Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 20th, 2021

Palestinian Youth Are Dealing With Social Media Fame

Some say they’re being boxed with labels like “victim” or “activist.”

BY MARY STEFFENHAGEN

DECEMBER 14, 2021

In many ways, Adnan Barq is a typical Zoomer. He’s constantly on Instagram, sharing his thoughts and scenes of daily life: artsy shots of the city, goofy selfies with family and friends, his takes on movies and TV shows.

(His dream casting for a Wuthering Heights movie is Mena Massoud as Heathcliff and Lily Collins as Cathy, if you were curious.)

But he also shares photos of concrete dividing wallswire fencing, and surveillance equipment. He records soldiers making violent arrests in the streets and shoving their way through city crowds, strapped with massive guns.

He almost always adds his own sardonic caption or hashtag, attempting to release some of his frustration through humor.

Barq lives in the Old City of Jerusalem, a short walk from Sheikh Jarrah, the neighborhood where the Israeli Supreme Court was set to rule on the displacement of Palestinian families.

So even before May 2021, when #SaveSheikhJarrah started trending online, posting images of conflict was unavoidable for Barq. They’re part of daily life, too.

His posts usually got a few thousand likes. But in May, Israeli police raided the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, prompting Hamas to fire rockets.

When Israel launched airstrikes on Gaza in response, Barq posted an Instagram story asking his followers in Gaza to tell him how they were feeling. He collected their responses and posted them in Arabic and English.

“We did not sleep since the last two days…”

“We are afraid to sleep, and never wake up again.”

“Hell is at Gaza.” 

Within days, he gained tens of thousands of social media followers from all over the world. The post received nearly 60,000 likes, by far his most popular photo post to this day.

They were writing me their last words, and I’m sure that many of them now are dead,” Barq said. Over the course of 11 days, Israeli airstrikes killed at least 243 Palestinians. Eleven Israelis were also killed during the conflict.

Many young Palestinians found themselves in a new international spotlight as their videos of the neighborhoods, attacks from the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and settlers, and their own outrage went viral on social media.

This virality resulted in a unified online campaign that had an unprecedented impact on international attitudes toward Palestine. But months later, some young Palestinians feel a tension between embracing their newfound following and being seen as one-dimensional symbols by their audiences.

Even as they use these new platforms to fight for the Palestinian cause and acknowledgement of their own humanity, they’re finding themselves uncomfortably stamped with identities that flatten it — like militant, victim, or activist.


In early May 2021, the Israeli Supreme Court was set to decide whether to uphold the expulsion of six Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah after a lower court ordered their removal, ruling in favor of Israeli settlers.

Palestinians mobilized to protest and prevent the expulsions, which the United Nations said could be considered a war crime. They shared videos on social media of Israeli forces harassing their neighbors, of the IDF shooting rubber bullets and stun grenades into the Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan.

Perhaps the most memorable video was from a young woman named Mouna El-Kurd, who confronted a settler she said was on her family’s property.


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