Sabra and Shatila in the digital era: Unchanged tragedy
Let's imagine that the Sabra and Shatila massacre took place today, in the era of endless social media platforms and apps. Would things have turned out any different?
Scroll - a scream. Scroll again - a cry for help. Swipe - blood everywhere, piles of lifeless bodies, and countless people walking with bodies weighed down by sorrow and tears streaming from their eyes. Will you choose to look away, to shut off your phone, and pretend to not see? Or will you share, like, or ask for help?
What is the Sabra and Shatila massacre?
On September 16-18, 1982, militias of the Lebanese Forces (LF) carried out the brutal killings of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese citizens in Beirut's Sabra neighborhood and the nearby Shatila refugee camp.
The Palestinian refugees were originally victims of the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe), forced to flee from the violent crimes that Zionist gangs committed in their attempt to create "Israel."
In June 1982, "Israel" invaded Lebanon with the aim of eradicating the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), based in Beirut. By September 1, 1982, the PLO had withdrawn from Lebanon, and assurances were given by the United States and other forces that remaining Palestinian refugees and civilians would be protected.
However, two weeks later, the Israeli military surrounded Sabra and Shatila, allowing their allies, the LF, to enter the camp and carry out the mass killings. This brutality lasted for 43 hours, resulting in over 3,000 civilian deaths.
After the horrific massacre, survivors started to describe the scenes, the endless acts of slaughter, mutilation, rape, and the existence of mass graves. The images, when broadcasted, shook the whole world.
From Thursday 6 pm till Saturday 1 pm, not a single sound was heard. From Thursday 6 pm till Saturday 1 pm, not one picture was seen. From Thursday 6 pm till Saturday 1 pm, not a single condemnation. How would the world know that such a massacre is taking place? There were no bombs heard, only the scattered sounds of weapons fired every now and then.
When the massacre took place, the world of livestreaming did not exist. The world of different social media platforms did not exist. Unfortunately, some victims of the massacre are still missing, and their families do not know their destiny.
What if everything was heard and seen?
Wherever you are, on your bed, in a café, or at your desk finishing your shift for the day, how do you imagine yourself receiving such news? Would you talk about it over lunch with some colleagues? Or do you see yourself doing something to help the victims, to spread the word for the whole world to know? Would things turn out to be different? Would the international community hold "Israel" and its allies accountable for such a crime, or would a few words of condemnation have been enough?
As we scroll through our feeds today, we are bombarded with a countless number of posts, from the mundane to the extraordinary. But imagine logging on to witness live updates from Sabra and Shatila, stories told by those on the ground, desperate for the world to hear their cries. Their words would not be confined to history books, but echoed through our screens, demanding our attention and compelling us to act.
Into the world of social media
Social media platforms would have been filled with live updates from the ground. Ordinary people, journalists, and activists would have used platforms such as Twitter to share real-time updates about what's happening in Sabra and Shatila from photos and videos.
Survivors and witnesses could have shared their testimonies in real-time, making it harder for the perpetrators to deny their involvement in the massacre or their horrific actions.
People would start to create and spread hashtags related to the horrific massacre to raise awareness. The hashtags might have trended globally, putting pressure on governments and international organizations to respond.
Protests could have erupted around the globe, with solidarity movements taking place to support the victims by providing aid and support.
In our hypothetical digital world, some influencers and activists would use their platforms to amplify the voices of those who had been silenced. They would lend their reach to organizations working on the ground, shedding light on the urgent need for aid, support, and intervention.
The real question here is whether the algorithms of the big social media platforms would have allowed such content to spread. Would Meta censor some posts related to the horrific massacre?
Unwavering global indifference?
The real question in this hypothetical scenario is whether the international community's stance regarding any Israeli-related massacre would have changed. Reports will be published, soft words of condemnation would have been issued, and ambassadors would have been summoned, but holding "Israel" directly accountable? Never.
After the massacre, the United Nations General Assembly classified the massacre as an "act of genocide." In a non-shocking response, none of the responsible individuals from either the Lebanese or Israeli sides faced punishment. An Israeli investigation held the Lebanese Forces militia primarily accountable, but also held Ariel Sharon, who at the time was Security Minister and was in close contact with the Phalangists and Lebanese Forces, personally responsible for "neglecting the risk of bloodshed and revenge." Although Sharon resigned in 1983, he was later elected as prime minister in 2001.
Although the presence of social media during the Sabra and Shatila massacre would have accelerated the spread of information and news, is there any chance that it would have influenced the international response? There are books and survivors who have talked about the massacre, and described it in detail even; did this change anything?
Not by a long shot.
It's your choice now. You scroll and you see an Instagram reel that shows the story of Ahmad Manasra, the Palestinian prisoner who was arrested, interrogated, and sentenced to nine years in prison at the age of 13. You watch a video of an Israeli officer interrogating him in the most brutal way possible.
Today, #Palestinian prisoner #AhmadManasra turns 21 years old.— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) January 22, 2023
Since Ahmad got to spend most of his childhood behind prison bars and all alone, here is what turning 21 would look like were Ahmad free and not living under a brutal #occupation. pic.twitter.com/7OcXQjrgV1
You scroll and you see the bodies of Palestinian prisoners who have been on hunger strike for days in protest of "Israel's" brutal policy of administrative detention. You scroll and you see how Israeli forces forced five Palestinian women to strip naked in front of their children. You scroll and you see endless Israeli crimes. The question here is: What will you do now?