Palestinian Digital Dissent 

Neha Sheikh 

73 years ago, in 1948, the Palestinian Catastrophe, also known as the Nakba, comprised the start of an exodus that created 750,000 Palestinian refugees and saw Zionist entities cease 78% of historic Palestinian land. The period between 1947-1949 saw the Baldat- al- Sheikh, Sa’sa’ and Deir Yassin Massacre, destruction of 530 villages and cities and death of 15,000 Palestinians. The Nakba, which is marked on 15th May, also highlights the formation of the ‘Israeli State’ that was established by slaughtering thousands of innocent Palestenian women, children and men. 73 years later the situation in Palestine has not changed. With recent news of mass dispossession in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, the world is witnessing a shift in the response towards the Palestinain cause, and this is mainly attributable to social media. With a steady increase in solidarity protests across the world the increased involvement of the present generation has helped the Plestinian cause gain momentum.

 

 Mohammed al-Kurd and Muna Kurd, the vocal brother and sister duo, are two prominent Palestine voices who have been using their social media handles to provide the world with on-the- ground information and footage of the oppression taking place in Palestine. A resident of Sheikh Jarrah himself, Kurd has released various videos of who he calls Israeli ‘occupation forces’ carrying out violent crackdowns on peaceful protests. A video uploaded on May 4th on Kurd’s instagram feed shows these forces raiding the houses of the residents of Sheikh Jarrah. Kurd also reported the constant use of grenades and skunk water by Israeli forces on protestors to curb them from carrying out demonstrations. In another video released on May 15th, by Kurd, Israeli forces are seen entering another house, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jureaselum, and dragging out an Odai Abu Seir by the neck whilst applying brute force to restrain him from moving. June 6th, however, witnessed the arrest of Muna al-Kurd from her home in Sheikh Jarrah by Israeli forces. Her father Nabil al-Kurd informed people about the summons warrant that was put out for her brother Mohammed al-Kurd who was not present at home during Muna’s arrest. However, later that day Mohammed handed himself to the Israeli authorities for interrogation after his house was raided while Muna was getting detained. These actions carried out by Israeli occupation forces to clamp down on vocal advocates of Palestine’s freedom struggle are not in isolation.The recent arrest of Al Jazeera veteran journalist Givara Boudeiri, on 5th June,  in Sheikh Jarrah is an example of that. Despite Boudeiri wearing a jacket labelled ‘press’, the Israeli forces were seen assaulting her as she yelled “don’t touch” in vain. Boudeiri was dragged to a government armoured vehicle and then sent to jail. While Boudeiri was released a few hours later, the constant arrests and dispossession of civilians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied East Jerusalem still continues.

The wide support that the Plestinian cause has amassed, especially in the West, is not solely restrictive to Muna and Mohammed’s influential presence. There has been a gradual increase in solidarity amongst world renowned actors, singers and models as well. The Hadid family, who come from Palestinian heritage, are one such presence who are not privy of their opinions regarding the Palestinian cause. Gigi and Bella Hadid, the sisters who have taken the modelling world by storm have been very vocal in demanding for the freedom of Palestine and using their platform to raise awareness on the United State’s backing of Israel, in carrying out crimes against innocent Palestinian civilians. This brought attention to the signing of the 2016 military aid package between Israel and the States, the most aid provided to any country in US history. For the next 10 years the States will provide Israel with a cumulative amount of $38 billion, amounting to almost $3.8 billion a year. This includes the $500 million per year that the US shells to fund the Israeli defence system. However, a cumulative following account of approximately 112million on instagram alone, has opened the Hadid sisters to immense scrutiny. Regarding their stance in favour of freeing Palestine, Bella Hadid in particular has not been immune to backlash. The, half Palestinian, 24 year old supermodel was featured in a tweet on the official page of Israel’s twitter account, after she took part in a pro-Palestinian solidarity march conducted in New York City. The tweet stated “When celebrities like @BellaHadid advocate for throwing Jews into the sea, they are advocating for the elimination of the Jewish State. This shouldn’t be an Israeli-Palestinian issue. This should be a human issue. Shame on you. #IsraelUnderAttackZ”. There were also reports of Bella Hadid’s family address being released in addition to her receiving threats. However this did not appear to make a dent on Bella Hadid’s perseverance as till this day she continues standing in solidarity with Palestine.

While Israel’s occupation of Palestine continues, various influential platforms continue raising their voices. Many have brought into attention the power dynamics between Israel and Palestine, in addition to saying why this cannot be termed as a conflict but an oppression. On one hand Israel prides itself with its billion dollar defense system while on the other Palestine stands with no legitimate army, local protection or leader. Hence, what is happening to the Palestinian people cannot be classified merely as a ‘conflict’ or a ‘clash’ between two forces. When one force has weaponry worth billions of dollars and the other is scrambling for ways to survive, the escalation of violence is not an aftermath of retaliation but the outcome of brutal oppression. This lack of empathy to the Palestinian cause can also be reflected in the Israelis who stood against their previous Prime Minister, Benjamin Natanyahu, the man who has been at the helm of Palestinian occupation for over a decade. When on June 2nd the news of a new coalition to oust Benjamin Natanyahu, the longest serving Prime Minister of Israel broke, social media was thrown into a frenzy with distinct opinions on what this could mean for Palestine. Bennet Neftali, the current Prime Minister of Israel, led this coalition of eight political parties, which is an amalgamation of left to far right ideologues. Known to be an ultranationalist himself, Neftali, was Netanyahu’s former chief of staff and the chief executive of the Yesha council, an umbrella organization. The Yesha council consider themselves the promoters and guardians of the Jewish Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, which is illegal under international law. Bennett espouses an ideology synonymous with Netanyahu’s. However, the major difference lies in the leadership capacity he wishes to hold. Identifying as a religious leader and not a secular one has been a major unprecedented move by Bennett. The first among the previous 12 Israeli Prime Ministers to do so, Bennett is also the first to have lived in the occupied West Bank in Jewish settler communities. Bennett’s history plays a huge role in amassing support from his fellow settlers. The celebrations, as witnessed on social media, that broke out in Israel upon the announcement of Natanyahu’s inevitable defeat raises concerns on the lack of empathy that millions of Israelis harbour.


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