The Erasure of Palestine

How Progressive Media Spaces Rule Palestinians Out

With the war raging in Ukraine, Gigi Hadid joined many celebrities who took to social media to sound their solidarity with Ukraine. She stated she would be donating all of her earnings from her Autumn 2022 fashion shows to “aid those suffering from the Ukraine war, as well as continuing to support those experiencing the same in Palestine.” Vogue Magazine then republished Gigi’s post, but after receiving criticism and being labeled “antisemitic,” they edited the post with one glaring difference — the word Palestine was taken out. The response to Vogue’s edited post was swift, with many people calling out Vogue’s double standards and erasure of Palestine.

Instagram, @diet_prada

Both Gigi and Bella Hadid have voiced their solidarity for Palestine before and have been on the receiving end of hate comments and criticism.  

In addition to the Hadid family, Emma Watson also voiced her support for Palestine in an Instagram post with the caption, “Solidarity is a verb.” She, like the Hadid’s, was met with the same reaction, criticism, and backlash, with many people accusing her of fueling antisemitism. Any time someone mentions Palestine, there is a pattern that unfolds of backlash and censorship.  

Instagram, @emmawatson

These are just a few of many examples of how Palestine is edited out of mainstream media. The irony is that Palestine is most often edited out of what is supposed to be a safe space: Spaces like Hollywood that claim to be liberal, progressive, and open-minded to any issue including ones that pertain to human rights, oppression, and so forth. Yet every time Palestine is mentioned, it is gone before we even realize it was there in the first place.

Palestine seems to always be off-limits no matter how progressive, liberal or safe the community or platform claims to be. I can’t help but notice how Palestine’s presence in virtual reality mirrors its own reality.  

The Erasure of Palestine

The editing and censoring of Palestine may not seem like a big deal at first glance. Some might argue it’s just a few posts or just one article. But the impact of this is monumental. All of this contributes to the erasure of Palestine. Erasure is the concept of deleting or eliminating parts of history, people, and stories. This can be done by rewriting parts of history to serve specific rhetoric, but the erasure of Palestine can happen in indirect ways.

By censoring content related to Palestine, and even censoring the word itself, the implication is that Palestine is something that is taboo or even offensive to talk about. Considering how swift and immense the backlash is anytime any individual — let alone a celebrity with a significant platform — mentions Palestine, we subconsciously associate Palestine as untouchable.  

More on the Hadid Side of the Story

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NYT Publishes a Full-Page Ad Smearing the Hadid Sisters and Dua Lipa

Bella Hadid Attends a Pro-Palestine Protest in Brooklyn

As a result, the frequency with which we talk about Palestine becomes less and less. We as a community become less inclined to stand up and speak out because every time, we are faced with repercussions that could be as severe as losing our jobs, being labeled antisemitic, and even losing friends or family. The irony is that people who stand up for Palestine are ostracized by society, and as a result society ensures that Palestine becomes more and more isolated. When we stop talking about Palestine, when we stop talking about what is happening, this contributes to its erasure. Soon enough, Palestine becomes an afterthought. The hashtag disappears from our timeline. The photos turn out blank.

The erasure of Palestine

When we censor Palestine and any content related to it, we make sure that the stories stick to the sidelines. This is effective in preventing people from gaining support, from realizing what is happening, and even questioning their beliefs about this situation. The less exposure we have to what is happening, the less educated we are. The less material we have to push back against the traditional narrative that is pushed by Western media. And the less likely we are to form our own opinions and have meaningful conversations. Sometimes we might not even realize how we participate in the erasure of Palestine, because we have perfected covering up all our shortcomings with a trendy tagline.  

Who’s Worse: Liberals or Conservatives?

For the last few decades, the Democratic Party has crafted and even perfected its pitch on why and how they are different from the Republican Party. This pitch often includes the idea that they will fight for greater equality and representation, especially for underrepresented, minority communities. They claim that they will fight against all forms of oppression and violations of human rights. But the questions now become: Do we live up to those promises if we are participating in the erasure of Palestine? Aren’t we aligning ourselves more with conservatives when don’t we allow Palestine to be present in these liberal spaces? Aren’t we failing in our promise by only allowing Palestine to be in the conversation when we want to promote the mainstream narrative that we have laid out and continue to promote off of?

Gigi Hadid and vogue
Twitter, @MarkRuffalo

While editing out and misconstruing the narrative of Palestine is common for both liberal and conservative communities and platforms, our expectations from both parties are different. We know what the general conservative consensus is on Palestine and Israel. They have always made their stance very clear on that issue and always voiced their opinion on it. And while their opinions on many issues may be wrong or convoluted, we don’t have any expectations from them.

You can’t claim your space is safe for everyone after you kick someone out. Why would you go out of your way to convince a nation that you are different in every way from the other party when reality does not reflect that?

That said, the liberal party tries to project opinions that are opposite to the conservatives, yet they are complacent and even silent when it comes to Palestine. This is where I have to give conservatives credit because, generally, they are not silent about what they believe in even if there are some things that are better kept to themselves. I do believe that complacency and silence are worse than speaking out — especially when it comes to the liberal party, given that we have higher expectations of them because of their projected beliefs and platform.  

If we’d really cared about equal representation, human rights, and fighting for the oppressed, we would’ve included Palestine in our conversations. We would’ve not removed, censored, or started campaigns against anyone speaking about Palestine. You cannot give empty promises of equality and support while you actively do everything but that. You can’t claim your space is safe for everyone after you kick someone out. Why would you go out of your way to convince a nation that you are different in every way from the other party when reality does not reflect that? While there are many questions surrounding why we choose to push Palestine to the sidelines, there may be an underlying motive for this. 

Palestine Within Liberal Spaces

Pushing the narrative of Palestine to the sidelines has two major results; first, it contributes to the erasure of Palestine, and second, we can continue to control the narrative of Palestine. We choose when it is and is not appropriate to speak about Palestine. This ensures that there is only one perspective of Palestine being showcased to the world; the one that we create for it. There is no doubt that both Palestine and Israel have become increasingly politicized over time. Unfortunately, both have been planted in political games and power structures seeking to control their story. It’s only natural that we promote the side that is most favorable to us. The less pushback we receive, the more room we have to continue controlling Palestine and Israel to use them as pawns in our game. 

The erasure of Palestine
Twitter, @tinnkky

As outsiders, we are only given a glimpse of what is happening in Palestine and Israel. And because of this, many people don’t know how they can distinguish the truth from the lies. All we want is some accountability from individuals within these “liberal” spaces. Own up to what you’re doing, and be honest about what you believe in. We can never get to the root of the problem if all of these outside forces continue to control and influence a land, people, and history that is not theirs. 

Extremism in Digital Mainstream Spaces

Every story has two sides. When you only hear one side for so long, it’s easy to forget the other side exists. This is especially easy because mainstream media has pushed only an extreme narrative of Israel and Palestine for the past few decades. The difference is that coverage of Israel is allowed and even elevated in times of heightened fighting and conflict. Because coverage of Israel is not censored, we have a better understanding of what their role has been, what their stance is, and what they have done to Palestine.

Mainstream media projects what gets them the most views, and this often ends up being the most extreme, most violent, most shocking side of a story.

Coverage of Palestine is only limited to blaming them for an attack or focusing on what they did — never what is happening to them. Because coverage of Palestine is so limited, we don’t have an equal understanding of their story. Mainstream media knows that this issue holds a heavy place in thousands of people’s hearts, and they capitalize on that.  

Twitter, @IamZainabBabar

As difficult as this may be to hear, I want to remind everyone that Palestine and Israel are so much more nuanced and complicated than we think they are. Like any other issue, this is not as black and white as mainstream media tries to make it out to be. I know that this is an extremely emotional and evocative topic for many people. But I want to emphasize that this has been over-simplified by mainstream media for too long. Mainstream media projects what gets them the most views, and this often ends up being the most extreme, most violent, most shocking side of a story. This is especially true when it comes to coverage of Muslim countries. But we know that a story is not just its climax, it’s everything in between. It’s time we brought the full story to the forefront.  

That can only happen if we allow conversations about Palestine, and not aim to censor even the slightest mention of it. We must allow greater exposure to Palestine, so we can become more educated and form our own opinions. Coverage of Palestine does not automatically disenfranchise coverage of Israel. Allowing a post about Palestine does not mean every post about Israel will be censored. Sharing Palestinian stories does mean we never hear about Israeli stories again. We are not asking to project another extreme narrative like the one both of us have been subject to for so long. All we are asking is that Palestine is given an equal chance to be heard. They are the other side of the story, after all.  

The erasure of Palestine
Twitter, @freyahd

When we allow the Palestinian narrative to be shown in media, we normalize their side of the story. People will be encouraged to discuss this and ask questions and not be afraid of backlash. While the reality of mainstream media and liberal spaces shifting their tone is slim, I encourage people on all sides to find the gray line within this. Sift through all the background noise and take a step back. I know this is easier said than done, I know this might feel impossible for individuals of Palestinian and even Israeli heritage, but I hope you find the courage to do so.

Change can start with us. We owe this to them. We owe this to the thousands of Palestinians that are suffering and are not being heard. Everyone deserves the chance to speak their truth. To Palestinians, there is room for you here.