Social media’s awakening to the Gaza crisis
By: Yara al-Wazir
The second that Israel waged its latest war on Gaza, my social media feeds waged war on the injustice happening there.
I have been unable to avoid gruesome photographs and videos for days. I don’t know if this is because I reside in a country (the UK) where media bias towards Israel is so prevalent that protests happen on a regular basis against the mainstream media, or if it is because of the type of friends that I have and the people that I follow on social media.
The images are painful, but the courage and resilience shown by both the people of Gaza, and the people sharing their stories is inspiring.
Distinguishing between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism
Social Media is an incredible, powerful tool to reach people across the world. Although those sharing posts in the Middle East to an Arab audience may be preaching to the choir, European and foreign-based individuals have a greater responsibility to gauge what they share. Communicating in a tasteful and sensitive manner is key to gaining the type of attention that the cause requires. The images and videos are powerful, and the intensity of them should not be overshadowed by a poorly written caption that can be translated to be anti-Semitic. Indeed, organisations such as ‘Jews Against Zionism’ do exist.
Sadly, the situation in Gaza has been normalized in the past, just as the Syrian war has been normalized over the past few months.
Zionism is one of the foundations on which Israel was built- lead by Theodor Herzl 51 years before the Nakba, it calls for the movement and establishment of a Jewish state
Anti-Semitism is a phrase often misconstrued – it is to be against those who speak the Semitic languages, Arabic included. In more recent years, it has been used to describe negativity towards the Jewish population.
It is as rare as it is barbaric to find someone in this day and age who agrees with uprooting a population from its land. That is the basis of Zionism; expressing an opinion against a political ideology is acceptable. However, blaming an entire Abrahamic religion for the policies of a government is unacceptable. It is the equivalent of claiming that all Muslims are terrorists.
Gaza versus Syria – two sides of the same coin
The sad reality of the situation is that at first glance of a photograph or video, I cannot tell if it was taken in Gaza or in Syria. Both wars are just as gruesome, but it appears that the general public has responded more strongly to the situation in Gaza. The reasons are many; for starters the operation in Gaza has barely been going on for a few days, compared to the three years in Syria. The Assad regime has its victims and supporters, leaving the country divided into countless side. In Palestine, however, all people suffer from Israeli occupation. Regardless of whether an individual supports Hamas or Fatah, all parties suffer from Israeli occupation on emotional, physical, and economical levels. The enemy appears to be unanimous, and thus, so does the reaction.
Perhaps the most dangerous whirlwind that the Gaza situation can fall into at this point is one it has fallen into in the past – normalization, getting used to the crisis as it stands. Gaza is ultimately an open-air prison, the borders are shut over 50% of the time, supplies are always limited, and jobs are scarce. If this was a city in the United States, it would be at the forefront of election agendas and monitored by the media on a daily basis. Sadly, the situation in Gaza has been normalized in the past, just as the Syrian war has been normalized over the past few months.
A voice for the voiceless
At the end of the day, there is very little that the public can do to fight this operation, even on social media. The easy way out is usually to donate to relief efforts, but sadly, relief efforts are barely existent when it comes to Gaza. The location is too controversial. One of the only things that can be done is to raise awareness about the situation, hoping that it strikes enough chords around the world for action to be taken. When journalistic negligence is at the core of Western media reports, with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer citing images from Gaza to be from Israel, raising awareness turns from an option to a necessity.
The most dangerous trap we can fall into at this point is to stop talking, to stop pointing out the atrocities and crimes committed on civilians, and to normalize a situation where rockets fall like raindrops. Keep talking, keep citing, but remain respectful. If images are gruesome, note it. If the comments are against a religion, refrain. The objective is to garner positive and sentimental attention, not anger.
Yara al-Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir