I’d like to say that social media doesn’t matter. Israel and its Palestinian counterparts are pursuing tactics, military and otherwise, and the battle for public opinion is only one among many. Despite what nearly everyone seems to think, what happens on our Facebook and Twitter feeds probably doesn’t matter that much.
Except when it does. Presumably, the echo chambers in which we cloister ourselves have an impact on ourselves, even if not on Israel or Palestine. We do create communities of shared values, online as well as in person, and if those values are extreme one-sidedness bereft of analysis or reflection — well, that matters, if nothing else, to the kinds of communities in which we and our children are supposed to live.
Over the last week, I private-messaged half a dozen people who have frequently posted on Facebook one-sided accounts of the current violence. The (small, unscientific) sample included an ardent Zionist, moderate/two-state Zionists, and a BDS-activist anti-Zionist. Not one of them agreed to post accounts both of the Israeli suffering and of the Palestinian suffering. Each side insisted the other side is morally deficient, that there is no equivalence between them, and that there’s already too much attention to the other side’s suffering.
If a bunch of privileged Americans with so little at personal stake can’t internalize the importance of multiple narratives, how do we expect Israelis and Palestinians — both of whom are living under threat of imminent death, while I sit behind a screen in Brooklyn — to do better?
Really, it’s almost laughable, how the two sides are mirror images of one another. My BDS-supporting friend said the media is only telling Israel’s side of the story. My moderate-Zionist friend said the media is only telling Gaza’s side.
My anti-Zionist friend said that there is no moral equivalence between a massive air force that has killed over a hundred civilians and a massively outgunned resistance to Occupation. My ardent-Zionist friend said that there’s no moral equivalence between terrorists targeting civilians and a sovereign nation defending itself against attack.
Then my pro-Palestine friend posted accounts of Israel targeting hospitals and schools. Then my pro-Israel friend posted accounts of Israel dropping leaflets in an “unprecedented” effort to stop civilian casualties.
A different pro-Palestine friend called the Gaza operation genocide. A different pro-Israel friend wanted me to know that Israel was taking in Syrian refugees, that Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh sent his own child to an Israeli hospital, that “no other country in the world” acts as justly as Israel does.