The Smart Weapon of Generation Z

Dr. CK Abdulla

The battle of Saif al Quds, as the resistance movement termed it, turned out to be a great success for the Palestinian cause. As usual, the 11-day aggression during mid-May on the almost armless Palestinians was initiated by the Zionist invader, and it ended as a great stride towards resolving the crisis.

The 7th biggest army in the world of the nuclear-armed Israel, equipped with the latest weaponry, has been defeated by the far-from-comparable resistance movement based in Gaza, mainly with their ‘strategic resource of willpower’ and trust in Almighty’s support, according to Khaled Mishal, the former political head of Hamas. Overwhelmed with the calculated success, Yahya Al Sinwar, the local head of Hamas movement in Gaza commented during a press meet in Gaza city on May 26 that what the invader has tasted from the resistance is ‘just a rehearsal’.

Looking from the resistance angle, there are many factors that paved the path of success. Righteousness, hard work, inventions and innovations of the besieged and strong unity of Palestinian people are a few. Nevertheless, the massive public support for the resistance across the world was due to the wise use of the easy-to-use smart phone by the new generation in Palestine, the generation Z, such that social media itself turned into a battlefield, especially in the occupied Palestine and the West Bank where public were clashing with the occupation army.

The new generation of the tech-savvy Palestinians were thrust into the forefront of this virtual online battle. Born into Israeli occupation, angered by their treatment at the hands of the security forces and Jewish settlers, disillusioned with the ageing Palestinian leadership, their explosion of anger was organic and widespread.

“If you don’t go out and challenge the settler harassment and suppression then the violence will come to you and you’ll be attacked anyway,” Mohannad (30), from Kufr Ain village of occupied Palestine had told the Financial Times. “Everyone was posting about what was happening, our phones were the only tool we had, our last option.” Mohannad and his friends filmed the clashes with the Israeli soldiers and consistently posted it on video app TikTok.

According to Prof Mohammed Abualrob, a digital media faculty at the Birzeit University, Palestine, social media had proved vital in pushing the cause to a global audience to such an extent that Palestinians never saw such worldwide solidarity against the aggression on Gaza before. As for Bashar Murad, a 28-year-old from Sheikh Jarrah, “For the first time, Palestinians felt like they had a weapon — their phones.”

Thousands of people from around the globe condemned Israel’s latest deadly attacks on the Palestinians through social media platforms under hashtags such as #SaveSheikhJarrah and #Gazaunderattack.

Many public figures and celebrities including John Oliver, Bella Hadid, Susan Sarandon, Malala Yousafzai, Paul Pogba, Kyrie Irving and such others condemned Israel’s apartheid practices and used their platforms to raise awareness about the Palestinian struggle for justice and peace, although, some celebrities yielded to the Zionist pressure at later stage and ‘withdrew’ their postings.

Mariam Barghouti, a writer and researcher, opined that the Palestinian resistance was emerging within the context of the growing global justice movement that includes Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong. “Our voice echoes other struggles,” she said. “Israel is not sustained on its own but by racist regimes, including the US.” 

As Palestinians have access to the language of the moment, when the hypermilitarised Israeli security forces literally knelt on the necks of peaceful protesters, demonstrators waved banners that integrate their cause with a global fight for racial justice: “We can’t breathe since 1948.”

A Cultural Shift?

The generation Z proved that any Zionist or imperial perceptions that decades of occupation and intransigence over the moribund peace process had helped pacify the people of Palestine were upended. The new generation’s activism is different from their predecessors.

According to a report by Aljazeera.com, this cultural shift on Palestine came on the back of the highly influential popular movements in the west such as BLM (Black Live Matters) and MeToo movements in the west, which highlighted the intersectionality of social justice issues from racism and gender discrimination to colonial oppression. Now that young people overwhelmingly see the Palestinian struggle as a crucial part of their efforts to achieve justice, equality and freedom for all and it is logical to assume that voices in support of Palestine are going to become louder and more influential over the coming years.

Not a Swift Shoot

Although the social media revolution has been so successful, many people complained about silencing attempts from the tech giants. Many user accounts were reportedly restricted or closed for breaching “community guidelines” after posting content including words such as “resistance”, “colonialism”, “martyrdom” or “apartheid”. Thus, social media ‘fighters’ resorted to tricks such as misspelling or inserting random pictures of kittens into the text to circumvent such restrictions.

Big tech companies like Facebook and Google worked overtime to erase criticisms of Israel and Zionism from their influential platforms, Aljazeera.com reported. Since the beginning of the latest escalation in violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Gaza, these companies have been censoring posts and videos aiming to raise awareness and share information about Israel’s war crimes and human rights violations by activists, campaigners and other Palestinian allies. YouTube has even added age restrictions to Al Jazeera Arabic’s live stream amid the channel’s continuing coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The restriction was removed only after widespread criticism of the move.

Popular gaming platforms and blogs popular among Generation Z, such as IGN, Gamespot, Kotaku, and Game Informer all published statements of support for Palestinians and compiled links to Palestinian charities after the beginning of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Later, several of these companies removed these statements and articles, raising concerns that they too are being pressured to silence any criticism of Israel on their platforms.

Social Media giants Instagram and Twitter blamed the ‘takedowns’ on an error made by their automated systems, and said that the posts and accounts in question had been restored. Instagram, in a statement this week addressing a content that appeared to be missing from other regions as well, apologised to those in East Jerusalem who “felt this was an intentional suppression of their voices and their stories — that was not our intent whatsoever.”  However, such explanations did not satisfy digital rights groups, who argue for more transparency on the ‘algorithm functions’ of social media platforms.

Despite relentless attempts by Israel and social media companies to silence them, they raised awareness about Israel’s illegal occupation as well as its repeated violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.

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