tweet [can Abbas get him to stay?]

The new Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who was sworn into office 2.5 weeks ago, suddenly “offered” his resignation to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on 20  June — and then drove off in “a private car” [without security?] to his hometown of Anabta.

Even in a political culture which such an intricate resignation culture as the Palestinian Authority’s [renamed since January this year on the orders of Abbas as the Palestinian Government], this was a surprise shock.

It is a tactic that must not be over-used: serial resignations appear weak and temperamental, and will be ridiculed.

There are only two ways Hamdallah’s resignation can be respected, and the basic bottom line must be (1) that he really means it.

He could also get some points, in some calculations, if (2) he manages to get enormous concessions, and stays in office, and then amasses enough power to keep on getting what he wants, all the time.

Hamdallah — who said that he would only serve three months at the most, basically until the end of the academic summer vacation, and until a new unity goverment in place — will not get a second chance at this.

Hamdallah announced his decision in a terse Tweet on Thursday afternoon.  It was only his second Tweet, on his official Twitter account:

Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov
I offered my resignation to the President of PA. Official note will be released soon. R.H.

Rami Hamdallah @PalestineGov 4 Jun
Welcome! This is my official Twitter account. Rami Hamdallah, Prime Minister of Palestine.

Does posting one’s resignation on Twitter make it definitive?  Apparently not.

Mahmoud Abbas, a cagey politician who is used to getting his way and who is prepared to wait to have his revenge cold, was certainly surprised and most probably also embarrassed — and sent Tayyib Abdul Rahim, an adviser, and Majed Faraj, head of the Palestinian intelligence services in the West Bank, right up to Anabta after Hamdallah, apparently to try to persuade him to come back to the Muqata’a for a chat [or to agree to change his mind].  They stayed for three hours, and nobody had anything to say afterwards [though the media was informed that had Hamdallah agreed to come back to Ramallah on Friday evening — rather than immediately — to meet with Abbas].

News detail: I was in Samer Restaurant just before noon, getting a grilled chicken to take home, when I saw a group order of sandwiches and bottles of soft drinks [mostly Coca Cola, regular + zero, as well as Fanta orange soda] being assembled to take to the Prime Minister’s office.  It looked like the sign of a convivial work session before the Palestinian weekend [Friday + Saturday], not of an imminent blow-up and resignation…

The first news reports spoke of a dispute over responsibilities and powers.

Then, attention began to focus on the peculiar imposition, by Abbas, of two deputy Prime Ministers to serve with Abbas — one a former Foreign Minister, from Gaza, who has a good and serious reputation, and the other one Dr. Mohammad Mustafa, who had recently resigned as head of the Palestine Investment Fund just before the resignation of former PM Salam Fayyad amid speculation that he was preparing to replace Fayyad.  Mustafa, who apparently remains Abbas’ economic adviser, was privy to the business secrets of the Palestinian wealthy elite, and is a man who is used to not answering sceptical questions.  Mustafa takes his privilege quite seriously.

AFP reported here that  “Mustafa, who heads the Palestine Investment Fund and was handed the role of economic adviser, was initially tipped as a possible successor to Fayyad.  And when the new government was sworn in, it was he who held the first news conference following its initial cabinet meeting on June 11, not Hamdallah, in a move which raised a few eyebrows”.

It had also been reported that Mustafa would be the spokesman of the new government. But, after the second cabinet meeting under Hamdallah on June 18, it was officially announced that Dr. Ehab Bessaiso would be the spokesperson for the government, as well as Director of the Palestinian Government Media Center [following in the footsteps of Ghassan Khateeb, a former Minister of Labor as well as Minister of Planning, who resigned within the past year and was replaced by Nour Odeh, a former correspondent of Al-Jazeera TV].

Dalia Hatuqa , a journalist who lives in Ramallah, Tweeted after the resignation “offer”:

Dalia Hatuqa @DaliaHatuqa
I don’t get why people are surprised. The man was assigned not one but two deputies for a reason: to do his job for him => power struggle

Dalia Hatuqa @DaliaHatuqa
Worth noting that Pal Basic Law doesnt mention 2 deputies. There was 1 instance (at least) where a DPM was assigned in 2007: Azzam Al Ahmad

Dalia Hatuqa @DaliaHatuqa
Also worth noting that the Palestinian Basic Law doesn’t mention a deputy prime minister position at all #previoustweet **

Dalia Hatuqa @DaliaHatuqa
2-3 weeks/months from now when Hamdallah resigns again, the news will not be met with today’s media frenzy

Dalia Hatuqa @DaliaHatuqa
We’ve seen this scenario too many times w predecessor to believe Abbas will accept Hamdallah’s resignation. Kiss-n-makeup session will ensue

** It’s also worth nothing that the Palestinan Basic Law hasn’t been adopted, as it wasn’t approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council, which was unable to meet due to a lack of quorum and whose mandate has now expired…

Continue reading “Rami Hamdallah "offers" his resignation on Thursday + confirms by Tweet [can Abbas get him to stay?]”

Salam Fayyad is replaced as “Caretaker” Palestinian Prime Minister by Nablus Academic Dr. Rami Hamdallah

Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority’s Finance Minister since 2002, who then served as Prime Minister since late June 2007 when Mahmoud Abbas named him to replace Hamas’ Ismail Haniyeh after the Hamas rout of Palestinian Preventive Security in Gaza — and who insisted on resigning on April 13 after John Kerry’s too-overt praise during an Abbas-Fayyad dispute — is finally being replaced by Nablus Academic Dr. Rami Hamdallah.

Hamdallah, who reportedly has a PhD in linguistics, was born in Anabta village near Tulkarem and has been the head of an-Najah University in Nablus for almost 15 years.

Ma’an News Agency reported here that Hamdallah told AFP: “President Abbas has asked me to form a new government and I have accepted…The government will be formed in the coming days…Most ministers of the outgoing government will stay and I will bring in a new finance minister”.

Ouch.  [Salam Fayyad has been PA Finance Minister virtually non-stop since 2002 — Nabil Kassis was the only other person who served as Finance Minister in this time, and it was Fayyad’s fight with Kassis, then Fayyad’s too-quick acceptance of Kassis’ resignation, that brought about the events that led to Fayyad’s resignation.]

Continue reading “Salam Fayyad is replaced as “Caretaker” Palestinian Prime Minister by Nablus Academic Dr. Rami Hamdallah”