Palestinian geopolitics on the internet

Image: Jhefferson Santos
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By FRANCISCO FERNANDES LADEIRA*

As soon as the press reported the “attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel”, there were already reports on social media of media manipulation in favor of the Zionist State.

In Brazil, before the popularization of the internet, the so-called “alternative media” (a set of communication vehicles that oppose the “hegemonic media”) had a restricted reach. In general, they were student newspapers, union reports or community radio stations that, as a rule, reached thousands of people at most. 

Thus, the country's large communication groups (Globo, Folha de S. Paul and publisher April, among others) had the prerogative to define the national public agenda and, depending on the topic (such as geopolitics, for example), they were the only sources of information for the vast majority of the population.

It is not by chance that over the years, stereotypes and clichés have been cemented in the collective imagination, such as “the fanatical Muslim terrorist”, “the American savior of the planet”, “the communist who steals other people's property”, “the Chinese mafioso”, “the civilized European” and “the savage African”.

Fortunately, this reality changed with the advent of the internet. Not that large communication groups are no longer influential. Far from it. However, currently, with countless alternative views present on the world wide web on the main geopolitical issues, it is increasingly difficult for the hegemonic media to present its version of the facts, as if it were reality itself.

Take, for example, the recent animosities between Palestinians and Israelis (which, obviously, are inserted in a much broader historical context). In the mainstream press, as is customary, the narrative that interests the geopolitical agendas of the imperialist powers prevails. In other words, the seven decades of Palestinian genocide by Israel are hidden and Hamas' self-defense action against the Zionist State was seen as a “surprise terrorist attack”.

In other times, this narrative would easily pass to the general public as the “official version”, as occurred in other events, such as “September 11”, labeled in the media as “the biggest terrorist attack in history”.

However, as soon as the press reported the “attack by Hamas terrorists on Israel”, there were already people on social media who denounced the media manipulations in favor of the Zionist State.

On his Instagram page, with almost two hundred thousand followers, socio-environmentalist Thiago Ávila made an interesting analysis regarding the coverage of the Fantastic on October 8th about the Israel-Palestine conflict. According to Thiago Ávila, the global program dedicated forty minutes to this topic; less than four minutes took into account the perspective of the Palestinian people; Sixty percent of the coverage covered Israel's perspective and the remaining thirty percent was dedicated to the United States government's perspective.

By using the term “Palestinian territories”, the presenters of the Fantastic Maju Coutinho and Poliana Abritta did not recognize Palestine as a “country” (therefore, without the possibility of self-defense). Furthermore, Israel was treated as a “victim” in wars that the Zionist State itself started (such as the “Six Day War”). The Palestinians, on the other hand, were presented negatively, as potential terrorists.

Another very combative name on the networks is the journalist and founder of the website World Opera, Breno Altman. On X (formerly Twitter), he has demanded a journey of solidarity with Palestine from parties and social movements and denounced the actions of “left-wing Zionists” (who resort to false equivalence between Hamas and Benjamin Netanyahu to maintain a supposed progressive position). “When you read or watch the news, remember: Zionism is the greatest machine of fake news of human history, has given lies and manipulations an industrial scale,” the journalist wrote in one of his status updates on X.

Covers a wider audience than the social media profiles mentioned above, progressive channels and websites – such as Fórum, the earth is round, GGN newspaper e Brazil 247 – not only report important facts about Palestinian geopolitics hidden in the traditional media – especially the allegations of the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Israeli army in Gaza and Lebanon –, but also present critical analyzes by experts in the field of international relations on Palestinian geopolitics, which, as a rule, we will not find in Globo, CNN , Band News, Folha de S. Paul ou Veja magazine (where the contradictory is previously censored). 

On the other hand, big techs are not oblivious to alternative views on the Palestinian issue. Increasingly, on the internet, the concepts of “freedom of expression” and “freedom of information” have been relativized: they only seem to be valid as long as they do not contradict imperialist interests.

Just remember that, in February last year, after the start of the Russia-Ukraine War, YouTube suspended the operations of Russian digital channels Russian Today e Sputnik News on the European continent, claiming that these vehicles “spread misinformation”.

Around the same time, Meta changed the privacy policies of Facebook and Instagram to allow messages of hate and violence against Russian soldiers and liberated soldiers. posts who called for the death of Vladimir Putin and the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. 

Here in Brazil, pages and channels that denounce the Palestinian genocide have been systematically boycotted. After addressing the Palestinian issue on Instagram, Thiago Ávila had the reach of his videos limited by the platform. In fact, many users reported difficulties in sharing the content published by Ávila. Now the channel World Opera was partially demonetized by YouTube, as a result of “complaints regarding coverage of the situation in Palestine”.

Furthermore, a simple search on Google, the main search engine on the planet, on the terms “Israel” and “Hamas”, shows us, on the first page of results, basically news and videos from the conservative press: G1, CNN Brazil, Folha de S. Paul, BBC News, InfoMoney, Reuters, Terra, State of Minas, UOL and see. “Coincidentally”, some of the articles in question have titles in the style: “Israel-Hamas War: everything you need to know to understand the conflict”.

Only three sites with alternative views to status quo appear on the first page of a Google search: Capital letter, Brazil of Fact e The Intercept.

It's a fact, algorithms are the new weapons of soft power geopolitical. Therefore, faced with this reality, it is up to the left to take a stand, denounce any type of censorship and manipulation on the internet and plead for the population to have broad access to a variety of information about what is really happening in Palestine, because, as far as the traditional media and big techs, both serving imperialist interests, the pro-Israel version will prevail.

*Francisco Fernandes Ladeira is a doctoral candidate in geography at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of The ideology of international news (CRV). [https://amzn.to/49F468W]


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