Google denotes Palestinian Keffiyeh as a symbol of Terrorism

Palestinian Keffiyeh: Popular search engine triggers outrage after users find that Googling the words ‘What scarf do terrorists wear?’ shows the iconic headdress as the top result

Appropriated by “Google”, the Internet users were triggered to find that the Palestinian Keffiyeh (headgear), is denoted as a symbol of terrorism by the world’s most popular search engine. In response to this, several activists took to their social media, to condemn the misrepresentation of the scarf signified as a symbol of threat.

The digital media lambasted, the popular search engine on Tuesday, as when one searches for “what do terrorists wear on their head” the first search results relate to the Keffiyeh.

Palestinian Keffiyeh

The Keffiyeh is a chequered headdress-scarf, traditionally worn in the Arab world, which later became a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and resistance against the Israeli settler colonialism tactics.  It’s widely known in its thick black and white checked print as the symbol of Palestinian self-determination. The scarf’s prominence expanded during the 1960s within the initial beginning of Palestinian voices against colonialism.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes, to see a piece of my native scarf being defined as “terrorist headscarf”, but whatever Google states, doesn’t suffice the true narrative about Palestine, their misquoting is a shame for the entire Palestinian fraternity, Keffiyeh is part of our pride and part of Palestinian representation”, a 24-year-old student Fathia El Sakka said, a Palestinian based in Sweden.

Nadim Nashif, executive director of 7amleh (a Palestinian Digital activism forum) said: The Arab Center for Social Media Advancement took to Twitter, “everything is backed by America, so is Google, it is again proved by bringing Palestine into negative limelight. Google’s policies continue to discriminate against Palestinians in the digital space since it’s systematically biased towards the Israeli narrative through various services”

“While there is no clarity of how Google Search came to associate a piece of cloth with terrorism, 7amleh has documented how the Google Policies continue to discriminate against the Palestinians in the digital space and spread misinformation and dehumanize the Palestinian cause. However, it’s clear Google is following the footsteps of America firming its ties with Israel and turning a blind eye to the human’s rights violations on the ground”, Nashif said.

Google befriends- Israel

This is not the first time Google has gotten into hot water over the disputed territories and most likely not the last. A 2014 project stated disputed territories, documented the biased narrative of Google maps, to stay out of geographical and issues of political and national identity.

The low-resolution satellite images captured by Google map is yet another technique of wiping out the transparent on-ground narratives to reach out to the public domain. Since Google Earth relies on companies that own satellites to supply imagery. Maxar and Planet are two among the largest satellite, provides good resolution satellite images.

“As a result of recent changes to US regulations, the Imagery of Israel and Gaza is implanted at 40 cm resolution”, Maxar tweeted.

Several researchers raise concerns with regard to the blurry satellite images of the Gaza strip on Google Maps. The issue was highlighted when researchers were trying to document the destruction through various open-source information.

In a report stated in the Google blog post “ our aim is to keep densely populated regions refreshed on a regular basis”, but that hasn’t been the case with Gaza.

While sections of social media spaces were shocked with outrage over the discovery, on Monday Google along with Amazon Web Services (AWS) signed a deal of more than $1 billion with Israel. The project Nimbus will see these two tech companies provide cloud services to Israel’s apartheid state public sector and military.

In an agreement, confirmed on Monday in which,  a group of 250 concerned employees in the heart of silicon valley released  “ Jewish and allied Googlers”, a jointly signed letter, penned to CEO Sundar Pichai states, that the company should terminate its contracts with a despotic regime that violates Palestinian human rights”. It also calls for an official company statement for the direct recognition of the harm done to Palestinians by Israeli military”.

“We ask Google leadership to reject any definition of anti-Semitism that holds criticism of Israel or Zionism as anti-Semitic. Anti- Zionism is not anti-Semitism and this conflation harms the pursuit of justice for Palestinians and Jews alike by limiting freedom of expression and distracting from real acts of anti-Semitism”, stated the letter.

Dishonoring the Culture

Omar Ghraib a Palestine-based Journalist says, “I am not awed to see how Google indirectly is extending its support for Israel-backed America, apart from the medical and digital apartheid in Palestine”.

“Google is another reason for us to believe everything documented on the internet is not fair, it’s only to indoctrinate the world against the illegal occupation of Palestine”.

There have been several allegations on the tech world, promulgating the enablement of biased censorship and shadow banning the Pro-Palestinian accounts and posts across digital spaces.

Likewise, Mohammad Mahmoud a Palestinian activist based in Haifa says,” I felt enraged and sad, with the amount of hate speech on the internet for my native land and Keffiyeh, how can Google terror-label a piece of cloth. I have been wearing it since my childhood, it’s a symbol of our Palestinian identity and will continue to be a reminder to the world, that by blood and soul Palestine will be ours”.

“Time and again the Western media misrepresents our freedom struggle; it’s yet another tactic of shrinking Palestinian narrative through online spaces. This stereotype is projected from a school of all the American thoughts; we don’t fight Israel but the colonial empires”, added Mahmoud

Mohammed’s screen grab

Apart from extending their support for the oppressed Palestinians, against the Israeli occupation. Social media has been a hotbed Inflaming discussions related to the Israeli colonization of Palestine. With the recent outbreak of violence in Gaza, due to illegal forced expulsions in Sheikh Jarrah. Many activists showered support through their social media handles like Twitter and Facebook. Despite being attacked by the New York Times for her anti-Semitic posts. Earlier this week Gigi Hadid a top supermodel with Palestinian roots expressed her support through her Instagram handle.

“One cannot advocate for racial equality, LGBT, and Women’s rights; condemn corrupt and abusive regimes and other injustices yet choose to ignore the Palestinian Oppression. It does not add up, you can pick and choose whose human rights matter more”.

As per a report in media bias fact check, in an email statement, Google said it doesn’t label the borders since there isn’t an international consensus on where the Palestinian borders are located.

The cultural appropriation of Kefiyyeh elucidates another path for Israel’s apartheid to efface the Palestinian culture. Nevertheless, it’s unfair to say that digital spaces are not biased, they continue to demonize and disparage the Palestinian resistance.

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