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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

How social media beat Israel’s propaganda machine 


After decades of oppression, censorship, and suppression, Israel has finally lost control of the narrative in Palestine. 

Israel striking Palestine is, unfortunately, nothing new. For over seven decades, it has bombarded Palestinian land, killing its people and destroying their livelihood. It’s often followed by an outcry from Arabs across the region and donations until momentum fades from the cause. 

However, something is different this time round. We’re seeing a global movement with a backlash against Israel from people all over the world, including the media, celebrities, politicians and Jewish people alike.

The movement is made possible by the power of social media and people’s willingness to keep sharing stories highlighting what’s happening in Palestine.

Last week, Doha News reported on how social media has been censoring Pro-Palestine content for years. 

Human rights activists believe there are many benefits to posting about Palestine on social media now. Primarily, it helps raise awareness for an issue that did not previously get the attention it deserves. As the censorship continues, pro-Palestine users have found creative ways to bypass social media’s suppressive algorithms. Websites such as Tajawz use letters that are understood by humans but not computers to avoid posts getting flagged.

Posting on social media also creates an environment that allows public figures to support Palestine openly. In the past, support for Palestine from public figures in the west would be met with an intense backlash. Nowadays, there is more support than anger at their posts.

This has notably encouraged celebrities and politicians to show support for the Palestinian cause. In the past few days, Paul Pogba, Michael Moore, Mark Ruffalo,  and many more called for justice against Israel and the freeing of Palestine.

The unprecedented support took Israel by surprise, with its government reacting with seemingly desperate actions.

When Bella Hadid expressed support for her Palestinian nationality, Israel’s official Twitter account bullied and attempted to scare her, and was criticised for misconstruing a chant she made as alleged support “for throwing Jews into the sea”. 


Replies to @Israel on Twitter

A state that is accused of bullying others, pushing out lies to twist the narrative, while still getting unquestioned support from the west, found itself with a shrinking number of supporters. As social media users backed Bella Hadid, Israel found itself engaging in bullying directly on its own official account. This apparent desperate act was seen as an example of the lies and pressure placed by Israel on anyone that stands in its way. 

While @Israel’s tweet faced tremendous backlash, Twitter failed to flag it for spreading false information. However, it’s not the only lie shared by the apartheid regime. The New York Times blames misinformation for fuelling conflict in the region, reporting that Netanyahu’s spokesperson shared a video claiming to be Palestinains attacking Israel, when the video was actually thought to have been filmed in Libya or Jordan three years ago.

Spreading fake news on social media isn’t the only issue with @Israel’s Twitter account. An opinion piece on the Washington Post described the account as “cringe-worthy”, explaining that its tweets are viewed by a “generation increasingly sceptical of whether a Jewish state engaged in an illegal occupation and ethnic discrimination is really enacting Jewish values”.

Earlier this week, @Israel’s Twitter account posted tweets with the rocket emojis to showcase how many rockets Hamas has fired into Israel. However, they failed to post how many people their own strikes have killed in Palestine – at least 232 people, including 65 children. In the previous week, @Israel was mocked for posting a tweet described by many as a YouTuber facing cancellation by their fans.

“It’s been a difficult night for us, exhausted after spending hours in bomb shelters, but waking up to so many messages of support from you guys helps. 

Thank you ♥️,” the official @Israel account tweeted.

However, this sympathy-pleading approach is every bit intentional. 

Although a ceasefire has now been reached, Israel previously rejected calls for a truce, with Benjamin Netanyahu saying that he’s “determined to carry on with this operation until its aim is met”. 

@Israel’s social media team knows that this war-fuelled language won’t sit well with social media users. So instead, they continue to attempt to paint Israel as the victim of the genocide it is committing.

It seems that Israel isn’t only losing the support of social media, but that from the established press too. 

Alongside hospitals, roads, and fifty schools destroyed by Israel, the apartheid regime also obliterated a building that housed journalists from Al Jazeera and the AP. The AP said it “narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life”, with its president saying that “the world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what transpired today”.

Read also: Pro-Palestine censorship on social media is nothing new

The strike on the press building came shortly after Israel’s army intentionally lied to journalists, claiming that ground troops had entered Gaza, to give the IDF an advantage based on lying to the media. Those events were seen as attacks against the press, leading many to point out that Israel interfered with journalists to win more control over the narrative. 

Fortunately for those who believe in the ideals of truth and the freedom of information, it seems Israel has been significantly less successful this time, with international pressure creating widespread support for Palestinians.

Most prominently, members of the US Congress and representatives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), Ilhan Omar, and more, expressed their support for Palestine. Similar backing towards Palestine has been made in the UK’s parliament too.

Despite this pressure, US president Joe Biden approved a $735 million sale of bombs to Israel. On the other hand, we saw members of his party speak out against his support for Israel, with AOC introducing a resolution that would block the sale from happening. Several other representatives and members of congress cosigned her resolution.

Even if the sale isn’t blocked, this represents a significant shift in how US politicians view Palestine.

In the past two weeks, we’ve witnessed a significant change in how the world views Israel and Palestine. From worldwide protests to support from celebrities and politicians, we’re experiencing a more factual representation of the story, one that Israel is doing its best to silence. 

But, for the first time in our lives, it’s failing to silence the voices of its critics. As a result, Israel has lost control of the narrative, and consequently anti-apartheid activists believe this momentum will and should continue as people continue to talk about the illegal occupation and Israel’s policies of ethnic cleansing.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Doha News, its editorial board or staff.

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