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#FreePalestine: A Look Back

Updated: Apr 9

Social media is a force unparalleled to any other form of broadcasting. Its ability to reach mass audiences, group individuals together, and propel a dialogue on social issues has served as a springboard to countless movements in recent times. However, the assets that enable social media’s powerful nature are simultaneously what make it dangerous by default.

#FreePalestine is a perfect example of this.

Back in the summer of 2014, #FreePalestine became a worldwide trend on Twitter. Well over thousands of tweets contained the hashtag, some by your classmates and others by your favorite celebrities. The hashtag sparked controversy, mass media coverage, and detrimental allegations against the state of Israel and its people. 

Before delving further, we should first ask: What is meant by #FreePalestine and what triggered this movement?

‘Free Palestine’ originates from the slogan, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Shall be Free”, commonly used in campaigns by terrorist groups such as Hamas. Geographically, this refers to the land between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River; essentially, mapping out the entirety of Israel and calling for its destruction for Palestinian territory. However, this slogan serves as a sort of double speak. When tweeting #FreePalestine, some are ignorant to its violent origin and are referring to liberating the population they see as ‘oppressed’ in the West Bank and Gaza from Israeli occupation. Most defend their stance on the moral high grounds of basic human rights. 

Pro-Palestinian demonstration

in NYC May 11th, 2021

In short, what first caused this movement was an Israeli invasion of Gaza after 10 days of aerial bombardment failed to stop Palestinian terrorists from showering Israeli cities with rockets. 

This conflict lasted around 50 days and during that time, we saw celebrities tweeting #FreePalestine in solidarity. Highly influential stars like Rihanna and Zayn Malik came to Palestine’s defense, rallying their fans in support while polarizing others. 

Rihanna quickly took down the tweet 8 minutes later and replaced it with a less divisive image of a Jewish and Arab boy walking arm in arm with the message, “Lets pray for peace and a swift end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. At least count, the tweet already amassed 6.9k retweets before its removal. Dwight Howard posted something similar to only take it down moments later as well:

How many Americans are going to celebrities for their foreign policy analysis is unclear, however. it is indisputable that tweets like these have exponential effect online, particularly on a moldable younger audience. The effects of the hashtag have been long lasting, a year later in 2015, the official #FreePalestine twitter page tweeted this:

Then again in 2021, the hashtag regained momentum. After weeks of tension in Jerusalem, Hamas fired rockets toward Israel for the first time in years, prompting Israel to retaliate with airstrikes. The fighting saw thousands of rockets fired from Gaza and hundreds on Palestinian territory. 

This time, #FreePalestine prompted rallies to surge more than ever before. America stood in solidarity with Israel which begged the question, are you Anti-America if you are Anti-Israel? In Michigan, Arab Americans protested a visit by President Joe Biden over the United States’ support of Israel’s occupation in the Gaza Strip.  In Yemen, protesters were seen demanding for the boycott of Israeli and American goods, as well as chanting, “Death to Israel” and “Death to America”.

Pro-Palestinian demonstration in Jordan 

on May 9th, 2021

A ceasefire was called on May 20th, 2021 and was broken by Hamas terrorists from Gaza on October 7th, 2024 causing a major uptick in action within the #FreePalestine movement.

The ramifications of the #FreePalestine movement have continued to bleed into discourse on campuses, social media, and national news. With misinformation being so easily spreadable, especially by highly influential accounts, it is our job to educate ourselves and by that same token, educate others. 

Just as social media was utilized as a tool to propel anti-zionism, it can be used to advocate for its opposition. #FreePalestine created damage; however, it is not harm that cannot be counteracted. 

What will your hashtag be?

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