Gaza awareness campaign: Dutch activist takes message to the highways
Dutch activist Carolien Nieuweboer is striving to influence public opinion in her country, the Netherlands, by displaying impactful billboards on highways in response to Israeli propaganda regarding Gaza.
Carolien managed to raise 72,000 euros for her campaign, which she used to feature supportive images calling for an end to the war in Gaza and the cessation of Israeli aggression on highway billboards in the Netherlands.
In an exclusive interview with The New Arab, Carolien explains that her campaign was a response to Israeli organisations displaying images of Israeli prisoners on highway billboards in the Netherlands. She considers this act as a justification for genocide.
"With the ongoing genocide that we are witnessing live, and with the Netherlands still not supporting a ceasefire but continuing to supply Israel with spare parts for the F-35 fighter jets implicated in war crimes, we must continue to speak out openly. Because it works."
For her, the matter was clear: this was part of the propaganda disseminated through these billboards, justifying genocide and war crimes.
"Through this visible act in public spaces where no one can ignore us, we make our voices heard for a free Palestine, the Dutch activist explains to The New Arab.
"We demand an end to gunfire, the cessation of war crimes, and an end to genocide. We call for an end to the 75-year-long ongoing oppression and occupation. An end to the apartheid system.
"We use our voices to show solidarity and advocate for justice, so that everyone, absolutely everyone, can live in freedom and security. Every individual should enjoy the same (human) rights, and these rights should be protected as well. By everyone, we truly mean everyone. No group or individual is excluded."
"With the ongoing genocide that we are witnessing live, and with the Netherlands still not supporting a ceasefire but continuing to supply Israel with spare parts for the F-35 fighter jets implicated in war crimes, we must continue to speak out openly. Because it works," says Carolien.
"The collective pressure we exert succeeds.
"We have already reached many individuals who cannot be reached through protests, social media, or other means, or where these avenues might lead to counterproductive results. This is a significant and not to be underestimated group, so our opinion (our collective opinion) on this matter does not matter. But we have successfully reached them; I have received emails and direct messages with receipts," she added.
"Since October 18 (when we launched the campaign), we have displayed over 1,300 hours along 17 highways across the Netherlands, featuring four advertisements. Approximately (conservatively estimated), we have reached about three million passersby — conveying our message. In reality, this is significant, and thousands of pedestrians throughout the Netherlands continue to see us every day."
Carolien mentioned that she receives daily messages from people informing her that, thanks to these billboards, they have been able to stay informed about events in Gaza. Some individuals have started discussing and acknowledging that there is a "genocide" occurring in Gaza.
Carolien believes that the voice of the Palestinians has been "almost absent or ignored by mainstream media," adding, "We cannot remain silent in the face of injustice, and we cannot witness this genocide happening before our eyes without speaking out, as silence would be complicity with the oppressed."
She further explains that for a period, they were visible every day for 8-12 hours along 17 highways, and then for a few weeks, twice an hour each day on different highways.
However, starting from January 1, they have been visible for only one hour each day on a different highway. When asked about the support, Carolien Nieuweboer says it came from the thousands of individuals who refused to remain silent about Gaza. Without their support, this would have never been possible.
As Carolien Nieuweboer states, there were also large-scale street pasting actions in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht, as well as smaller ones in Dordrecht, Groningen, Maastricht, Leeuwarden, Den Bosch, and many other places.
"A total of 5000+ posters and 7000+ stickers have been pasted. They have been seen by hundreds of thousands of passersby, including tourists, and have also travelled globally through the internet with all the images captured and shared on social media. From resident DJ coordinators in Brooklyn on a world tour to influencers from neighbouring countries, we have been observed and shared."
Carolien Nieuweboer's mission goes beyond just applying pressure; it's about connecting with those who may be indifferent or unaware of the ongoing situation. This includes individuals facing challenges and those still seeking understanding, forming a significant group.
Moreover, a substantial portion of the population remains unreached through conventional means like activism, despite occasional aversions it may generate.
"At this critical juncture, unity is crucial, emphasizing the need for accessibility and a specific tone of voice," says Carolien.
"While both you and I have effectively expressed our opinions, we are not the only contributors capable of amplifying pressure. The ultimate aim is for everyone to contribute, collectively shaping the narrative and fostering positive change."
According to Hebrew media, advertising companies in the Netherlands have reportedly refused to collaborate with an Israeli campaign aimed at placing banners and advertisements across the country's highways, claiming to "raise awareness about the release of Israeli prisoners held in Gaza."
The Israeli news site Sarugim reported that the campaign was supposed to launch concurrently with the commencement of legal proceedings against Israel at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands.
The Netherlands has been witnessing widespread protests and advertising campaigns recently due to the presence of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where the court held sessions for delegations after South Africa brought a case forward accusing Israel of committing genocide.
Mouneb Taim is a producer and journalist based in the Middle East from Damascus, Syria. He was awarded TPOTY's Photographer of the Year and ICFJ's Best Young Male Journalist in 2020
Follow him on Twitter: @mouneb_taim