Social media: a central weapon for Palestinian struggle

Social media acts as a Palestinian forte for their narrative to reach out to the global community.

Social media acts as a Palestinian forte for their narrative to reach out to the global community. In the world of digitalization, Social media platforms act like double-edged swords. They have sparked debates that were otherwise impossible in the global community. From MeToo to Black Lives Matter to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, social media has played a crucial role as a key delivery system for news consumption.

Even after the Egyptian brokered ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, tensions escalated when Israeli forces used stun grenades and tear gas against Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. While Israel has a military advantage, Palestine’s successful storytelling eroded Israel’s edge.

These solidarity videos were circulated using social media platforms like TikTok, Twitter, Instagram. The circulation throughout the course of ghastly bombardments instigated international protests. After the recent raid, CNN reported “dozens of Israeli officers hit journalists with batons and tried to point rifles at them, calling them “liars” when they showed them their press cards.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in February, 52 percent of Americans support an independent Palestinian state and 34 percent want to put pressure on Israel. This was witnessed when US President Biden arrived in Dearborn, Michigan to tour the Ford factory on Tuesday. The city with a sizable Arab population witnessed thousands of protestors marching on the streets.

Earlier, the USA approved a $735 million weapon sale to Israel on May 18 which added fuel to the aggression. However, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is trying to stop the deal through resolution. Cities like Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and many others witnessed protests as well. This time it seems like the usual monopoly by the Israeli government is downplayed.

The forceful eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah and displacement of over 58,000 Palestinians due to bombardment is being linked with the BLO movement. It is seen as discrimination against racial minorities and ethnic cleansing. The displacement due to eviction which is being referred to as a “real estate dispute” by the Israeli Foreign Ministry could constitute a “war crime” by the UN Human Rights office. New York Times quoted US Senator Bernie Sanders words “We must recognize that Palestinian lives matter

Even Snapchat witnessed a surge in solidarity videos when the application’s map showed a  difference in the living pattern of Tel Aviv and Palestinians in Gaza.

Amid the ongoing conflict, tech giants came into scrutiny when several social accounts were deleted or suspended earlier this month. Several instances took place where the Pro-Palestinian accounts were censored to which the reasons still remain a mystery. Palestinian censorship became the heart of conversation when campaigns occurred to resist the eviction of six families.

Mohammad El-Kurd was one of the Sheikh Jarrah’s residents to be evicted by a far-right wing Israeli settler organization. A journalist with 144,000 followers, through his online activism Kurd, told CNN that “It’s not really an eviction, it’s forced displacement, to be accurate, because an eviction implies legal authority.” After the incident, his account was temporarily disabled which created a sense of panic among his followers.

Finally, he was able to confirm his wellbeing through a Twitter post on May 13 which received 44,700 likes. He then live-streamed a Zoom panel with activist Angela Davis on Black and Palestinian solidarity.

Through social media, Kurd was able to grasp the attention and empathy of people across the world. So much so that an activist and co-founder of Black for Palestine, Kristian Davis Bailey said that “Seeing the injustice of people being brutalized in Jerusalem, or homes being destroyed in Gaza on social media really helps people understand that, okay, maybe there is a complex history behind this, but what I’m seeing is wrong, and we need to speak out against it.”

In the same manner, Twitter account of Palestinian journalist, Mariam Barghouti was temporarily restricted while she was reporting for Sheikh Jarrah. The account was restricted after she refused to delete the post. Hashtag “Al-Aqsa” was temporarily hidden from Instagram when Israeli police raided Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

As a result of censorship, a 14-page complaint was sent to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and seen by Middle East Eye. The complaint was about anti-Palestinian bias on social media for which UN gave 21 days’ notice to the platform to provide a reason for actions taken.

Due to the global outreach, several celebrities stepped up to show solidarity for the lives that were lost in the 11-day bombardment on social media platforms. Oscar nominee Israeli actress, Gal Gadot, famously known as “Wonder-woman” tweeted with disabled comments. The post received severe backlash.

Supermodels with over 108 million Instagram followers, Gigi and Bella Hadid, who have Palestinian father raised their voices on Instagram to support Palestinian lives. Their Instagram post said, “You cannot pick and choose Human Rights matter more”.

Later on, Bella Hadid was falsely accused by the Israeli government that she advocated “throwing Jews in the Sea.” Other than them, pop-star, Rihanna; famous host, Trevor Noah and Avengers star, Mark Ruffalo came forward in support of Palestine amid increasing violence.

As social media witnessed a surge in Palestinian support, the Israeli government reached out to senior Tiktok and Facebook executives last week according to POLITICO. Justice Minister Benny Gantz urged social media corporations to remove violent content which spread misinformation about Israel.

Social media is a platform that can spark a movement and incite violence at the same time with the escalation of misinformation and fake news. The same thing happened in the case of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

According to a Reuters report, the media falsely linked a clip of three Jews in torn shirts to the ongoing conflict. Thousands of time-shared clip implied that they were attacked by Palestinians but in reality, it was several years old clip of them conducting Kriah custom.

Israeli officials and figures shared 28-second videos on Twitter. Mr. Netanyahu’s spokesman, Ofir Gendelman claimed that a Palestinian militant was shooting rockets at Israeli from a civilian area in the video. It was actually from 2018 from Syria’s Daraa governorate.

Amplification of misinformation leaves no page unturned. Several Arabic-Hebrew language Israeli news outlets shared a video of a family walking with a wrapped dead body. The body was to be dropped when the police siren sound was heard. The news portrayed that Palestinian families exaggerated held fake funerals to exaggerate the number of casualties. In reality, it was a year-old YouTube video. As per the original caption on the video, it was a Jordanian family holding a fake funeral.

According to the Global Stats counter, with over 64 percent on Facebook, 24 percent on YouTube, and 11 percent on Twitter, Palestinian people now aim to control their side of the story on media outlets. Social media propelled BLO’s narrative on Palestinian lives. It helped them to increase their share of support in the global community and provided a platform for a fair share of their side of the story.

 

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