When Israel arrested Muna and Mohammed Al-Kurd on Sunday, there was a digital tsunami of support for and solidarity with the most famous twins in Palestine. On Twitter and Facebook, activists from all over the world called for their immediate release. The international media again headed to the besieged Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, while the twins’ father, Nabil Al-Kurd, held a press conference in front of the Israeli police station where his children were being held.
Both were later released on bail, but not before armed Israeli police used stun grenades to disperse peaceful activists and the media. Israel had lost another round in the vital PR showdown, as its international image was dented even further.
It was a foolish move by the Israeli authorities, just like its recent provocations of Palestinians in the Old City, at Al-Aqsa Mosque, and in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods, which also all backfired.
At the heart of the Palestinians’ peaceful resistance and defiance are thousands of young people — what many in the media now call “Generation Z,” who are aged between about 6 and 24 years. Thousands of their images, online posts, podcasts and interviews have gone viral over the past few weeks, exposing Israel’s brutal occupation and persecution of defenseless Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
They helped Sheikh Jarrah become a household name all over the world. Israel’s attempts to displace and forcibly evict the residents of this Palestinian neighborhood were debated in parliaments, including the US Congress, on popular talk shows and in clubhouses worldwide. Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites were flooded with posts from all over, stripping bare Israel’s discriminatory laws and barbaric policies. Tel Aviv’s 11-day war against Gaza has been widely denounced by politicians, peace activists, the international media, and human rights organizations.
For the first time in many decades, Israel’s “hasbara” — its powerful propaganda machine, deployed to positively spin information about Israeli actions around the world — has been repulsed. Israeli diplomats tried frantically to whitewash their country’s tarnished image, but they were immediately confronted by activists of all stripes, including anti-Zionist Jews. The often-used cliche that “anti-Zionism is equal to anti-Semitism” was exposed as failing to hold water.
The saga of Sheikh Jarrah has become a symbol of the Palestinian struggle for freedom from occupation and for national salvation. At the forefront of the peaceful resistance are the Al-Kurd twins. At 23 years of age, well-educated and enlightened, they introduced a new, often ignored, generation of Palestinians to the world. It is this generation, which makes up about 24 percent of the total Palestinian population of the West Bank and Gaza, that now leads the peaceful resistance against Israeli occupation. This generation has mastered the use of social media and is able to bypass the often indifferent and sometimes biased Western media to reach millions of people, mostly their own age, around the world.
While an aging Palestinian leadership grows more distanced from its own people, it is the youths who have become Israel’s main challengers on the ground. In 2013, UNICEF published a report entitled “Children in Israeli Military Detention,” in which it revealed that, over the previous 10 years, an estimated 7,000 children had been detained, interrogated, prosecuted and/or imprisoned within the Israeli military justice system — an average of two per day. In April, the Palestinian Prisoner Society said that the Israeli authorities had arrested 230 Palestinian children since the beginning of the year.
The rising influence of Palestinian youth is not an isolated phenomenon. Young people around the world are being mobilized to reject discriminatory laws and injustice at home and abroad. This is why, in the past few weeks, millions of young people from all walks of life have held protests against Israeli atrocities and raised placards labeling Israel as an apartheid state. The growing Black Lives Matter and Me Too grassroots movements have identified themselves with the peaceful Palestinian struggle and have posted hashtags, including the viral #PalestinianLivesMatter.
For the first time in many decades, Israel’s “hasbara” — its powerful propaganda machine — has been repulsed.
The erosion of Israel’s image can also be blamed on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, in his feverish and incendiary last-ditch attempt to save his political future, has ignited the situation in Jerusalem and elsewhere in a bid to appease his fanatic far-right settler following. However, what he has succeeded in doing instead is uniting Palestinian youths not only in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, but also inside the Green Line.
Meanwhile, far-right, anti-Arab Israeli lynching gangs stormed Palestinian neighborhoods in Lod, Jaffa, Haifa and other areas during the Gaza war, exposing the growing political and socioeconomic rifts within Israeli society, which is leaning further to the right.
For years, Israeli politicians claimed that younger Palestinian generations would forget about their national cause and identity. But, in the past few weeks, the peaceful resistance of Palestine’s Generation Z and the subsequent global solidarity have proven them wrong, as they have been able to nullify Israel’s narrative.
- Osama Al-Sharif