By sharing unfiltered stories and images from Palestine, we can expose Israel's colonial violence

By sharing unfiltered stories and images from Palestine, we can expose Israel's colonial violence
In the face of heightened Israeli violence, and when mainstream media refuses to tell the Palestinian story, it becomes our responsibility to elevate content from Palestine in order to mobilise for change, writes Jeanine Hourani.
6 min read
21 Apr, 2022
Israeli forces violently arrest a Palestinian man while prohibiting other Palestinians from entering the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. [Getty]

For four years, I led a non-profit organisation that uses storytelling as a tool for social change. I genuinely believe in the power of story and narrative as tools for social change and justice and I’ve always been an advocate for the use of storytelling in advocating for the Palestinian struggle.

However, the types of narratives I’ve seen on Palestine in both mainstream and social media often leave me confused as to where I stand. I know from my time working in the storytelling space that feelings of fear, apathy, self-doubt, and isolation can inhibit people from taking action.

I also know that feelings of hope, anger, urgency, and rage can move people to action. In particular, rage is created from the tension between what the world is and what we believe it should (and could) be.

Rage can build courage to take action, but not on its own: it needs to be accompanied with hope; hope that another reality is possible. It’s through this lens that I view social media content when it comes to Palestine.

"Rage can build courage to take action, but not on its own: it needs to be accompanied with hope; hope that another reality is possible"

Almost exactly a year ago, right at the beginning of the Unity Uprising, I took to Twitter to reflect on the footage that was emerging out of Palestine. I wrote that:

“Graphic exposure to settler colonial violence doesn’t do what you think it does. It desensitises us to the violence - to the images of Palestinian bodies being held at gun point, being violated at checkpoints, being abused in their houses and forced out of their homes… You shouldn’t have to post graphic content of settler colonial violence for people to become aware of what’s happening in Palestine. Our trauma doesn’t exist for the education of others… For us Palestinians, the imagery you’re reposting and retweeting is highly and deeply traumatising and near impossible for us to escape”.

At the time, a lot of people disagreed with me, and earlier this year I was reflecting on that tweet and thinking about whether I still agree with the sentiment myself.

The tweet was rooted in the concern that by sharing imagery of Palestinian suffering, death and destruction, we are reinforcing and normalising the notion that some bodies are of lower priority than others and are thus disposable, and that there is a legitimate power that comes with dictating who lives and who dies.

I worried that by constantly sharing graphic content, the world would feel desensitised to violence being perpetrated against Palestinian bodies, and that Palestinian bodies would be objectified, our lives cheapened and our bodies habituated to pain and loss.

For those who disagreed with what I wrote, the main reason they cited is that we have a moral obligation to share and raise awareness about what’s happening in Palestine. Our struggle and our oppression rarely gets news coverage and the mainstream media have continuously tried to peddle biased and incomplete narratives that range from ‘it’s too complicated’ at best to wilfully ignorant at worst.

On the rare occasion that the media does cover what’s happening in Palestine, Palestinians are either painted as violent terrorists or as helpless victims of settler colonial violence. In truth, Palestinians are freedom fighters and agents of resistance with a right to defend themselves against the brutal occupation and settler colonial violence of a nuclear superpower.

So, in the era of social media, the responsibility lies on us to uncover the truth - unfiltered and uncensored.

And we have been uncovering the truth: for decades we’ve been exposing Israel’s apartheid, ethnic cleansing, occupation, settler colonialism; for decades we’ve repeated intimate stories of how our parents and grandparents were violently dispossessed from their homes.


I’ve retold my family's Nakba story so many times - to anyone who will listen - that sometimes even I feel desensitised to it. My Nakba story no longer feels like it’s mine anymore; even our trauma has been robbed from us.

For 74 years, we have been repeating, reliving and re-emphasising our trauma. We’ve been expected to gently persuade people of our basic humanity and play a game of respectability politics, otherwise running the risk of being perceived as savage, uncivilised, or unreasonable.

We’ve spent 74 years trying to play the game while it’s been proven, time and time again, that the compassion and humanity of the international community is selective.

The most recent example of this is the global response to the crisis in Ukraine. We’ve seen that the world is capable of compassion, of supporting people’s right to resist their oppressors by any means necessary, and of supporting boycotts, divestments and sanctions to hold war criminals to account.

"Through social media, we’re able to combine feelings of anger, rage, and hope to connect our past to our present and mobilise for the future"

Given this hypocrisy and global silence on Palestine, it’s very easy to feel fed up and infuriated. This extends to feelings of apathy towards engaging on social media - I often see videos, photographs, testimonies of what’s happening in Palestine and think to myself: ‘What’s the point? We’ve been sharing this content for years. The evidence is there, easy to find, for anyone who cares enough to look. Clearly no one does.’

But with the benefit of hindsight, I do see the point of engaging because, through social media, we’re able to combine feelings of anger, rage, and hope to connect our past to our present and mobilise for the future.

Last May, the power of social media was that it was accompanied by a strong, unified narrative that shed light on Palestinian history. The content shared across social media was paired with consistent messaging on the ongoing nature of the Nakba.

Palestinians around the world spoke of how the images, videos, and stories being shared reminded us of the stories our parents and grandparents told us of their oppression and dispossession. The stories we’ve been sharing for decades suddenly became immediately relevant in a contemporary context.

Social media also enabled young Palestinians to assume responsibility for our struggle. The Covid-19 pandemic and the tech-literacy of our generation meant that we saw organising meetings happening on Zoom and Club House. We saw WhatsApp and Signal groups with Palestinians from around the world.

We saw social media content being created and shared across borders. We used the present moment to organise around a vision for a future that we want to see and assumed our responsibility as active participants in creating it.

I don’t think I still agree with the Tweet I wrote 12 months ago; I am now convinced that we do need to keep sharing content on Palestine because our cause depends on it.

But our cause also depends on ensuring that the content we’re sharing is deliberate and purposeful; that videos and images of violence are paired with videos and images of resistance so that online narratives of anger, rage and hope can be transformed into meaningful action offline.

Jeanine Hourani is a Palestinian organiser, writer, and researcher currently based in London.

Have questions or comments? Email us at:

Opinions expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of their employer, or of The New Arab and its editorial board or staff.