As you think of others far away, think of yourself (say, “If only I were a candle in the dark”). –Mahmoud Darwish (translated by Mohammed Shaheen)

At the time of writing this article, it has been 40 days since the commencement of Israel’s relentless retaliatory assault on the Palestinian people living in Gaza and the Occupied West Bank. Following the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, Israel’s offensive has resulted in the tragic deaths of at least 11,000 Palestinian civilians, with over 20,000 sustaining injuries. 42 journalists and media workers have lost their lives, and the war has recorded the highest number of UN aid worker casualties in the history of the organisation. Craig Mokhiber, the former Director of the New York Office of UNHCR, who resigned in protest of the United Nations’ failure to intervene and avert the crisis, has described the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe as “a textbook case of genocide.” Yet, if one were to turn to mainstream media, particularly in the West, one would find a very different picture than this grim reality.

Indeed, the Western reporting of the Israel-Palestine issue has been marred by a series of “erroneous Western assumptions,” as Professor Amir Ali of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) called them in a commentary piece for the Economic and Political Weekly. From an ahistorical account of the situation as beginning on October 7, 2023, to the labelling of all condemnations of Israel’s actions as antisemitism, along with the ad-nauseum repetition of “Do you condemn Hamas?” Prof. Ali identifies these assumptions as reflective of “the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the West.” Underneath these apparent fallacies in logic, of course, lie much more deliberate and coercive forces of racism, Islamophobia, and the state-driven race for geopolitical gains.

In light of this active epistemic erasure, many have chosen to turn instead to Palestinian journalists, photographers, and activists, such as Plestia Alaqad, Bisan, Yara Eid, and Ali Jadallah, among others, who have utilised their social media presence to document the harrowing genocide as it unfolds on the ground. “My photos travelled the world, but my feet couldn’t touch my homeland,” reads the Instagram bio of Motaz Azaiza, one such Gaza-based photojournalist, whose photographs have indeed travelled the digital world and exposed the ongoing atrocities of the Israeli state. From highly graphic and excruciating images of dead or injured children to capturing the daily resilience of the Palestinian people, the social media posts of Gazan civilians like Motaz have struck the consciences of millions across the world. Amid active attempts to dehumanise victims of genocide, they have served as an unprecedented tool of personal documentation, humanising the statistics too often reduced to mere death tolls.

The democratisation of information dissemination via social media has brought out the face of a genocide like never before in history. Such is the power of online discourse that many experts have called it “a battle to control the narrative dimensions of conflict and war.” The meddling forces in this narrative battle include disinformation, online propaganda, and censorship by social media platforms. The latter is particularly pertinent in the current context, as numerous activists, journalists, and regular users have accused major platforms of shadowbanning or taking down Palestine-related content. Yet, the sheer magnitude of this online movement is evident in the fact that October saw 15 times more posts on Instagram and TikTok with pro-Palestinian hashtags than pro-Israeli ones, as reported by Humanz, an influencer marketing company founded by former IDF intelligence officers.

On an individual scale, this has translated to what I’d like to term ‘digital-user morality’ for the purposes of this article. Digital-user morality may be understood as a form of individual social responsibility that encourages the socio-politically conscious usage of one’s social media platform, however big or small, to create awareness about issues that matter. Emphasising the complicit nature of silence and ignorance, it calls upon individuals to speak out for what’s right and stand in solidarity with marginalised communities across the world.

The idea here is not to suggest that passive engagement in the form of a single repost or retweet is going to bring about a revolution. Rather, the objective is to harness online support and channel it into tangible forms of dissent and protest movements. With the widespread adoption of the BDS (Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction) movement and people marching in the thousands across the world, it is evident that the line between digital activism and real-world mobilisation is a thin one, and the former has a significant bearing on public sentiment about war.

As we continue to mobilise our voices for Palestine, it is also crucial to be cognizant of the pitfalls of virality and not forget the many ‘silent genocides’ unfolding in other parts of the world right now, such as the Congo and Sudan. Social media is a powerful tool, but it is a tool based on capital, after all. So, when the Palestine issue inevitably dies out its so-called time on social media, just as the Manipur issue did earlier this year and countless other humanitarian crises that seldom see the spotlight, remember not to let your activism be washed away in the transient waves of online attention.

Read Also: What’s Going on in Gaza and Why You Should Care

Image credit: @motaz_azaiza on Instagram

Sanika Singh
[email protected]

Unpacking the conflict, its roots, and the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

In the heart of the Middle East, a long-standing conflict continues to shape the lives of millions. The Israel-Palestine issue, with its roots dating back over a century, drew global attention again after the last few weeks’ events. The abundance of misinformation available online can be daunting, making it all the more important to form informed opinions and be responsible global citizens, which is necessary in such turbulent times. 

For a very brief background, The 1917 Balfour Declaration promised a Jewish homeland in Palestine to aid persecuted European Jews, sparking tensions with residing Palestinian Arabs. After the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Israel emerged, leading to the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians, and this day was marked as Nakba (a catastrophe) by the Palestinians. In 1967, Israel occupied Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, areas that had held Palestinians for generations, and established Jewish settlements. UN calls for withdrawal were refused. The Palestinian people saw this as an illegal occupation, and one major group resorting to violence to fight it (for a lack of Palestine’s military) grew in prominence in the 1980s. This organisation was called Hamas, and it took control of Gaza in 2006 after an election win. Israel and Hamas have fought many wars, but tensions have never subsided. 

A sudden escalation of the issue began on October 7, when Hamas launched an attack on Israel, claiming over 1400 lives, mostly civilian, and taking 230 hostages. In retaliation, the Israeli Prime Minister declared war and stated that Hamas would “pay an unprecedented price”. On November 6, The Palestinian Health Ministry said that Israel’s airstrikes have killed more than 10,000 people in Gaza, including over 4000 children. A report was also published detailing the names and ID numbers of every person killed, a day after US President Joe Biden questioned the death toll. 

The world is divided over the topic of Israel’s right to defend itself. It is important to recognize and grieve the effects of Hamas’s actions, and it is also necessary to note that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian cause. The increasing Israeli occupation of Palestine has never been justified, and neither was ever legally sanctioned by the United Nations. From its position of power, Israel has been controlling food, water, electricity, and the free movement of the people in Gaza since 2007 and is currently causing harm to life by having disrupted all of that since the events of October 7. In addition to that, with the enormous backing and financial aid that it receives from the USA, an undeniable power imbalance exists between the two regions that Israel has exploited for decades and is continuing to. Targeted bombings and air strikes in schools, hospitals, and residential buildings have made it clear that the continuous and purposeful killing of civilians is taking place. In discussions all over the world, this is being called a “textbook case of genocide”. 

On October 13, Israel had ordered over 1 million Gazans to evacuate to the southern part of the territory as targeted attacks on Hamas lay ahead. The UN stated that suddenly evacuating about half the population would have devastating humanitarian consequences.

Protecting civilians does not mean ordering one million to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no water, no medicine, no fuel, and then continue to bomb the south itself.

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres.

Moreover, due to how Israel has handled refugee needs in the past, many Palestinians feared they would not be able to return and would be gradually displaced to Egypt’s Sinai, which is near Gaza’s south. The United Nations Human Rights Watch has said that Israel’s siege of Gaza and its evacuation order could lead to the forcible transfer of civilians and be in breach of international law. This is a recurring theme in Israel’s occupation of Palestine, as the refusal to withdraw from Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, as well as the setting up of establishments in those territories, have been condemned and labelled flagrant violations of international law.   

To add to the alarming death tolls, there is an extreme shortage of electricity and medicine, and almost half of the hospitals in Gaza are no longer functioning and others are getting bombed. The UNRWA stated that it had to significantly reduce its humanitarian operations because fuel had run-out and the delivery of more had been restricted by Israel in fear of its misuse by Hamas. The UNWFP has said that ‘insane bureaucracy’ has slowed down the flow of aid, as only about 12 lorries carrying food and water are crossing into Gaza per day. This number was 500 before the war began. Moreover, telecommunication has been destroyed by the bombing, making it harder for aid to reach the right places in time. The current humanitarian situation in Gaza, therefore, remains dire.

There is no doubt that discussions and opinions should leave room for nuance; however, it should not be difficult to stand for humanitarian rights when needed most. The US, Israel’s major ally, having provided billions in military and economic aid, along with the EU, has condemned the actions of Hamas. Russia and China have not done the same and have stated neutrality. Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, is a supporter of Hamas and has been exchanging fire with Israeli forces.

The United Nations General Assembly has passed a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian truce between Israel and Hamas and demanding aid access to Gaza. 120 countries voted in favour, 14 voted against (including Israel and the USA) and 45 others abstained. We are yet to see what this step will do for the suffering people of Palestine, but in any case, history will remember. 

Read also: Stop Genocide in Palestine- Sfi Protests at Embassy of Israel 

Featured image source: World Peace Tracts 

Arshiya Pathania

[email protected] 

Students and activists took part in the demonstration to support the victims of the horrific war crimes committed in Gaza, which included the loss of lives of thousands of innocent children. 

On October 23, 2023, a protest organized by the Students’ Federation of India in Delhi took place at the Embassy of Israel in New Delhi. This protest was an expression of solidarity with Palestine and a strong plea to stop the ongoing violence committed by Israeli forces in Gaza. Around 2 p.m. on October 23rd, a large gathering of supporters, including social activists and students from various universities and student organizations across Delhi, assembled near the Khan Market Metro station. Together, they initiated a united march towards the Embassy of Israel.

Upon reaching their destination, the protesters were met with a substantial police force that prevented them from advancing further. The authorities detained the demonstrators, leading to a temporary halt to their protest. An hour later, a second group of students, holding placards in support of Palestine and chanting slogans, initiated another march towards the embassy. They, too, were soon detained by the police forces.

The backdrop to this protest is the ongoing conflict in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes have resulted in the tragic loss of over 5,000 lives over two weeks. The history of the Israel-Palestine conflict is marked by turbulence and violence. As the attacks persist, people worldwide stand united in their call for an end to the loss of innocent lives and the provision of essential services to the people of Gaza through humanitarian aid.

Our conversations with the protestors helped us get a clear view of their motivations and perspectives on the issue. A student from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) who joined the protest explained that their objective was to oppose all forms of violence in Gaza and urge the governments to support the Palestinian cause. He emphasized that the march towards the Embassy was a means to convey their message to the media, the general public, and ultimately the government.

What is happening in one part of the world cannot leave us unaffected or detached. It is not right to assume that India and its citizens will remain untouched by the consequences of this conflict.

– One of the supporters present at the march.

The supporters stressed their point by saying,

Humari sankhya kam ho sakti hai, par humari awaaz buland hai

(Our numbers may be small, but our voices are powerful.)

Many protesters were also against police actions and the detention of their fellow participants. They requested the administration to respect their right to peaceful protest. Social activists present at the event underlined the historical importance of mass protests in India’s struggle for independence. They argued that the administration should not restrict their freedom to express their views.

The demonstrators also stressed that the world must not remain silent in the face of such a grave humanitarian crisis. They highlighted the need to stand in support of the oppressed and the innocent in Gaza, as one day India might require the international community’s support in times of crisis, just as the civilians of Gaza do now. The protestors’ believed in the importance of global solidarity and the responsibility of nations to support one another in the face of injustice and conflict.

Read Also – https://dubeat.com/2019/12/01/why-are-israelis-moving-into-a-conflict-zone/

Image Credits – Anshika Sharma for DU Beat

By DU Beat