The concept of war has extended its tentacles beyond the conventions of armed conflict and has reached a stage where media has become a weapon itself. Even more revolutionary, is the power of social media in warfare. For the rest of the world, particularly the West, “what happens in Palestine, stays in Palestine,” was an unspoken rule at least until social media emerged as a platform for electronic resistance against the Israeli occupation.
Social media has provided a stage for Palestinians to take their plight to. Since the emergence of social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube, the Palestinian cause has found a way to reach the outside world and it is becoming more difficult for the Israelis to suppress the movement.
Nafeh AbuNab, a Palestinian activist and author of bestseller “Nothing” told Alwaght: “While all major media outlets are owned by Zionists who constantly turn facts around and portray the Palestinian victims as the aggressors and terrorists and confuse masses into thinking that internationally sanctioned resistance is the problem, not the illegitimate apartheid occupation, Palestinians found themselves with only one outlet to tell their story, Social media.”
For Jafar Ramini, another Palestinian activist, the case is similar but requires proper management. He says that main stream media in the West is biased toward Israeli regime and has “kept western audiences in the dark as to the truth and gives a diet of pro-Israel propaganda.”
During the 2014 Gaza war, social media played a major role in disseminating information about casualties, massacres, destruction, and Israeli violations that otherwise would have been disregarded by mainstream media. Amateur videos of Israeli airstrikes were uploaded, pictures of victims lying in the rubble were shared, and even al-Quds Brigades—the armed wing of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas—used twitter to issue statements.
Biased new coverage, half-truths, selective reporting, blackouts, and Israeli attacks on media outlets were part of the war that killed more than 2,200 people in a matter of 51 days.
“Social media activity put an end to pro-Zionism…Western media monopoly on communications with the western audience,” Hazem Malhas, Palestinian-Jordanian activist said.
Social media outlets made room for citizen journalism when it was needed most. Hashtags that included #GazaUnderAttack and #PrayforGaza went viral as Palestinians gave first-hand accounts of what was happening in the besieged strip, circulated information, and shared their unedited photos. It gave the world an alternative source for the “truth.”
Another example of social media’s increasing influence on the Palestinian cause is what has been dubbed as the Third Intifada. With most being geographically disconnected, the internet and its social media tools have been able to virtually unite Palestinian youths in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and most importantly East Jerusalem, otherwise known as al-Quds.
In September 2015, Israeli police raided the compound of the holy al-Aqsa mosque sparking outrage among Palestinians. Shortly after, a wave of stabbing operations swept the occupied territories. The stabbings emerged as a form of resistance, more often than not fuelled by social media.
Palestinians and pro-Palestine activists have taken to social media to hail the operations against the Israelis with videos and photos being shared almost instantly.
One incident that stands out is the case of Subhi Abu Khalifeh, a 19-year-old Palestinian accused of stabbing an Israeli. His family says he was angered by a video that showed the shooting of a Palestinian teen. On social media, it was circulated that the female was harassed as the Israeli tried to remove her headscarf.
Even Israelis are acknowledging the power of these networks.
An article published on Israeli daily Haaretz, read: “Each intifada has had its own special characteristics…The third looks to be spontaneous, like the first, the choice of weaponry nothing more than a kitchen knife or screwdriver and the medium for spreading frustration and outrage – the Internet.”
At the same time, however, some contend that Palestinian activists have not invested their full potential in social media which is still struggling to compete with heavily-funded and extremely biased main stream media.
“The other side is well funded, organised and very vocal. We seem to restrict ourselves to a reactive role instead of proactive one. We must take the fight to them if we are to achieve the desired results,” Ramini argued.
While he cited the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as one that stands out and expressed hope that his page is making a difference as well, Ramini regretted that “Palestinians are not engaged or committed enough,” he added, “as a writer I get more reaction from foreign activists than Palestinians.”
Almost half of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza use the internet with 1.5 million active on Facebook. In a world where information has become a matter of clicking the upload key or pressing the share button, the Palestinian cause has made use of this immediacy despite continuing Israeli attempts to block the resistance both online and offline.