#FreePalestine: How Palestinian solidarity won the internet

#FreePalestine: How Palestinian solidarity won the internet
4 min read
25 May, 2021
Social media is playing a crucial role in helping to shift the narrative of Israeli apartheid, both on and offline, writes Ragheb Malli.
People livestream their protest in support for Palestine, Los Angeles, United States [AFP]

As the dust settles on a ceasefire and 11 days of Israeli aggression in the already besieged Gaza Strip, it's worth taking a moment to note the historical shift in narrative that has occurred, with many activists, celebrities, politicians and journalists, urging for continued use of social media to support the resistance.

There is no denying that social media is playing an integral role in shifting perceptions when it comes to what is now commonly referred to as "apartheid", to describe the situation Palestinian people are facing.

The ease and immediacy of sharing, retweeting and reposting has turned social media into a crucial tool in this successful shift in narrative.

Over the past week, social media platforms have been brimming with hashtags such as #freepalestine and the opposing #standwithisrael. According to data from RiteTag, the latter had garnered 42 unique tweets per hour, 34.8 thousand hashtag exposures per hour, and 141 retweets per hour, while #freepalestine racked up 4,571 unique tweets per hour, 12.3 million hashtag exposures per hour, and 6,679 retweets per hour over the last 24 hours, which points to the substantial pace of these trends.

"The ease and immediacy of sharing, retweeting and and reposting has turned social media into a crucial tool"

Citizen reporting from within Palestine by people such as Muna ElKurd, Mohammed ElKurd, Ramzi Abbasi to name a few, now allows people to witness unedited scenes and events in real time, which has led to a rise in empathy and audience integrity.

For instance, Palestinian researcher Tarek Bakri recently used Instagram to document violent Israeli aggression and the abuse of women who were peacefully protesting. Videos have also been uploaded to YouTube documenting a day in Gaza under attack. Ahmed AlMansi filmed a video entitled "This year Eid is ruined and we will not celebrate," where he filmed his daughters trying to play as a distraction from the bombs falling around them, he was tragically killed a few days later.

Jewish activists, such as members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), are also advocating tirelessly across their social platforms for the freedom of Palestine, and explicitly calling out Israeli apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people.

Celebrities too, are speaking out. Mark Ruffalo unapologetically called for sanctions on Israel, and Dua Lipa also tweeted her support for Palestinians.

Models Gigi and Bella Hadid, whose father is Palestinian, also used their social media accounts - with over 108 million followers combined - to voice support. Their huge platforms reach millions in a matter of seconds, and are helping to drive forward a change in the mainstream narrative.


A post shared by Bella 🦋 (@bellahadid)

As a result, millions who may have previously felt reluctant are now more at ease in using terms such as "Israeli apartheid" as they become trending hashtags in the online world. In a resurfaced video from 2017, Israeli comedy talk show host, Asaf Harel, gives a monologue using the word "apartheid" and calls out the oppression of Palestinians and the Israeli occupation. Many Israelis left comments such as, "I'm an Israeli and I was arrested for shouting the truth at demonstrations" and, "we need to unite if we want to stop apartheid."

In addition, an article from January of this year in +972 magazine gained traction again this week. Attention paid to the the piece, entitled "'We're taking responsibility': Sixty teens announce refusal to serve in Israeli army'' suggests that the trending hashtags are bringing to light ideas that have existed for a long time, as people scour the internet in search of supporting material.

The scales are visibly tipping in favour of Palestinians, and social media has played a pivotal part in fostering a more widely accepted understanding of Palestinian oppression.

Just as the Black Lives Matter movement relied heavily on social media and has cemented hashtags that are helping to bring about real world changes, in recent days we have seen this groundswell for Palestinian rights reflected offline, as Bernie Sanders and AOC introduce resolutions to halt US arms sales to Israel, the US vows to reopen its Jerusalem consulate, and Elbit systems arms factory was forced to halt production.

Nevertheless, one question remains: Will this shift in narrative endure? Muna ElKurd is hopeful, "I'm really starting to believe that the occupation will finally end".


Ragheb Malli is a social media activist and writer with a BA in political science.

Follow him on Twitter: @Raghebmalli

Have questions or comments? Email us at: editorial-english@alaraby.co.uk

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.