Gaza war on social media
NAJLA AL ROSTAMANİUnlike previous wars, the Israeli onslaught on Gaza is being carried out in the age of ultimate connectivity and heightened dependency on social media where everyone can be a participant. This has allowed the Palestinians a voice that outreaches and overrides the deafening sounds of the aerial and artillery blitz. Israel’s destructive capability of military arsenal, acquired with no less than $16 billion last year, lends its killing machine an exceptional superiority to flex its muscles whenever and however it wants.
Yet despite this fact, in the age of the tweets, selfies, likes, posts, and uploads, the name of the game is all about who takes it first to the forefront on social media. Those who stay connected in the virtual world are the ones who hold the greatest power of all — especially during times of conflict and wars. Just look at how this is clearly evidenced. Since July 8 when Israel commenced its aggression, up to 1,500 civilian Palestinians have been killed and several thousand wounded. The barrage of rocket attacks against Israel ended up with three Israeli deaths.
Furthermore, the physical destruction has been enormous as several neighbourhoods have been levelled to the ground, alongside entire families who had perished beneath the rubble. In contrast, no serious physical damage could be seen anywhere to any of Israel’s infrastructure, expect perhaps for a couple of broken windows and some shattered glass.
But how do audiences come to know, at least in part, of what is happening? It is to a great extent the presence of death and a distressing extent of destruction captured in images and shared across social media, that has driven thousands across the globe to protest against the ongoing onslaught. The fingers clicking away on the keyboard are mightier than those on a weapon when it comes to the sphere of public opinion. Here, the equilibrium changes – those using arms are obvious losers, and those exposing human suffering are sure winners.
A look at the Israeli army’s twitter feed is a good example. For instance, a tweet is of a video link that shows what a regular day in some capitals would look like, while a group of Israelis is running as warning sirens go off. “While those in the UK, India and France go about their normal routine, Israelis have 15 seconds to run for shelter,” claimed the 44-second video. Another video shows women standing on a staircase holding babies in what is said to be a hospital, as sirens warn of a rocket attack.
Now how could this be thought of as a winning propaganda when in comparison every single image coming out of Gaza is soaked in blood? The videos seemed so surreal and out of touch with reality as the Palestinians have no safe haven to run to — not even at UN shelters. The images of children’s intertwined and mutilated bodies, their disfigured corpses, the white shroud embracing infants and toddlers as they are carried to their final rest place, and the engraved agony of grieving parents who have lost all their offspring tilts the equilibrium as these images are exchanged on social media hundreds of times.
Furthermore, the Israeli army has always used the pretense that civilians were forewarned prior to any strike. A tweet states: “Phone calls & SMSes were sent to Shuja’iya, Zeitoun and eastern Jabalia residents, warning them to evacuate immediately to central Gaza city”, and that “those who ignore our warnings jeopardize their safety”.
Followers of such tweets — and let’s think of a global audience across various social media platforms — will conclude that these are a doomed series of tweets. If Palestinian residents had the luxury to evacuate their homes, where would that be to as the locked-down Gaza Strip is a battle zone.
The images of vast areas of rubble hammered down by missiles speak volumes of the atrocities being committed. There is no place to hide, no safe haven, and no longer any place to call home. And it is this image that would prove to last in memory as much as in history.
Many across the world will only come to conclude that what Israel is carrying out in Gaza is an unjustified act of war that is laced with war crimes. In fact, it comes across that an entire population is collectively being punished because they are not humanely considered as casualty in the ‘by all necessary means of brute force’ approach. Not a single Israeli communique has managed to reason why such brutal force has been used. Such a perception is made possible as a result of the widespread of a network that is called social media.
Palestinians now have a voice that can be heard across continents. Many are sharing direct eyewitness account without the need of an interpreter, a facilitator, or a messenger to deliver to the world. The immediacy of sharing an uploaded photo, video, or text holds a power of its own.
Videos of seized weapons and the destruction of an underground tunnel showcased by Israel are really pointless. These images stand like self-fulfilling prophecies – so cold, isolated, distant and detached from the real misery the civilian population is enduring in Gaza.
The abundance of sad and painful imagery speaks the language of human suffering that everyone can connect with. Hence, on the frontline of social media, it is but obvious who stands to gain.
*This article is hublished on Khaleej Times online.