Unleashing the power of expression in the Palestinian struggle
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Unleashing the power of expression in the Palestinian struggle

Jack Nassar

In Bethlehem, the harmonious sounds of last Christmas’ carols mix with geopolitical horrors. Despite being Jesus’ birthplace, the Holy Land wrestles with escalating war in Gaza and Israeli settler attacks in the West Bank. Here, the power of expression becomes crucial for empowerment and resistance, navigating challenges like disinformation and surveillance while seeking an authentic narrative.

Expression encompasses beliefs, thoughts, actions, and reactions, transcending mere verbal exchanges and serving as a unifying force within societies. In the Palestinian context, expression emerges as a counterforce against disinformation, fake news, and propaganda disseminated by politicians and mainstream media.

Understanding the significance of expression requires considering the historical context of colonial powers branding oppressed nations as savages, barbarians, and uncivilized, while labelling resistance movements and freedom fighters as terrorism and militants. This pattern persists today, prompting crucial questions: How can occupied people express their desires for freedom and liberation? What options are available to them? Examples from Vietnam, Ireland, India, and the US offer insights into the diverse paths taken.

Palestinians have employed a range of strategies in their quest for freedom, including armed resistance, civil disobedience, peace negotiations with land concessions, recognition of their occupiers as a state on ancestral lands, peaceful marches, and boycott movements. However, each endeavour has been met with severe counteractions, such as suppression, arrests, outlawing, labelling as terrorists and anti-Semites, bombings, and land seizures.

Expression plays a pivotal role in shaping definitions and meanings, raising crucial inquiries about the legal grounds for armed resistance under international law and the simultaneous condemnation of such actions as terrorism. The discourse extends to topics like Israel’s right to defend itself against the populations it colonizes, the mutual aspect of the right to self-defence, and the subtle distinctions between anti-Zionism and anti-Judaism. These discussions become paramount in the ongoing pursuit of justice.

Social media use and misuse

In the digital realm, social media platforms have become a battleground for expression as Palestinians seek to shape their narrative and challenge historical misrepresentations in their quest for freedom. In Palestine, the intersection of expression and human rights, particularly freedom of expression, is of immense importance. Balancing communication tools with individual privacy is crucial in the digital age, and promoting media literacy becomes paramount.

The suffering and devastation faced by Palestinians in Gaza often go unnoticed, with their narrative marginalized and distorted. Continuous surveillance and constraints on free expression compound the psychological toll. Major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have deactivated accounts promoting the Palestinian perspective and used algorithms to limit the visibility of pro-Palestine content, highlighting the urgent need to protect expression and combat disinformation that skews global perceptions.

Within the Palestinian struggle, communication distortion involves the manipulation of religious texts, particularly the Bible, to justify actions contradictory to its teachings. This manipulation creates a moral dilemma for Palestinian Christians and American Evangelical Zionists, calling on believers to discern between genuine compassion and manipulated narratives.

The Gaza war has left an indelible mark on every single one of the Gaza Strip’s 2.2 million civilians. They have endured unimaginable losses, including fatalities, injuries, displacement, starvation, and the destruction of homes. The scale of devastation is immeasurable, affecting the physical, emotional, and financial well-being of the population. Thousands remain missing, buried under rubble, perpetuating the lasting psychological toll that will haunt future generations.

Palestinian Christians in Gaza, already vulnerable, face devastating consequences. Most homes and businesses have been bombed, leaving them with bleak prospects for shelter or employment post-war, if they survive. The current Christian population in Gaza has sharply declined to around 1,000 from 3,500 before the 2007 Israeli siege. Alarmingly, the death rate among Christians is disproportionately higher. Israeli airstrikes bombed the compound of the 4th-century Saint Porphyrius Church, Gaza’s oldest, murdering 18 Christians, including 9 children and infants, amounting to the termination of around 2% of Gaza’s Christian population in just one strike. Considering all Christians murdered in the ongoing genocide, the percentage rises to approximately 3%, equivalent to the tragic loss of about 1,100,000 murdered Americans.

Unfortunately, the dire plight of Gaza’s Christians often eludes mainstream Western media, notably American and European Evangelicals. There’s a stark absence of any inclination to mourn, grieve, or offer prayers for the murdered Christians. This lack of acknowledgment underscores the challenge in persuading former colonizers to recognize the injustices committed by present colonizers and acknowledge the true victims. Zionist Evangelicals and some other Western Christians consciously choose to ignore the suffering of Gaza’s Christians, neglecting support despite the historical, cultural, and religious significance of this community dating back to the time of Jesus. This disregard appears deeply rooted in current political agendas and a century-old dispensational theology.

Eliminating double standards

Essential efforts are required to restore trust in international law, grounded in a collective commitment to universal morality and equality. Urgently eliminating double standards, especially in cases like Palestine, Ukraine, and Artsakh, envisions a world where nations are treated equally. Recent instances, such as South Africa’s genocide submission to the ICJ and cases brought before the ICC by Mexico and Chile, underscore the vital need to hold Israel accountable. Expression, extending beyond local boundaries, permeates the global sphere, necessitating diplomatic endeavours to ensure that the Palestinian perspective is not only recognized but also given equal significance.

I earnestly yearn for an end to the ongoing war, recognizing the immeasurable toll on innocent lives. My heartfelt thoughts are with all who have endured suffering. In our pursuit of safety, I echo the belief that “Never Again” should not be the destiny of any human being. Western governments must not ignore the plight of the Palestinian people; collaborative efforts for genuine peace, justice, and equal rights must prevail.

Embracing the wisdom of Martin Luther King Jr., we must remember that violence begets more violence, and peace is not merely a distant goal but a means by which we arrive at that goal. Acknowledging our imperfections, it is crucial that bias, even in favour of our own “kind”, never comes at the expense of others. Let us unite in our commitment to a brighter future built on shared humanity, empathy, and a resolute pursuit of a lasting peace.

Jack Nassar lives in Ramallah, Palestine, holding a master’s degree in political communications from Goldsmiths, University of London. His commitment to driving positive change is evident through his extensive expertise, spanning across public, private, non-profit, and academic sectors.

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