The Digital Battlefield: The Latest Dimension of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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Pro-Palestinian and Pro-Israeli protestors clash on an American street in 2023. (Omar Shahabudhin McDoom/London School of Economics and Political Science)

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have continued an offensive into the southern Gazan city of Rafah beginning in May 2024. Prior to this, Palestinians and other Gazan residents fleeing from the barrage sought refuge in the city, possibly due to its proximity to neighboring Egypt, which had begun accepting the wounded and foreign nationals into its territory.

According to the Associated Press, Egypt and many other Arab countries, such as Jordan, are not willing to accept Palestinian refugees because that’s exactly what the IDF desires: the expulsion of the Palestinian people from the Gaza Strip. If the territory doesn’t have any Palestinian inhabitants, then its claims for statehood and international recognition would be immaterial, leaving the land to be fully settled in by the State of Israel. Moreover, this means that territories belonging to sovereign Arab states may have militants living in them, giving the IDF grounds for an operation, which could very likely begin a larger conflict in the region, destabilizing already strained geopolitical relations.

Rafah’s position near the Gaza-Sinai border means that the IDF has quite literally pushed the Palestinian people into a corner where they are unable to flee physically any further. This has evoked substantial outrage from the global public, with the latest social media trends reflecting these emotions. 

Social media has been a popular and trending method for activism, however, it has also had unintended adverse effects. Israeli state actors and pro-Palestinian activist groups have seemed to battle on another front: the digital world.

On many popular social media applications, primarily Instagram, artificial intelligence-generated images have been the latest medium of an outraged public expressing their disgust for the actions of the IDF. Accompanying messages, such as “All Eyes on Gaza” attempt to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people, who are unable to flee or escape any further than they already have.

However, Israeli state actors have begun their own information campaign against this widespread public outcry. They have commenced using shock tactics as a method to combat claims regarding genocide directly. Images of bloodied infants partnered with woeful captions flood social media websites. Israeli state actors aim to target distinct demographic groups within specific nations. They seek to influence their opinion and outlook in their favor in a technique eerily familiar to the public: propaganda.

This raises profound ethical questions regarding the multiplication of these information tactics; the proliferation of doctored or artificial intelligence-generated content complicates the public’s ability to trust what they see, potentially desensitizing audiences to genuine human suffering. Users must navigate a landscape teeming with misinformation and emotionally charged propaganda, highlighting the significance of verifying sources and questioning the authenticity of digital content. 

The digital dimension of the Israel-Palestine conflict reflects a broader trend in modern warfare, where control of the narrative is as vital as control of territory. As the situation in Rafah unfolds, the information war on social media will likely intensify, further entangling global audiences in the horrors of this conflict and distorting their opinions regarding it. This will set a precedent for future conflicts, teaching both state and non-state actors how to manipulate information for their own benefit.

Written by Eshan Korat

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