Digital racism: Palestinians are being silenced on social media Social media

In 1964, Edward Said, a Palestinian American intellectual and professor at Columbia University, famously argued that the Palestinians had been denied “permission to speak.”

More than 30 years later, in 2020, Maha Nassar, a Palestinian American associate professor at the University of Arizona, analyzed opinion articles published in two dailies – The New York Times and The Washington Post – and two weekly news magazines – The New Republic and The Nation – from 19 1970s. Over a period of about 50 years until 2019. Surprisingly, he discovered that “editorial boards and columnists have often spent enough time talking about Palestinians in a skeptical and even racist manner – yet they have never felt the need to hear much from the Palestinians.”

Nassar’s research, like many before, clearly demonstrates that more than three decades after the publication of Saeed’s groundbreaking article, the removal of Palestinian voices from mainstream media reports in the West – and attempts to wipe out the humanity of Palestinians or whitewashed Israel – continue unabated.

Sadly, however, the status quo of this injustice was not only unchanged, as Saeed brought it under the spotlight – it has deteriorated.

In recent years, social media has become a lifeline for many who want to raise awareness about the causes and struggles that are being ignored or diminished by mainstream media outlets.

Yet technology companies are now actively working to exclude Palestinian voices from their platforms, thereby expanding mass erosion and turning Palestinians ’silence into social media.

In April, for example, did Zoom, Facebook and YouTube block the online academic event “Who’s Narratives”? What is independent speech for Palestine? Co-sponsored by the San Francisco State University, the UC Faculty Association (CUFCA) Council and the Arab and Muslim Ethnicity and Diaspora (AMED) Studies Program of the California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI).

The event was attended by anti-apartheid leaders and activists from around the world, including Laila Khaled, an icon of Palestinian resistance, and Ronnie Casilla, a former South African ANC military leader.

The event was, in fact, a repetition of an open classroom jointly conducted by Dr. Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi (AMED Studies) and Dr. Tomomi Kinuka (Women and Gender Studies) at San Francisco State University. Due to the planned participation of Laila Khaled, they have decided to block the event from their platform. They claim that since Khaled is affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a “US-designated terrorist organization”, allowing material support for terrorism would be a violation of US law.

It has been repeatedly asserted by numerous legal experts that the arguments put forward by social media companies are unqualified. Not only did it ignore all relevant legal precedents and make false accusations of violating U.S. law, but it also amounted to an attack on academic freedom.

In fact, in an open letter to Zoom officials published in October last year, Palestinian lawyers and experts from other legal organizations insisted that censoring Zoom’s AMID event was “a dangerous attack on freedom of speech and academic freedom and the abuse of your contract with our public university system.” They added that “[Zoom’s] Status as an essential public service does not give you veto power over the content of classrooms and public events in the country.

These warnings went unheeded as Zoom and other social media organizations completely ignored the growing criticism of their biased policies and stepped up their efforts to silence Palestinian speeches on their platforms.

In April, after Zoom refused to host “Car Narratives”? For the second time in a row – after pressure from the Israeli government app and several right-wing Zionist organizations – Facebook not only took a publicity post about the event, but also effectively removed the AMAD Studies program page from its platform. A huge archive of discussions, discussions and documents about the Palestinian liberation struggle and its relationship with the liberation movement around the world is being deleted. These elements were intentionally shared on Facebook for academics, staff, organizers and the community for free and without interruption.

With the onset of Zoom’s repeated attempts to arbitrate what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in academia, the deletion of Facebook’s AMED page clarifies the Big Tech approach to Israel-Palestine: censorship of the Palestinian struggle in Israel’s demands, and any of these illegal and unjust actions. Ignore.

Israel and its allies are not just pushing the Big Tech to silence the Palestinians from the outside. The board of directors of Facebook, an independent body responsible for making decisions about the content of the platform, includes MAM Palmer, a former director general of Israel’s judiciary. Khazur personally operated an Israeli cyber unit in the past, which successfully lobbied for the removal of thousands of Palestinian content from Facebook.

While Palmer’s presence on the board of observers only makes sense for his contribution to Facebook’s anti-Palestinian activities, these pro-Israel actors, who regularly challenge the Palestinian voice of Big Tech, cannot be blamed for his superior looks alone.

From the very beginning, social media organizations have been attracted and integrated into the centers of power of the US capitalist and imperialist structures. They have even partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense, combining surveillance and big data analysis. So it’s not that a few powerful pro-Israel voices are settling dissent on social media organizations; The art itself is its root rot. Let’s not forget how Big Tech executives and employees ordered the occupation and Saudiization of large tracts of land in the San Francisco Bay Area, displacing the alphabet of thousands of working-class and poor communities.

The AMED Studies Facebook page has not been restored. However, event organizers rightly point out that the problem is not just Big Tech censorship: after the AMED censored the event, university officials refused to provide an alternative platform for the event and involved messaging and programming that effectively delivered it. .

Universities are far from being neutral arbitrators in this story: acknowledging the monopoly of technology companies on educational programming and by normalizing anti-Palestinian rhetoric, they are involved in removing Palestinians and Palestinians from the curriculum of these organizations.

And the Palestinian voice on social media extends far beyond the repression academy. In recent days, many people who have documented Israeli settlements and state violence against Palestinian families in Sheikh Zararah’s East Jerusalem neighborhood have reported that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (owned by Facebook) have “regularly censored” their content.

In the latest chapter of Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing in Palestine, Sheikh Zararah said Palestinian families are facing impending forced evictions from their homes and are fighting violent repression approved and enabled by all levels of the Israeli state.

Last Friday, more than 200 people were injured when Israeli police fired rubber bullets and threw strain grenades at Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israeli forces tried to prevent doctors from treating the wounded, and the attack left at least three Palestinians dead. On Monday, Israeli occupying forces again opened fire on Palestinians who had gathered in al-Aqsa to defend the area from settler violence, with rubber-coated bullets, stun grenades and tear gas; Among the injured were journalists, journalists and doctors. In the latest act of recent punishment, Israel launched a brutal bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip on Monday night, leveling civilian infrastructure and media offices. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, the current death toll is at least 655, including 1 child, with an estimated 3,365 injured. On Wednesday night, hundreds of gunmen attacked by gunmen and police violence in Lead town (also known as Lods), and 33-year-old Palestinian Palestinians attacked the Palestinian protesters after the murder of Musa Hachna. The Israeli border forces eventually moved from the West Bank to Lid. In addition, fascist Israelis took part in the lunch of a Palestinian man in Butt Yam, forcibly removed him from a car and beat him unconscious.

The Israeli Supreme Court has delayed Sheikh Jarrah’s forced removal for 30 days, but leaders have identified it as a stalling tactic to rally support and mobilize Sheikh Jarrah residents.

In a recent CNN interview, Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian poet and Sheikh Zarah activist, instinctively became “violent” in his head by strongly answering this reporter’s top question with one of his oldest media troupes. : “Do you support the violent displacement of me and my family?” As usual, US mainstream media outlets try to cover up the unequal nature of Israel’s aggression by defining the latest and ongoing attacks on the Palestinian people as “clashes” or “conflicts.”

The ongoing efforts of the mainstream media to whitewash the deadly occupation of Israel, the horrific and rapidly growing situation of the Palestinians in Sheikh Zararah and all Palestinians resisting their support, the unrestricted access to social media is crucial for the Palestinians and their allies.

Instead of praising the Palestinians’ religious struggle to resist violence and displacement, social media outlets are pushing the interests and agenda of the government that is attacking them.

The latest social media censorship of Palestinian posts about Sheikh Jarrah is part of a larger pattern of repression, given the long and well-documented complexity between Israel and social media organizations in controlling and censoring Palestinian content and accounts. Instagram is officially responsible for removing this “universal technical issue.” Twitter similarly claimed that the limitations on the account of Palestinian writer Miriam Barghouti, which was later recovered after a massive social media campaign, were an “accident”. Due to the nature of the removal and the targeted nature of the censors, staff and surveillance agencies have expressed doubts about this national interpretation.

Decades after the US media criticized Edward Said for his outspoken refusal to allow Palestinians to tell their own stories, voices in support of the Palestinian liberation struggle have been silenced not only by mainstream media, but also by social media.

Despite the efforts of social media and media organizations to silence the Palestinians, those who believe in equality, justice and freedom should support and extend the call to stop the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements to save Sheikh Jarrah. Occupy and end state-sanctioned discrimination against Palestinians. We should support the boycott, secession and prohibition (BDS) movement until Israel agrees to end its colonial and racist behavior. Media outlets and social media outlets may try to control and distort the narrative about Palestine, but they cannot hide the truth and keep the Palestinians silent forever in their demands for justice.

This does not mean that we should not try to expose our immoral and illegal practices by these organizations and we must fight against targeted, cross-platform censorship that violates the ongoing structural oppression of the Israeli state on the Palestinians and violates the Palestinian voice. Makes. By engaging in this kind of behavior, social media companies are describing digital racism. We cannot sit idly by. As part of the larger struggle for the independence and liberation of Palestine, we must now continue to express and resist this discriminatory silence more than ever before.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the author and his editorial position on Al Jazeera.

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