A War Without Weapons: Social Media and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Beginning this month, I have limited my time spent on social media. Within the span of a few short weeks, what used to be a platform for procrastination and contacting friends has transformed into a hub for heated arguments and polarizing words. I am shocked by how quickly and easily a single post, picture, or comment can dehumanize an entire population. This battle on social media around the recent escalation between Israel and Gaza needs to end, for the sake of the Israelis and the Palestinians.
In times of war, it is quite easy to point fingers at a particular party. Yet we must challenge ourselves and learn to understand the motive of the “other.” It is essential for us to remember that both Israelis and Palestinians share the commonality of humanity. They all have experiences. They all have family and friends. They laugh and they cry. And sadly, they also feel the pain brought about by a never-ending cycle of war. So when I log onto Facebook and see that my newsfeed is clogged with videos and photographs of mangled, dying children or the three kidnaped Israeli boys, my heart begins to ache. These images are often titled with captions such as “Free Gaza” or “I Stand With Israel.” Upon reading these words, I wonder to myself, why must we be forced to deem one side as “right”?
As an American Jew, I believe that this rhetoric furthers an already deep divide and fuels the demonization of a group of people. The operation in Gaza cannot and should not be defined by a single article, comment, or status. How dare we simplify a multi-layered conflict, which has brewed for decades, to a string of words? Blaming one side over the other merely leaves us treading water in a vast sea of multimedia—we accomplish nothing. Unfortunately, these posts are used as an outlet to force raw emotions over a nuanced conversation. We should not continue to fight with one another over who suffers more. By doing so, we discourage discourse that is actually beneficial to finding a solution to the conflict.
My friends, I urge you to greatly consider a piece of content before you share it on the Internet. Remind yourself that filling your online profile with emotionally charged ideas is destructive to positive action. Posts driven by rage do not contribute to productive discussion; instead they merely generate more hatred and violence. Many people broadcast their opinions on social media because they want to validate their provocative ideas, rather than opt for enriched and valuable discussion. As someone who has close friends in Israel and the Palestinian Territory, I have learned from an array of perspectives. And I have gathered that in this region of the world, most people are tired of bloodshed. They are exhausted by the constant fear of living in danger, but they do not know of any other life, free from this distress. However, we also exacerbate this distress when we mindlessly share articles and pictures with the sole purpose of riling up emotion.
Despite that we are miles away from the Middle East here in the United States, we must continue to support diplomacy and ignore the online outbursts that are counterproductive to relieving the issues at stake. We must show that we are willing to help the Israeli and Palestinian peoples attain lives free from perpetual resentment, anxiety, and devastation by considering current and future reconciliation efforts. And we can start this task by thinking twice before we post.