The ongoing war against the Palestinian people of Gaza has seen unprecedented slaughter, destruction and suffering, with nearly 10000 men, women and children killed. However, recent events have highlighted a disturbing new trend that reveals the darker side of online platforms. Videos of Israeli social media users, many using their own children in the videos, shamelessly mocking the people of Gaza who have been left without food supplies, fresh water and electricity due to the Israeli invasion, have shed light on a deeply worrying set of attitudes.
The callousness displayed towards the suffering of those enduring dire circumstances not only speaks to the inhumanity of such actions but also reflects a troubling sociopathic nature within certain segments of Israeli society.
In October, an Israeli special effects influencer garnered attention on X, formerly Twitter, after posting a TikTok video that appeared to ridicule Palestinians. In the video, the influencer is depicted wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh on her head, cradling a grapefruit as if it were an infant, with a drawn-on sad face. Sporting makeup that simulates bruising, the woman delivers a dramatic monologue to the camera, interrupted by a voice shouting “cut,” prompting her to discard the fruit amidst a background of artificial applause. The video subsequently transitions to another scene, featuring the influencer applying makeup to create the illusion of blood and bruises on her face, and applying dark makeup to certain teeth, in addition to covering herself in white powder. The video was shared on X by radio host Rafael Shimunov, a Jewish activist, who criticized the influencer for utilizing an “Arab face” on TikTok to propagate the notion that Palestinian mothers feign their own deaths.
Several additional videos emerged on various social media platforms, depicting other influencers mocking the struggles of Palestinians by engaging in excessive use of water in their kitchen and bathroom settings. These brief video clips also showcased individuals repeatedly toggling their lights on and off and posing alongside extension cords, highlighting their own uninterrupted access to electricity. In other videos, social media users can be seen applying dark makeup to exaggerate the thickness of their eyebrows and blackening their teeth while donning hijabs. Another clip features an Israeli makeup artist applying copious makeup and covering herself in powder, to simulate the appearance of being covered in debris. The backdrop of one of the videos even includes the simulated sound of an explosion, further adding to the mockery of the dire circumstances faced by the Palestinian population.
These videos have generated widespread condemnation “This is just heartless,” another X (formerly Twitter) user commented. “I know that many will lament what they have said and done.” One user on X wrote perhaps the most significant message, commenting : “This is exactly how Nazis dehumanized Jews during WW2, just in a different format (posters, etc.)”
Amidst the online backlash, some of the videos appear to have been deleted. At least two of the social media who uploaded the clips have changed their settings to private.
Early this month, the Israeli Foreign Ministry announced that it was seeking to recruit prominent social media influencers in an advocacy campaign, The Jerusalem Post reported. “Fighting on social networks and influencing international public opinion is critical during wartime,” a Foreign Ministry spokesperson stated. “The world must understand that Israel’s struggle is one of light against darkness, a life-loving culture vs lowly terrorists.”
It is deeply troubling to witness the dehumanization of the people of Gaza, who are already enduring unimaginable hardships as a result of conflict and occupation. On the website of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust they highlight ‘dehumanization’ as step 4 on the 10 stages of genocide, highlighting that ‘[t]hose perceived as ‘different’ are treated with no form of human rights or personal dignity. During the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Tutsis were referred to as ‘cockroaches’; the Nazis referred to Jews as ‘vermin’.
During the dark era of Nazi Germany, propaganda played a pivotal role in fueling the dehumanization and persecution of the Jewish population. The Nazi regime utilized various forms of media, including posters, newspapers, and films, to spread vitriolic messages that vilified and ridiculed the Jewish community. Derogatory caricatures and cartoons portraying Jews as grotesque and subhuman figures were commonly disseminated, contributing to the normalization of anti-Semitic sentiments within German society. Moreover, propaganda materials often depicted Jews as greedy, conniving, and responsible for the nation’s perceived economic woes, reinforcing harmful stereotypes and fostering an environment of hostility and distrust. The deliberate use of propaganda to mock and demonize the Jewish population not only facilitated the implementation of discriminatory policies but also laid the groundwork for the heinous atrocities committed during the Holocaust. Such propaganda remains a chilling reminder of the power of hateful rhetoric and serves as a stark warning of the devastating consequences of allowing prejudice and bigotry to go unchecked.
It takes a particularly pernicious form of blanket indoctrination to produce individuals who are able to belittle the plight of a community struggling to access basic necessities. The insensitivity displayed by these social media users not only perpetuates a culture of indifference but also underscores a troubling erosion of basic human decency.
What is particularly disturbing is the apathy towards this callous behavior within certain segments of Israeli society. In the pursuit of online validation and attention, some individuals seem to have lost sight of the fundamental principles of compassion and respect for human life. The suffering of the ordinary citizens of Gaza, who not only are being mercilessly slaughtered but are deprived of essential resources and basic human rights, is reduced to a subject of mockery and amusement. This not only showcases a lack of empathy but also perpetuates a dangerous narrative that devalues the lives and struggles of those living in Gaza.
The consequences of such behavior reach far beyond the confines of social media. They contribute to a wider desensitization of Arabs and Muslims, fostering an environment where the suffering of others is trivialized and human dignity is compromised. By turning a blind eye to the struggles of those in Gaza and using their hardships as a means of amusement, these social media users contribute to the normalization of a culture of apathy that erodes the fabric of our collective humanity.
If the situation was reversed and it was Arab social media influencers mocking the deaths of Israeli women and children, it is almost certain that there would be worldwide exhibitions of outrage and blanket coverage within newspapers and television news channels.
It is imperative that as a society, we take a stand against this alarming trend. Those who engage in the dehumanization of others must be held accountable for their actions, and a concerted effort must be made to foster empathy and understanding, particularly within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Education and awareness are crucial in fostering a culture of respect and compassion, and in combating the toxic narrative that devalues the lives and struggles of those living in Gaza. The dehumanization of the people of Gaza at the hands of Israeli social media users is not just an isolated incident; it is a symptom of a larger societal issue that demands immediate condemnation and sincere introspection.