Israel’s New Tool: Normalising Occupation through Digital Means

The al-Jalaa tower housing Al Jazeera and The Associated Press offices collapses after being hit by an Israeli missile in Gaza City [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Daaliyah Majeed Khan

THE ‘Israel-Palestine violence’ led to the death of 256 Palestinians including 66 children, wounding more than 1900. It also led to the death of 13 Israelis, out of which 02 were children, injuring 200 people.

War contains two completely different perceptions: perception of oppression and perception of victimization. Each side can be understood by knowing the truth of both sides but when the truth is stopped and tempered in between, it is not possible to form a fair opinion and today’s perception comes mostly from what the Media propagates. The media has a crucial role in shaping a nation's attitude towards other countries. Biased reportage could foster stereotypes of the outside world that may encourage the public opinion of one country to political hostility against others.

Media Bias can take different routes and one of them is using mislead terminologies. Spreading disinformation regarding the Israel-Palestine violence is a novel method of oppression and a lot of credit goes to Western Media, where disinformation is flourishing. There is a difference in the language used by the news channels and journalists for the Palestinians and Israelis. Words such as “killed”, “murdered” are used to describe the death of Israelis but not the death of Palestinians. The word like “terrorists” is often used to describe Palestinians and the word like “Zionists” is put under the shield of community guidelines. The words like “targets”, and “strategies” are used instead of “lethal violence”.  The word “Arab” used only instead of “Palestine” indirectly denies the existence of Palestine. This usage of words by the media channels clearly displays that all acts of violence should be considered with equal political meaning or even with equal moral weight.

For example, Fox News, titled one of its news bulletins as “US cannot waver while Israel is being attacked”, which means according to Fox News, Israel is being attacked and it is not the one who attacks. Another News title reads, “Israel preparing retaliation against rocket attacks” which connotes that Israel is defending or retaliating and not attacking.

During a news bulletin BBC anchor said that  “212 people including 61 children have died in Gaza”, “12 people, including 2 children have been killed in Israel”, which clearly portrays that there is difference between the rights of an innocent in Israel and an innocent in Gaza.

This so-called ‘liberal media’ tends to show that any violence by the occupier is legitimate and any violence by the occupied isn’t. Media appears more sympathetic to Israel, focusing on coverage of rockets fired from Gaza and completely ignoring the torrent of the Israeli rockets which destroyed hundreds of lives. The problem with this kind of reportage is that it leads the way to dehumanization of a people.

However, Social Media can be a crucial element in the success or failure of social movements in the way they frame the movement's cause, status and ultimately their ideologies.

Palestinians are besieged on social media, too. Sudden disappearance of hash tags, blockage of live streaming, the removal of content supporting Palestinian rights, the deletion or suspension of Palestinian social media accounts are just some of the ways Palestinian voices are being suppressed online. On Instagram and Facebook, many social media users have reported that their posts are being censored, their reach has been curtailed and their accounts have been shadow banned.

On twitter, the account of a writer Mariam Barghouti was suspended after she criticised Israel’s heavy-handed crackdown on Palestinian protests, which Twitter said was removed by mistake. Many others like Khaled A. Beydoun, an author who enjoys a considerable following online, also tweeted that their tweets were removed or their reach curtailed.On Instagram, the hash-tag “Al-Aqsa”, "Sheikh Jarrah" were  temporarily hidden and users were told that their content went against community guidelines.

In a report which was issued by the 7amleh (Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media), recorded 500 Digital Rights violation of Palestinians, out of which 50% (250) were recorded on Instagram, 35% (179) on Facebook, 11% (55) on Twitter, 1% of the reported cases were on Tik Tok and rest 3% were cases without sufficient information.

In an Interview, Mona Shtaya, a local advocacy advisor at 7amleh, alleged that such censorship is part of a systematic effort of big tech companies to suppress the Palestinian narrative from the online space. A recent report of New York Times revealed that more than 100 new whatsapp groups were created to incite violence against Palestinians and abet the members to engage in planned attacks.

While commenting on the ongoing censorship from social media giants, Human Rights activists stated that it could amount to the destruction of evidence in war crimes documentation, which could mislead the International Criminal Court in monitoring war crimes.

Therefore, it is as clear as day that censorship of Palestinians on social media is deteriorating the digital rights of Palestinians at a concerning rate. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 under Article 17 provides that “No One shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy”. Furthermore Article 19 of ICCPR states that “everyone shall have the Right to Freedom of Expression”. Specifically, Article 26 states, “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of law”. The rights to online privacy and freedom of expression which are guaranteed under “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” seem to be of no use for Palestinians. The biased media policies and censorship of social media in Palestine are motivated with the aim of suppressing and silencing the Palestinian voices, which is a clear and transparent violation of Palestinian’s ‘Digital Rights’.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

  • The author is a student of law at University of Kashmir and can be reached at [email protected]

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