I’ve titled this article ‘apolitical’, although naturally I cannot remain neutral even by my very choice of language. After all, Palestine can be called Gaza or the West Bank or even recognised as a de jure state only. Likewise, Israel can be called Canaan or Judea or even perceived to be Palestinian too. All names hold a heated debate. The conflict between the two entities stems back decades, arguably centuries, and its history will not be this article’s primary concern. I do not like to write about issues that I could never properly understand, nor articles that will always be condemned as inaccurate and unfair by one party or another.
However, what I do understand is the response to the conflict within the UK. The response on social media, and the response in the streets. How performative is the activism we are currently seeing? How helpful are the rallies, how useful the infographics? And most importantly of all, has the response been beneficial or damaging to the aim of peace? Maybe all it is achieving is to inflame hatred with more hatred, echoing the prejudices of the past across new generations.
The foundation of this discussion is an understanding that the Israeli authorities do not represent all their citizens, nor do they represent all Jewish people across the world. The Palestinian authorities equally do not represent all their citizens, nor all Muslim people across the world either. And the issue I would like to address is how both institutions are being used as a point blank representation of thousands of global citizens. Citizens who, on both sides of the conflict, may disagree with the organisations they are being forced to identify with.
The initial, international response first came to my attention across Instagram. Perhaps it is not the most reliable source of information, but it seemed to demand that Israel remove their presence from the Sheikh Jarrah district in Jerusalem, to cease their eviction of Palestinian families living there. The conflict was presented as a humanitarian issue. However, by 10 May, the military and the police were involved, and the conflict became violent. It is interesting to note that while the conflict was based on talks and disagreements, its international response remained based on communicating and sharing ideas. Yet when the conflict became based on physical reprimands and weaponry, its international response likewise took to the streets.
Rocks were thrown at doors at a German synagogue in Bonn. A bomb was set off at a Pakistani pro-Palestine rally. Israeli flags were burned outside a synagogue in Münster.
It appears that the international response to the conflict has been to create more conflict. The online activism may champion peace, but it is translating very differently in the real world. Acts of anti-semitisim are occurring all across Europe. Whether the Palestine-Israel conflict has sparked such attacks or is merely acting as a guise for them is difficult to say. But the demonisation of an entire religion, of either Judaism or Islam, is not helping the situation. It is only natural for people to attack when they themselves are attacked, but that is not activism. And this issue has been magnified by the recent rise of social media, which has, in recent years, adopted a political and humanitarian role. Because of the way social media spreads information – correct or otherwise – the global perception of singular events has never been more important. Social media is powerful, but as of yet its power is uncontrolled.
There is little this article can do to solve that problem. All I can hope is that you might now consider the infographics that appear on your phone in a slightly more critical light. That you might now think twice before condemning a whole religion instead of a single government. Or perhaps you might not immediately fight hatred with more hatred when it comes your way.
A ceasefire has been called between Palestine and Israel. But I fear a ceasefire of prejudices will not be called unless the powers of social media decide as well.