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[OPINION] Social media’s role in the Israeli/Palestinian war

Considering the number of teens who get their news from social media, it is more important than ever to sort fact from opinion when it comes to the conflict in Israel and Palestine.
A+tank+at+the+Gaza+Strip.+%28Royalty-free+photo+by+Craig+Manners+via+Pexels.com%29
A tank at the Gaza Strip. (Royalty-free photo by Craig Manners via Pexels.com)

While the war in Israel/Palestine has been ongoing for the past 50+ years, recent events have reignited the conflict which is now more intense than ever. What distinguishes these recent developments from the past, however, is social media’s new role in the war. The spread of misinformation and celebrity involvement on both sides have made this old conflict fresh for a new generation.

Understanding the Israel/Palestine War (History)

The Israel-Palestine conflict is a complex and deeply rooted struggle with origins dating back to the late 19th century. It primarily revolves around the land, territory, and self-determination rights of two distinct groups: the Jewish and Palestinian communities.

The conflict’s creation can be traced to the late 1800s, marked by the emergence of Zionism and Palestinian nationalism. The Balfour Declaration in 1917 and the subsequent UN Partition Plan in 1947 set the stage for the beginning of the state of Israel in 1948. Since then, the region has witnessed a series of wars, uprisings, and peace negotiations, including the Oslo Accords in the 1990s. However, sources claim many Palestinians were left unhappy by the terms of the agreement, leading to the Second Intifada in 2000.

The result of the Second Intifada was the construction of a barrier between Israel and the West Bank effectively establishing it as Palestinian territory. It also saw the disengagement of the Israeli military in Gaza, leading to more peace in that region.

Since these developments in the late 2000s, there have been periodic conflicts between Palestinian and Israeli forces, but no major engagements – until this year.

In the past few months,  the Israeli and Palestinian conflict , which previously seemed to be trending toward peace, made a dramatic turn in the opposite direction. On Oct. 7, Hamas, the ruling party and organization in Gaza, broke through the barrier that surrounds Gaza and invaded more than 20 Israeli towns and army bases. This attack on Israel killed over 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians.

Israel retaliated immediately, sending in forces to rescue hostages in Gaza. They then formally declared war on Hamas and conducted airstrikes on Gaza which killed an estimated 5,000 Palestinians.

On Oct. 9, Israel began a siege on Gaza, cutting off access to food, electricity, gas, and water. Then on Oct. 13, after days of bombardment of Palestinian territory by Israeli forces, Israel issued a warning to evacuate a large region of northern Gaza within 24 hours or face ‘devastating humanitarian consequences’.

As of this week, the current death toll in Gaza is over 17,000.

Pro-Israel Support Wanes

From the Israeli point-of-view, the land that Gaza holds belongs to them and therefore they are within their rights to take it back. Israeli perspectives often emphasize security, historical and religious ties to the land, and the necessity for a Jewish homeland.

Conversely, Palestinians advocate for the right to self-determination, address the refugee crisis, and decry alleged occupation and human rights abuses.

The international community generally supports a two-state solution while expressing concerns about human rights violations.

In the U.S., many people support a ceasefire. Although the United States and Israel have long had good relations, and support for Israel amongst Americans is common, support is dwindling.

However, in Congress, it is a different story. Although there are a few Democratic representatives who urge for an end to the conflict immediately (one of whom is Illinois’ very own Rep. Ramirez of IL-03), an overwhelming majority of Congress members are pro-Israel.

The Role of Social Media

While the real war is being fought in Gaza, another battle is taking place on social media — the battle for the minds of America’s youth. In the digital age, social media has emerged as a powerful tool shaping the narrative of the Israel-Palestine conflict. High-profile celebrities utilize their platforms to voice opinions, resulting in a global discourse that transcends traditional boundaries.

This celebrity involvement is not without controversy, with debates surrounding the appropriateness and impact of influencer statements. For example, after acclaimed influencer Kylie Jenner shared an Instagram story showing support for Israel, she was quickly met with backlash from her followers. She was pressured to delete the post and apologize for the statement.

As people with a voice to millions of followers, celebrities often feel obligated to share their stance on such important issues. But, doing so can end up alienating members of their audience who disagree.

Another celebrity, Anthany Fantano, a critic of popular music and run a YouTube channel “theneeedledrop”, voiced his support of Palestine and his genuine disgust over he actions of the Israeli government.  His statements caused many longtime fans to unfollow him.

Conversely, actor Noah Schnapp of Stranger Things has also received backlash after sharing videos in which he proudly stated that “zionism is sexy.”

Celebrities, often with millions of followers, play a significant role in shaping public opinion. While some use their influence to raise awareness and funds for related causes, others face criticism for oversimplifying complex geopolitical issues. But as the world must navigate both the news surrounding this issue and the treacherous digital landscape, it is important to remember that celebrities’ opinions do not really matter on these complicated global issues. Social media’s immediacy allows for the rapid dissemination of information, but it also poses challenges such as misinformation and echo chambers. Responsible online engagement becomes crucial in fostering informed, constructive dialogue.

The Israel-Palestine conflict persists as one of the world’s most challenging geopolitical dilemmas. As students and citizens, understanding its historical roots, key issues, and the role of social media is vital. The ongoing conversation on various platforms reflects the complexity of
the conflict and emphasizes the importance of nuanced and informed perspectives in the pursuit of lasting peace.

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  • Mr. AielloDec 12, 2023 at 10:53 am

    Well written and informative. Great job of providing context on what can be a very polarizing topic.