Silencing Palestine – how social media is censoring the occupation

Silencing Palestine - how social media is censoring the occupation
Źródło: Wikipedia Commons

This is translation of an article from May 12, 2021.

Over the past weeks, we have witnessed a rise in aggression in occupied Palestine. However, the discriminated against, attacked by the police, and displaced Palestinians are not receiving any international support. Moreover, their cause is censored on social media.

The Israel-Palestine relationship is an extremely complex issue, and this text certainly does not attempt to outline the history of this more than 100-year conflict, much less point out its political and economic background. While I encourage you to learn more about the history surrounding Israel’s expansion in the region, for the purposes of the case I am describing, I would like to focus on a few events of recent days that have marked a new phase of the occupation of Palestine.

April 21 is traditionally considered the beginning of Ramadan—in the Muslim calendar, a holy month in which fasting is practiced from dawn to dusk. During this period after sunset, Muslims gather for communal meals and prayer.

At the start of this year’s Ramadan, Israeli police increased patrols in Jerusalem, especially around the Damascus Gate—a popular gathering place during the holy month. This was seen by the Muslim community as a provocation and led to a series of clashes with the police.

Another reason for the clashes was the case of the residents of the Sheikh Jar neighborhood. It concerns the eviction of several Palestinian families from houses that are supposed to have historically belonged to Jewish families. In this case, the court would invoke a controversial law allowing the recovery of homes belonging to Jewish families before 1948. This, however, is not the only case of the displacement of Palestinians, further supported by right-wing groups in Israel who constantly call for ethnic cleansing in the region.

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Another cause of tension was the Israeli police incursion into the Al Aqsa mosque, in which more than 300 people were injured. This provoked a response from Hamas, a fundamentalist Muslim organization, considered a terrorist group by many in international politics (including the European Union), which has de facto rule in the Gaza Strip. In response to the Israeli attack on the shrine, Hamas fired rockets into Israel, but these were neutralized by Israel’s anti-missile system, the Iron Dome. In response, Israel fired rockets into Gaza that killed 35 people, including 12 children.

Many activists around the world have recently tried to publicize the issue by sharing content tracing the aggression accompanying the Israeli occupation. However, their publications have been repeatedly deleted, the justification being that they violate the app’s terms of use.

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The issue was brought to the attention of the 7amleh group, an Arab non-profit organization that studies the functioning of social media. According to their reports, posts related to the Sheikh Jara neighborhood case were deleted on both Instagram and Twitter. The case was addressed by Instagram, justifying the situation with system errors, noting that it was not related to any specific topics.

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However, activists point out that the process of removing content and blocking accounts is not transparent in the slightest, which can lead to far-reaching abuses.

In a recently published report on how the topic of Palestine functions in the social media space, the organization 7amleh highlighted the collaboration between Israel’s security services and Facebook (which also includes Instagram and WhatsApp) and Twitter. This one leads to the censorship of content dedicated to the aggression accompanying the Israeli occupation. The report also highlights the ongoing violation of social media privacy rights by authorities in Israel.

How can you help the Palestinians? First, it’s worth learning about the history behind contemporary events. Currently, there are more and more calls for changes on a strictly linguistic level. For example, replacing the terms “clashes” or “conflict” with words such as “occupation” or “aggression” As for direct forms of assistance, we encourage financial support for organizations such as IMEU, which provides access to independent content related to the situation in the region, or Human Concern, which provides medical support, shelter, and assistance in repairing housing in the Gaza Strip, and more.