‘Likes’ for Peace: Can Facebook Promote Dialogue in the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict?

Friday 8 December 2023

Maoz, Ifat, Yifat Mor, and Yiftach Ron. 2016. Media and Communications 4, no. 1: 15-26. 

This source is an academic paper written by three Israeli researchers – Ifat Maoz, Yifat Mor, and Yiftach Ron – based at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of Communications. The article examines the impact of the ‘Tweeting Arabs’ Facebook page, established and administered by Palestinian citizens to publicise their opinions, highlight a moderate voice, and encourage dialogue between Palestinians and Israeli-Jews. Rooted in the concept of intergroup dialogue, the Tweeting Arabs page seeks to directly challenge the collective in-group narratives, and correspondingly delegitimised out-group perspectives, that have grown entrenched over the course of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Despite the complex and technical nature of their analysis, the authors provide a simplified overview of their experiment, which examined patterns in the likes and comments associated with each post, in an accessible and comprehensive manner. They found that, while posts which emphasised the narrative of Palestinian suffering were mostly followed by claims of rejection or allegations of hypocrisy by Israeli-Jews, those which brought up the moderate and peace-seeking Palestinian voice elicited acceptance and sympathy. In one instance, a Tweeting Arabs post condemning the stabbing of two Jewish civilians in a supermarket was met by a positive response, with Israeli-Jews acknowledging that Jewish settlers attacking Palestinians should similarly be held accountable and that the heavy-handed Israeli military response was frequently counter-productive. In doing so, this article highlights the power of mass media platforms such as Facebook to serve as catalysts for dialogue and the exchange of narratives stemming from previously divided parties, a particularly surprising discovery given the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s deep historic roots and the extensive degree of physical separation between both populations. There is undoubtedly potential for these media applications to facilitate the rehumanisation and construction of a more complex image of a supposedly hostile other; at the same time, however, it is also important to remember that the article’s focus remains centred on displays of inter-group understanding through media. Little attention is, ultimately, paid to whether such digital interactions could, indeed, be translated into a tangible impact on the physical relationship between Israeli and Palestinian citizens.

Link: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v4i1.298 

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