Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Online debate over Palestinian statehood | The Stream - Al Jazeera English

Online debate over Palestinian statehood

In the run-up to a possible UN vote on Palestinian statehood, political jockeying has spilled over into social media.

In September the United Nations General Assembly may vote on a push for statehood by the Palestinian Authority. Plenty of lobbying has already been taking place in the international community and jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has called for mass rallies to back the statehood initiative. While Barghouti wants a 'million man march' in the streets, efforts in support of Palestinian statehood have already begun to spill over into social media.

On Twitter, supporters of Palestinian statehood are tweeting using the hashtag #StateofPalestine. Egyptian activist Wael Ghomin tweeted, "My name is Wael Ghonim & I strongly demand the recognition of Palestine as an independent country. #StateofPalestine".

On Facebook, multiple pages have been launched in support of the upcoming potential bid. One page, entitled "10 Million signatures for a Palestinian State on September" is collecting signatures to an online petition. Another titled "Support Palestine" has garnered over 8,000 'likes'.

The Israeli perspective is not going unrepresented in social media either. Many tweets using the #StateofPalestine hashtag are arguing against the statehood push. In a rare venture into social media video production, however, the state of Israel has also become involved. A YouTube video called "The Truth About the West Bank" produced for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with standwithus.com features Danny Ayalon, Israeli's deputy foreign minister.

The video begins with light music and a cartoonish title and then features simple animations on a white background with Ayalon standing in the foreground. He gives a history lesson about Israel and the Palestinian Territories from the Israeli government's perspective. The aim of the video seems to be to reframe the language of the debate over the Palestinian territories.

Ayalon asks, "We'll start with a simple but important question: From whom did Israel capture the West Bank? From the Palestinians? No. In 1967 there was no Arab nation or state by the name of Palestine. Actually, was there ever?" After a brief trip through his government's version of events that have transpired since the end of the first World War, Ayalon argues, "The West Bank should not be considered occupied because there was no previous legal sovereign in the area and therefore a real definition should be 'disputed' territory."

The video, in which Ayalon speaks in English, is nearly identical to a Hebrew-language video produced by the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements in May. Both videos, in fact, were produced by Shlomo Blass of Rogatka, Ltd. Aside from language the most notable difference is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs video features Ayalon, a government official.

Read Yousef Munayyer's opinion piece: "Boycott the state, not just the settlements".

These are some of the social media elements featured in this segment.