Tweeting the new Palestinian convergence?

I was just, um, tweeting (@helenacobban, not @justworldnews… ) about the fact that Twitter, especially, gives a lot of new flexibility and capabilities to Palestinian activists who by the nature of their situation are chopped, diced, and spread out between a number of different national jurisdictions.
We saw the amazing capability of Twitter (and especially it’s fabulous hashtag function) during the mobilizations inside Tunisia, inside Egypt, inside Bahrain, etc. But all those were mobilizations within single countries/jurisdictions. The Palestinians, by contracts, have been deliberately scattered and chopped up by Israel, over the decades, into tens of different jurisdictions where they all operate under very different circumstances. There are the Palestinians resident in Occupied East Jerusalem, the residents of the rest of the West Bank, the residents of Gaza, the refugees in Jordan, the refugees in Syria, in Lebanon, in Egypt, in Gulf countries, in North Africa, many countries in Europe– and indeed, all around the world. And we should not forget the ethnic Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, who have large numbers of their own claims against the Israeli government, including many claims for the right to return to their own original properties, the right to political and socioeconomic equality, etc.
Right now, Palestinians in many of these jurisdictions are organizing activities around the 64th anniversary of their Nakba, which coincided with– or to be more accurate, temporally bracketed– Israel’s gaining of its Independence in 1948. So there are now three main hashtags operating there: #may15, #nakba, and #pror (Palestinian right of return.)
Different groups of Palestinians– and also, crucially, of supportive citizens in the states in which large numbers of Palestinian refugees live– are organizing different kinds of activities this weekend. Today, there are Egyptians (and perhaps also palestinians?) going to the #Rafah border post from #Tahrir Square. But if you check out the #Rafah entries, you’ll see the Egyptian army has been trying with some success to prevent or considerably tamp down that action. Tomorrow, there is a large mobilization planned for Lebanon. My great author @ramizurayk– whose book went up for sale on Amazon today!– is going to be livetweeting that. There have been actions in Jordan and inside 1948 Israel, and others are planned for London and numerous other spots around the world.
Different actions, yet their narratives can all be linked together through hashtags!
The hashtags also enable organizers to coordinate their actions with great speed and agility, as was evident during the height of the anti-Mubarak movement in #Tahrir Square.
… So what I was tweeting earlier this afternoon, was an observation on the contrast between this situation and the situation back in the mid-1970s, when I first went to Beirut. At that point, it was extremely hard for Palestinians to get news from one Arab country to another. The situation of the Palestinians inside Israel itself seemed as though it came from another planet… This was significant not just for political organizers, but for every single Palestinian family. Every single Palestinian family has been split up in one intimate and wounding way or another by the many catastrophes they’ve been subjected to since the 1940s– and also by the slow but relentless grinding of the ‘ethnic-cleansing-by-administrative-fiat’ that Israel has pursued unceasingly in all the territories that it controls.
The internet has changed all that, in ways that were unimaginable back in the 1970s. A large proportion of Palestinian grandparents around the world– like the rest of us– can now “see” their new grandchildren via internet-based video-phones. Palestinians can be electronically “present” at important family gatherings along with their far-flung close family members. They can learn significant background news about who’s doing what, and where, in the family. They can “tour” the homes and properties of sisters and cousins in other jurisdictions. They can keep alive a revived sense of the family and village lives that once seemed to have been just about smashed.
Back in the 1970s, Israel completely dominated transnational communication in the Middle East. I remember those long strings of wrenching audio messages that Kol Israel would regularly air– Palestinians from one jurisdiction sending hastily recorded messages of big family news over the Israeli airwaves (which were all there was!) to family members in other jurisdictions. The messages were hurried, unprofessional, heartwrenching if you thought about they represented. They would always end on a hurried note of palpably false good cheer: “Kullna tayibin, al-hamdulillah”– “We’re all okay, thank God”. I never really asked what the mechanism was whereby they got recorded and queued for broadcast. I imagine the ICRC probably played a role.
How far we have come. Now, Ali Abunimah (@avinunu), who may be in Jordan today (not sure) can Tweet something about what he’s involved in doing, and @tarekshalaby, who’s in Egypt, can read it and react in near-real time. Check it all out Twitter, it really seems to me, is where it’s all at these days.
Hosni Mubarak and Zein Elabidine Ben Ali probably hated what Twitter did to them. Now, I wonder what it’ll end up doing to the Israeli government’s ability to maintain control over the actions of all its neighbors? It will sure be interesting to see…

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