Internet and social media are playing key roles in organizing resistance against crimes like Palestinian oppression

Gerry ChidiacWhen studying crimes against humanity, one notices that there are victims and perpetrators and that large numbers of individuals remain silent. We often forget, however, that there are always rescuers. They are usually small in number but risk their lives and their well-being to do what they know is right.

Rescuers have certain qualities in common. They tend to be altruistic and empathic, with a sense of justice and fairness. When asked about their heroism after the fact, they normally respond with great humility, stating that anyone would do what they did under the same circumstances.

For a long time, I did not believe that rescuers were ordinary people. I hoped, however, that if we could teach about rescuers and the potential for good that lies within each of us, perhaps we could increase the likelihood that in times of trial, more people would do the right thing.

To understand why so few people generally take a stand when our neighbours suffer, we need to look at the patterns of behaviour of those who perpetuate cruelty. They always instill fear in their victims and potential rescuers. They also isolate people. When we feel alone, overpowered, hopeless and fearful, we are unlikely to try to resist.

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Today, thanks to the internet and social media, we are more connected than ever. Those of us who have watched in horror over the deaths of – according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry – over 30,000 Palestinians have been able to connect with others who share our outrage. We have been able to organize and mobilize, thus creating a resistance to those who seek to perpetuate these crimes against humanity.

The response of those who support the crimes committed against the Palestinians has been predictable. They try to intimidate, humiliate, discredit, arrest, and even physically harm or take away the livelihood of those who are standing up for their neighbours. They try to speak more loudly than Palestinians and their supporters, interrupt them, and isolate them by shutting down their channels of communication.

None of this has worked. People of conscience are united like never before. The protests for Palestinian rights have not diminished; in fact, they appear to be growing stronger. This has exposed how out-of-touch politicians, the mainstream media, and the power elite are from the rest of the population. Upcoming elections will be quite interesting, to say the least.

As a group, young people have been largely pro-Palestine. They are also far more likely to get their news on the Gaza crisis from social media feeds, the least censored of which is TikTok. This drove Jonathan Greenblatt, spokesperson for the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League, to say, “We’ve got a TikTok problem, a Gen-Z problem.”

Many TikTok users, however, are not convinced that the effort by the American Congress to ban the platform in the United States has anything to do with the fact that it is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance (which must turn over any data and information they collect to the Chinese government at a moment’s notice). They believe that it is an effort to end collaboration to protect Palestinian rights. The truth in the matter is not yet clear.

One thing is certain, however. Large numbers of young people across the globe are mobilizing for human rights. They are joined by outliers from other generations who share their idealism. These young people will not forget this chapter in their lives, and in the future, they will share stories of the price they paid, not in their own self-interest, but to alleviate the suffering of people on the other side of the world. They are also quite likely to remain politically active and social justice-oriented throughout the rest of their lives.

Most people are altruistic, and fear is diminished as once-isolated individuals connect in like-minded communities.

As Bob Dylan prophesized in the 1960s, “The times they are a-changin’.” Finally.

Gerry Chidiac specializes in languages and genocide studies and works with at-risk students. He is the recipient of an award from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre for excellence in teaching about the Holocaust.

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