This paper examines an image from Gaza in 2018 of a drone-shaped cardboard cut-out attached to helium balloons. Launched during the aftermath of the Great March of Return, kites and balloons flown by Palestinians used smoldering payloads to ignite fires in Israel, resulting in over two thousand fires between March 2018 and July 2019. The kite and balloon launches have entered into Israeli public consciousness as a threat to sovereignty, with some news articles dubbing the practice as a “kitetifada.”
The image of a drone-shaped flammable payload raises questions about how new media and digital technologies are understood by Palestinian protesters and the Israeli public. This paper reads the cardboard drone as a mimicry of Israeli security that underlines the ineffectiveness of high-tech tools to secure Palestinian land. Rather, we can understand new technologies as rhetorical expressions of power. Incendiary kites and balloons reformulate the relationship between Palestinians and technology, while undermining popular notions of digital technology as faster, more seamless, and more efficient.