The Palestinian state in the Middle East has increasingly succumbed to illegal Israeli control since 1948. The story is long – but not unknown, not complicated. The Israeli occupation forces have exercised their control over the Palestinian people by stealing their land, their homes, and pushing them out of their state. And if that was not enough, for almost 7 decades now, Israel has deployed extremely violent war tactics against the people of Palestine. They have been bombed, shot at with rubber bullets, thrown stun grenades at, and the list goes on. Innocent Palestinian civilians are regularly arrested, illegally detained, tortured, and then killed. Children are routinely killed as well. The bombings are not just limited to homes and residential buildings – but mosques, hospitals, schools, all buildings one can imagine, are targeted by the Israeli military. This is something that has happened regularly, ever since 1948, with the violence increasing after a little time passes. This is the reality of the Palestinians who have lived under the Israeli rule for years now. However, recently, in the month of May, once again, hell broke at the people of Palestine.
In occupied East Jerusalem (an area that legally belongs to Palestine, under international law, but has been occupied by Israeli settlements), there is a neighborhood known as Sheikh Jarrah. The homes of the Palestinians in this area are commonly stolen from them and given off to Israeli citizens. Recently, a notice of eviction was issued to some residents in the area by the Israeli Supreme Court. Appeals were submitted to the court and peaceful protests erupted throughout Palestine and Israel, out of anger for this consistent course of events. The protests started during the month of Ramadan and were non-violent. However, this was not acceptable, obviously, for the Israelis. So that is when they started what they always do. The Israeli forces started attacking the peaceful protesters, spraying them with skunk water, breaking and entering into Palestinian homes and so on.
When this did not stop the protests, the Israeli forces upped their violence. They started attacking Al-Aqsa (the third most holy site in Islam), in the holy month of Ramadan, attacking people who were praying peacefully inside the mosque and turning a place of worship into a literal war-site. This has been used as a blackmail tactic by Israel for a long time now. Al Aqsa is being attacked to send a message to the Palestinian protestors that they need to stop. But instead, this backfired and Palestinians all over started protesting even more. Israel continued its attacks and was eventually called out by Hamas for a ceasefire, after the Israeli forces had already injured hundreds of Palestinians. Hamas says that they will fire defense missiles if Israel does not stop, which it does not, and keeps attacking Al-Aqsa. So, Hamas moves forwards with what it said, and Israel reports one injury from the missiles. This led to the, currently ongoing, attacks on Gaza. Israeli police forces, military and even Israeli common citizens are harassing and physically attacking Palestinians all around the Israeli and Palestinian territories. But Gaza in specific is taking the biggest brunt of this situation.
People’s homes are being bombed, day after day. Apartment complexes are being shot down. Palestine’s only COVID testing lab has been damaged by an airstrike, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Doctors and medical centers are being bombed. Left and right, the sound of grenades and airstrikes lulls people in Gaza to sleep every night and that is what they wake up to. Everyday, people are saying their goodbyes before they go to bed. Entire families have been lost. Children have been orphaned, if not killed themselves. People in Gaza, people who have spent their entire lives in the midst of Israeli violence, are claiming this is worse than anything they have ever seen. Israel has crossed all boundaries and bodies are falling every single day in Gaza, as the US continues to fund Israel for the genocide it is committing against the Palestinian population. The current death toll is more than 200 and is unfortunately threatening to rise because Israel has expressed plans to continue bombing Gaza.
Now, what role does the media play in this entire situation? For as long as since the beginning of the Israeli occupation in Palestine, big media outlets have tried to spin the narrative in their way. Huge names like BBC and CNN have called this a ‘conflict’ and have tried to use other subtle words to make it seem as if both sides are colliding with each other. However, this time around, because of the reach of social media, we are hearing direct voices from Gaza and other Palestinian territories. Gazans have taken it upon themselves to tell their own stories. And once the international platforms see a little too many pictures of an unarmed Palestinian child being held at gunpoint by an Israeli soldier in full protective gear, people start recognizing the situation for what it actually is. It is illegal Israeli settlements, colonialism, genocide, ethnic cleansing, military occupation and land theft. It is an apartheid. It is anything, but a ‘conflict’ or a ‘clash’. The state of Israel is blatantly carrying out human rights violations and committing war crimes.
Since social media has drastically amplified Gazan voices, Israel is now in fear. They have resorted to using other tactics to clamp down and censor the shouts of the Palestinians. Just a few days ago, a complex housing the offices of Al Jazeera and Associated Press was destroyed by an air strike carried out by the Israeli air force. This has been recognized all around as a severe violation of press freedom. The building also contained other news offices and certain inter providers. Internet itself as well as electricity in now being routinely cut off in Gaza. People are being suffocated inside, shut out from the rest of the world. There’s a reason the region is known as the world’s largest ‘open-air prison.’
Every building they bomb, including this one, the Israeli forces claim it is done because the said building was being used by Hamas in a way. Never has any evidence been provided for such claims but the statement is continually used by Israel to bomb place after place in the city of Gaza. To add onto the turmoil of people, before every building is bombed, its residents are called and told to evacuate. To imagine the turmoil that one must go through, to leave a place in a pressure like this, is something that words can never pen down.
The mainstream Western media is running its own campaign of misinformation and trying to whitewash the Israeli violence by painting its own narratives and pinning Hamas as the pinnacle of violence in the area, claiming whatever Israel does, is in self-defense. Social media is all these people have now to get their voice across to the rest of the world. But big social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are now also censoring Palestinian voices and deliberating using their algorithms to provide as little coverage to the Palestinian narrative in these events as possible. Any voices in favor of the Palestinian cause are being suppressed and silenced. Posts are being deleted, hidden or deliberately provided less coverage. The Western media is providing selective coverage, only to events that suit the narrative it is pushing worth, the agenda of Israeli ‘self-defense’. Al Jazeera is referring to this as a digital apartheid. This is a genocide like none other history has witnessed before.
But we need to remember how social media coverage is helping. We need to remember the wide social media coverage of protests all around the world, pushing solidarity with the Palestinian people. We need to remember why our voices are constantly being censored – because they are feared. We need to look around us. We need to constantly look at real footage coming in from Gaza, differentiate between the oppressed and the oppressor, listen to authentic voices and we need to keep talking about it. Keep sharing the posts, keep educating ourselves, keep seeking out ways to help. Our voices are being silenced, but together, there is no algorithm we cannot fight. The time is now. We do not want another generation to question who let this genocide happen.
McKernan, Bethan. 2021. Israeli strike destroys Gaza tower housing media organisations. May 15. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/15/israeli-strikes-destroy-gaza-jalaa-tower-media-al-jazeera-associated-press.
Zahzah, Omar. 2021. Digital apartheid: Palestinians being silenced on social media. May 13. https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2021/5/13/social-media-companies-are-trying-to-silence-palestinian-voices.